After almost 12 months travelling extensively throughout Europe our return to Spain this time has definitely been more about rest and recuperation than sight seeing. After visiting our friends in the mountains above Alicante we returned to our little piece of heaven in Altea where for the 1st time in a long time we stayed static for 10 days. With the weather still bright and sunny and in the late teens to early 20’s we were able to make the most of it spending our days exploring.
The old town of Altea is so picturesque, a rabbit warren of tiny lanes lined with whitewashed buildings lead to a main square namely the Plaza de la Iglesia where the the blue and white dome of the Virgen del Consuelo church gleams brightly above it.
It’s a charming place to wander through the little streets finding fabulous, family-run shops and restaurants while stumbling across some historic buildings which have made their mark in life in Altea. Along the way you will see remains of the ancient walls and gateways which prevoisly protected the hilltop town from pirates.
The steep climb up is not for the faint hearted, but you’re rewarded with stunning views of both the coast and the surrounding mountains so its definitely worthwhile.
Altea Old Town
Like most of Spanish towns Altea hosts a weekly market each Tuesday. The stalls selling fresh produce are located in the old town with the goods side of the market being in a separate location near the football ground. What a result, it gave me the excuse to drag Paul there on 2 separate occasions. For me the fresh product markets hold far more appeal than the general stalls (after all there’s only so much stuff you can fit in a motorhome), this time the freshly picked persimmon fruit tempted us along with our 1st chestnuts of the season, roasted the next day on our Cadac Barbecue.
The public transport from Altea is superb, a tram runs all the way to Denia in one direction and to Alicante (a change at Benidorm is required) in the other. There are also regular buses along the coast which go via Albir to Benidorm, so its easy to explore the surrounding locations.
Exploring the coast by Tram
Love it or loathe it being so close to “The Dorm” and establishing that the Spanish Fiestas were taking place we didn’t want to miss out. Although more known for its Stag and Hen parties than its Spanish charm it does still retain some redeeming features. The narrow streets of the old town lined with restaurants and shops interspersed with tiny houses still has a feel of the tiny village it must once have been. Once out of the warren of streets the beach is one of the nicest stretches on the coast and a long promenade runs along side it providing the perfect people watching spots.
A short drive from Benidorm is the natural park of Serra Gelada (ice mountain) which is a rugged area on the coast, which rises more than 300 metres over Benidorm, Alfàs del Pì and Altea. It takes around 2 hours to climb to the top, but the reward it a spectacular view.
The other side of Benidorm is very different, not only is it dominated by skyscrapers, it is also overrun with Brit Bars and cafés. Good old fashioned entertainment is generally provided by wanna be tribute acts and so if you love Elvis, Queen or Take That you can probably see them all in one night without moving venue. You’re more likely to hear people speaking English here than you are Spanish. All that competition though is good for the visiting tourist as prices remain low on almost everything. If you’re craving a pint of real ale or an English Breakfast you will be spoilt for choice. Benidorm has to afford some of the best people watching ever (most of it provided by Brits who have had one or two too many), I have to admit that some of the sights though did make me a little embarrassed to be associated by nationality.
The Crazy British Fancy Dress Party Benidorm.
In need of shopping and gas we finally did tear ourselves away from Altea and travelled south along the coast to a wild camping spot at El Campello (GPS 38.418553 -0.393102). This coastal town has escaped being a package tourism destination and instead is more of a getaway for the Spanish. There’s a huge sandy beach lined with bars and restaurants and all the commerce you could need at your fingertips. Its situated around 16km’s north of Alicante and has easy access to the city by tram. There are a couple of stations within walking distance and the fare costs just 1.45€. Having not managed to explore Alicante on previous trips it was a must do for us this time around. This under visited city has a lot to offer. There’s a lovely old town with typically narrow cobbled streets and the pleasant Explanada de España which is lined with palm trees. The imposing castle is worth either a climb or we opted to pay 2.70€ for the lift to the top, once up there the views are spectacular. There’s a fabulous covered market selling fresh produce and the option of tapas and drinks. There are also museums galore and a lovely sandy beach. For a city it has it all, so its hard to say why a lot of tourists overlook it and head straight for the coastal resorts instead. We would definitely recommend a visit.
After 3 nights we were in need of services and decided to make our way to an aire at Santa Pola know as Camper Area Santa Pola (GPS 38.20834 0.57424). The day didn’t start off to well as whilst we’d stopped off at Lidl’s Gran Alicante on route we had a couple in a French plated car case the motorhome and get a screwdriver out ready to break in. They hadn’t realised that Paul was inside and got quite a shock when he opened the habitation door and confronted them. Fortunately for us no damage was done, but it seems we had a narrow escape. The day didn’t really get any better as we arrived at the aire and realised it was in the middle of an industrial estate. Reversing into a spot Paul managed to nudge a low post. No damage was done to the motorhome, but the aire owner wanted 85€ to repair the the post. We had no option but to pay up, but it left a very sour taste especially as the post had obviously been knocked by someone else previously to have caused the amount of damage that was present. Obviously we’ve now crossed this stop over off our list.
Wanting to make a quick escape the following morning we made our way to La Zenia shopping area south of Torrevieja for some retail therapy, trying to stock up on a few bits before heading back to the UK. It wasn’t a great success as most of the stuff we needed was for our trip to the far east in January and unfortunately even in Spain all the shops are stocked up for winter. Our home for the night was at La Mata (GPS 38.017379 –0.65438) a wild camping spot of a side road just in front of the beach. With temperatures having dipped the last few days we had a bracing afternoon walk along the boardwalk which is lined with restaurants (most of which were open as it was a Sunday).
With the weather forecast set to change and snow on its way to France we made the decision to depart Spain a week earlier than we originally intended, as we wanted to be sure we could get through the Pyrenees without a hitch, so we bid our goodbyes to Spain once again as we leave to make our way back to the UK for a long overdue get together with our family and friends.