Travels in Spain, The Levante and Torrevieja

Torrevieja pier statue

 “I think you are missing the fact that ex-pats in little England actually do enjoy their view and their way of life in Spain. What’s wrong with sunshine and cheap booze and cheap fags?” – fellow blogger, roughseasinthemed  (Be sure to visit, you might like it)

I last visited the Levante east coast of Spain on a golfing holiday in May 2008.  We didn’t play golf every day and we alternated playing days with sightseeing along the coast.  One day we went to the seaside resort of Torrevieja and as we drove away I said that I would never go back.

I had to keep this ‘not on my bucket list’ thought to myself this morning when my sister Lindsay revealed that this was the plan for today.

In 2008 I still considered Spain to be massive holiday resort for the benefit of visitors from the north, it was only a year later when I began my travels into the interior and came to realise just how wrong I was.

Since then I have been fortunate to be able to visit almost all of Iberia, Spain and Portugal (except for Gibraltar, La Rioja and Navarre) and I am much better informed now and much less critical of the coastal Costas.

Torrevieja Street Art Spain

I didn’t like Torrevieja that day in 2008 because I wore blinkers and couldn’t see beyond the crowded beach and the long concrete strip overlooked by 1970’s high-rise hotels with towels hanging from the balconies like carnival bunting and littered with bars with cheap plastic orange furniture and tacky pictures of the food on the menu displayed on pavement boards.

Torrejievja Spain

To be honest, on that day I set out not wanting to like it and I successfully fulfilled my own petty ambition.  So here was an opportunity to set the record straight.

One thing that I did like that previous visit however were the impressive sandcastle artists who had constructed the most amazing displays of castles, dragons, ogres and naked ladies and were diligently carrying out constant running repairs to prevent the things drying out and collapsing back into the sea.

I was glad to see that they were still there…

Torrevieja Beach Sculpturesbeach-nude

It was rather cold this morning, there was no sun so there was no question or debate about taking the swimming costumes and towels and I think everyone was relieved about that and appropriately dressed we drove the short distance to the coast where we parked the car and set off for a walk along the seafront promenade.

It was much as I remembered it, still concrete, still lined with high-rise.  It isn’t an attractive place, it isn’t Alicante with its attractive patterned paving and palm fringed boulevards.  It is much more utilitarian and functional.  Sprawling and horizontal it invites a direct comparison with vertical Benidorm, fifty miles or so to the north.  Benidorm is better (in my opinion).

In 2008 I wanted to snigger about Torrevieja but today I wanted to find the good in it.  We strolled along the promenade, popped inside some tacky seafront shops because I wanted some postcards and then selected a café for a drink.  There were no orange plastic chairs and no pavement picture boards and there was an impressive lunchtime tapas menu.  We had a drink and as we left promised to come back later to eat – I wonder how many times the staff hear that?

TorreviejaTorrevieja 2008

So we continued the walk along the seafront and then Mick made the fatal mistake of taking us back through a shopping street and we were detained several times as Kim and Lindsay were distracted by shoes and sparkly things!  How many pairs of shoes does one person need I always wonder?

We went back to the bar for lunch and where it had been quiet and abandoned earlier it was busy and vibrant now and we set about choosing our tapas.  In this part of Spain a surprisingly high percentage of the population speak Valencian, a form of Catalan, and here the tapas were the northern Spain alternative – Pinchos.  

A Pincho is a Tapas where the topping and a slice of bread is held together with a small wooden skewer (a Pincho).   It is a good trick, you just keep choosing small dishes and lose all wallet control and when you have finished the waiter counts the sticks and makes a charge for each one at the same time as you pick yourself up from the floor and dust yourself down after the shock of the bill.

It is a system that relies completely upon a lot of trust!  I can tell you that they were all delicious choices and I could easily have blown our entire daily food budget in that place if Kim hadn’t insisted on a bit of gastronomic restraint.

After lunch we made our way back to the car park and left Torrevieja.  In 2008 I said that I would never go back but in 2016 I have moderated that and said that I wouldn’t rush back.  That is a compliment!

As we left I snapped this picture of the clouds over the sea.  Is it just me or can anyone else see an Angel smiling at my unexpected conversion?

Torrevieja Spain

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30 responses to “Travels in Spain, The Levante and Torrevieja

  1. So much for the expression, ‘You can never go back’. Glad the second visit didn’t disappoint. Especially like the statues on the benches.

