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my torrevieja diary

One year living in Torrevieja. What to do, where to go, what to see, the good and the not so good, a personal Torrevieja guide.

Charity meets glamour in Torrevieja
14 June 2015

It’s not all that often that we get a touch of glamour in Torrevieja, but yesterday it arrived in spades. In the form of the duo ALAZAN, formed by Aroa and Encarna Salazar. They have music in their blood, being of the same family of such famous groups as Azucar Moreno and Los Chungitos.

They gave a benefit concert yesterday in the Plaza de Oriente, in aid of the victims of the Nepal earthquake.

One of their managers and promoters, the owner of the Bar Kristina just opposite the church, has become a friend of mine, not least because he serves the best pinxos in town and arranged for me to interview the artist prior to the concert.

Let me tell you this was one of the funniest and entertaining interviews I have ever conducted. Starting with the venue: the hairdressers! Whilst Aroa and Encarna got their long, straight black hair, turned into stage fit curls, they talked to me.

After winning the Festival of Benidorm in 2000, their musical career has really taken off. I asked them if they are performing a brand new song tonight and they said: “Yes. Our latest is I love you.”

Then I asked them why this particular charity, did they have a special interest in Nepal or any special affinity to earthquake victims? No, they just like to help children when ever their tour schedule allows them to do so. They don’t write their own songs, they interpret those given to them by other artists.

Their ambition is to tour South America, something which they hope to achieve in the not too distant future. As for other artists, they adore Jennifer Lopez and Madonna.

Two utterly charming girls with great voices as proven during the concert and without airs and graces.

The concert was presented by Noa Show, a very talented entertainer who equally had no qualms to have a picture taken even only half “done” which is to say with the make up on but sans the evening dress.

Attendance was great and I can only hope that quite some money has been accumulated to help Nepal.



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The pirates come to town
19 April 2015

The pirates come to town!

It’s incredible how fast a year goes by. As of this weekend, the tapas route is rolling around again in Torrevieja. This year, 61 bars and restaurants participate, competing to win the prize for the best of these so very typical Spanish sacks.

They are divided into two categories: tapas caseras and tapas gourmet. The former cost €2 incl. a drink and the latter €2.50. And I have to say, that the gourmet ones get more and more elaborate. I find nothing wrong with the good, old standby of a juicy piece of tortilla or a saucer of boquerones, but if you fancy green tinted mini burgers nothing stands in your way.

Last year’s tapas route was under the theme of a treasure hunt and this year’s stands under the star of pirates. Most appropriate for a sea side town like Torrevieja, close to the pirate island of Tabarca.

So, it’s not only the tapas you can enjoy but also a pirate themed little market in the Plaza de la Constitucion and Calle Caballero de Rosas.

I went yesterday afternoon when it wasn’t as crowded as it will be today and found plenty of stalls selling trinkets which were much nicer and more unusual than those which abound in the countless markets all over the towns and villages on the Costa Blanca. You won’t have to starve either, grilled sausages, meat, pulpo and sweets are to be found in the plaza.

Given that few people were around, the stall keepers were delighted to pose in their colourful costumes and to let me take pictures of the treasure troves which are their wares.

You can still visit all of next week and sample special tapas this and the  next weekend. On top of it, after so many days of rain, wind, cold and generally miserable weather the sun is shining again.

 

 



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Song and salt in Torrevieja
01 April 2015

I have already told you about the importance of salt in Torrevieja, how the industry is closely related to the history of the town and how all of it is documented in the lovely museum of the salt and sea.

Another keyword defining Torrevieja is music, more precisely Las Habaneras. They are songs the theme of which is the life, comings and goings of the seamen who departed from Torrevieja to lands as far away as the Caribbean. A local composer, Ricardo Lafuente, is responsible for the creation of countless songs, as well as the formation of an orchestra and choir performing his works in concerts and competitions  which reach international level.

From 19th to 25th July, we are in for a special treat. During this week, the choir takes to the beach, Playa del Cura and performs nightly in the sand with the sea as a more than suitable background.

Born in Torrevieja, Ricardo Lafuente, who passed away in 2008, is as closely a part of the town’s history as is the salt industry and the casino. His past, apart from writing habaneras, includes a career as a printer and founder of the first choirs.

