Sitges to Gandia inc Valencia – 5th to 13th Feb 2016

Sitges to Gandia inc Valencia – 5th to 13th Feb 2016

Friday 05 February – Sitges to Tarragona

Distance 62.95 km

Max speed 38.2 kmph

Average speed 14.6 kmph

Total 1739.85 km

 

We went out last night to see Sitges and didn’t get home until midnight and then thought it would be clever to watch Game of Thrones but of course we couldn’t stay awake. So we don’t wake until 9am and we want to publish the blog with our Barcelona trip so that takes a couple of hours and Daz mends the puncture from 25th January.

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We cycle into town for breakfast and finally get on the road at 1220pm. A very late start indeed. As much as possible we spend the day hugging the coastline. I love watching the sea whilst poor Daz has to worry about watching the road. It’s our second day of a fairly strong headwind which makes our fairly flat route unpleasantly tough. We stop to admire an incredible copper statue of a bull in Vilanova, it’s called Pasifae.

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The statue by renowned sculptor Òscar Estruga was created from three tons of copper and is a visual representation of the intriguing story of Pasiphaë. In Greek mythology she was the daughter of Helios and the wife of King Minos of Crete. Poseidon sent Minos a bull as a gift to be sacrificed but he refused, and Poseidon cursed his wife, forcing her to fall in love with the bull. The story gets quite graphic as she had a wooden cow built which she could hide inside and mate with the bull! The resulting offspring was the Minotaur.
Apart from the headwind it’s a pleasant day’s cycling along the Mediterranean and we don’t get to Tarragona until 6ish.

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We stop in town to email our warmshower hosts and then we meet them at the house. It’s reminiscent of Biarritz. Antoni and Simona describe it as an abandoned, country house. There’s an outside shower, and inside a lounge area, bedroom and toilet. They drop us off but they’re taking us out tonight so time to get cleaned up.

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Antoni and Simona come back at about 7.30pm and drive us into town. We didn’t realise there’s a beautiful fort, cathedral and extensive Roman ruins including parts of an amphitheatre in Tarragona.

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Part of the bases of large Cyclopean walls near the Cuartel de Pilatos are thought to pre-date the Romans. The building just mentioned, a prison in the 19th century, is said to have been the palace of Augustus. The 2nd century amphitheatre, near the sea-shore, was extensively used as a quarry after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and but few vestiges of it now remain. A circus, c. 450 m long, was built over in the area now called Plaça de la Font, though portions of it are still to be traced. Throughout the town Latin, and even apparently Phoenician, inscriptions on the stones of the houses mark the material used for buildings in the town. The Roman ruins have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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Two ancient monuments, at some little distance from the town, have, however, fared rather better. The first of these is the Aqüeducte de les Ferreres, which spans a valley about 4 kilometres (2 miles) north of the city. It is 217 m (712 ft) in length, and the loftiest arches, of which there are two tiers, are 26 m (85 ft) high. There is a monument about 6 km (4 mi) along the coast road east of the city, commonly called the “Tower of the Scipios”; but there is no authority for assuming that they were buried here.

This area is renowned for castells and our hosts show us into the rehearsal area where a large group of people are practising different formations.

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A castell is a human tower built traditionally in festivals at many locations within Catalonia. At these festivals, several colles castelleres (group of people who do these towers) often succeed in building and dismantling a tower’s structure. On November 16, 2010, castells were declared by UNESCO to be amongst the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

 

Tarragona is home to a large port and the Universitat Rovira i Virgili. Much of its economic activity comes from a large number of chemical industries located south of the city.

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After showing us around the various sites Antoni and Simona take us to a bar to meet the Tarragona English Club and they are all fascinated by our stories. Simona is from Slovenia and we pick her brains regarding cycling through her home country. Tarragona is a very lovely place and I don’t think we give it justice in our whistle stop tour.

