Alicante by bus

We discovered that there is a bus to Alicante from outside LIDL, just a short drive up the main road.  The reception gave us a timetable, just as well as the one displayed at the bus stop is out of date.  We like to take the bus into cities rather than take the van as it is not always easy to find uncovered parking.  We also get to look out of the window at the scenery rather than scanning for “helpful” road signs.

We were delighted with Alicante and made three visits during our stay at Guardamar.

Visit 1 – 12 Dec

This was an exploring visit.  Unfortunately, we could not locate the Tourist Information office so only had the map we picked up at the campsite.  However, we had done research via our Spain Guide and the internet.  The old town was easy to find and the Castell de Santa Barbara cannot be missed as it dominates the city from its position on the top of Mount Benacantil.  At a height of 166 metres, it is one of the largest medieval fortresses in Spain.

 

View of Santa Barbara Castle from Postiguet Beach promenade at Alicante

We walked along the Esplanada de Espana towards the old town, where there are a number of stalls selling various craft type goods.  The Esplanade itself was very attractive and bustling with life.

Esplanada De Espana, Alicante

We enjoyed wandering along amongst the stalls but, our aim was the castle.  Although it is easy to spot, it is not quite so clear how to get to it.  Eventually we spotted a sign that directed us to lifts.  We did struggle to locate the lifts up to the top, which we needed to use on account of Clyde’s unbending leg.  Eventually we struck lucky and arose in style almost to the top.  I had to pay 2.70 but Clyde went free (being an old codger!).  There is so much to wonder at and it really is one of the most impressive, and well preserved, castles that we have visited.  The views from all around were spectacular.

View from Santa Barbara Castle over Alicante
Clyde being daring at the castle!
View from the Albacar Vell part of the castle
Looking down towards the bullfighting museum in the old ampitheatre
View from the castle across to the mountains behind Alicante

We enjoyed our visit to the castle so much that we were there for several hours and had to dash for the bus home.  There was a lower level that we did not have time to explore so, there is something for another day.

Guardamar by Van

Our reconnoitre had identified easy parking next to the Parque Reina Sofia.

Name stone at Reina Sofia Parque, Guardamar

We decided to take the van and enjoy our lunch overlooking the park.  It did not disappoint as there are a series of small lakes running into each other via small waterfalls.  There is a good variety of wild waterfowl including peacocks.  We were quite surprised to see so many peacocks strutting about freely and also sitting in the trees.  This is a really lovely area for families as there is also a well designed childrens playground.

Lakes and waterfalls at Reina Sophia Parque complete with peacocks

This became one of our favourite spots in Guardamar.

7 Dec – Long Walk to Guardamar

The campsite is near to Guardamar but there is a small problem, it is the other side of the river!  Once more we discussed this dilemma with locals and were advised to turn right out of the site, along the river towards the road bridge, then across the river.

Off we set complete with sandwiches and water.  The walk along the river was OK with tall reeds obscuring much of the view.  However, we could see the tower blocks that line the route to the marina on the other side.  Eventually we reached the road bridge, no pedestrian access, what to do?  After some exploration we spotted a rickety wooden sign towards a paved crossing amongst the reeds.  Thank goodness we thought, nearly there.  Wrong again, we now had to walk even further, back in the same direction but on the other side of the river!

Not to be beaten we plodded on towards our goal and eventually reached the marina that we had previously admired from the other side of the harbour entrance.  We gratefully sank onto seats on the marina restaurant terrace and ordered a beer each.  At least it was not cold or wet.

Marina at Guardamar viewed from the restaurant terrace

Having revived ourselves, we sat on a bench and ate our sandwiches whilst deciding what to do next.  As our plan was to visit the promenade we made our way around the marina and onto the walkway through the palms and sand dunes.  It was another long walk and when we arrived at the prom it was siesta and nothing except eateries was open.  However, we found a town plan on a board and photographed it so we could use it to get back to base.

