Our Valencian friends Dan, Hop, and Douglas encouraged us to pay a visit to the neighboring sea-side city of Alicante, a short train ride south of Valencia. On a particularly beautiful Saturday in March the train wove through an interesting countryside with tall mountains in the distance. Orchards of olive and fruit trees alternated with copper-tinted fields waiting for spring plantings. As we neared Alicante, the terrain turned sandy with vineyards and ancient stone farmhouses next to sprawling solar panel farms. Stone mesas emerged with contrasting colors: bright white, deep terra-cotta, copper, gold, and grey - reminiscent of the American southwest.
We arrived in Alicante early enough for a museum stop before lunch, so we headed over to the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts. While the ancient building was beautiful, we were more intrigued by the modern one across the street that was the Contemporary Museum of Art. It was a good decision! Particularly interesting was the mesmerizing kinetic wall sculptures by Eusebio Sempere, an Alicante native who donated much of his work to his home-town museum. They also had a simple mobile by Alexander Calder that danced with the tiniest bit of fanning when nobody was looking. Nancy is convinced that there is an original mobile in her artistic future - the medium just fascinates her. We also found a hand-drawn musical score that was a beautiful work of art.
Our friends had recommended lunch at El Portal - Alicante's only Michelin-star restaurant. Sadly, they were fully booked for lunch that day, but their sister restaurant - El Singular Manero - welcomed us. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch in this outdoor café / tapas bar next to Alicante's "Teatre Principal". When in Spain...how could we pass up the "Bull Tail Stew Quesadilla with Chipotle Sauce"?? The private label Rioja was served chilled - a practice we found a lot in Spain.
As we enjoyed our lunch we were entertained by a group of young men enjoying a bachelor party game in the plaça. We had noticed similar groups around Spain: 6-10 guys in matching T-shirts with one of them - obviously the groom - usually in some type of super-hero costume. A young woman led a game of "capture the bridal veil". She broke the group into to two teams lined up on either side of her as she held out the veil in the center. On her signal one player from each side would try to be the first to grab it and get back to his side before being tagged. Pretty tame for a stag party, no?
From just about every vantage point the Castell de la Santa Bàrbera can be seen at the top of the city's highest point. We asked our waiter about it and, though there is an elevator to the top, he recommended the hike to this popular attraction. So, we set off for our uphill trek.
We finally reached the top of the hill and took in the full panorama of the city and the Mediterranean coastline from the walls of the 9th century Arab-built castle. We enjoyed a cool glass of cava at the hilltop café before exploring the grounds and visiting the Museum of the City of Alicante. A long tunnel took us to the elevator that brought us down to the beach. Travel tip - they only charge you the round-trip fee of 2.70 euros on the way up, so it's a free ride down.
On our way back to the train station we ran into a couple of girls in traditional dresses that were very different from the ones in Valencia. Alicante was in the midst of its own festival celebrating the coming of spring. We were so grateful for that we spent a day in this lovely city that would never have made it onto our itinerary without the recommendation of Hop, Douglas, and Dan.
Use the "Next Post >>" Button at the bottom of each post to step through our story chronologically.
Nancy McCabe &