Our visit to Alicante in January 2015 coincided with Porrate de San Antón (St Anthony's Day).
A number of events were held in the city over the weekend of 17th-18th January to mark the occasion.
These included a medieval market, an equestrian show at the city's bullring and, because St Anthony is the patron saint of animals, a mass blessing of the city's pets.
The Medieval Market was held in Parque Panteón de Quijano; a small park just a short walk from the bullring.
The market included stalls selling roast chestnuts, sugar coated nuts, grilled meats and craft beers. There were other stalls selling jewellery, soaps, perfumes, ornaments and souvenirs. Many of the stallholders were in medieval dress.
For the children, there was a small fairground including a wooden pirate ship and an old merry-go-round which a lady was operating with a foot pedal.
We visited the market on Saturday lunch time and it wasn't very busy. We walked around it in less than 15 minutes. It was much busier on the Sunday lunch time following the events at the nearby bullring.
Whilst visiting the Medieval Market on the Saturday, we noticed posters pinned up outside the bullring advertising Sunday's events. These were an equestrian exhibition (10:30am – 12:00pm; free entry) followed by the blessing of the animals. We decided to go along and have a look.
We took our seats in the bullring around 10:20am. It was a lovely sunny morning, with temperatures in the early teens, and the bullring was something of a sun trap. It wasn't very busy at this stage; perhaps 100 or so other spectators.
Shortly after 10:30am a procession, which had been around the local streets carrying a float with a statue of St Anthony on top, entered the bullring. After posing for photographs, many of those in the procession took their seats in a ringside box where a table had been laid out with trophies.
A steady flow of spectators were arriving by now and many of them had brought their pets along to be blessed. Most of the pets were dogs (of all shapes and sizes), although we also saw a lady carrying two tortoises in a basket and a handful of people with cages containing rabbits, hamsters, birds and even a chipmunk.
The equestrian exhibition began with two sets of children riding pony-drawn carts around the bullring. Then we were treated to a series of performances, by horsemen and women, in which their horses "danced" to the music, stood on their hind legs and curtseyed to the appreciative crowd. One part of the exhibition involved a convoy of shire horses pulling a cart filled with lemons slowly around the bullring. Towards the end of the show we saw the stars of the future; young boys, maybe 10 years old, riding their horses like experienced horsemen.
With all the performances completed, each of the participants returned to the bullring for a cameo. Most of them were presented with trophies and each of the horses received a blessing.
An announcement, in Spanish, was made over the tannoy, and many of the locals made their way (with their assorted pets) down to the ring. A huge queue formed, stretching half way around the ring and back through the entrance onto the ground floor concourse.
One lady was pushing a shopping trolley with half a dozen puppies in it. Others were carrying their dogs (some wrapped in blankets or dressed in bright coats), while others were struggling to keep their large dogs on a leash.
As each person reached the front of the queue, they would present their pet to the priest from the local church and he would sprinkle it with holy water and give it a blessing.
It's called Alisport, and is a complex of fitness machines, weights, tennis and raquetball, swimming pools, saunas, and also features a full jacuzzi, its own cafe, and tons of classes. Located a couple of blocks toward the Serra Grossa from the Gran Via shopping centre in Vistahermosa.
- Water Sports
- Business Travel
- Spa and Resort
This is a town animals seem to enjoy because of it is calm and beautiful.
Photo no1: Who is this stranger? Japanese, Chinese or Korean - hard to tell. But who cares?
Photo no2: I sit down straight to welcome you. I cannot bow down like Japanese - my chin will immediately hit the ground.
Photo no3: I am itchy. I cannot wait for doing this. Excuse me, stranger!
Santa Cruz is the name of the old quarter on the slope of Benacantil mount.
On May 3rd, the feast day of the Holy Cross (Santa Cruz) is celebrated in the quarter and in the Santa Cruz chapel, on the top of the quarter.
All the streets are decorated. Flower arrangements in the shape of a cross are made to adorn the streets.
There are music and several open-air activities. A good moment to visit a nice area of the city.
This giants and the other figures with a large head, the cabezudos, take part in small parades in festivals as in the Hogueras de San Juan and other events.
The giants represent peasants, a Christian King and Queen and a Moorish King and Queen.
During the Hogueras de San Juan, many girls and young women wear the regional dress. Also some men dress it, though the male is not so bright and colorful. There are many parades and events where they sport their colorful dresses.
Women that take active part in these parades and events, wearing the typical dress, are called belleas. La bellea del foc (the fire beauty) is the one selected to represent all of them, as a festival queen.