The old railway station, which, hopefully one day will become operative again, is the venue of El Museo de Las Habaneras, another Torrevieja museum not to be missed. The exhibits not only comprise his musical work and memorabilia but also the printer part.

Small wonder then, that several locations in Torrevieja are named Habaneras. One is a major road, Avenida de Las Habaneras which leads to Playa de los Locos.  Another is a quite pretty shopping center.

Older than Zenia Boulevard and a bit difficult to reach on foot, it’s nonetheless convenient with a big Carrefour nearby, a ZARA clothes and home shop and many other  outlets and a cinema.

Far less glamorous too and with less activities apart from shopping and a spot of eating, it does have a children’s corner and comfortably wide aisles.

Yes, salt and song certainly pull together in Torrevieja.



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Cooling off in summer at the Algar Waterfalls
27 March 2015

What I like best about Torrevieja is, that you can go on plenty of daytrips to ever different places which are not too far away. Especially during the summer months,  and we are approaching fast, Torrevieja  gets a bit too hot even for the most persistent sun worshippers  and you’d like to have a break. Or you simply crave a change of scenery, a spot of unspoilt nature and a breath of fresh air combined with a dip in cold water.  Algar waterfalls is just the place for you.

Where are they, you will want to know. Well, roughly, northwest of Benidorm. From Torrevieja, take the AP-7 (toll road) or the N-332 to Benidorm. From there take the CV-70 and the CV-715 to La Nucia. Head for Polop (signposted) and from there to Callosa d´en Sarria and follow the signs to the Algar Waterfalls.

I however, went by another means. If you live or visit here, you will know that guys walk along the promenade, distributing leaflets for free daytrips. These are of course promotional tours, which means you are supposed to buy beds, kitchen stuff, leather good or what have you. You have to sit through a lengthy presentation but, from time to time, the final destination is worth it, especially if you don’t have a car like me. It’s only fair, these people lay on a free tour and a free meal, naturally, they want to sell something. Up to you, but don’t stint on the tip for the driver.

I have only gone three times when the final stop was a destination I would otherwise not have been able to reach easily, much less in the form of a daytrip. On the other hand, apart from seeing something worthwhile, I have made friends. So, back to the Algar waterfalls!

The river Algar empties into the Mediterranean at Altea. On its way there, it passes the town of Callosa d´en Sarria, located some 15kms from Benidorm and about the same distance from Altea, where it forms a series of roaring waterfalls, cascading down the rocks into  natural pools. Known as Les Fonts dé l`algar, the entire area is a nature reserve and as such protected. Callosa is a centre for agriculture and for growing loquat or nispero, the delicious yellow/orange fruit.

Apart from the waterfalls, the nature reserve is a showcase for lush Mediterranean flora which is why it also contains an arboretum, open to visitors.

Callosa itself is a medieval town with parts of the old Fortalesa de Bernia still visible and a curiosity: El Poador de la Font Mayor, a public washing place built in 1786 which provided space for over 70 people.

A piece of advice first: bring a swim suit and towel (for the dip) and wear good walking shoes because it gets slippery in places.

There is ample parking at the foot of the waterfalls (all well signposted), then head up to the entrance, pay your admission of €4 for adults and €for kids up to 10 years, walk along the footpath to a wooden structure which contains a souvenir shop, a small restaurant/cafeteria and toilets, then climb  downwooden steps and follow the indicated path along the length of the river, leading from one cascade to the next.

It´s all a wooden boardwalk with sturdy wooden banisters to cling on to when it gets slippery.

Along the way you can veer off and step on the rocks, hop around in the pools, particularly Toll de la Para which is at the turning point of the walkway.

After you have had your fun, you can either return to where you came in, or continue through a tunnel to an area further up, where you find the arbolarium and a picnic area. Together with your ticket you will be given a map which clearly indicates each point of interest of the entire circle. Don´t forget to buy some of the nisperos or other fruit when they are in season.

Back in Torrevieja, you’ll be ready for another round of swimming and sunbathing on one of the pretty beaches.

 

 



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Visit Torrevieja's landmark - Torre del Moro
22 March 2015

If you live in Torrevieja or plan to visit, I imagine that you would want to know what gave the place its name.