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  2. I definitely see that angel. 🙂

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  3. The joke is, I’m not bothered about the sun, I don’t smoke, and spirits and cigarettes are cheaper in Gib. A few things attracted me to Spain. Don’t laugh. The decent coffee and the music. Or maybe just the ambience. Quien sabe?
    Your comments about Torrevieja (been there) remind me of my first views of Torremolinos. Sadly I went on a (wet) Sunday so eating was a problem. And it was full of tourists. A few years later, there were three good vegetarian restaurants. I suddenly loved Torremolinos! But for all the holiday Brits there, it is inherently Spanish. We just need to look behind the sunscreen. You chose to visit Puerto Banus. That would have been the last place I would have recommended. Marbella old town, Estepona, Los Boliches, even Fuengirola all have an attraction.
    I’m not a typical expat living in a high rise flat in the costa ghetto, eating out every day. I live in a run-down basic finca (really must put a kitchen sink in one day) surrounded by Spaniards who don’t speak English. Is it ‘the real Spain’? Well, yes. It is. It lacks glamour, culture, and has its harsh side. People work on the black – if they are lucky, they drink and drive, they can’t afford meat and fish, construction work has died so everyone has gone back to working in the fields, they all have mobile phones and new cars!

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    • I have been waiting a while to use that comment as a quote.

      Puerto Banus was a huge mistake, it just seemed a convenient place to stop before driving on to Ronda. I will have to try those other places one day without just driving by on the motorway. Ronda was nice but I was surprised by just how many tour buses turned up every day. I adored Antequera and could have stayed much longer than just two days.

      Now that I am a little more familiar with Spain I would struggle to make a choice about where to live for a while. When asked, I always say Extremadura is my favourite.

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      • A rare example of my tolerant attitude! The stereotypical expat is so not me, but if they want to spend all their time in British bars, smoking (outside only now hehe), and drinking whatever, getting elephant skin (the words of my Spanish neighbour) in the sun, and not learning a word of Spanish, that is up to them. Equally, the ones who embrace every local custom under the sun, be it bullfighting, the annual pig matanza, abhor all things English, are also welcome to their choice.

        It’s twenty years since we first went to Ronda! Don’t remember any tour buses back then. In fact, San Pedro was a small town (the bus turned inland at SP) and there was nothing between the main road in town and the sea. It’s full of urban sprawl now.

        We considered buying around Antequera. Except there was stuff all for sale. It’s ok, nothing special though.

        I’ve always liked Andalucía. For which I blame my sixth form history teacher for telling us glamorous and exotic stories about Cordoba, Granada, Sevilla.

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      • History teachers have a lot to answer for.

        Ronda was heaving even in early April. The owner of the hotel where we stayed said it was a popular bus tour out of Seville. It was quiet at night when everyone had gone.

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      • We stayed at a campsite at thebottom of the hill. El Sur I think. It was pretty quiet. It was also December and raining. We packed the – wet – tent up in the mornin in the ladies and left in the dark. But still, I liked Ronda. It’s the sort of place everyone goes to though.

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  4. Great post, wonderful sand castles. My first experience of Spain was Benidorm so I can relate to yours! As for walking down a shopping street, schoolboy error!

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  5. I can see a baby’s head in the clouds. Oh no! I can never remember how to spell paradoelia (if that’s how you spell it)

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  6. Lots of interesting comments, Andrew. I like the sandcastles and other figures. I’m aways amazed by them. 🙂

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  7. It looks like you discovered plenty of intriguing things on this trip – so interesting how our perspective changes when we decide to look at things with different eyes. And the tapas/pinchos sound delicious!

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  8. I’m clinging to my claim to fame, Andrew- never been to Benidorm 🙂 🙂 Nor Torrevieja and I plan to keep it that way. My t’ai chi teacher has a home in the hills though- Los Montanes, or something similar?

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  9. Andrew I’ve never been good at seeing anything in assorted puzzles like this. No angel for me I’m afraid but I am smiling at your change of heart and seeing the good second time round.

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  10. That sand body of the women is really impressive. I thought, at first, it was a real body. Very convincing and certainly worth leaving some change for the artist.
    Yes, the angel is certainly visible. Probably smiling because you went back, Andrew?

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  11. Love the naked lady sand-sculpture

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