I visited quite by chance this Lonja in Valencia, called Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange). I was with a group of friends in downtown Valencia and entered the central market to buy some fruits and Agua de Valencia (orange juice with champagne) and while waiting outside for my friends I entered the beautiful building just in front, with fantastic sculptures and gargoyles. Entrance was free, and I was surprised for all what I saw. Then invited my friends to go inside and we all admired that wonderful building, especially the Hall of the Columns.
The building was erected during the Golden Age of the Kingdom of Valencia (XV century), at a time when Valencia was the most cultural city within the Crown of Aragon, and one of the most importants in Europe.
It is the only Lonja of the Crown of Aragon in the UNESCO list. The other ones are not so interesting, except the one in Zaragoza, that I even find more attractive than the one in Valencia. The Lonja in Perpignan has been transformed in a pizzeria (Perpignan was Spanish possession under the Corona de Aragón until the year 1659).
This is another fantastic museum. Some even say that is the second in importance in Spain, only after Museo del Prado.
It lodges, not only an exhaustive collection of Valencia painters such as Joaquin Sorolla or the artist of the baroque Jose de Ribera (known in Naples, the city where he knew the success to his work, as Il Spanoleto because he was very small), but also magnificent works of Francisco de Goya, Murillo, Alonso Cano, El Greco, and Diego de Velazquez.
The building of the museum itself is a wonder, fitted in a Baroque palace called Pio V.
The Lemon Express is the oldest tourist train in Spain.Its been around since the 1920's.Since it has been completely done up and now has a toilet and buffet car.The Spanish Government of Valencia own it.The trip leaves Benidorm railway station and goes through places such as Altea, Calpe,Benissa and Teulada and arrives in Gata De Gorges about an hour and 20 mins later.During the journey you will have guides telling you about the area and you will have loads of time to take pics etc.The train even slows down at the nicest stops.
While in Gata people can visit a guitar factory and wonder around the town which is worth seeing for its whicker ware.I enjoyed the huge range of shops here.Especially the ethnic style ones.On the return trip the drink starts flowing.Champagne and soft drinks are served the entire trip back.My fav part ;-)
There is a great happy atmosphere with music and this makes a great end to a great trip.Well worth doing.Tickets are sold at travel agencies and hotels.You can also call Benidorm railway station to book tickets.
As Valencia has a strong arab influence from the Moorish rule most dishes contain rice.My favourite dish has to be meat paella which has rice, beans,garlic,chicken and other veggies and is lovely with lemon squeezed over it.Ive also tried the seafood one but prefer the meat paella.Valencia region has many dishes which include rice and in Alicante they make paella a la alicantina which has seafood in it.You can also get a dish called paella alicantina that has chicken and rabbit in which i found delicious.
In Elche a dish called hidden treasure is a must try too.It has sausages, black pudding,chick-peas and pork meat balls in it and i really liked it.This has a crust over it made by beaten eggs.
In Tabarca you can get rice cooked in squid ink.Ive not tried this yet.I think this is the dish ive seen called black rice and must try it sometime.
Another reason, and another attraction, of the region is the variety and quality of the golf available to the golfer. A pleasant and not too difficult par 72 course is La Marquesa Golf And Country Club.
Opened in 1989 and set in a small valley in Quesada this course is typical of the many that have attracted golfers to Spain. Within the region are a number of top class courses such as La Finca which has earned a reputation for being one of the better and more challenging even though it only opened in 2002.
La Marquesa offers a discount during the summer months if you are willing to play in the afternoon when it is very hot.
Mention the Costa Blanca to most tourists, particularly British, and the one destination they will all have heard of is Benidorm. Despite having a reputation in the past of being the type of place where the excesses of mass tourism were very much on display in a negative way the town really is a mix of old time charm and modern convenience.
Sure, you can get a burger or a KFC at 4:00am if you want to and there is a lot of free flowing booze but is a holiday resort and if people want to let their hair down then they will.
The problem is that some folk, generally the ones that have never been there, assume that thats all there is to it and they are wrong. This place caters for young and old alike. The stereotype of a town taken over by foreigners couldn`t be more wrong. By far the most tourists in town are Spanish, they have been coming here for years from the north of Spain. The first hotels were built in 1925 on the Levante and it wasn`t until 1967 and the opening of Alicante airport that tourists from the colder climates of northern europe really started to arrive, some have made it their home.
