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Jun 2014

Alicante Coat of Arms

Off to Alicante are you? Going to Benidorm? It's brilliant isn't it or you heading down to Santa Pola? Didn't know you golfed?...

'We don't, we're going to Alicante'...

Sure, you're flying there but where you staying? Playa Flamenca? We went go-karting there, when you got plastered doing shots, and there's a massive new Aldi™ with a free shuttle bus[1]. Where you staying again?...

'We're going to Alicante and we're staying in Alicante'...

... Why?

[1] There's not really but you get this big snob's point?

Well, here's for why! It looks not a little unlike this although the wave-effect tiles of the Explanada de España are said to leave some people feeling a little seasick.

The maze of backstreets are a treat with all your major international cuisines covered and it's barely 20 minutes in a taxi from the airport to the banyan tree[1]s.

There's history here that goes back 7,000 years, unlike Benidorm whose civilisation of sorts only dates back to the early seventies. While the subject is on, isn't Benidorm dreadful?

It used to be fine, the poolside contrivances a far better fit in the traditional, 30-minute[2]  sitcom format and the original characterisations just about bordering on the believable.

[1] And everybody remembers how  tricky they could be, eh?
[2] 24 minutes with the adverts on ITV™.

  New Delhi (Passeig Esplanada d'Espanya)

Preferred cuisine provider for those tiring of the tapas perhaps. They appear to have stolen the menu from our local takeaway right down to the mint sauce and the mango chutney.

Looking at some fish and meat in a city of this size is a must and the Mercat Central is Alicante's main market.

By 'looking', it's not meant in a 'UURGH! What's that' or 'AARGH! They eat those bits here?' kind of way. No, that stage has well and truly been passed and besides, there's often some good lunching with the locals close to hand.

Some of the roads have been cordoned off so the back of it has been nipped in via a colourful, floral display. They're well stocked and doing a brisk trade, it's almost as if there's something going on here?

This impressive building has all the fish downstairs including a wide selection of some that haven't been invented in the UK yet. Upstairs, the meat but what's this? A marching mariachi band? It's almost as if there's something going on here? Not so much mariachi more mar i xai què?

That roughly translates as 'sea and lamb eh?' and very nearly works as a clever, Catalan pun and you don't see one of those every day.

  Concatedral de San Nicolàs de Bari (Plaza Abad Penalva)

Bang in the old centre, you'll pass it anyway but they've really gone to town with the flowers for the fiesta.

They got them from the back of the main market, probably.

Of course there's something going on here, the middle of a fiesta has only gone and been accidentally found! The  Fogueres de Sant Joan, the Bonfires of St John and yes, him of being a baptist fame. All that cordoning off is for the barracas you see, fenced off areas where the neighbourhood comes to boogie and booze come sundown.

During the day, more marching bands and a good old fashioned beauty parade like they used to have in the '70s and just look at this 'cracker', eh lads?

This is all then followed by the, quite frankly unnecessary, putting of a match to some industrial grade firecrackers.

  Restaurante Nécora (Plaça del Ajuntament)

Handy for a nightcap on the Plaça de Ajuntament. You might well be entertained by a Dutch jazz band who'd made their own way here and had the hats out. Worthy of a few €euros, casual chit-chat ensued... 'You sound a bit like an English brass band.'

'BUT IN BRASS BAND YOU HAVE NO SAXOPHONE!'

Alright love, calm down, just trying to have a fiesta here.

Dotted around the city on display are these ninots or papier-mâché statues if you'd rather.

Some are symbolic, some even satirical but what they're definitely not is fireproof. Come Sunday night, and just like the firecrackers, they set light to the lot.

  Sale & Pepe (Calle Muñoz)

Decent pizza next to the cathedral in what doesn't appear to be an international chain. Rather more interestingly, a suntanned man in cut off jeans will set light to some industrial grade firecrackers without even the basics of Health & Safety covered.

An already traumatised young boy starts quivering and mum's leaning over to cover his ears while the tables shake. Quite frankly, unnecessary.

The Castell de Santa Bàrbara dominates the city from mount Benacantil and dates back to the 9th century when the Moors had a stronghold here.

You can take a lift up, apparently but there's a path that starts in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, Alicante's quaint old quarter. Why not lug yourself up in 30°C heat to the top? It's no more crackers than everything else going on here.

It's actually not that strenuous and there's even a public park halfway up with a posh restaurant in it, neither shown.

Just as you start to think there's no possible way up them rocks, you'll pass under a footbridge where it's not far to meet the tour buses that have driven up the other side.

Not that much remains of the medieval apart from the remains of the Santa Bàrbara church and it appears to be fairly standard fayre otherwise and castle-wise.

It's thought to be all still free apart from the exhibitions and there's at least one thirst-quenching café where you'll be grateful for a granizado. Try not to sip too quickly...

AARGH!... ICE-CREAM HEADACHE!

Or 'Brain Freeze' as it's now known to be known down south.

Still, some nice views from up there, this one south to the port and the Med. That whole area was redeveloped in the '90s and it shows. Down there, keeping company with the karaoke and a discotheque, you could be just about anywhere.

To the west, the urban sprawl of Alicante that nearly half-a-million people call home and to the north-east, behind the bump, Benidorm.

That's where that group of lads on the flight out were off to, probably. On first inspection, a standard 'stag' was suspected but no, get this, a nappy wearing bunch for a male 'baby shower' who were noisily less than expected. Certainly more so than the soon to be squawker being celebrated and definitely the one in seat 20E.

  Playa de San Juan

8km stretch of beach away from the city and a resort all of its own. It looked walkable but some of that was along a busy dual carriageway so your best bet is an L4 TRAM. You'll pass below the Serra Grossa on your way north-west, the bump that stops you seeing Benidorm from up the castle.

Things don't really get going of an evening until late and that'll be midnight late.

The barracas are full to the brim with grown-ups and the youths stream down to the beach to do, well, what youths are presumed to do with bagfuls of booze and a box of matches for the bonfire.

You're lucky, that hotel balcony faces the other way although not quite as lucky as first thought. That ropey covers band will still be going at 3 AM although one of their choices really was quite inspired...

'  Smo-kon-na-war-dur, fi-ya-een-ass-kye.'

  Meliá Alicante (Plaza del Puerto)

Accommodation by the harbour with views of the beach or a temporary stage depending on the time of year. Big old breakfast room where you'll queue for a croissant with 1,000 others.