Sunday, 18 March 2012

16 Mar 2012 – U3A visit to Villena

This is our third coach trip with U3A this year, this time to the lovely town of Villena.   As with the previous two we have never been there before and it was a good opportunity to visit an interesting town without having to drive and plan the visit ourselves.
We arrived at 10.30 and went straight to the town museum, which is famous for its collection of 3000 year old gold ornaments found locally in the 1960s.  There were too many on the coach for the small museum, so while half did the tour the remainder went for a coffee

We spent half an hour at the museum, and then it was our turn to find a road side table for a much anticipated cup of coffee and tostada.

We all met up again for a visit to the Moors and Christians museum, which is in a large old building now used as the headquarters of the committee.   Apparently many thousands parade each year, not only in Villena but also nearby towns and villages.

We had visited a similar museum in Calpe, but this was much larger and far more impressive.
I was particularly interested in this model of the town, made from card.   It would make a very impressive centre piece for a large wargame.

We finished the morning with a visit to the modern visitors centre near the castle.   There was an excellent video about the history of the town, plus a small but interesting virtual tour, all in English.  No doubt funded by an EU grant.

The coach took the group back to the town centre for lunch, but Jan and I had brought a picnic and we climbed to a picnic site overlooking the castle.

The castle was closed, and is only open for official tours.  But we could wander around the outside area and sit in the sun admiring the well preserved walls.

The afternoon was to be spent with a guided tour of the castle, but we had half an hour to wander around before the rest of the group returned.

The guide was really excellent.  He spoke very good English, and brought the history alive with his commentary and stories.   I had not known that the castle was occupied by the French during the Napoleonic Wars, and destroyed in 1812 when they had to retreat after their defeat at nearby Castalla.

We were fortunate to have lovely weather for exploring Villena, sunny with a cool breeze.  The day was well organised with a good mix of interesting activities and spare time to explore on our own.   Amazing how much you can fit into such a short visit.

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