From the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 until General Franco's death, and the succession of King Juan Carlos I as head of state, the only language permitted in Spain was "Castillano". Basically this is also the same Spanish spoken in many South American countries.
The local language is actually Valenciano and was brought to the region by the original settlers from Aragon and Catalonia in the 13th century. It is in use once again and, in fact, is taught in local schools. In the early days of the more permissive regime many roads signs, which bore the Castilian version of the place name, were defaced with black spray-paint. Quite recently the local nationalist movement has prevailed and nearly all road signs bear ONLY the Valenciano version of the name.
This has lead to some confusion as visitors sometimes cannot
find their way as Jalón is now Xaló and Javea is Xabia.
Nevertheless, with a little imagination, it is still fairly simple to find ones way around. So, starting with the nearest spots and working outwards, some of the interesting places are:-
Moraira - one of the most unspoilt parts of the coast. An old fishing village, that has, by and large, kept the high rise developments at bay. Take a walk through the old town, have a swin on the lovely beaches, ejoyed the best restaurants in the area
- (29 Kms south) An old style Spanish town, right on the coast. It has a
large street market and a very good shopping centre. There is a long promenade
lined with bars/restaurants, but the beach is shingly and shelves very steeply
(could be quite hazardous for young children).
The old town is fascinating, with the streets often being 'stepped' and winding up through overhanging 'Spanish' houses with balconies, until you emerge into the big square in front of the domed Basilica.
The views along the coast from there are quite stunning. Scattered about along the winding streets are a number of charming old restaurants, which often don't look much from the front, but have superb courtyard gardens or splendid balconies (with the same stunning views) at the rear.
Altea also has a golf course and several very interesting marina developments, just outside the town to the north. Greenish Marina, probably the most exclusive and home of some of the biggest luxury yachts on the Costa Blanca. Enjoy a meal or a drink at one of the bars inside the marina. You can charter boats from here and is also a diving excursion leaves from the marina.
Javea - (12 Kms north) Another resort popular with English tourists and residents. Comprises an "old town" and a newer holiday development along the coast. Yacht marina and fine promenade, long beaches, but mainly of shingle and inclined to shelve somewhat. Faces slightly east and therefore tends to lose the sun behind the mountains comparatively early in the evening.
Benissa - (12 Kms inland) Again a small, old-style Spanish market town, strung along the main 'A' class road to Alicante/Valencia. A splendid Cathedral and interesting squares and shops.
- (24 Kms north) Once a thriving commercial port for the coastal trade
in raisins, currants, sultanas etc. Now that these all whizz up the motorway
in container trucks, it has had to realign itself to the Tourist, Yacht-Marina
and 'ex-pat' residents trade.
Quite a large shopping centre, an old castle dominating the town from the hilltop, splendid promenades, some fine beaches, but these are a little way 'out-of-town'. You can take a Hydrofoil trip from here to Ibiza (90 mins journey) either for the day, or for a few days break.
Gata de Gorgos - (13 Kms inland and north) An old Spanish town strung along the main 'A' class road to Valencia. Famous for its basket and cane ware sold in virtually every shop.
Guadalest - (32 Kms inland) An ancient fortified town perched high on a cliff top, it is now entirely tourist with little shops along the steep, stepped, winding streets selling souvenirs, leather goods, local weave material, glassware and the like. There is a steep winding path up the rocky pinnacle which dominates the town, with stations of the cross on the way and a little open chapel at the top.
If you take the route through CALLOSA D'EN SARRIA, you will pass through some splendid mountain country. Guadalest also has a splendid lake (really a reservoir). You can drive right around it by taking the turning just before the town (-marked "Embalse de Guadalest"), crossing the dam and arriving at the town from the back end via a couple of other villages.
