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Artistic Altea

Posted by inka on Aug 25, 2014 in art, Day trips, Festivals, Spain, Travel tips

On top of a hill before the background of the massive Sierra Bernie mountains, sits a small jewel: the town of Altea. Easily recognizable is the famous 17th century church of Our Lady of Solace with its distinctive dome covered in blue and white tiles and a smaller cupola next to it. From the square in front of the church, many narrow cobble stones streets and alleys lead down to the only commercial road, King Jaime and the port which once provided the livelihood of the inhabitants of Altea.

Domes and belltower of the church

Domes and belltower of the church

Interior of the church

Interior of the church

Not any more, today it´s tourists and their trade they make a living from. Whitewashed houses line the streets and alleys, many connected by stairs. No surprise then that the entire old quarter is a pedestrian area. Every so often you find nooks and crannies where you can lean over wrought iron banisters and enjoy the view over the port, and the Mediterranean as far as the rock of Calpe.

stairs

A view to wards the rock of Calpe

A view to wards the rock of Calpe

What I liked best though is that the entire area around the church is practically an open air museum or rather gallery. Many artists have been drawn to the picturesque scene of Altea and either settled there or opened a workshop or studio. They exhibit their works by hanging them from every other balcony to be admired in the sunshine.

painting

street
One particular craft shop caught my attention because of the decorated umbrellas. I guess they are more parasols as they don’t look water resistant but they are certainly very decorative. Two more workshops make candles of very shape and size.

umbrella

witch

My hair matches that of the witch above!!!

My hair matches that of the witch above!!!

On a Sunday, the day I visited, it was very quiet which allowed an undisturbed stroll through the streets and a rest in one of the many, many cafes and restaurants. At night and during the festival in late August it gets livelier though, with a fiesta, music and dancing in the church square.
Altea is a really pretty destination for a day trip from either Benidorm or further afield.

 

 

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Parque de Naciones Torrevieja

Posted by inka on Aug 22, 2014 in Animals, Day trips, photo blog, Spain, Travel tips

Beaches in Torrevieja are so crowded in the months of July and August that it´s no fun to go there. An alternative is a park and the biggest and most interesting is Parque de Naciones. Nearly 40.000 m2 of landscaped gardens, a lake in the shape of Europe, zones for kids, ducks, hens, and peacocks roam wild. It´s especially enjoyable in the late afternoon.
See for yourselves:

shape

fountain

turtle

park

shop

hair

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Summer extremes in Torrevieja

Posted by inka on Aug 20, 2014 in Spain, Travel tips

This is the first summer I am spending in my new home town on Spain´s Costa Blanca. I moved in in January, so I got the end of winter, spring which very quickly turned into summer this year and now the height of the summer season.
Torrevieja is a popular tourist resort, for Spaniards as well as for foreigners and it was to be expected that it gets quite crowded. What surprises me though is how the crowds distribute themselves.
Torrevieja has what is called Marina Salina, a marina where the private boats are moored, bordered with several upmarket restaurants abd cafes. Lovely, quite luxurious with Morocco style daybeds and even a pool or two. And…. As I had occasion to observe, totally devoid of people, at least during the day. At night it is probably a different picture.

CIMG1377

marina

Not a soul in sight

Not a soul in sight

beds
I wonder..all these boats must belong to someone. Where are the owners? Why are they not on their boats. Are they maybe on St. Tropez or Sardinia taking out their ´real´boats? The vessels, small and big are just sitting there with nobody on them and you don´t see many on the sea either.
On the other hand, there are quite a few beaches, but their capacity is limited. But it seems, that people have a need to be in a crowd. You can´t drop a handkerchief, leave alone a blanket or a lounger and walking on the beach is next to impossible there are so many people.

The other extreme

The other extreme

people
Why do some of them not take advantage of the marina and enjoy a day out in some luxury, comfort and space ?
I guess it won´t come as a surprise that I won´t set foot on the beach until October. The best thing about Torrevieja is the warm climate year around. Otherwise, I have to admit to myself that I have made a mistake. Never mind, I´ll maybe stick it out for another year, then sell up and move on. The world is big!!!!