Cycling update: the new phasing seems to work well although there are still gear disputes especially when we’re tired. Over half our luggage remains untouched: one large pannier with bed mats, sleeping bags and towels and one coat; one front pannier with cooking equipment, travel mugs, teabags and snacks; the tent roll that sits behind my seat; 2 Helinox chairs. In addition in our other front pannier apart from wash kit and electronics bag there is a poncho to cover bike, spare tyre, bike bags, spokes. In conclusion when we stop for the day we take one large pannier containing our clothes and one small pannier for wash kit and electronics. The rest remains on the bike. I am responsible for photographs on the move and I also do most of the navigating using Maps.Me on Daz’s Sony Z5 mobile phone. We pinpoint our destination, be it hotel or a warm showers host and mark key points en route. It works really well. I don’t have Daz’s map reading skills but I have time and free hands to check the route as we go. I’m also becoming better acquainted with how roads are displayed on Maps.me and typical pitfalls of Spanish roads; so many just stop for no apparent reason!

 

Saturday 06 February – Tarragona to L’ampolla

Distance 74.56 km

Max speed 52.5 kmph

Average speed 15.8 kmph

Total 1814.41 km

 

After another late night we don’t wake up until 9am and it’s raining. It’s just a drizzle so we decide to cycle back into Tarragona and find some breakfast. We find a pleasant square with a market and do some people watching. We realise most people are in fancy dress.

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We decide to head off and walk into a parade. We discover later it’s the Carnival Tarragona-Carnestoltes. One of the biggest, best and most attended carnivals in all of Catalonia, this is best known for the spectacular parades of every kind of float you can imagine and the dancing that takes places right across the city. We just saw a variety of floats and one Spanish guy thought we were a float.

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Finally we head off and stop in Salou for coffee, admiring all the fabulous boats in the Marina and then on to L’Ametlla de Mar also called la Cala (“the bay” or “the beach”). Fishing continues to be one of the principal activities of the town. The port area of Ametlla has a large fleet of fishing boats which fish using various methods, such as trawling, and also has the principal fleet of tuna fishing boats in Catalonia so we think it only proper that we stop for a late lunch of marinara paella. My first Spanish paella – delicious!

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It’s nearly 5 when we’ve finished eating and there’s only 15km to go. Easy Eh? Well we get one of those twists of fate or a kick in the teeth, if you prefer. Cycling so far, 60km, had been ‘simples’. No head wind, the sun was shining after the rain clouds had cleared, barely any traffic, good roads and flatish terrain. But after lunch we pick a route that weaves either side of train track. At some points its gravel (we were expecting these bits)

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but in others it’s a narrow, pockmarked, rutted bit of tarmac and Daz has to try and weave around the potholes.

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Then there are steep decents to tunnels under the train tracks and shockingly steep ascents that we barely manage pushing the bike. Another day of surprises, but hey, variety is the spice of life, so they say!!!

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After a tough last 15km we arrive in L’Ampolla to another Carnival. There’s a procession and everyone’s in fancy dress. What fun! We are happy to find a very comfortable and reasonably priced hotel.

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L’Ampolla. The origin of the name L’Ampolla (‘bottle’ in Catalan) comes from the former shape of the mouth of the River Ebro. In fact, all the features of the Delta have played a role in creating the character of this town: the sea, the bay, the water, the land, the dunes, etc. It is a mixture of Mediterranean essences, alternating between flat alluvial land and craggy coast; between mud and rocks; olive trees and rice fields; between marl rocky banks and lagoons.

 

Sunday 07 February – L’ampolla to Peniscola

Distance 5.24 km

 

Total 1819.65

 

Today we plan to cycle across the delta, which apparently is a wonder of nature but the wind is 20-30mph gusting to 40mph. We set off at 0940am but within an hour we’ve returned to our hotel and asked for another night’s accommodation ; just as well since Daz had stolen the key.

So an enforced rest day; it was positively scary being pushed across the road and how Daz coped steering, I have no idea. Back in our room we go through all our kit and create a pile to send home; one for the bin and the remainder for repacking!! A move that’s probably well overdue!

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Monday 08 February – L’ampolla to Peniscola

Distance 74.56 km

Max speed 39.6 kmph

Average speed 17.6 kmph

Total 1890.22 km + 9.08km sightseeing.

 

After breakfast we head straight to the post office to post our package home. It takes an hour to decide how it should be packaged and finally our 6kg parcel is off to the UK for 53€.

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We set off again across the Ebro delta and thankfully the wind has dropped significantly since yesterday. The delta is a huge expanse of fertile farming land.

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We see a lot of bird life; this is a twitchers paradise. Once across the delta it’s back to following the coast to Peniscola. We make really good progress. Daz thinks in total we’ve reduced our baggage by 8kg and it certainly feels lighter when pushing it and on the hills our speed doesn’t bleed away as suddenly as it used to. A huge improvement.