Valley - (Starts 22 kms inland) Famous for its groves of Citrus
and Almond trees - is littered with ancient Spanish villages where you can find
the really 'old-style' Spanish restaurants, which still serve the genuine fare
(like paella) cooked over wood fires at incredibly low prices. The Jalon valley
is named after the Jalon river, it flows through the village Jalon, which lies
some 7 Km. from Benissa, 15 Km. from Calpe. The famous Jalon wines, strong red
and the sweet mistela or moscatel wine, are sold in two bodegas, where they
encourage you to try out their product. You buy the wine by the liter, so take
your bottle(s) along. The other bodega is privately owned, has an extremely
pleasant renovated interior, and sells local wine as well as bottled wine.
Every Tuesday a market - vegetables, clothes, shoes etc. - is held in the square and the adjacent streets.
On Saturday mornings an enormous car boot sale and antique market is held on the waste land opposite the bodega under the huge eucalyptus trees, well worth going to.
- (40 kms south) Spain's biggest holiday resort with two very long smooth sandy
beaches (but often solid with bodies at peak times). Almost every form of Bar,
Restaurant, Disco, Night Club, Dancing and Floor Shows, Theme Parks, Slot-machine
arcades; - you name it - Benidorm has it! The kaleidoscope of fun, entertainment
and nightlife continues 24 hours a day. Terra
Mitica In 2000, a new enormous theme park opened in Benidorm. It's
located against the mountain hill, inland to the village Finestrate, you can't
Alicante - (70 Kms south) The provincial capital and a fine seaport and city of about 350,000 population, it has a splendid seafront with a fine promenade, and Paseo Maritimo paved with beautiful local marble and lined with Palm-trees.
Although a major city, there are excellent beaches quite close to the centre, and it is possible to conclude a shopping or sightseeing expedition with a visit to a beach-side bar. The annexed towns of SAN JUAN and CAMPELLO also have excellent sandy beaches.
Alicante is good for shopping - with department stores open all day long (no siesta) - and a superb selection of fashion boutiques.
There are also many speciality shops (jewellery, patisseries, fine leather-work, crystal, ceramics etc.). The splendid Santa Barbara castle is on a hill, dominating the city (Cliff railway runs up to castle). Many fine public buildings often set in squares with fountains or along wide avenues lined with palm-trees and subtropical plants. A magnificent old cathedral and fine traditional bullring (often open to visitors when no bullfights are scheduled) are further attractions of this great city.
Valencia - (100 Kms north) Spain's third City
and the impact of the vast 'Birmingham' size commercial, trading and seaport
metropolis can be stunning.
The city is set on a (usually dry) river estuary and so (like Liverpool or London for example) does not enjoy the splendid seafront promenades of Alicante. Otherwise, all that is written of Alicante applies here only magnified in all respects.
This is the ancient bastion from which "El Cid" rode forth to turn back the Moslem hordes, and the old City centre contains many treasures of that historic past - as well as one of Spain's largest and oldest Cathedrals, and a truly superb bullring ranked as one of the foremost in Spain.
The city centre is very large, with a great many stores and speciality shops. Recently opened is a large U.S. style shopping mall with three major department stores and some 217 shops all in the one air-conditioned building.
There are many places of interest to see on day excursions, apart from the other coastal resorts there is also the spectacular scenery to see inland including the wonderful mountain-top fortress of Guadalest, the Vergal Safari Park near Denia, Europes largest palm forrest at Elche and the ancient city of Murcia. Valencia (third largest city in Spain) is one and a half hours away and Barcelona (second largest) and the capital Madrid are four hours away, all reached by motorway. Spains answer to Euro Disney, Port Adventura near Barcelona, is about four and a half ours away.
The famous `Lemon train has also to be experienced as it has been described as one of the great train journeys of Europe, running between Alicante and Denia, along the Costa Blanca. It offers a five-hours journey through Benidorm, Altea, Rock the Ifach and Teulada and other naturals places you can't otherwise reach. The old tourist train stops in Gata de Gorgos where passengers visit a guitar factory and are shown typical handicraft. On the way back, going South, passengers can enjoy the wonderful west Mediterranean landscape from heights of this coast while sparkling wine is served.
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