Groups of neighbors associate and build a barraca where they join during the festival evenings. They buy food and drink, hire a music band and enjoy themselves. They usually invite their friends, but if you haven’t any friend with barraca don’t worry because there are some popular barracas where you can go in.
They fence part of a street and the gates of the barracas are made also like the bonfires. In fact, they are burnt together with the hogueras the last night.
Every neighborhood builds a hoguera but also a hoguera infantile, made for children. They are smaller, placed a few meters from the main one and the figures (ninots) usually are very friendly. They burn before the big hogueras.
The main festival in Alicante takes place in June: we celebrate the summer solstice burning bonfires on June 24 at midnight. As June 24 is the festivity of Saint John the Baptist, the bonfires are named after him.
The bonfires are monuments of papier-machê and other combustible materials (the structure is made of wood) that satirize public figures and current events, always with humor. There is a hoguera (foguera in Valencian language) at every neighborhood. They are built a few days before and prices are given according to the category of the monuments.
For more pictures, see my travelogues of Hogueras de San Juan 2007 and 2009.
The mascletá is a series of firecrackers that last about 10 minutes, where firecrackers are combined with color sparkles.
The mascletá takes place during the Hogueras de San Juan, the main festival of Alicante, between June 19 and 24. These days, punctually at 14:00, the pyrotechnic spectacle starts.
We like the smell of the gunpowder and the noise and almost everybody come close to the Plaza de los Luceros to hear the immense noise of the mascletá.
I am writing this tip on June 24 2009, a few hours after enjoying the last mascletá of this year.
The Santa Faz pilgrimage is, together with hogueras, the most popular celebration in Alicante. It takes place the second Thursday after Easter Sunday and it begins in the Iglesia de Santa María (sometimes it does in the Town Hall). A massive quantity of people walk towards the hamlet of Santa Faz, whose monastery (see my Things to do tip about it) has been worshipped for five centuries, due to the fact that it is supposed to contain the image of Jesus in a piece of cloth. The pilgrimage begins at 8.00 h and during the walk you will find a series of "paraetas" where anissed rolls and sweet Valencian wine reward the effort of every pilgrim. Although it's a good idea to bring your own lunch, you can also buy it in the popular market that is waiting for you in Santa Faz, near the monastery.
- Historical Travel
A «botellón» (read it like bottah-john) is a massive street party where most of people go to drink and to find some friends. Life cost in Alicante is quite high in comparison to other towns nearby as Murcia or Albacete and, moreover, we are not used to go into crazy discos where poor music ruin our conversations. Most of people in Alicante enjoy wonderful weather living outdoors. They save a lot of money and make new friends joining a botellón. Pubs and local authorities are against this kind of parties since they lose a lot of money that otherwise would contribute to taxes. A 33 cl beer usualy costs 3 euros in a pub. One liter costs 2 euros in a 24/7. Sometimes whiskies and other expensive drinks are manipulated in pubs. Whatcha gonna do? Join the botellón! Don't let business kill a way of life!
What do you need to join a botellón? You just need to bring something to drink with you (alcoholic or non alcoholic beverages), some ice cubes (sold in gas stations and 24/7 stores), a couple of friends and a little piece of conversation. Is botellón legal? Well no. Tickets for "botellonning" out of controlled areas are close to 150 euros. So, you should be careful where you do your party. There are very few areas in town where police tolerate botellón. Be proper and please don't leave any any garbage behind you.
To reach the «oficial» Botellón spot you must follow Alfonso X el Sabio (the avenue passing by the Mercado Central) in the opposite direction to Plaza de los Luceros. It's located in the skirts of the castle and if you don't know the city too much, just follow anyone carrying drinks in plastic bags. Fridays and saturdays, from 11pm on.
- School Holidays
- Budget Travel
Spanish children are so lucky that they receive their Christmas presents in two different days. The tradition used to be that presents were brought to the children by the three Wise Kings on the night of 5 January. Nowadays, Santa Claus has become popular too, and it is usual to make presents on the Christmas night.
But the emotion of watching the parade of the three kings, leaving a glass of milk for them and a bit of straw for their camels, cannot be replaced, for sure...
- Family Travel
The night of Saint John, on the Summer solstice is the major festivity in Alicante. They build large monuments of wood and papier maché, similar to the falles in Valencia and they get burned during that night as an act of purification.
The "queen" of the "fogueres" is called the "Beauty of the Fire" (Bellea del Foc). An extravagant name, but a beauty indeed.
Spaniards love to take long promenades in the evening, when the sun gets lower and the heat is more clement. In Alicante, the place to walk is obviously the Esplanade and the sea front along the port and the beaches.