Our route back was via the park and the main street of the town.  All very pleasant but the Tourist Office was closed until 1700 and we were there at 1600!  We noted the layout of the town and park area and declared that we would bring the van next time!  We had to walk back the same way, which had not become any shorter, and were greatly relieved to arrive “home” before darkness fell.  We had walked 9.5 miles.  Our advisors were amazed to hear that we had WALKED to Guardamar.  They all go by bike – arghhhhh

Guardamar Del Segura

Guardamar is on the Costa Blanca coast.  It has 11 Km of sandy beaches protected by the dunes that run along the length of this coast from North to South.  Guardamar itself was founded in 1271 but an earthquake in 1821 caused the destruction and abandonment of the the old walled town.  Work to construct a new town designed by the engineer Larramendi followed on from the earthquake.  By the late 18th century the town started to suffer an invasion of sands.  The engineer Mira led a reforestation intitiative that overcame the threat of desertification in Guardamar.   The result of all this is a coastal woodland providing a backdrop to the dunes.  There are walkways all along this coast to protect the dunes.

The Palm tree walkway along the dunes at Guardamar

We walked along this route from the marina at one end to the town promenade at the other.  To be honest, it is not the most scenic route but there are a number of wooden walkways onto the beach between the dunes if a glimpse of the sea is required.

You can also take a number of different pathways to the housing areas and also to the Reina Sofia Park, which is most attractive.  More of that later.

4 December – On to Guardamar

As previously documented, we had booked ourselves into Marjal Guardamar Camping for a month from today.  Something made me wonder whether we were actually booked into the right site as we had been informed by fellow campers, that there is a bigger, sister site called Marjal Costa Brava.  I phoned to check and discovered that we were indeed booked into the wrong site!  Panic was averted as they were able to change our booking – phew!

It was lovely to be on the move again, albeit not very far.  The new campsite was quite acceptable with good facilities and the only issue was our pitch.  The people on the pitch we had been allocated had not left as expected and we had to endure 2 nights on a place next to the new holiday bungalows building site.  A small issue really and on Weds we moved to a huge sunny pitch.  Again we were surrounded by mixed nationalities, all very friendly.  Some come every year but there are others like us that like more variety.  We were not sure how we would feel about staying so long but decided to get out and about as well as joining in with some of the onsite jollities.

30 November -day trip to Benidorm

Groan ye not!  We just had to go to Benidorm as it was so close.  Once again we consulted the local oracles and took their advice to catch the tram.  Luckily we had asked the lovely reception lady for guidance as we had no idea where the tram stop was.  She gave us a map of Benidorm and pointed out the best and worst bits (The bit that the Brits go to!).  Also efficiently, we went for a walk to locate the tram stop the day before which was just as well, it was cunningly concealed down some rough looking urbanisacions.  These are what we would call suburbs.

Next day we set off complete with sandwiches and water, as you never know what might happen.  We found the ticket machine on the tram a bit confusing, but apparently had bought the correct tickets, as there was a fierce ticket inspector onboard and she spared us the glares and tuttings that other poor foreigners received.

Once at Benidorm we managed to find our way down to the old town via a pedestrianised old river bed.  It was quite a pleasant surprise as it was very attractive and even had an open air theatre.

Benidorm. Pedestrianised dried up river.
Open air theatre in the pedestrianised river bed on route down to the old town

The old town was extremely busy until 1400 when some of the little shops closed for siesta.  We treated ourselves to a cup of coffee in one of the cafes before heading down to the front to eat our sarnies.  The beach and marina were extremely pleasant and we wandered along to a peaceful and secluded small bay below the promontory.

More classy beach in Benidorm

We walked up the steps to the seafront church and a rather lovely area overlooking Benidorm Island where a man was playing a guitar and singing.

Attractive promontory in Benidorm

After enjoying the civilised part of Benidorm, we headed down to the bay that is frequented by hoards of British tourists.  At this time of year it is quite pleasant.  There were a few old folk on tandem motorised scooters and definitely more English tourists than other nationalities but nothing to be ashamed of.  I suspect it is rather different in the Summer.

The more touristy beach in Benidorm

Altogether a very enjoyable day out.  The tram back was fine, correct tickets again.

27 November -Trip to Finestrat

Whilst at Vila Joiosa, we visited the old town of Finestrat which was only a few kilometres away.  We took the van and set off in the direction advised by neighbours on the campsite.  Of course, they were all either cyclists or motorbikers!  That should not have mattered but, when it comes to small towns and parking a campervan, there is a difference.  We drove into Finestrat and up through the town and out the other side without finding anywhere to park.

Puig Campana mountain viewed from Finestrat

The resulting journey up the usual winding mountainous roads up around Puig Campana mountain, took us to a wonderful high road above Benidorm.  There were fantastic roundabouts complete with fountains and a parking place with far reaching views across Benidorm to the sea.  However, we did not stop as we were determined to get to Finestrat.  Now we had our bearings, we made another assault on the mission and found a space outside a covered car park right near the town.