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Finally we cycle into Peniscola; to be fair we cycle along a built up sea front for about 4km before we arrive at Peniscola and eveything is shut. We cycle past some Brits and ask them if they know the area. They point us to a camping site and that’s where we book in. (This was a pretty town before Peniscola).

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And then we cycle to the old town centre. Up on a rocky peninsula there’s a castle, armoury, lighthouse and various city gates.

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Peniscola, often called the “Gibraltar of Valencia,” and locally as “The City in the Sea”, is a fortified seaport, with a lighthouse, built on a rocky headland about 220 feet (67 m) high, and joined to the mainland by only a narrow strip of land (Peníscola is a local evolution of Latin peninsula). The history of the place goes back to the Iberians. Later the town became Phoenician, named Tyreche, then Greek, under the name Chersonesos (meaning “peninsula”). It was next captured by the Carthaginians under Hamilcar Barca; legend has it that this is the place where he made his son Hannibal swear an oath that he would never be a friend of Rome.

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We were told that this is a Spanish seaside resort so won’t open until 1st March; and it’s true, almost every restaurant is shut. Finally we find something to eat before heading home to our campsite.

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Tuesday 09 February – Peniscola to Castellon de la Plana

Distance 87.25 km

Max speed 52.1 kmph

Average speed 17.5 kmph

Total 1986.55 km

We’re awake and up at 0820hrs and by 9am everything is packed and we’re ready to hit the road.

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That’s impressive, almost everything was unpacked and used. We stop for brekkie in town and then hit the road. We cycle along the coast, turning left and right, but always heading south into the sun.

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At one point before a significant headland we spot a ‘via verte’, a greenway, which looks like it crosses the headland saving us time. To get to it I direct Daz the wrong way down a one-way street. We’ve been doing this a lot because all Spanish towns are a grid of one way streets. It’s a short cut and there isn’t much traffic.right down the wrong way of a one way street. As we turn down the street a police car comes rolling towards us. The window slides down and a lazy arm waves us down. We know we are in the wrong and fess up, but after telling them where we are going they give us an escorted ride through town to the head of the trail… shame they didn’t use the bluelights… way cooler!!

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We hit the trail and it’s fab, but as it carves through the rocky headland the wind builds in our faces and really whistles through the tunnels!

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The last 20km down the coast is hard, the headwind has really picked up. Finally we arrive at Sergio’s, our host, for the night. He greets us, and then we wheel the bike into the garage car lift, yes lift! We zoom up to the garage level, drop the bike then take the normal lift to his apartment… fab!

 

Today as we cycled we noticed lots of trees in blossom, these we learn are Almonds in early blossom nearly 6 weeks early; fields of artichokes, orange trees and all manner of other crops we don’t recognise. All the crops are flourishing in the fair weather and everyone says that if there is a bad frost it will ruin many crops.

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We walk around town in evening, it’s very pleasant. Castellon is only about 750 years old but there are some lovely Art Nouveau buildings around the centre and a very nice market and street cafe, restaurant area.

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Oh one more thing… as we have been cycling through the countryside we have noticed several women, dolled up in tight clothes and high heels sitting by the roadside on chairs. Daz tells me they are prostitutes plying their trade, and in the summer you normally see them in bikini tops and shorts… not sure where he gets the information from, but it looks like he is right!!!

Wednesday 10 February – Castellon de la Plana to Valencia

Distance 80.46 km

Max speed 37. kmph

Average speed 14.6 kmph

Total 2067.01 km

Up early because Sergio needs to go to work. We cycle to the market and after a wander round we sit and drink coffee (in Daz’s case an alcoholic one) and watch the world go by.

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We spend much of the day cycling along the coast through seaside towns and villages which strangely seem completely deserted. It’s obviously too early in the season for anything to be open but all the houses seem empty too. We’re plagued by a strong head wind today so it’s a tough day of cycling. We stop for lunch in a deserted town, save for one small shop and bar it is closed. We buy some bread cheese and salami (our ‘go to’ lunch menu!) and wander down to the sea front. The wind is blowing the waves up onto the shore and causing quite a spray, but we hunker down on some steps out of the wind and eat.

