Alicante or Benidorm
For many visitors to Spain, Alicante is little more than a very busy and ever expanding airport where you land on the way to Benidorm or one of the other tourist centres on the Cost Blanca. But in fact here is a bustling modern city of more than 300,000 citizens with ancient Bronze, Iberian and Roman origins, and a fascinating Muslim history, celebrated annually by loud fiestas, where the `Christians` unfortunately have all the victories. (Which of course – eventually- they did!)
Santa Barbara Castle
Though greatly extended during the reign of Philip ll, the mighty Santa Barbara Castle,set on Mount Benacantil, is Muslim in origin. It`s a wonderful place to visit: huge, with ramparts that go down to the foot of the hill. Scattered throughout the buildings there are as many as 700 modern sculptures, the most important Spanish collection in the world.There you can look down on the sea and beaches, the two marinas, and the city´s busy port to the south, and to the north the main city, and beyond it to the east, the majestic mountains.
There are several excellent museums in Alicante, the latest of them telling the story of local bullfighting, should that interest you. Of those we have seen, by far the most impressive is the superb MARQ, an archeological museum of the area with many interactive exhibits. It deservedly won a European award in 2004.One of the most rewarding musuems we have ever visited.
The Old Quarter ( or the `Barrio´)
The Old Quarter ( or the `Barrio´) is a muddled-up mixture of medieval walls updated with more modern streets and alleyways. It enjoys a lively night scene from which next day the young stagger home, as others come to work and help create the usual daunting traffic chaos, where drivers fight for parking space, or, doubling up, give up trying.
Island of Tabarca
A boat trip to the offshore island of Tabarca is well worthwhile, though you would be wise to pick a less rough crossing than we had on our last visit. Only 11 nautical miles away, it is surrounded by a Mediterranean marine life nature reserve, and has old settlements of interest and cafe´s serving local food. Though a tourist attraction with an economy reliant on its visitors, it has proved resitant to developers and has a very strong sense of itself.
Unusually, I write this posting from the Euroresidentes office, just outside Alicante in Cabo de Huertes, the unspoilt end of a huge bay that extends through El Campello and onto Benidorm. A lovely place to be. As Alicante is a fine city to visit.