Back in the day my parents, sister and I would pack our cases full of scrapbooks, bikinis, Roald Dahl books and inflatable toys and head to the Mediterranean for a week, or two (if we were lucky), of splashing in the sea, trying new foods and marvelling in watching our pale English skin turn various shades of pink and brown under inch-thick layers of sun-cream. As one of our last proper family holidays before work-schedules and Masters dissertations encroach on the empty spaces of the calendar we decided to recreate this childhood holiday magic which resonates as being the highlight of the summer holidays and memories of which have lasted longer than the tans!
The four of us headed to Alicante in Southern Valencia to embark on our ‘blast from the past’ holiday which was set to be filled with just as much sun, sea and sand as in our childhoods with perhaps a dash more relaxation and culture! We booked to stay in a villa near the town of Pego which lies inland from the Costa Blanca. Nestled amongst rows of cacti and palms with a stunning view across a valley of paddy fields leading to the coast, the villa was the ideal spot for enjoying maroon sunsets and the odd gin and tonic by the pool.
To make the most of our first day we headed to the beach nice and early to get in a few hours of sunbathing and swimming before the temperatures soared at lunch time. We made our way off the beaten track to one of Denia’s many beaches, which we pretty much had to ourselves apart from a couple of old fishermen who had cast their hooks from the rocky spit at the end of the beach. With the absence of built-up resorts, developments and even a car park, the beach felt incredibly unspoilt and it was easy to imagine how it looked fifty, or even a hundred, years ago….very much the same! If we can we always try to find these quiet beaches, for whilst they may not have the whitest sand or a bustling beach cafe they do have charm and if a peaceful laze in the sun is on the agenda then the absence of volleyballs and children within two feet of your head is always a bonus.
Of course the obligatory dip in the sea was carried out willingly…
Lunch was, as is often the case on holiday, the lovechild of the debut trip to the local supermarket where over-excitement resulted in the purchase of far too many Spanish delicacies and the limitations of a poorly-equipped rental-villa kitchen. For us, this meant freshly baked baguettes, succulent local olives, tomatoes, salad leaves and cheeses (my favourite being manchego…I could eat it all day…in fact, I think I did eat it all day).
With full bellies, the poolside provided the perfect location for soaking up some sun, getting in to our holiday reading and snoozing.
As evening approached we thought it best to head to the town of Oliva. Lucky for us there was a fiesta so the town was filled with stalls selling the most amazing street-food, locally-crafted furniture and delicacies and even donkey rides! There were huge loaves of bread stacked up on the stalls underneath the zigzag of bunting and the smell of Spanish meats being cooked on huge circular hot plates enticed locals and tourists alike.
After a delicious dinner of swordfish, pasta, grilled squid and avocado salad we made our way to the beach (via a heladería for ice-creams). The beach we arrived at was Platja de Pau-Pi, which was a beautiful wide sandy beach with great views along the coastline. The fiesta continued to the beach where locals had set up little bonfires and barbecues on the sand, around which they were huddled, listening to music, dancing, playing and eating. All of the houses along the seafront were opened up showing their often very colourful interiors, painted in bright colours with beautiful tiles. Families came and went from these houses where big family meals were being enjoyed. The atmosphere was everything you would expect of a Spanish fiesta and more!