Torrevieja translates into Old Tower and, indeed, an ancient Moorish tower is still left overlooking the coast. The tower as you see it today isn’t ancient, but at least the foundations are. Gardens, a kid`s playground and one or two pretty chiringuitos make up the area known as Cabo del Moro, right opposite the Hotel Masia.

One of my favourite Sunday morning activities is to walk to the Tower, starting from Playa de Los Locos because I live only steps away. I like that beach best, because sandy stretches alternate with rocky parts which are quite spectacular and much more interesting than just miles and miles of sand.

Come the 15th of March, my first stop is at a stand which makes and sells the best churros con chocolate. Sadly, only on weekends and they are closed during the winter. Not for nothing is there always a long queue.

Bag with churros in hand, although I prefer them with sugar instead of chocolate which is also less messy when eaten on the go, I walk through a long established restaurant, the 222. Not because I need more food, but because of the lovely tropical garden.

After that, there is no pavement on the beach side of the road. Watch your back as traffic is whizzing past, which, in summer, can be a bit stressful. It’s also not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs. If you need to, use the opposite side, but then you miss what makes the walk so nice, the many paths which  lead to one cala after another. Veer to your right and take one or the other leading  to the cliffs and gaze down at the churning sea. Just don’t fall off. I haven’t tried yet to walk all the way to the tower along the cliffs, thus avoiding the main road altogether. I doubt that it’s possible though, because there are hotels and fenced off private homes along the way.

Churros finshed, passing the rather grandly named but run down Hotel Eden Roc, I reached the tower, looked over the wall, had a little walk through the playground and was on my way back.

This route is popular with dog walkers, joggers and serious runners, so it’s not only cars that are whizzing past you. Unless of course, you opt to jog too, but in that case you can’t munch churros. The choice is yours!

 

 

 



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La Casa del Reloj in San Pedro del Pinatar
18 March 2015

La Casa del Reloj / San Pedro del Pinatar

Always on the look out for interesting trips, not far away from Torrevieja, I happened upon San Pedro del Pinatar.

Travelling  in the direction of Cartagena, I arrived at  San Pedro, a well known beach resort on Spain´s Costa Calida. Located at the shores of  Mar Menor, Europe´s biggest salt lake separated from the Mediterranean by a 24km long sand bank known as La Manga, San Pedro is famous for the mud found at the bottom of the salt lake. It has  healing properties and people happily cover themselves in the healthy dirt. But this, mind you, is a summer entertainment and we are still in winter.

I went with friends in the know and they showed me the subject of this post: La Casa del Reloj, a historical building which is today a restaurant and I got so fascinated I nearly didn’t want to go anywhere else.

You have to know the location and to watch out, because, sadly, this beautiful building is surrounded by a hideous industrial estate. Not even a more or less nice shopping mall, no, run down low budget outlets, a shame.

But, turn into the drive and the palm alley which leads to the front door, crossing through the lush gardens and you forget what lurks outside.

La Case del Reloj was built as a summer residence for the Servet family between 1888 and 1895 and shows a great variety of styles and architectural elements. Attention to detail, lavish decorations, chandeliers, art deco lamps, original furniture, a wide wooden staircase and a very glamorous bar, you really don´t know where to look first.

In 1899 the first president of the first Spanish Republic, Emilio Castelar died here which makes the premises even more of a historical building.

We were too early to have a meal, but a glance at the menu revealed the hand of a first class chef. Mouthwatering starters, meat and fresh fish dishes as well as a few traditional Spanish specialties made me reluctant to depart. I would have liked to sample some, especially a lobster salad. I could subsist on lobster.

Alas, it was not to be this time, but I enjoyed the rooms, the already laid tables and fine crockery, the paintings and sculptures. La Casa del Reloj is one of these places where surroundings are as important as the food.

If you want to know more and take a look at the menu, visit their website: http://www.restaurantelacasadelreloj.com.

We made our way into San Pedro proper and looked at the areas where people can enjoy the mud and had a walk along the lovely promenade with plenty of nice cafes and a great view over La Manga and Mar Menor.

 

 



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Shop till you drop in La Zenia Boulevard
12 March 2015

From time to time, a girl just needs a shopping spree. In Torrevieja itself, we have Las Habaneras, but if you want some fun thrown in, nothing better that heading for the relatively new La Zenia Boulevard.

