Finally, after one too many planes, I got to see Spain! Thank goodness there weren’t actually any trains involved.
Alicante, Torrevieja, and Cartagena, Spain are in the Costa Blanca region on the Mediterranean. (Costa Blanca means ‘White Coast’, and is probably so named for the abundance of British expats 🙂 ) Actually they say it’s named for the white beaches, which are lovely and covered with half-naked British expats during August, which makes them even lovelier.
Torrevieja happens to be on almost the exact same latitudinal line as where I live in California. We, however, don’t have an abundance of nude beaches. We need to work on that. In September the weather was a perfect 80-85 degrees (F) most of the time. As foreshadowed in my first post, it did rain a bit on a couple days and was a bit overcast. (Photo gallery at end of post.)
Every cafe or restaurant has an outdoor seating area. Dining by the water, or just grabbing a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon, watching the shore and the people strolling by quickly became one of our favorite things to do. It was easy to see why this is a popular pastime in Europe. It’s something I still miss as it’s hard to find around here.
That said, I felt the food left much to be desired. Wait! Before you hit the ‘send’ button on that hate mail… You should know I come from an area where we are quite spoiled. California has strawberries ALL YEAR LONG. If a store doesn’t have strawberries, we get annoyed with the store. It has nothing to do with the seasons and the fact strawberries may not be around – we can ship them in from Mexico. We always have strawberries 24/7/365. We have 10 kinds of lettuce, 15 kinds of apples, and a million varieties of cheese. Gawd, I love cheese. And we have sourdough! I consider myself a foodie – I LOVE food. I love trying new food, and am particularly fond of anything Mediterranean.
But about the food… I found it on the bland side, and there were far fewer choices than I’m used to. For instance, there was only one kind of salad – identical at all restaurants. I expected more fresh produce considering we were on the same latitudinal line as California. We were lucky to find one kind of apple, and a couple kinds of cheese.
Torrevieja is a small coastal town, and a popular tourist destination as reflected in the many souvenir shops and restaurants. As previously mentioned, Torrevieja is named after an Old Tower. I wonder if the town was called Torrenueva (New Tower) when they first build it? Maybe they just waited a few hundred years for the tower to get old before they named the town.
Favored as a retirement location by many British expatriates, it was fairly easy to get around with limited Spanish. There was one exception: When we got caught in an unexpected downpour and need a cab to get back to the condo before getting drenched. The cabby didn’t speak English. If I hadn’t memorized the address in Spanish, my two companions and I would have had to walk back in the rain. Memorize your hotel or condo (villa) address – even if you have no idea what the sequence of letters and numbers means.
Alicante holds the main airport for the area. A larger and more developed city than Torrevieja, there were many more shops and restaurants. Great shopping, too. The large plaza in the center of town holds a weekly bazaar. Alicante is also home to a lovely castle, Santa Barbara Castillo. Before you picture an old English castle, think of this as more of a big stone fort. Situated on top of a small hill near the coast’s edge, the views were stunning!
My favorite spot was Cartagena. Perhaps it was the obvious influence of wealth. The Apogee, a luxury yacht, was in port. *swoon*. At the time, she was for sale for a mere $66M. Let me get my checkbook.
There was a wonderful old Plaza de Toros (bull ring), another fort, and museum. All cities had a surprising mix of very new and very old structures. The mix of old and new is probably only surprising to those of us who live in relatively young countries, such as the United States.
The food was also better in Cartagena. I managed to find a smoked salmon! baguette and mint tea at a lovely little harbor-side cafe run by Arabs. I felt more at home here than any other place in Spain. It might have been my proximity to the Apogee luxury yacht. The Middle-Eastern population was higher in Cartagena. I speak about as much Arabic as I do Spanish, but while I can only order food and give directions to the taxi driver in Spanish, I can make either the very briefest of polite conversation or cuss you out in Arabic. It’s a lovely combination, don’t you think?
All in all, it was a good trip, but next time I will be much more careful about the company with which I choose to travel. I would love to go back and see Barcelona, the Running of The Bulls, and La Tomatina, a giant tomato food fight.