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Out of the wind the sun is quite warm, but soon we are finished and it’s back into the wind. By the time we are within 20 km of Valencia the wind is now gusting so much that we take the flags off to lessen the effect, but still we are blown left, and then we veer right as it slackens off.

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By far this is the toughest day for me, more mentally really, as I have to rely on Daz to keep us upright and moving forward. But even with my squealing in fear as we get pushed around Daz gets us through it and finally into Valencia. The area around Valencia is all farming land.

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After a really tough day I’m not ready to cope with the Valencian traffic and I find it tougher than cycling through Barcelona. We arrive at our hosts Sol and Candido. She’s a sports teacher and he’s a graphic artist. Some of paintings are on display; he’s very good. There house was completely renovated last year and is lovely.

 

Thursday 11th February

 

Today we’re sightseeing in València. Daz has been several times before but it’s my first time. We visit:

 

BULL RING – Plaza de Toros de Valencia is a bullring in València, Spain. The stadium holds 10,500 people since 2010. It was built in 1841. The Valencian bullring, situated next to the North Station, was built between 1850 and 1860 and the architect was Sebastian Monleon.

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Valencia train station nord. Valencia station is one of the best buildings in the civil architecture of Valencia and is a monumental and representative reference point for the city. Its style is attached to the modernist movement, within the so called “Vienna Secession” school, but it is the peculiar way in which Ribes interprets the style that gives it such outstanding singularity. The exuberant decoration of its concourse, with a very detailed design of the ticket offices and wooden chair rails, with mosaic inlaid work and ceramic decoration and abundance of the trencadis technique, broken up tiles to cover walls and ceilings and forming a unit of great beauty.
The guidelines governing its functioning today tend to maintain a well conceived balance between functionality and maintenance of the building’s intrinsic values, still operating today and offering great quality and efficiency for more than 40,000 users a day. It was the first to receive the classification of historic-artistic monument in 1983.

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The City Hall is made up of two connected blocks: the Casa de la Enseñanza (the old Mayoral School) and the section that was added by the architects Francisco de Mora y Berenguer and Carlos Carbonell Pañella at the beginning of this century. The first block is characterised by its academic design, including baroque features on the front doors, while the newer part combines more traditional and mannerist styles. The City Council has been based there since 1934, and the building also houses the municipal archives, a museum, and various offices of the administration. The construction is modern, with lavish decoration and there is a clock tower in the centre of the building. Inside, the reception area, assembly halls and the formidable marble stairway are worth mentioning, while outside the elliptical domes decorated with glazed tiles and the great balcony covering the main part of the first floor are the most outstanding features.

We go up to the first floor balcony and wave at our subjects.

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Central Market – This masterpiece of modernist architecture in Valencia was designed in 1914 by Francisco Guardia and Alejandro Soler and was inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1928. With a surface area of over 8000 square meters, inside you can find almost whatever in the more than 1000 selling posts: fresh fish, vegetables, meat, fruit… You must go inside to feel the atmosphere of the market, and being surrounded by the smells and colours of this place. Try to visit it in the morning, because it’s when it’s open!!!!!

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In the City of Contrasts, Plaza de la Virgin dominates one end of the spectrum as the counterweight to the City of Arts and Sciences. It is seen by many as the ultimate impression of the traditional Valencia of the past centuries.

No wonder – Plaza de la Virgin used to be the main square of Valencia, right from the Roman origins to the day when Plaza de Ayuntamento came into full swing at the turn of the XX century. It is still a very active place, with most of the city traditional events passing through here. The irresistible charm of the Plaza is figured on many postcards and all the tourists agree that it is simply the best view for having a coffee on one of the summer terraces. The Plaza breathes with history, hosting three buildings of huge importance to Valencians. Basilica de Virgen de Los Desamparados is the second most important religious structure after the Cathedral, one of the first Baroque buildings in Spain and constructed in a traditional Spanish stye with a blue tiled dome. It is host to the hugely revered statue of Virgen of the Forsaken – the patron saint of Valencia. There are various supernatural myths about this statue. The interior is also very worth seeing. Palau de Generalitat is the seat of the Valencian Autonomous Region government, an imposing castle-like structure blending the late Gothic and Renaissance architecture with Moorish themes. The rear of the Cathedral also forms part of the square. The rear turret, the Gothic portal of the Apostles (where the Water Court meets every Thursday) and the curious colliseum-style colonnade harmonically blend with the Basilica and leave the tourists entranced.