One of the main streets in Finestrat complete with Christmas decorations

Unusually for us we had managed to get there before siesta and the Tourist Information centre was open.  We picked up a map and information and followed signs that took us around the best bits of the old town.  We enjoyed a wander around the narrow streets, popped into the  church where piped music broke the silence (rather nice), and called into a lovely little shop to buy savoury pastries and cake for our lunch.

One of the beautiful alters in the church at Finestrat
Finestrat church decorated by students

Now that we were practically locals, we managed to find our way back up to the parking place with the lovely views and put the kettle on.  Our spoils from the shop in Finestrat were greatly enjoyed with a nice fresh cup of tea.

One strange thing about Finestrat was that it has a beach that is not attached to the town.  Unless we were really mistaken, it was actually nearer to Vila Joiosa.  Still, we had not gone there for the beach so we never got to visit.  There is a street of houses hanging over the rocks apparently.  We missed that particular spectacle.  You can’t see everything.

22 November – La Vila Joiosa

Another destination on our way towards Alicante.

We had made a slight error in our calculations whilst in Northern Spain and assumed we would arrive in the Alicante region by early December.  Experienced Winter in Spain travellers had advised us to book somewhere for December as it gets very busy.  We innocents abroad soaked up this intelligence and booked a campsite South of Alicante for a month.  By the time we realised that we would be beyond there by mid November, it was too late to change.  So, we decided to make the most of it and give the places we stayed more of our attention than usual.

Our Spain guru from MMM, Andy Stothert, had kindly visited this area and written about it.  He advised that La Vila Joiosa was exactly that.  With great expectations, we studied our ACSI guide and identified a nearly new campsite at the very location.  We tipped up unannounced and were fortunate to be given a very pleasant pitch with mountain views.  We met some very nice people there too.

On the second day we decided to walk down to the old port.  It was quite a trek through some very unprepossessing back streets.  However, once there, the  seafront was interesting and there was a well developed promenade along to the old town.  In fact, the port end was not up to our exacting standards so we didn’t return.  I did spot this rather unusual figurehead on a boat that was under construction.

Boat under construction. Unusual figurehead!

Our next trip to the town involved a visit to the Tourist Information office, as usual in Spain, cunningly hidden!  The gentleman in there was very informative about the five chocolate factory shops/tours and not much else.  We accepted a map of the area and followed our unerring sense of direction towards the bits that looked interesting.

The old town is renowned for it’s colourful buildings.  There is not a lot more to the town but it is comprised of the typical Spanish old town narrow alleyways and has a charm of its own.

Vila Joiosa is known for its colourful houses in the old town
Old town Vila Joiosa. Government building

We had a couple of trips out from here and they are documented on the next post.

21 November – El Castell de Guadalest

We left Altea and the campsite full of geriatric Dutch and German folk.  The excitement was getting too much!

As we had been on the coast rather a lot, we were looking forward to a trip inland and upwards to El Castell de Guadalest.  This is a hill town based around a castle built by the Moors on a rocky crag.  It is an impressive sight as you approach.

Guadalest castle from below

We were directed to the lower car park and advised that we could stay overnight.  The princely sum of €4 was exchanged for 24 hrs parking.

We walked up to the village square and had a look in some of the rather touristy shops.  The highlight of the day was lunch at the terrace cafe overlooking the valley.

View from the terrace restaurant at Guadalest

Next day, after a very peaceful night with some friendly German neighbours to chat to next door, we went back to see the castle.

The castle had been beautifully lit up in the evening but we were unable to take any really effective photos.  However, we were glad to be staying close enough to enjoy the spectacle.

It was a good, healthy climb all the way up.  The entrance to The castle is through the family house Casa Orduna.  Also an interesting place (family home for many centuries),but overshadowed by the chapel next door.  As we approached, we heard singing and so, in we went.  There was a group of 4 men taking advantage of the acoustics for the sheer pleasure.  It was an amazing sound and all the better for being impromptu.

Inside the chapel at Guadalest

The climb up to the castle afforded ever changing persectives on the view.  The clock tower was a good measure of how far we had climbed.

Distant view of the bell tower at Guadalest
The bell tower from above. Half way up the castle steps

After another visit to the terrace cafe for coffee, we couldnt resist the view, we headed off to our next destination.