August 30, 2018 – September 2, 2018
As the weather is starting to turn to cold and rainy in Amsterdam, it was the perfect time for a quick weekend beach get away in Spain. After searching for cheap, direct flights from Amsterdam, we settled on Alicante, which is a little bit south of Valencia along the eastern coast. A bonus of going to Alicante was that I have a colleague who is from there, so we got some great recommendations without having to do as much research.
Although our flight arrived at 9:45pm, it was a short drive to our hotel and we were ready for dinner by 10:30pm, standard Spanish dinner time. We walked to El Portal (recommendation of colleague) and posted up at the bar while waiting for a table. The place was decorated with lots of flora and light designs, giving a very posh vibe.
After being seated we ordered a few tapas and I was pleasantly surprised with each dish. Of course, we had to sample the Iberico Jamon, made from the black Iberian hams who feast on acorns, which did not disappoint. The rest of the tapas were an array of potatos bravas, sardines and some kind of cheese puff-ball. I was falling asleep in my wine glass by the end of dinner, so we headed back to the hotel afterwards, skipping out on the night life Alicante has to offer.
Because this was supposed to be a lazy beach vacation, we set no alarms and took our time getting ready in the morning. One of Tyler’s favorite Spanish drinks is Horchata (rice milk) and the Horchateria Azul was where we decided to visit. In addition to the Horchata we had this delicious coffee with ice cream instead of milk and some pastries.
At the recommendation of my colleague, we opted to take the tram to the bigger beach instead of walking to the one in the city. It would have been a good idea to see how frequently the trams ran before going into the station because we had to wait for about 30 minutes. It was all worth it though once my feet were finally in the sand! The beach was still a little crowded, but I didn’t care. I cracked open my book and enjoyed alternating between reading and people watching. Once it got too hot I went for a dip in the warm ocean water. I could have stayed there all day, but unfortunately the pastries could not hold me over until our late dinner that night.
We headed back to the city and went to Manero, another tapas place for lunch where we had some good drinks and some really fresh seafood. We sat at the seafood bar and it was kind of weird to see gambas eyes looking at me while I ate.
Originally we thought we would head back to the beach after lunch, but we started walking around the city and were impressed with the scenery. We sat in a small park near the Plaza de Gabriel Miro for a while admiring the massive Rubber trees that were literally everywhere.
The town was full of surprises, and had this one street that had rows of mushrooms lining it.
The Barrio de Santa Cruz is a neighborhood similar to the Alfama neighborhood in Lisbon with brightly painted houses and an old timey feel. We walked through the streets taking in the beautiful homes and also spotting a few kitties. I wish we would have spent more time in this wonderful area.
I wasn’t going to make the same mistake of falling asleep in my wine at dinner on the second night, so we visited the Madness Coffee Bar, a funky cafe with several different coffee specialties. Not only super delicious, but also worked to keep me awake through dinner.
Our hotel was across the street from the huge Mercado which we also stopped by at some point throughout the day. It was not quite as big as the one in Valencia, but had many of the same things, although probably more seafood. I was a tiny bit grossed out by how huge and slimy the tuna was, it reminded me of whale skin, and the smell in the area was in general not pleasant.
There was one cool stall though that was basically a forest.
In the evening we dined at the Monastrell, a somewhat fancy establishment with a rumored famous chef. The service was very professional and the ambiance was great. We were seated outside with views of the boardwalk and the castle from afar. The food was good, but maybe not worth the price. My favorite part was the different olive oils that you got to try in these little beakers. It was nice though that the chef came and talked to us during our meal. We bonded over the fact that she has actually been to Tennessee, having visited Memphis for BBQ fest!
After another late dinner, we decided to head back to the hotel instead of going out on the town. I guess we are getting old. Alicante did seem like a good place to come with friends though, and we saw several bachelor / bachelorette parties.
Sunday morning started off with a great avocado toast brunch and a trip to the castle.
We opted to visit the castle over going to the beach, really for no good reason. It was supposed to be a 30 minute walk from our hotel, but we took a wrong turn and ended up back in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, which I was actually not upset about. We strolled through some of the calles and could hear the hustle and bustle of the locals on a Sunday morning. The downside of this was that everything was uphill to the castle.
We went up so many stairs and winding paths through a park and decided we were really out of shape. No more stairs please.
Several other people were just as out of shape as us though, and in the hot sun almost every male had taken his shirt off. At one point a guy on his was back from visiting the castle said we were almost there, and another passerby replied that this was torture. I wouldn’t go that far, but it was a lot more intense of a climb than we were anticipating. I think it we would have stuck to the road it would have been a milder approach.
The views along the way of the ocean and surrounding countryside were impressive. You could see for miles!
The castle itself was maybe a little bit unimpressive, but the views from the top were magnificent. We didn’t get to spend much time going through the different areas because we had to get back to our hotel to catch the bus to the airport, but I think it was still definitely worth a visit. In hindsight I maybe would have done this on Saturday and spent Sunday lounging on the beach again, but nonetheless it was a great day.
Overall, I really enjoyed Alicante. It was more than just a beach town, having a great food and bar scene as well as the old town charm and formidable castle on the skyline. Although there were many people, it seemed less touristy and more local than any place we have visited so far in Spain. For the casual traveler, I would still recommend Barcelona as the top place to visit in Spain, but for anyone looking to get more immersed in culture and not hear English everywhere, Alicante is a good bet!