If you have a car, no problem, but, if like me, you have to rely on public transport, matters get a bit more difficult. Let me give you the latest update. There are just two (!!) buses running there from Torrevieja. The first at 8am, the next at 12.45am and that’s it. They leave you at the entrance, any other time you must take a bus to Cartagena, get off at the Playa Flamenca stop and...hike.

The return time table is even weirder: 3pm and 9pm. The girl at the ticket counter told me, that when the mall opened, there was an hourly bus, but, not any more. A taxi, depending on where you go in Torrevieja, sets you back at least €12. Practicalities out of the way, the mall itself is very nice indeed, not only for shopping but also for eating and fun for kids if you have any.

Centre piece so to speak is the fountain, very popular in the summer  with kids who can’t get enough of running around under the gusts of water, getting happily drenched.

Several smaller stands although with tables and chairs are around the fountain, offering drinks, crepes, ice cream and snacks.

The shops range from low cost (Primark) to medium. ZARA Home as well as ZARA clothes, Massimo Dutti, other British high street stores, Italian knitwear, shoes, bags and perfumerias galore.  Two great interior decoration shops, a vast Alcampo supermarket round out the picture in short, you will find everything you need in a mall which is easily negotiated.

They also do events, like a recent carnival parade, sometimes life music. Just check the local paper. Most conveniently, La Zenia Boulevard shops do not close during siesta and are open year around with the exception of a few bank holidays.

I love the feel of the open ‘streets’, with plenty of benches and flowers, big toy animals for kids to ride around on, play areas, in fact, the place is quite family orientated.

The upper level is dedicated to food. I especially like the three tapas bars, offering hot and cold tapas as well as montaditos. Italian, Chinese, what ever takes your fancy you can fill your stomach with, sitting out in the sunshine.

Even if you buy nothing more than a lip stick or a T-shirt, a trip to La Zenia Boulevard makes for a pleasant few hours people watching.

 

 

 



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Ride the train
24 February 2015

Ride the train

Before you get the wrong idea: Torrevieja doesn’t have a train station. Once upon a time, it had, but all that’s left today are a few rusting rails and a derelict building. Another of several eye sores which mar a town with otherwise a lot of potential for being really pretty. Sometimes I don’t understand the priorities of the town planners, but, not for me to argue.

You have to go to Alicante to go on the train trip I have in mind. No hardship, car or bus will take you there. Then, make your way towards RENFE, turn right into the Avenida de la Estacion (right opposite) until you see signs with a capital T in a red circle followed by the word TRAM. The station is called Luceros and there is another one, Mercado, but don’t follow if someone tells you you can get on on the beach. That stop is not in operation.

Descend to the station, buy your ticket and be on your way for a memorable day trip or even longer, as your fancy might take you.

The little train, which some call a tramway and others refer to as the gorge train(rightly so, as you will see later) is a light railway which leads along the coast all the way to Denia.

No better way to see the coast and one pretty town and resort after another. L1 takes you from Alicante to Benidorm, passing the incredibly beautiful and long beach of Campello.

Change train to L9 by just crossing over. Connections tend to be very good and, anyway, you will be given a timetable together with your ticket at Luceros.

From Benidorm onwards, it gets really nice.  A highlight is Altea which you reach after approx. 30 minutes from Benidorm passing by the gorge. After that you can admire the peon of Calpe and then onwards to Teulada which is the stop for Moreira.

I didn’t go all the way to Denia yet, but I will on another outing and stay there over night. It really is the best way to see all the pretty coastal towns and villages on one side and the steep mountains on the other. And it’s cheap too.

 



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Up close and personal - Carnival in Torrevieja
09 February 2015

I missed last year´s, but I wasn´t going to let this year´s Carnival parade escape.

February is carnival time all over Spain, the most famous ones being those of Cadiz and Tenerife. Good old Torrevieja isn´t missing out as far as any festival is concerned. They do a tapas tour, flower offering to the Virgin Mary, they celebrated the arrival of the Three Kings by boat and Easter will see a lot of festivities too.

Carnival in Torrevieja sees more than just one day of colourful parades. The cofradias and comparsas compete during three days, a day parade, a night parade, a carnival for kids and the queen has also already been crowned.

Yesterday´s event was the day parade, starting at 4.30 pm (or thereabouts) and culminating in the awards ceremony in the plaza opposite the Town Hall and Church. Along Ramon Gallud, there were walking, plenty of chairs thoughtfully provided , music livening things up.