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My favorite boat trips

Posted by inka on Aug 18, 2014 in Day trips, Florida trips, Germany, miami, Middle East, oman, photo blog, Travel tips

I love to travel by boat;  day trips, night trips, ferries all is welcome. I am not that fond of cruises though because after a while I feel trapped and bored, I even walked off one because I couldn´t stand it any longer, causing quite an uproar as you can imagine.
Therefore here is a selection of the best boat trips I have been on in very different countries.
Sunset trip Muscat/Oman
And the winner is…. Yes, this unforgettable sunset trip on a dhow, following the coastline of Muscat. It can´t be beaten for romantic, exotic and breath taking, white rocks alternating with black rocks, spits of sand in between and lounging on the cushions and carpets of the gently swaying dhow.

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Paddle steamer on the Chiemsee
Chiemsee is a lake in the south of Bavaria/Germany, surrounded by mountains and with two islands in the middle. Herrenchiemsee is the location of King Ludwig´s last dream castle and Fraueninsel holds a famous monastery. The paddle steamer of the Fessler Chiemsee fleet is sooo wonderfully old fashioned.

fleet

insel

starnberg
Ferry Vigo to Islas Cies/Galicia
Vigo is a big port town on the Atlantic Ocean in Galicia/Spain. Located several miles off shore are the paradisic islas Cies, a nature reserve with the whitest and finest beaches, lush vegetation and an abundance of hiking paths when you are finished with sun bathing and swimming. The ferry ride is only about half an hour but it´s pretty to see the twin islands rising up out of the water.

cies1

cies2

cies3

cies4

Miami River tour with Dr. George

Surprisingly, not that many visitors to Miami know that there is actually a broad river flowing into Biscayne bay. The Miami river comes from the Everglades, is regularly dredges do allow the traffic of container ships and the tour, offered by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida in Flagler Street, leads along historic landmarks, expertly explained by a historian only known as Dr. George.

aligator

miamiriver

tug

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Chocolate heaven in Villajoyosa

Posted by inka on Aug 17, 2014 in Day trips, food, museums, Spain, Travel tips

What do you do when you hear that there is a chocolate factory not far from you? Not only a factory, but also an adjacent museum, a little guided tour and the possibility to sample at your heart´s content. For me, there was only one decision: take off and head for chocolate heaven in a flash!
Chocolate is my comfort food #1, but I don´t indulge too often because although it´s good for your soul it will pile on the pounds if you are not careful. One sunny Friday though, I threw caution to the wind, hopped on a bus and made my way to Villajoyosa. It´s a rather small and very pleasant town, located a few kilometers from the tourist hub of  Benidorm.

The colorful houses of Villajoyosa

The colorful houses of Villajoyosa

I guess that one of the reasons why the place is called `Happy Village`is because it is home to VALOR, Spain´s oldest and most prestigious chocolate factory.

seal
Even before you get close to the gate, you know you have arrived in the right place because a mouthwatering scent of chocolate permeates the air from a distance. The tour is free, no previous booking needed, just turn up and one of the many friendly assistants will turn up eventually and take care of you. Just bear in mind, that the siesta is sacred in Spain: between 2pm an 5pm there are no tours.
You may have to wait a little until a few more visitors have arrived and then you can watch a video documenting the over 125 years of history of VALOR, the countries where the cocoa tree grows and a lot more.
But, the highlight is definitely the next stop: the museum. Located in a stately mansion which once upon a time was the home cum factory of the owners, you can meander around, admire countless exhibits which explain how in the beginning, chocolate was made by hand, how the first publicity looked, how for the Mayas chocolate was divine and much much more.
In a lovely little garden two cocoa trees are growing in a small hothouse.
Then you proceed to the plant proper where up to 700000 chocolate itmes are produced per year. A glassed  in walkway allows a view at the plant below where busy bees operate machines to make the most delicious chocolates.

museum

schokobeans

Once upon a time evrything was done by hand

Once upon a time evrything was done by hand

The shop

The shop

Next you come to a lobby where giant sculptures are arranged in glass cases. You might think that they have been carved from mahogany, but no, they have been sculpted from chocolate.

Chocolate sculpture made by a Japanese artist

Chocolate sculpture made by a Japanese artist

And finally, there is the shop. New creations are concocted all the time to please the palates of chocolate lovers and you can taste them all. Hmmmmm! You can, of course also buy them.
And if after that you still crave more of the same, you can stop for a hot chocolate in the pretty VALOR Café on Villajoyosa´s main street.

VALOR Cafe in Villajoyosa

VALOR Cafe in Villajoyosa

For a few hours, I was definitely in chocolate heaven.

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