“Now I wouldn’t want your pants to fall down now would I?” suggested the Customs officer, as I stood in a queue of people standing in their socks. I was clutching onto the waist of my jeans with one hand and with my other hand chucking my bag, including my belt through the security scanners. It had been just under six months ago that I had left from this exact airport for my Greek holiday and I had forgotten how much I loved Gatwick airport – the long queues, the shoes off policy, the utter chaos, the photos on departure and of course how could I forget, the no belt policy. This inevitably meant my over-sized trousers would make themselves at home at the bottom of my ankles. My flight was scheduled to leave from Gatwick Airport to Alicante in eastern Spain at about 5am, so when Niki and I were running towards our gate at 4.50am, I couldn’t help but smile!
We arrived into sunny Alicante early on Saturday morning, unfortunately though Niki’s baggage had other intentions. Delayed in London, our pleasant Spanish rep for Easy Jet explained that it would be delivered first thing the next day. Interestingly enough, the more this man spoke his smooth Spanish English, the more Niki’s legs got weaker and weaker – she must of been tired from the flight, poor thing!
After a small walk out of the airport and 1 euro later, we were dropped off by the local bus into the heart of Alicante. The city was quiet on arrival and as we made our way to the Goya hotel, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful Spanish balconies lined with potted colour, the aromatic coffee shops and Spanish life getting off too a sleepy start to the morning.
Goya Hotel was a budget hotel; clean, conveniently located and oozing with character. After dumping our bags, we headed off towards the sea front via El Bario. El Bario is the quaint old quarter of Alicante with cobbled stone streets lined with affluent designer outlets, boutique tapas bars and secluded plazas. I knew straight away I was going to have problems holding onto Niki. After dodging the various shoe shops we made our way down to the waterfront to come face to face with an ancient tourism tradition – the restaurant gauntlet run! Niki and I looked each other in eye, with a nod of our heads and a look of fear in our eyes, we knew an awesome Herculean task lay before us – we had to pick a restaurant for Paella. So hurdling our way down the strip, our stomach saying yes and our brains saying way too expensive as we passed endless restaurants all offering versions of a paella combinations, we settled on a nice little cafe at the far end. Sitting down to order, we felt the relief wash over our backs; we could now relax into our gourmet adventure.
The meal was fantastic! I had a delicious mixed Paella and for anyone who is new to the world of Spanish food; Paella is a rice dish with has been boiled with stock and seafood, than served in a little iron pan. Beautifully accompanied by an ice cold beer with layered ice on the pint glass. I knew that just as I had tried so many local foods from around the world previously, Paella was rapidly becoming a favourite. With full stomachs and my wallet 20 euros lighter, we were wandering the yacht harbour with gelatos in hand. I got the slight impression, that if the multimillion dollar boats sitting there were any indication to go by, that perhaps the mega wealthy enjoyed stopping by to play here. Only a slight impression though!
“Nic, can you see that castle on the cliffs up there?” is a question I’m sure Niki will think about twice before she answers that ever again. The castle in question was the Castillo De Santa Barbara, a beautiful 9th century fort located upon Mount Benacantil. Over the various centuries it has been bombarded, occupied by various kings and princes, and is now a haunt for tourists alike. The views from the top are incredible across Alicante, with green cactus gardens and olive trees creating an oasis like feel to it. After convincing Niki that the climb wouldn’t be that hard (yes I lied), we started our ascent to the top. The walk was relatively easy and as kids started to pass us on the walk up, we knew that we had to work on our fitness levels. Make sure that you have a hat and plenty of water if visiting, it does get quite hot and there is limited shade.
After spending a few hours at the top relaxing in the sun, we began our climb back down through Plaza Carmen, one of the most idyllic streets. You know when you looking through travel magazine and you see those perfectly ornate streets, lined with pot plants, coloured doors, wrought iron gates, perfect windows, sleepy cats and old mammas screaming out the window to their sons to “tuck their shirts in”? Well this was one of them! Finally I had found a street that really did look like it came from the magazines.
Completing our long walk through the afternoon, late night paella and a sneaky sangria, it was time to retreat to quietness of our hotel bedroom. With the warm wind blowing through the open doors of our balcony; I couldn’t help but think that this was the way life should be. We woke early in the morning to Niki’s lost backpack arriving, the screams of joy as her toothbrush and fresh underwear came out were impressive and not to mention well timed as we had a bus to catch to Granada. Our time in Alicante was short, yet very relaxing. Alicante is a typical sea side resort, with plenty of Spanish charm, a funky night life and a small town feel to it that made it an easy city to ease ourselves into the Spanish way of life. The city does have a feel that the more mature people, yes I mean the mammas and papas out there, would feel comfortable here, yet I felt just that.
Our next stop laid eight hours away, the raw Islamic infused city of Grenada.