Life on the Costa Blanca

The palm lined Esplanade in downtown Alicante divides the harbor from several high end hotels, restaurants and apartment buildings.

The palm lined Esplanade in downtown Alicante divides the harbor from several high end hotels, restaurants and apartment buildings.

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. 

We walked past Alicante's Plaza of the Bulls.  Bullfights still take place in the arena during the summer.

We walked past Alicante’s Plaza of the Bulls. Bullfights still take place in the arena during the summer.

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.

The Castle of Santa Barbara has stood watch over Alicante for over 1,000 years.

The Castle of Santa Barbara has stood watch over Alicante for over 1,000 years.

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.   

The beachfront of Benidorm, one of Spain's most touristic cities.

The beachfront of Benidorm, one of Spain’s most touristic cities.

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.

Overlooking the sea is Benidorm's Church of St. James.

Overlooking the sea is Benidorm’s Church of St. James.

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.

This beautiful promontory divides Benidorm into north and south halves.

This beautiful promontory divides Benidorm into north and south halves.

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.

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8 comments on “Life on the Costa Blanca

  1. I’ve been to Spain many times Mike, but I’ve never been to this area. So I’m looking forward to your posts, as I’m always looking for new areas to visit in Spain. I spent some time in Malaga, and was amazed by the number of incredibly huge private yachts. Is it the same in Alicante? ~James

    • Mike Lince says:

      Alicante has historically been one of the prime harbors of Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. I believe it ranks behind only Barcelona and Valencia in size and importance, although someone may have better data on this than I do. Nowadays, Alicante’s harbor is built around leisure activities with hotels, marinas, casino and tourist attractions. Once we have been to Malaga I will have a basis for comparison, but yes, there is an incredible number of private yachts in Alicante. I have yet to see what high season looks like. I suspect it is the waterborne equivalent of trying to find a parking place at a busy shopping mall. – Mike

  2. Okay, Mike, I think I’ve been jealous of many of your destinations… But this looks amazing!! Spain has long been high on my list, and in fact our youngest is considering a half year abroad there… Your pictures and story here are amazing! I can’t wait to see you this summer hear all about it! Until then enjoy this amazing new location; it’s gorgeous!

    • Mike Lince says:

      It is hard to imagine that Spain lies below the radar of many people. However, I think the Spanish Riviera is pretty much Europe’s playground. Most of the Americans we have seen and heard here are young people, most likely students traveling or studying through exchange programs. You are right about Spain being amazing. It certainly compares favorably with the Dalmatian Coast, especially in that the infrastructure and amenities are modern. – Mike

  3. Alicante sounds like my kind of place Mike. I could get used to 300 sunny days per year, a bounty of local fresh fruits and vegetables and mind-boggling beauty. But before we go there, we have to get to Italy. And I should tell you that we’ve decided to go next year for sure. It will be my first trip to Europe – I’m SO excited! Celeste 🙂

    • Mike Lince says:

      Café Gratitude was a wonderful place to eat. That was a highlight for us. Thank you for thinking of us.

      I know you will love Italy. I can hardly wait to see what you think of it and what you will be inspired to write about your experiences there. We are hoping our dual citizenship with Italy comes through in the next few months. Then we will have a reason to return as well…as citizens! – Mike

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