|THE COSTA DEL AZAHAR or ORANGE BLOSSOM COAST (IDEAL WALKING COUNTRY) GANDIA 5km & over 17km of Blue Flag Beaches
If you have been hankering after the “real Spain” well this is it – our small rustic town of Palma de Gandia is sheltered by the Safor Mountains and is almost surrounded by orange groves that stretch down to the sea (featured on A Place in the Sun 2004)Converted from a traditional Valencian townhouse that has been tastefully renovated for modern living. Situated in the historic part of town Casa Anna is in a peaceful cul-de-sac of 4 other Spanish owned properties where narrow winding lanes and quaint passageways criss cross with small squares and shady parks.
Retaining the original Valencian features, we believe from the researchers on A Place in the Sun, our holiday home is over 100 years old, as there is a story that when the church was dedicated, the priest came and blessed all the houses in the Moorish part of town.
The traditional Valencian door has shuttered glass windows and decorated ironwork rajas’ and opens onto a spacious open plan L shaped living area with vaulted beamed ceilings. Near the doorway is a casual seating area where you can sit in the summer to catch the cool breeze. The formal dining area has seating for 4 and there is a second sitting area which has reverse air conditioning, a TV/DVD/CD player and a cast iron electric fire for chilly evenings. There is also a large portable gas stove and electric fires for cooler days.
Two bedrooms (1 double with ceiling fan and 1 twin) each with large floor to ceiling wardrobes and cupboards and window shutters to keep out the sun in the summer. The modern bathroom is fully tiled with vanity unit, wc, bath and shower. With seating for 4, the kitchen/diner has new kitchen units and appliances and opens onto the patio. The high walled private patio area has a southerly aspect and there are small shrubs and trees, garden furniture and gas bbq.
Just seconds away brings you to the small Plaza de la Vella where Rosa and Jose have their bakery - ideal for your warm bread in the morning and not far to go! There is also a hairdresser and a public telephone box in the plaza and just round the corner is the butcher and a small supermarket. On the opposite side of the road you will find “Bar Palma” where you can eat home cooked food in the evening. There are various tapas bars in the town, an English bar and a Chinese takeaway. Just 15 minutes stroll brings you to the restaurant “Aventura” where Moma has an excellent menu of home cooked food and delicious square pizzas. All the food is very reasonably priced and a Menu del Dia can cost from 7.50€ to 12€. Viva Espana restaurant on the Gandia to Oliva road has an excellent flamenco floor show at the weekends but during the summer its advisable to book.
In the evening there are some lovely walks through the shady orange groves or you can meander along the old narrow lanes down to the river. There is excellent fishing (permit from the Town Hall) when there is water in the river! An outdoor swimming pool is open in the summer months.
Steeped in history when you get tired of building sandcastles on the beach, you can discover the ruined castles, palaces and quaint old cobbled medieval towns and cave houses. The sophisticated city of Gandia is just 10 minutes away and was home to the infamous Borgia family. The medieval part of Gandia is traffic free which enables you to explore the narrow passageways, the Borgia Palace which is magnificent and the Cathedral where the film “Lucretia Borgia” was recently filmed. There are boutique shops and cafes and the famous Lizeran tapas bar. The paseo with its fountains, runs the length of the city and on the side of the road are banks, restaurants and small cafes where you can sit and watch the world go by. On the outskirts of Gandia is the large hypermarket Carrefour and shopping Mall. Within the mall are shops, cafes, restaurants, a 10 pin bowling alley and a multi-plex cinema.
Gandia Playa is about a kilometre from the city and is backed by a long promenade. The beach has much to offer the sports enthusiast with beach and water sports available: it has beach loungers, changing rooms, toilets and childrens playgrounds and lifeguards. The area around the playa also has a scattering of shops with an excellent selection of cafes, bars and restaurants and a couple of small supermarkets.
Oliva – 8 km south of Palma de Gandia is dominated by the ruined castle of Santa Ana which overlooks the old Moorish part of the town, with its steep narrow winding streets and quaint houses. The new town has a selection of shops and supermarkets and on Friday morning there is a huge outdoor market where people come from miles around to sell their home produce – the market sells literally everything. Heading towards the sea from the new town is Oliva Playa not perhaps offering the range of sports and comforts of Gandia but it can be a little quieter. There are other beaches between, Miramar, Bellregard, Daimus, Piles, Kiko, etc. all having small promenades and cafes. South of Oliva are rustic beaches which are backed by tamarisk trees. The quality of the sand is excellent for building sandcastles and the beach gently slopes into the sea. So good is the sand, on occasions it is exported to the Canary Islands.
