Tuesday, 18 August 2015

What to do with 2 weeks on the Costa Blanca: The Holiday Round-Up

Hi there amigos (we're all friends here, right)!  As you may or may not have gathered from my last few blog posts, I recently went to Spain for a couple of weeks away with my family.  We stayed in a villa in the mountains just outside of a town called Pego, which is on the East coast of Spain between Valencia and Benidorm - all in all, a fabulous spot for a family holiday.  

I thought I'd do a general round-up of our time in the area - what my particular highlights were and some nice day trips we had, to give anyone who may be thinking of visiting Spain an idea of what it has to offer.  I am a big fan of Spain and have been quite a few times to a few different places.  To me, the North and the South of Spain are both very beautiful and very different.  Josh and I visited a couple of friends in late April this year who live close to Santander and it is unbelievable how picturesque and pastoral that part of the country can be (it's so green!) compared to the hot arid landscapes that might initially be associated with Spain.  Anywho, before I go off on one, I'll just get on with the show... here are my top 5 do-its for when in Spain.


Numero Uno - Enjoy the local area and culture (make use of the tourist information!)

 One thing we all really enjoyed was taking a stroll (about 15 minutes) in the evenings through the orange groves and into the local village of Adsubia to visit our favourite bar, 'The Pianola'.  There are some really beautiful walks in the area, but my strong advice is to either get up early (I'm talking 7/8am) and do them before the sun gets hot or in the evening around 9/10pm when it's a bit cooler... even then you'll probably still be sweating, but it's worth it for the gorgeous views.

We visited the tourist information within our first couple of days to also get some maps of the local area, activity leaflets, places to walk etc. and a list of the fiestas going on nearby while we were there.  There was a very helpful/sexy man in there who was more than happy to help us out with things like what days the Spanish markets were on etc.

 Another crucial part of enjoying the local area is obviously sampling as many of the local foodspots as you can stomach.  Spain is great because you don't need to pay much at all to get great, fresh food.  There are countless bars and restaurants that serve tapas, salads, burgers and sandwiches or a 'Menu del Dia' Monday to Friday, a set price menu of 2-3 courses, generally including a drink and coffee.  These menus range between 6-25 euros depending on where you go, but generally are lovely - think seafood, meat, salads, paellas etc.  For those who aren't keen on traditional Spanish food however (it is an acquired taste!) there are many other options - two of my favourite non-traditional meals were at Seven Pizza, an Italian, and Buddha Eyes, an Indian, both in Pego.  

Numero Dos - But at the same time... enjoy being a tourist, and doing tourist-y things.

I think it is impossible to deny that when on holiday, you do have to do at least one thing where you get to be the ultimate tourist and take photos of absolutely everythingSafari Aitana is, without a doubt, the place to do it.  It is €20 entry for an adult, so a bit more of a pricey activity if you're in a group, and you do also have to have a car, but once you're in, it's great.  You get to drive around the massive park, seeing animals ranging from Llamas to Elephants to Lions and Tigers.  In some spots you're allowed to get out of your car (see the above Hippo selfie) to get a bit closer to the animals. As tempted as I was though, you're not supposed to feed or touch the animals (pretty obvious, really).  This was great as a family activity and really nice to see the animals roaming around in a big old African style savannah.  

Numero Tres - Do something a little more Spanish. 
As well as the obvious tourist attractions, there are some rather more Spanish sights and activities which are great to experience.  Les Fonts de l'Algar are beautiful Spanish waterfalls set only 15 km from the city of Benidorm.  They're a bit of a pain in the ass to get to if you suffer from travel sickness like me (those windy roads are really not easy on the stomach), but is well worth the slight risk of vomiting in your hire car.  

We took some food and picnic blankets to sit on as well as towels, swimming attire and decent trainers or sea shoes to wear so we could explore the different levels, climbing up and swimming through between the rocks to get through to the different levels.  The water is so refreshing and cold so it's a great thing to do on a hot day.  From what I can remember entry was around €5 for an adult and €3 for a child, so it's very reasonably priced and you can easily spend the whole day there.  There is a jumping platform too for the thrillseekers (don't worry, there's also a rather attractive lifeguard too, just in case).

Numero Cuatro - Visit a large city.

If you are staying in a small town or rural area, as we were, you can quickly begin to crave the business and vibrancy of a big city.  We visited two - an old family favourite, Benidorm, which is great for a fun day out.  There's lush beaches, more bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at, plenty of shopping, plenty of cheesy touristy tat and plenty of holidaymakers.  Another place we visited was Elche, which for me was a huge highlight.   

Being one of the biggest cities in the province, it has plenty to offer including the stunning Bell Tower and the Basilica of Santa Maria.  The climb up the Bell Tower is not for the faint hearted - it's a dark, sweaty and narrow one-hundred-and-something steps to the top, but the view is breathtaking!  You can see out over the whole city, getting a great view of the date palm groves that are absolutely vast and a characteristic of the city.  


We also visited a garden called the Huerto del Cura which was home to the 'Imperial Palm Tree', a mega tree with seven huge palm branches all growing from the same trunk.  It was nice to get a little respite from the heat by walking around the garden, enjoying the wildlife (including ponds full of turtles, which always gets a yes from me).

Numero Cinco - Relax, Explore and Enjoy!
And above all, Spain is a spot-on place to go to get some rest and relax.  There are thousands of beautiful beaches, tonnes of bars and restaurants, and endless towns and cities to wander round and sights to take in.  The Spanish people are so friendly and accommodating, and their culture seems to be very chilled out.  Towns and cities are busier in the morning, before midday or 1pm, between 1pm and around 3-4pm they are deserted as everyone siestas (most local shops close!) and then by the evening they are bustling again.  Families fill the local squares in the evening, with parents drinking wine or enjoying tapas while their children play - you can people watch for hours in Spain it would seem, and time just runs away every evening.  I can't wait to go back, soon I hope!

If you've made it this far - thank you!  It was a long one today.  I'm off to Turkey for another two weeks (can't quite believe my luck, I feel very jammy) on Monday, so I'm already starting to think about packing... and kebabs... I mean, bikini body diets, right..?!  Oh, so wrong.

Ruby x