Despite this Benidorm old town retains its Spanish charm and Poniente beach, quieter than Levante beach, is where a lot of the locals prefer to stay. Benidorm has been popular for years with all types of people and rightly so and it will remain popular in the future. Don`t be put off by myths.
I would never go on a holiday and spend time seeking out food that I eat every day at home. Part of the attraction of travelling abroad is to try new things and that certainly includes the food.
Mention Spain and most people will know that paella is a traditional dish of the country. What is nice is that different areas of Spain have there own local variation of the dish. I like the mixed meat which generally has a bit of everything in it, including some seafood.
This restaurant, which I forgot to note down the name of, has its own variety as can be seen from the photo above the menu.
Although the entrance ticket covers all the rides and pools in the park it can be quite expensive, particularly if you have a large family.
Paying on the door is not the wisest way to go. There are numerous outlets around the region, even some in supermarkets, that offer discount vouchers. When you consider that most of these vouchers offer savings of 7.50 euros per adult and 4.50 euros per child it makes sense to make a little effort to seek them out.
During the heat of the summer months if you want to cool off and have some fun as well its worth visiting one of the waterparks in the area.
Possibly the best of the parks and a good way to spend the whole day is at Aqualandia on the outskirts of Benidorm. A large wave pool which is gently sloping, like a beach, is near to the entrance and there are numerous slides and rides to cater for the smallest kids up to the most adventurous thrill seekers.
The park is very well maintained and there are lots of food and drink outlets that were less expensive than we were led to believe. There are showers and changing rooms too to clean off in at the end of the day.
Worthy of a tip in their own right are the sand sculptures on Guardamar beach. The creators of these sculptures put a lot of time and effort crafting some amazingly detailed scenes.
Some of the scenes are quite intricate and are obviously a labour of love as it would appear that the only payment they receive are the tips left by admiring travellers.
A couple of blocks back from Guardamar beach lies this attractive park. It is nicely laid out and you can picnic in the shade or take a gentle stroll around the small lakes which are patrolled by peacocks and other waterbirds. There is a playpark for small kids and an area set aside for a game of boules.
Around half an hour from Alicante airport and half way between Torrevieja and Santa Pola lies Guardamar. This coastal town is one of the lesser known resorts and has become a personal favourite with my family.
The excellent beach is around 7 kilometres long. The sand is very clean and the water, which can be great for beach boarding, is well patrolled by local coastguards.
Ths town is very popular with the locals and has more of a Spanish feel to it than some of the more developed resorts in the area. It took some getting used to the locals deserting the beach in the early afternoon for lunch and a siesta before returning later in the afternoon when they would often stay until quite late in the evening.
There is a good choice of restaurants and bars and a couple of supermarkets for those who need to stock up on food and drink.
Most people who travel to the Costa Blanca for their annual break will spend some time on a beach.
There is enough coastline in the region to spread yourself out on a relatively deserted stretch of sand even in the summer. All the beaches we went to were very well looked after, clean, and most had toilet and washing facilities, perfect for those with smalll children.
Alicante, or Alacant, as it is called in Valencian, is with almost 300 000 inhabitants the second largest city in the Valencian Community and the capital of its southernmost province. Although its monumental heritage is not as impressive as in other historical cities, Alicante attracts thousands of visitors for its excellent weather and for the beauty of the coast. The Costa Blanca, while in parts is a perfect example of tourism ill-management, remains, in fact, one of the main tourist areas in Spain.
You can see more pictures in my Alicante page.
Castle of Guadalest is a tiny village of Arab origin in the region of the Marina Baixa. It is protected by a natural fortress where man made walls and natural rocks merge into a singular ensemble.
Only one tower remains from the castle of Saint Joseph, also known as castle of the Alcozaiba. But, what a tower! It stands on top of the most vertical rock of the fortress forming a natural archway into the town.
The palm trees, the blue sky, the rosemary scent in the air and the originality of this village make of it a favorite daytrip for holidaymakers in nearby Benidorm. Ocasionally for too many of them, but you know that sun and beach holiday must be spiced up with a bit of culture.
Down in the valley, the small Guadalest reservoir and its greenish waters is a great contrast to the arid, stoney slopes of the hills.
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