Could This Day Possibly Get Any Better?
10.06.2011 - 12.06.2011 25 °C
DW – 12/06 (day 87)... Although excited about a weekend away in a new country, our expectation of Spain wasn’t much. We’ve heard numerous slaggings of Spain but given flights were so cheap we thought we’d decide for ourselves. Boy are we glad we did!
Only a couple of weeks ago did we decide to go away this weekend, difficult to remember the reasonings, it’s not like we haven’t travelled for a while... In the end it doesn’t matter because we have had the most incredible weekend, one of the best trips in our lives to-date!
On Friday afternoon we knocked off work early and headed for Stansted Airport, which turned out to be much further away from London than we thought when we booked the flights; no wonder they were so cheap. It took me longer to get to the airport from work than it did to fly to Spain, there’s no logic in that (admittedly I work an hour from Liverpool Street which is the tube station offering the Stansted Express). I worked out that in the time it took from Theale (my office) to Stansted , I could’ve driven from Newcastle to Quirindi. Whatever, we were going to Spain!
So we left London for the weekend and arrived at Alicante Airport, on the east-coast of Spain – surprisingly once off the place we walked straight past baggage-claim (we only had carry-on) and into the exit of the airport – apparently customers/passport control had knocked off for the day... Happy days for us – there’s not much worse than waiting in line for a cranky man to ask you stupid questions then stamp your passport.
The day before leaving we realised we had no option but to hire a car (by the time we would arrive, the buses would’ve stopped, and taxis cost about 80 Euros to where we were going), so we arranged one through EasyJet (aligned with Europcar). We were given a little red rocket (yes I understand the South Park reference), a VW Polo – left-hand drive (naturally, given we were in Europe), and a little beast.
Once we navigated out of the airport we hit the road for Calpe, about an hour north of Alicante; quite a nice drive with parts bordering the ocean. We came to our first toll-booth and panicked when there was no-one in sight – we only had 50 Euro notes (that’s how we roll). Turns out you just pull-up in front of a boom-gate and a ticket prints out for you to grab – next please.
The clock struck past midnight (it didn’t really strike) and we found our motel fairly easily – AR DIamonte Beach, Calpe. Again I had booked it through EasyJet as it was quite cheap and looked pretty damn nice. We were more than impressed with this place, more on that later. Once checked-in we drove out again in search for some late-night Spanish tapas as we hadn’t eaten dinner yet. I’d been told that it’s not uncommon for Spanish people to eat at 10-11pm so we thought we’d have no trouble finding something to eat at this hour. Wrong!
We drove for what seemed like forever, stopping when we saw lights (and mouths dripping with excitement), only to be disappointed time and time again! Until we found a small restaurant (I guess you’d call it that) who were about to shut, but kept the lights on while we entered. They had a few meatballs left in their bayermaree (no idea how to spell that word – in fact I didn’t know the word existed until Loz’s 21st where Stu kept mentioning it. Naturally I went along with it and eventually worked out what it was), and we gobbled them down like hobos out the back of KFC on Good Friday. Part-satisfied we headed back towards our motel and found a dirty kebab shop (think Steve’s kebabs on a Friday night after the Impy in Tamworth), booya! We grabbed a takeaway meal and continued to the motel. Once back home we scoffed our meal, showered, and hit the hay.
On Saturday morning we headed down for brekkie at the motel buffet – now this would most-likely rank at our number two (2) buffet breakfast we’ve come across (numero uno belongs to the Beau Rivage at Interlakin, Switzerland)... There was almost everything you could ever dream of available; a tables of juices (and chocolate milk, mmmm), table of cheeses (yep), table of sweets/pastries, and numerous other options (obviously you could order omelettes etc) including Champagne if you were that way inclined. I stuffed myself silly (as I tend to do on these occasions – my self-control goes out the window when it hears all-you-can-eat) and we finally finished and prepared for the big day ahead.
Knowing very little about the area (or Spain itself) we thought we’d head north with no real purpose, just to see what came of it. Boy are we glad we did... We soon got off the highway and came across some incredible villages, tucked away in the countryside. Vineyards covered the valleys, surrounded by the rockiest of mountains, and narrow (somehow 2-way) roads weaved in-between, nothing over 80km/h allowed. This is exactly what we were after (although we didn’t know it as we didn’t expect anything). I still have no idea where we went but we just kept driving, heading westish into the hills to find even narrower streets (some we had to three-point turn just to get around the corner), some sealed, some gravel and headed to dead-ends. It seems the scenery just kept getting better the more we drive, so we kept going.
Before we knew it we were atop a rocky mountain, with forever lasting vineyards valleys on one side, and the crystal-clear ocean on the other. It was a semi-overcast day so you could see the tips of mountains in the distance covered by cloud, looking like erupting volcanoes (minus the lava). We couldn’t believe our luck – we had just driven with no purpose to find some of the most amazing views of our lives. Built on the sides of these incredible rocky-mountains are villages, towns, cities! Seriously, where the hell were we? This place reminded us of Cinque Terre in Italy although there was so much more housing and it kept going forever, and ever!
