Travels in Spain, Alicante


It was mid-November and the weather was just perfect.  Shirt-sleeve weather in fact with sunshine and big sky so after breakfast we were away to the nearby city of Alicante which I was sort of surprised to discover is the eighth largest in Spain.

The short drive north took us through a wild landscape of lagoons and wetlands and for me this was another surprise.  I would have to say that it is hardly the Camargue in the South of France but away from the urbanizations and the towns it wasn’t what I was expecting and it turns out that this is a region for bird spotters and wild life photographers and I could see why as flocks of vermillion flamingos strutted through the shallow waters like statuesque flamenco dancers.


We arrived in Alicante and found plenty of room in an underground car park – plenty of room because Spanish drivers object to paying for car parking in the same way they boycott toll roads and would rather drive around in ever decreasing circles wasting time and fuel until they disappear up their own exhaust pipe looking for a free spot than spend a couple of euro to leave the car in a secure place.

As we emerged blinking into the sunlight, even though I have never been to Alicante before I had a strong feeling of Déjà vu.  We were on the Esplanade de España where the coloured floor tiles undulate like a rolling sea in a storm and I knew that I had seen them before.  It took me a moment or two to drag up the memory but then I remembered – I have a picture of my granddad in this very avenue, perhaps even this very spot taken nearly sixty years ago.

Alicante Old Picture 1960Alicante promenade 1959

In the photograph below my grandparents whose names were Ernie and Olive were probably about fifty years old or so and they were clearly having a very good time sitting at a bar enjoying generous measures of alcohol, the same sort of good time that I like to enjoy when I go travelling.

I’m guessing of course but Granddad, who looks unusually bronzed, seems to have a rum and coke and Nan who looks younger than I can ever remember her appears to have some sort of beer with a slice of lime and that’s about forty years before a bottle of Sol with a bit of citrus became anything like fashionable.  With him is his brother George (no socks, very impressive for 1960) and his wife Lillian. Nan and Granddad look very relaxed and with huge smiles that I can barely remember.

Benidorm Bar 1960?

We walked first around the marina and stopped briefly for a drink and then on to the beach, abandoned today because although the sun was shining it was perhaps a little too cool for a dip in the Mediterranean so we bypassed the opportunity of getting into our bathing costumes and made our way instead to the castle which sits on a rocky outcrop and looms large over the area.

Finding a castle to visit is not difficult in Spain because, according to the Spanish Tourist Board, there are over two thousand five hundred of them, for comparison there are eight hundred in the United Kingdom but France claims almost five-thousand but it includes a lot of questionable  small Chateaux in that number.

It looked like a strenuous climb to the top but fortunately there was an express lift so we took the easy option and in a few seconds were standing at the very top of the city.  Alicante castle turned out to be as good as any in Spain, there is a lot of reconstruction and renovation of course but I find nothing wrong with that and we enjoyed an hour or so walking around the battlements, looking at the exhibits and enjoying the elevated views.

Alicante Castle

We had return tickets for the lift option but walked down instead and at the bottom at around early afternoon we searched for the old town and somewhere nice to eat.  We were looking for a tapas bar and found one that we liked in a pleasant square in the last of the Autumn sunshine where we ordered a beer and selected our favourite food.

According to legend, the tapas tradition began when the King of Castile, Alfonso the Wise (if I was King I think I would like to be called ‘the Wise’, so much better than ‘Andrew the Fat’ or ‘Bad King Andrew’) visited a tavern in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the province of Cádiz, and ordered a glass of sherry.  There was a gusty wind, so the innkeeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham to prevent the sherry from getting dirty.  The King liked it, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or ‘cover’ just like the first.

Wine and Tapas

This developed into the practice of using slices of bread or meat as a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the drink. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst and because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales.

As we finished lunch the sun slipped behind the tall buildings and cast long shadows across the square so as the temperature quickly dipped we paid up and left and strolled for a second time around the marina before returning later to the town of Quesada where we were staying and spending an hour or so in the garden before preparing to go out for an entertaining evening meal.

Alicante Tapas


42 responses to “Travels in Spain, Alicante

  1. How odd! Quesada was on one of the Escape to the Winter Sun episodes I was watching while I did my ironing yesterday. It looked very pleasant. 🙂 Lifts, Andrew??? There was no such creature when we slogged up that hill many long years ago. Maybe not quite as long ago as the grandparents. 🙂 Nice memories and I like the tapas tale.


  2. I love seeing the old photographs mixed in with the new. It seems that some things haven’t changed much in Spain. Lovely post!


  3. The view from the castle is great! I like the pavements too, although you would have to be totally sober to walk along them. I don’t see six pints of lager as being a good idea with a walk home from the pub like that.


  4. I don’t always read long post to the end but I found this so interesting. I liked the flavour of Spain and it would do well as an advert!


  5. Yeah, you have told the tapas tale a few times! Like Jo we walked up to the castle. Don’t remember going in though. I see the tapas photo has agua de valencia on the blackboard … mmm …


    • It only fully reopened to the public relatively recently. Nice that it is free entrance (except for the charge for the lift). I didn’t try the agua de valencia, rather too much like a cocktail for me and orange juice is bad for me!


  6. The undulating boulevard would make me dizzy and dizzier after a nice cold beer. A fascinating idea, though. 🙂


  7. Have to agree with some of the other comments that the boulevard might make me a bit queasy. It is rather unique and interesting though.

    As for optimum length… so much depends on how busy my life is at the time. It’s hard to keep up at the moment when my life seems to have gone into warp speed, but obviously I pop in when I can.


  8. Sounds like a great trip, Andrew


  9. What a wonderful then-and-now comparison. It makes me happy that old photos are so easy to keep. Absolutely priceless!


  10. Pingback: Travels in Spain, The Levante and Torrevieja | Have Bag, Will Travel

  11. Pingback: A Return to Alicante | Have Bag, Will Travel

  12. Good writing, Andrew the Traveller


  13. I’ve got a real soft spot for Alicante, which I still don’t know that well. I feared it would be Brit Central, and it’s not: a really characterful place. Love the tapas story!


  14. I think I read somewhere that crisps only survived as an invention because they were salty and sold in pubs.


    • I have found lots of different suggestions for the origin of chips. The internet generally attributes it to the chef George Crum of Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, USA, very specifically on August 24, 1853.


  15. How amazing that you have photos of your grandparents having a good time in Alicante


  16. Alicante is a place I’d like to get to know better. It’s a bit like Pisa, a sort of transit place on the way to somewhere else and because of this it has retained its Spanish atmosphere (so I’m told). We did spend two days there in our early days of car travelling in Spain but I can only recall that wavy promenade, maybe an hour on the beach, and Elche.


  17. So it’s not just Portugal that has those undulating pavements then! Nice to have the photos of your grandparents in a place you know, I have a few of my parents enjoying a Spanish holiday or two, very similar, a drink in one hand and a big smile!


  18. Great post, Andrew. It’s so wonderful that your grandparents were there too and that you have photos from that time period to share. I agree that the castle in Alicante is among the best in Spain! Great views of the city from up there.


  19. I love the giant smiles on your grandparents. It must feel good to look at that photo and imagine them so happy.


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