I made my way to Ramon Gallud, prepared to wait. Luckily, the sun was shining, but it was bitter cold and, still suffering from a terrible cold I caught when I visited the Medieval Market in Orihuela, I started getting uncomfortable and, much to my regret, decided to pack it in and go home.

But, as is so often the case, the travel Gods were with me. I live close to Playa de los Locos in Avenida de las Habaneras and I was half way home when, to my right, I heard music and saw the sun glinting off a lot of gold. I turned towards it and, totally unexpectedly, had come upon the point where all the participants were gathering and lining up for the parade.

Surprisingly few spectators were around and I could freely move among them. It was like an open air dressing room, as the girls and guys were putting the final touches to their make up and costumes out of carrier bags and warming up with coffee and drinks piled onto makeshift tables.

They were only too happy to pose for photos, valiantly hiding their goose bumps behind broad smiles. I chatted to them, asked about their cofradias and even helped one guy to fix his false eyelashes which were coming off.

 

This was a far better and really  close up carnival experience than I could ever have had among the crowd lining the street.

 

 

 

 

 



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A delightful trip to Isla Tabarca
25 January 2015

I have a permanent case of itchy feet. Having settled into my new apartment and got my bearings in Torrevieja, I was on the look out for daytrips to the surrounding areas.

I am also a rather spontaneous traveller, as  prone to going off to  Hong Kong the next day if the fancy takes me, as hopping on a bus visiting  a place nearby. Or, as in this case, on a boat.  Admittedly only being a free lance writer and having no family allows me such freedom.

I have read some comments on Tabarca related websites, tripadvisor among them, which said that the island is small, there is nothing to do, it´s dead boring and what few restaurants there are, are a rip off. I beg to differ. A trip, any trip, is only as boring as you make it and if you are afraid of being ripped off-well, nothing prevents you from packing a picnic lunch.

In that case however, you will miss out on a speciality of the island, caldero which is a delicious fish stew and it was no rip off in the Pirate restaurant at all.

But, back to the beginning. I walked to the marina and saw a kiosk offering a boat trip to the island of Tabarca. It´s the smallest permanently inhabited island in all of Spain, located in the middle of a Maritime Reserve and was, until the end of the 18th century, a refuge for the Barbaric pirates. If that isn´t incentive enough, I don´t know what is.

A glass bottom catamaran ferry takes you there in about 40 to 50 minutes. The boat ride alone is already a pleasure with views of the coastline towards Santa Pola and beyond and watching the fish through the glass bottom, all swimming in crystal clear water.

You can only take this trip from May to October and I have to say that it can get a bit choppy. If you get seasick, you better check the weather report before you go.

Approaching the island, you can already see the walls of a fortification which was built in the 18th century to protect against attacks from said pirates. The entire town was basically a military base, the streets are laid out in square pattern, a lighthouse is standing on one end and a quite nice church raises it´s tower above the walls.

The ferry leaves at 11am and returns at 6pm, so you have about 6 hours to spend in Tabarca. The island is approx. 20km long and all of 300m wide and the permanent population count is around 70. It would be very interesting to rent a place there during the winter months when there are no ferries and no tourists to see how they spend their time. An ideal place, I guess, to write a book.

Once off the ferry, I turned left and walked towards the lighthouse. I was amazed to see the rather harsh vegetation, very much in contrast to the orchards, pine trees and orange groves on the mainland. You can also watch rare birds perched on tiny rocks in the middle of the sea and plants and flowers which you don´t find on the mainland.

Then I headed back and walked through the town, past the church and through small streets, tiny, shaded squares, past a first rate hotel which was once the governor´s residence to the rocky and quite slippery other end. Part of the walk leads along the fortification wall with lovely views.

Whilst criss crossing the streets, I came upon the above mentioned Pirate restaurant, a theme in tune with the island´s history and enjoyed my huge bowl of caldero.

The remaining hours I spent on one of the pebbly beaches where you can rent sun beds and umbrellas. I had brought my snorkelling equipment and a book and didn`t have one dull moment! Due to the permanent breeze it isn´t too hot, even in the middle of summer.

All in all, a great daytrip which I can only recommend.

 

 

 

 

 

 



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