We stopped numerous times along the way; sometimes to take photos, sometimes for beer/wine/tapas, sometimes just to breathe the amazingly fresh air that made you feel like all subsequent air you breathe will be sub-par. How had we been so lucky as to find this paradise? Why didn’t some fellow travellers like Spain? How could we bring ourselves to ever leave this place? We kept heading north and continued to climb mountains wherever we could find them, until we found we were as high as we could go – again, a view like no other I’ve ever experienced (including the views from some very, very high snow-mountains in the US and Europe).
Eventually we decended and found a beautiful beach-village where we sat for a late lunch, overlooking pristine waters and soft, black sand. I’ll say that the sand was nothing like that of Mexico – it was a little courser (mind you the sand in Mexico was beyond amazing) and was so dark, almost dirt-like. It wasn’t dirty, but do you know what I mean? Meh, whatever – I’m no sand expert.
After hours of driving amongst this profound beauty we decided to head back to the motel as we had little idea how far we’d come and I wanted to have a few beers (without having to worry about driving afterwards). Tom Tom got us home and we trekked down the bar at the pool of the motel, Happy Hour! Turns out it was buy one get one free so for just 7 Euros we got two (2) pints of cerveca, and 1 litre of sangria (bloody cheap we thought) – just what the doctor ordered after a day of driving. Could this day get any better?
Again peckish we finished our drinks and bathed for dinner – we were so exhausted we decided to hit the buffet (the same place as brekkie) as the menu looked pretty good. We paid our way on entry and settled in for a big night of over-indulging – a nice surprise was that wine was included in the price so turns out the day could get better after-all. I overate on bread (had about three entree plates of it) and struggled to manage much more until I hit the chocolate fondue fountain for dessert and had about 1,000 strawberries. Silly Poms were dunking one (1) strawberry on a skewer at a time – I went hell-for-leather and filled each skewer so you couldn’t see wood anymore. This final straw drained us for the long day and we headed for bed.
This morning (we’re at Alicante airport at the moment, waiting for our flight back to London) we had an earlier start and again demolished the buffet. Given the luck we’d had yesterday, we thought we’d follow a similar patter, although head south instead (back towards Alicante). We soon reached Bennidorm (think that’s what it’s called), a town about 15 minutes south of Calpe, which is meant to have a great nightlife and seems quite popular for tourists (Spain is the UK’s most visited country I think). It seemed like a nice place and we stopped for a look at the ever-stretching beach, full to the brim of umbrellas, beach chairs, and gleaming white British bodies! Although nice, this wasn’t quite what we were after (and I had something I wanted to see in Alicante) so we jumped back on the road (don’t worry, we were in our hire-car) and continued south towards Alicante. Although nice-enough, the countryside here was nothing like it’s northern neighbours – it seemed more like these were big cities and kind of reminded us of the Gold Coast, nice but meh.
We arrived in Alicante in search of the Castle of Santa Barbara, one of the top things to do on Trip Advisor in this part of Spain. After just driving we found it and soon found a park about 500m away. The weather today was unbelievable and hot so every local and tourist in the area was at the beach which is why we had to park so far away. We entered the bottom of this rocky-mountain, paid our nominal fee, and got the lift to the temple (we are lazy but you couldn’t walk anyway, it wasn’t an option). This castle was built over 2,000 years ago ( believe) by the Muslims, built on the top of a mountain to keep an eye out for enemies (I guess) during civil wars of the time. Once on top, you can see 360’ for miles and miles so you can understand why they build it where they did. What amazed me most was how they managed to build something so impressive on a rock mountain 2,000 years ago, incredible... Anyway, here’s the Wikipedia article for those interested - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_of_Santa_B%C3%A1rbara. We spent a couple of hours scouting around the temple, including a relaxing beer overlooking the ocean’s edge.
After the temple-tour we decided to capitalise on the weather and stripped down for the beach and try and get our Mexican tans back. Not having prepared very well (we didn’t have towels), we found some banana lounges and snapped them up. Within minutes a Spanish worker was upon us and asked for 8 Euros for use of the chairs, worth it? Absolutely! We paid the man as we didn’t want to completely dirty ourselves of sand given we had checked out and had to fly back to London tonight. We spent a couple of hours lazing about, I had a swim in-between – the water was quite nice, probably about 21’C, and crystal clear.
The sun soon got the better of us and we grabbed a drink then decided to drive again for a few hours before we had to return the hire-car and fly home. We tried to continue south but about an 45 minutes later realised are directionally challenged when we ended up back on the same street we started on in Alicante (along the beach). To us this was a sign that we weren’t going to find the paradise we did yesterday, possibly never again in our lives. If you are ever in this part of Spain, remember that everything nice is north of Calpe, towards Valencia.
So now we’re at the airport, bracing ourselves for a couple-hours flight and work again tomorrow. We have had such an amazing weekend and yesterday ranks as one of the greatest days of my life (I think Loz will agree). We have a busy week coming up this week then Deb and Stu arrive next weekend which is very exciting.
We have experienced but a teaspoon of Spain, one that has made us hungry for so much more. I want to do to Spain what I did my buffet breakfast – eat it all and leave nothing behind.