After arriving in Spain via a Grimaldi Line cruise ship ferry from Italy, we divided a week between the two great cities of Barcelona and Madrid to spend time sightseeing and to visit friends. There is no question that the highlight of Barcelona was La Sagrada Familia, although I will admit that the sights of Madrid impressed me somewhat more than did Barcelona. They are both beautiful, world-class cities. However, the rich history of Spain seemed more evident to me in Madrid with its parks, palaces, cathedrals and art museums.
I will also admit that playing tourist after leaving Croatia in early January left us both mentally and physically drained. So it was with more than a little relief that we rode the motorcoach for the five hour ride to Alicante. We emailed our host family of our estimated arrival, and they were waiting to greet us as we landed on their doorstep, just a 10 minute taxi ride from the bus station.
I had read quite a bit about Spain and its many great cities. Somehow I was drawn to the region known as the Costa Blanca, thus named for the pale color of the sandy beaches on the Mediterranean coast. I now know the decision to come here was absolutely the right one. Alicante is approximately halfway between Barcelona and Gibraltar on the Spanish Riviera. Here people enjoy over 300 sunny days per year. There is a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally, and the area is so gorgeous that it is mind-boggling.
Our host family is helpful and kind beyond any expectation. Our arrangement with them is to rent for a month while we look for a more permanent setting. This has given us the gift of time to get our bearings and explore the area. Our first venture was to explore the city of Alicante itself. We walked the mile or so into the city center and discovered the Central Market, the City Center and the Esplanade, the colorful, tile-paved waterfront pedestrian walk. We did not think we could find anything finer than downtown Alicante.
The next day we hitched a ride with our host, Raul, to the touristy seaside town of Benidorm, about 20 north. We were struck by how many tourists there were in January. We heard English, French and German spoken by those we walked among along the beach. And we noticed almost everyone was at least our age or older. Clearly, the pensioners of Europe come here to escape the cold weather up north.
We have yet to explore further south to Torrevieja and Murcia. Considering how much we have enjoyed each of the cities we have visited in Spain, it is hard to imagine we will not also enjoy our upcoming visits there and points beyond. Spain has proven to be comfortable and hospitable. The prices for essentials are affordable on our budget, which means we can also afford to tour more of the country in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, we should have a place to call our own in time for my February birthday, and that will be the finest gift I could wish for.