Southern Spain, Sangria and Sunshine

In my search for more summer sun, I took advantage of a return flight voucher from Icelandexpress. I used it in October not only because it was expiring soon, but because there had been rumors of the airline going under. I had a week off school, a “reading” week, so I decided to justify the trip by reading on the beach in Alicante.

a perfect place to read

Alicante’s city center is a stones throw away from the beach. And its  a proper, sandy beach with chairs and umbrellas to rent, right beside the main bus stop. On the other side of Plaza del Mar is the harbour, parked full of yachts and sailboats, one of which was supposed to be my first couchsurfing host place. I had to meet the Spanish sailor at 9pm in the Regatta Club, but instead a strange fireman approached me and asked if I was Katrin. He had replaced the sailor, who was stuck on a boat in Amsterdam, and asked if I would like to join him for dinner and crash at his place. I accepted his dinner offer first.

We had red wine and tapas to our hearts content, eating course after course and I slowly decided he was couchsurfing material. But, this was before I found out he lived in an apartment undergoing construction. This is partly due to my Spanish not being fluent enough (he didn’t speak english) and partly due to me thinking he was joking when he said “my apartment’s kind of a mess, but atleast it has one light and one running water source.” The light was a spot light, and the water hose came out of a hole in the wall where the shower would eventually be built. There were no doors or finished floors, and one huge open space where a window was still missing, but because he lived on the top floor, he had 2 beautiful rooftop balconies. And, most importantly, he had an extra mattress and a pillow which I could get a good nights rest on.

sunset from the top of el Castillo

I spent my couple days in Alicante wandering around the beach and the old City Center, and finally made it up the massive fortress that looms over the city and sea. The Castillo de Santa Barbara is a castle that changed hands between the French, Spanish, Moroccans, and maybe even British, Im not sure, but I don’t know who figured out how to build a castle at the top of a cliff in those days, somehow get overtaken or invaded, and then add on even more castle to the cliff, before the overtakers were overtaken. I could barely get up there without guards or guns pointed at me, but luckily my next couchsurf host had a car and a free evening to catch the sunset from the top with me.

Villa Joiosa

I traveled north with the local tram, an above-ground subway-like transport that can’t quite be regarded as a train. It takes you along the coast all the way to Benidorm, where I was headed, and stopped half way at Villa Joiosa. Its a colourful little walled village, also on the beach, with only sleepy dogs and old ladies to be encountered on the staired and narrow streets.

In Benidorm, I barely saw anyone else but elderly, half-burned British people and a handful of European students. The beach was lined with highrises, and the streets were tourist shops and tapas bars followed by more tourist shops and cheap tapas and wine bars.

Benidorm

The beach, or beaches rather (there are 2 long stretches divided by a peninsula) were beautiful, packed with people. Apparently the hundreds of tourists sunbathing now didnt compare to the thousands normally packed like sardines on every square inch of sand from June – August.

the art palaces

I made it further north and a little away from the coast to Valencia, the second largest ERASMUS University student town in Europe (after Bologne). I couchsurfed at a very international house, with a Brasilian marine biologist, a Spanish architect student, and a Hungarian linguist. We hung out for 3 evenings (I stayed 2 extra nights) despite it being midweek, finding lots of other students to enjoy nights out and cheap wine. They gave me a bici card so I could use the public bicycles to get around (Valencia is so much bigger than I thought), and I rode along the river canal park that surrounds the old city, past the Art Palaces, all the way to the beach a few kilometres away, and even through the old city center, zig sagging through the pedestrian only streets that wind around old churches and cobble-stoned squares.

cats in Tabarca

My last night back in Alicante, I couchsurfed with an architect who lived on the 10th floor of a beachfront apartment, with a 180 degree view through floor to ceiling glass walls. He is also a diver, and had just spent 2 weekends in Tabarca, an island off the coast of Alicante that I took a 1 hour ferry to visit. The island has been overtaken by cats, and all the so called inhabitants leave when summer is over, so it was mostly me, some cats, and the seagulls braving the wind and some strange sort of African dust storm prematurely darkening the day.

Concert in Plaza des Toros in Murcia

My last night in Spain, me and Dani the architect packed his car full of friends and roadtripped to Murcia, where we watched an open-air concert in a bull fighting ring. The headliner was Wilco, an American band, and a ridiculously good rock n roll Spanish sensation I still don’t know what his name was. I kept day dreaming about how days and centuries before, this ring was used for a matador to death dance with bulls, and now we stood there under umbrellas in the dark jumping around  to great music. Imagine trying to predict that kind of future to a Spaniard 300 years ago…

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