Arriving in Alicante early afternoon we zeroed in on our preferred parking place, along the front past the marina. Only to be thwarted by a changed road layout, This required us finding a way to turn around and go back around for another look. This time we found a turning but that took us off towards San Juan, so another U turn later we found a parking spot just about big enough for a motorhome at the end of the front in a rough unmade up car park.
Making sure Buzz was secure we started the longer than expected walk into the city centre, due in part to the wind driving us back the other way. Unfortunately with winds forecast up to 75km/hr, still we battled on passing the elevator up to the imposing dominating feature of the city, Castell De Santa Barbara. A 16th century castle that stands high above the city on its own hilltop, with 360 degree views over the city and coast. As it was mid afternoon we decided to leave the castle for the next day, though we did climb the steps by the elevator up to the next road behind the coast road.
This as it happens meant we found the lovely old Basilica Santa Maria and the picturesque old quarter of the city, spending a good length of time walking around and admiring these old streets. Full of pretty colourful houses and alleyways with lots of flowers and plants. Eventually coming out into the Plaza de Ayuntamiento (town hall) with its old attractive council offices amd Town Hall building made completely of white marble. This area has lots of Tapas restaurants and bars where you can enjoy a cold drink and tasty food while sitting in the sun.
We however carried on into the more commercial centre of the city before turning towards the Explanada (Esplanade) opposite the large smart marina and cruise port. We stopped here for a coffee before going into the marina to explore its shops and cafes, by which time the wind was getting even windier and it was starting to get chilly. Our cue to head back to Buzz as we knew we were coming back the next day to explore thoroughly.
We had decided to park outside the city on the beach at Urbanova for the night heading for there, parking up for the night and having dinner. Next morning after breakfast we drove back into Alicante accidentally missing the spot we parked in the day before, carrying on to a large shopping centre Plaza Mar 2 where we found a place to park on the roof. It turned out to be a good choice as we wanted to walk up to the castle rather than take the lift. This meant we had to be around the back away from the front, and the car park suited this perfectly and as it happens we also had a good view of Buzz from the castle once up there.
Walking up took us about 15 minutes and was very enjoyable and warm away from the wind driving in from the sea. The Castell De Santa Barbara is both big and impressive as well as free to visit which was an unexpected bonus. We both really enjoyed strolling around the castle, which has been extensively restored but in a sympathetic way. Built over 3 levels there is plenty to see as well as having several outdoor cafes and a restaurant. You have fabulous views over all of Alicante, coast and countryside for miles and Buzz too (temporarily at least) which was a bonus for us. If you don’t fancy the walk the elevator will get you from the coast road up for 2.70euro and is free to come down but aware it does get busy. We walked back down through a park Parque de la Ereta as we wanted to visit the Central Market – Mercado Central just up the road from the castle.
The Mercado Central is another place worth making an effort to get to, it’s a big indoor market over 2 floors with 4 halls and one of the biggest if not biggest we have visited. The range of produce on offer is vast with all kinds of meat, vegetables, bakery, dried food and unusually eggs. This was the first time we had seen these stalls selling nothing but eggs. Chicken, duck, quail, ostrich and even parrot eggs!! The cheese and charcuterie and bakery stalls were of particular interest to us it has to be said, if indeed it needed saying to regular readers of our blog. After a slow walk around the market, which could have bankrupt us had we bought every thing that made us go ooh that looks nice or yummy or similar exclamations. Managing to drag ourselves out with just a handful of buns and some fresh fruit we took the next logical step of looking for lunch.
The problem with that being everywhere we liked the look of it was full, suffice to say we covered a lot of ground including Calle San Fransico, which was an amazing sight. Although we had read about it finding it out of the blue was fun, the street has a painted pavement (mostly yellow) and giant colourful mushrooms and toadstools scattered along its length. These are about 10ft high and normally have an equally giant ant or ladybird on top, there are also smaller toadstool houses for children to play in and hopscotch squares painted. The street is great fun and we think more places should do something like it.
We eventually ended up having explored most of the city centre and getting a late lunch on the Explanada, from where we wound our way back to Buzz through some of the streets we had missed. Then driving out to the Parque El Palmera a long park full of Palm trees, exercise equipment, a children’s play area and water features including a man made waterfall and small (in fact tiny) boating lake. This is a really pleasant and interesting little park with plenty of parking and somewhere to get some refreshments while relaxing and for us on the way back to our overnight spot at Urbanova, for a 2nd night.
All in all Alicante is a lovely city full of surprises, one of which we have seen around Spain before but here they are prized and protected. The Moreton Bay Fig Trees, these Australian giants members of the Banyan family of trees are huge with amazing trunks and root systems. Be aware if you harm them or even climb on them you could get a heavy fine, so don’t be tempted. We had paid lip service to Alicante in the past with a short visit, this time after exploring it we are happy we came back and would do so again.