Posted by inka on Jul 10, 2012 in Spain
, Travel tips
Go house hunting and get an education! The story of how I nearly ended up in the red light district of Torrevieja on Spain’s Costa Blanca is one which my friends will not let me forget any time soon. They are still laughing.
Torrevieja is a quite pretty coastal town about 60km south of Alicante. As I planned (and still intend) to move to Spain, I was looking for affordable property in an area which has beaches ad wam weather year around. The Costa Blanca fits the bill and condos in Torrevieja ranged between EUROS 50.000 and 60.000 for 1 or 2 bedroom apartments in a residential area within walking distance of the beaches, fully furnished, white goods in the kitchen and even a pool. Sounds good, doesn’t it? So after my internet investigation I went and made appointments with several realtors to view the little gems.
Sure enough, the condos were nice, but what I didn’t know was if the area was a good one or a dodgy one. Needless to say, that the realtors assured me it was a nice and safe area. The streets were very quiet, there was a little park, kids playing a round, nothing out of the ordinary. Until I saw a halal butcher and, tucked away next to it, a tiny mosque. So, this was an area where many Moroccan immigrants must be living. But, none were in evidence. Neither were any bars, restaurants or even shops and the nearest supermarket was quite a distance away. Still, I didn’t suspect a thing, but decided to investigate independently.
On a Saturday morning at around 9am, I made my way to the street and the apartment house on foot. Not a soul in sight except for a young woman walking towards me, clad in a T-shirt and shorts, smoking a cigarette and…swigging from a beer can!! The first alarm bells started to ring.
Next, I reached the street, but couldn’t find the house number, so I decided to ask a man for directions who was walking his dog. As soon as I approached him and uttered the first words, he literally jumped back, mumbled something about being on vacation and hurried off. I found that strange, but thought he was just grumpy. I repeated the exercise with another one who happened to be nearby and got the same reaction.
Hmmm. What was the matter with them? I found the whole thing disconcerting and gave up my search. Back on the beach front I went to a bar to have a coffee and happened to sit next to a pair of policemen. Who better to know the ‘dark spots’ of their town than they, I thought and just asked. When they heard where I intended to buy my new home they just went : Oh my God’. The very center of street prostitution and everything going with it! That’s why there weren’t any seedy bars around which would have alerted me and why the two men I innocently asked for directions must have thought I was looking to turn the final trick of the night. Quite flattering really, but something I can do without.
The safe beach of Torrevieja
So, that was the end of my house hunting in Torrevieja. And, by the way, when I told the realtors that they had tried to mislead me as to the nature of the area where they flogged their properties, they just pretended not to have known.
Posted by inka on Apr 14, 2012 in museums
, Travel tips
My travels from now until the end of October will be around Europe. First, I plan to visit Cappadocia, then Trabzon and the Black Sea and finally the fascinating places in South/East Turkey I haven’t seen yet.
But, after that, it’s’ Arriba Espana.’ My first destination for a full month is the Costa Blanca, in the province of Alicante. From Denia in the north to Pilar de la Horada in the south, a sin fin of towns and villages stretch out along the Mediterranean coast which got its name from the white washed houses as well as from the particular light which makes the sand of the wide beaches appear snow white.
Small wonder than that since the 1950s the area is a tourist favorite among visitors to Spain. Not always without undesirable side effects like to shameless overbuilding of the once beautiful town of Benidorm. Charitable souls calls the place the ‘Manhattan’ of Spain, others use less flattering expressions. But, there is no need to end up in a tourist trap.
Go a bit inland or stick to the smaller towns and villages and you’ll be surprised by a cornucopia of natural beauty, not to mention friendly people and truly great food.
Here are a few highlights of my agenda:
Until 1820, Torrevieja was no more than an ancient guard tower which gave the place its name. The foundations can still be seen today. Then, the location of Torrevieja between two huge salt lakes lead to a booming salt mining industry. The salt lakes, the Museum of Sea and Salt and the world of rare waterbirds which live around the lagunas are what makes me want to visit.
Photograph by Deran/Wikipedia under Creative Commons License
From a small fishing village to a center of salt mining to a thriving tourist center, Torrevieja has come a long way in a very short time.
The town of Altea is often praised as the most beautiful along the Costa Blanca. This is due to the fact that despite touristic development, Altea has preserved a very picturesque old town, with white houses, winding alleys and sleeping cats. The landmark are the distinctive blue and white tiled cupolas of the church Our Lady of Solace. To the north, Altea is protected by the bluffs of the Sierra de Bernia, a mountain range with a lot of possibilities for fans of hiking. And then , there are numerous tiny mountain villages, like La Nucia with a colorful Sunday market. Enough incentive for me to take a closer – and extended – look.
Church of Our Lady of Solace/Altea
Photograph by Conrad Moeller/Wikipedia under Creatice Commons License
Being a history fan, Denia is certainly a must see for me. Unlike the other two places mentioned before, Denia’s history goes back to Iberian inhabitation. Ruins of this civilization can be found on the nearby hillside. Greek, Romans and, more importantly, the Arabs ruled over Denia and it was the latter who built the impressive castle towering over Denia. In 1244, the Christians conquered Denia and it fell into decline.
Photograph by Echiner/Wikipedia under Creative Commons License
In the castle, I will have a chance to visit the Archaeological Museum. Again, modern tourism has discovered the ancient Denia and made it a popular center. Moreover, if you fancy an escapade to the island of Ibiza, ferries run there on a daily basis.
Island of Tabarca
Talking about ferry rides: another sea trip I want to take is to the island of Tabarca, the only inhabited island in the Gulf of Alicante. Ferries run from Santa Pola and Alicante to this gorgeous paradise with a very ibtersting history. The island was inhabited by the Genose until 1741, when it was conquered by the king of Tunesia and all inhabitants were taken prisoner. It took many years until the King of Spain paid ransom and they were free agan, but decided to stay on. The fortification walls as well as the arched entrance to the town bear distinctly Arabic features whilst the church is a great example for baroque.
Equally important is the water nature reserve. Scuba diving is forbidden as is any water motorsport to protect the maritime life. As can be imagined, Tabarca js the place to enjoy succulent fish dished like the caldero, a fish stew prepared in a big kettle or octopus in its ink.
These are only a few of the planned stops along the way. I also intend to go inland to Murcia and, of course to visit Alicante.