History: this place has been here always, since the Roman times. The current look began forming in 13th century with the construction of the Cathedral, the portal of the Apostles finished in the first third of 14th century. In the 15th century the Palau de Generalitat was built (then a tax office for the Crown) and, finally, in 17th century – the Basilica. In the beginning of the 20th century the old City Hall in front of the Palau was taken down and a garden built in its place.

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Home to many tourist attractions, Plaza de la Reina is one of the oldest and busiest plazas in Valencia and the city’s beating heart. It is situated in the beautiful Old Town. Whether you chose to visit the famous Valencia Cathedral, take a tour of the city, wander the lovely streets of Ciutat Vella or take the bus to any other place in town, Plaza de la Reina is where you must go. It is bounded by the Cathedral and its bell tower – The Miquelet in the north, and Plaza Santa Catalina with its charming Iglesia in the south west. The center of the plaza plays host to a small patch filled with flowers and benches where visitors can take a break and watch the world go by. The square is lined with an excellent selection of cafes, terraces and restaurants, including one of the oldest (200 years old) and most renowned cafeterias in Valencia (Horchateria de Santa Catalina).


The Antiguo Cauce del Rio Turia is a unique park area created by the local authorities after the river Turia around fifty years ago after another damaging flood was redirected to run north of the city and the old riverbed through town had been dried out. The river banks and the old bridges still stand and a handful of new and very modern shaped architectural wonders have been built in some of the now open areas of the riverbed, e.g. a museum, a planetarium and a concert hall, some of them surrounded by blue and shallow water, all of them really spectacular. Fortunately, however, most of the conquered land has been left open with footpaths and trees and is now a great recreational area for both citizens and visitors – good for walking, jogging and bicycling and also with lots of space for other sports.

Not surprisingly, some people seriously suggested turning the old riverbed into a multilane motorway after the river had been diverted. Good for Valencia that this did not happen. The area is now a huge park – a several hundred meters wide and many kilometers long curving string of green open space all the way through the city of Valencia. A truly unique place – and definitely well worth a visit.

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In the evening we share supper with Sol and Candido, we chat about our travels, and they tell us about bull fighting and show us some of Candidos art work, every week they have a nude study which he and his art group spend time painting. His artwork is very good!!


Friday 12th February

 

Today we cycle on our tandem to Sol’s school. She has asked us to talk to her students about our travels. We spent time yesterday downloading pictures from our cloud. We’re hoping pictures will be better than too much speaking. We take our bike into the classroom and although there are a number of computer problems we are finally set and as Daz talks about our travels I cycle through pictures of the places we have visited as Daz mentions them. We have to give the talk twice, and we are impressed that most the people are able to follow our English. They seem interested in what we’ve been doing, so we’re glad that we made the effort. Sol seems pleased too.

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After we cycle back into the city, we catch a bite to eat before doing some geocaching along the old river and down towards the aquarium and science centres. These buildings near the sea are very artistic and it’s very relaxing cycling around them. Which is good, as yet again we’re both tired from the sightseeing!!

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Saturday 13 February – Valencia to Gandia

Distance 68.71 km

Max speed 41.4 kmph

Average speed 19.5 kmph

Total 2135.72 km

 

We get up and have breakfast with Sol. Candido bids us farewell as he is off out, then a little later it is our turn to say goodbye to Sol and Valencia. Thanks for having us!!!

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We are soon pedalling south again. We know that the winds are going to be high again today so we want to try and cycle hard as the winds tend to get even stronger as the day progresses. So we push hard, with only short breaks.

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P1060975 Except for a couple of very quick stops during the ride for provisions we make good time. Only one stretch of road gives us trouble because we have a head wind but then we cycle into Favara and turn the corner again, and nowthe wind is behind us and before I can say, ‘Daz, I’m tired!’ we are motoring along at high speed into the last stretch before Gandia! We’re booked into a hotel tonight, and unlike the ones before this one is very busy. We soon have the bike stored away in a back room and by 2pm we are showered and relaxing!! A very fast and good ride today!! Then there’s a knock on the door, very bizarre, a delivery! Oh how sweet, Daz ordered chocolates and wine for Valentine’s. What a sweetheart he is!!!

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