The area is excellent for walking the ice trails and drovers ways and there are ice houses, Roman remains and medieval towns to see. We have selected a number of walks that are of interest to both low level strollers to high level experienced walkers and illustrated walks can also be either downloaded from the internet or obtained from the local tourist offices. Most sports are catered for and there is an 18 hole Severiano Ballesteros Golf Course south of Oliva. Scuba diving and bikes can be hired locally. Gandia is very central to many of the old castles and historic towns such as:
Xativa castle, home to Hannibal and his family and where Rodrigues Borgia (father to Cesere and Lucretia and later to become Pope Alexander VI) was born. The castle is perched on three hills and there are excellent views of the plains beyond. Xativa was the first town in Europe to manufacture paper and there are some interesting old medieval buildings with magnificent doors. It is also said that there are over 1,000 fountains in the city!
Bocairente was called Bekirén by the Muslims because of the dominant architectural style in the town which used the form of beehives. There are extensive cave systems both in the town and 500 metres on the outskirts which archaeologists believe are remnants of an Arab settlement. The town has steep cobbled narrow streets and many of the houses are built into the rock including one of the bars. The bullring dating back to 1843 is also built into sold rock
Elche, south of Alicante is a very pleasant day out. The Palm Grove, dedicated as a World Heritage site, is the largest in Europe and has 200,000 examples of palms dating back to prehistoric times. The Basilica of Santa María was built on the site of a mosque and is where the Mystery Play is performed every August. The tower has many steps but is well worth the climb for the superb view. For Dan Brown fans, there is a life size statue of the founder of Opus Dei, Jose Marie Escriver. There are many historic places to visit, the museum, the Arab Baths and the Archaeological Museums. Elche’s footwear factories produce almost half of the footwear manufactured in Spain and there are factory outlets on the edge of the city where you can shop till you drop!!
Alicante, Javea and Denia all have old historic areas and castles and the medieval town of Guadalest has a castle ( reached by a tunnel) which is perched on a pinnicle of rock. The surrounding views are stunning. Just 200yds along the main road is Los Arcos, the animal sanctuary where rescued bears, tigers, lions and monkeys can end their days after being abandoned or mistreated. As Los Arcos exists purely on charity, please be generous with a donation.
To the north of Gandia, surrounded by freshwater lakes is Cullera. The natural vantage point of the medieval Castle and Sanctuary of La Mare de Deu del Castillo stands at the highest point of the town. Cullera lighthouse and Dragut cave await the traveller on the other side of the hill. The Turkish pirate Dragut used the cave when he raided the town around the 14thC. You could round off the day at Uteil, an area that produces excellent wines. Vincente Gandia winery invite you for a small charge, to taste their wines and have lunch and perhaps have a tour of the vineyards. There is an old historic network of underground caves divided into Jews, Christian and Muslim compounds, and a very old 19C bullring and honey and wax museum.
North of Valencia is Sagunto and Peniscola. There are mainly Roman remains to be found in Sagunto: the ruined temple of Diana, a Citadel and a 19C restored Amphitheatre. The city was captured in 219 by the armies of Hannibal and under Roman rule minted its own coins. Peniscola has a beautiful crescent shaped beach and the old fortified town with a castle was where “El Cid” was filmed.
Near Benidorm are the theme parks, Terra Natura, Terra Mitica, Aqualandia and Monduver with El Vergel Safari Park 20 minutes away where you can picnic to the sound of lions and tigers. If you can catch them you can pet the domestic animals including pot bellied pigs who love being tickled and scratched.
Valencia is a 40 minute train journey through rice fields (for our paella) vineyards and orange and olive groves. There is a tourist bus where you can hop on and off at strategic sights, but must sees are: The Cathedral that holds the Holy Grail, the beautifully tiled Indoor Market – the largest in Europe, the Arts & Science Museums and if you want to join the café crowd, there are plenty of tapas bars, museums and art galleries.
The AmericasCup regattas are played out in Valencia http://33rd.americascup.com/en/ and in August for the next 6 years Formula 1 racing comes to Valencia http://www.formula1.com/races/
The Moto GP Grand Prix Valencia is held every year at the Ricardo Tormo Stadium - http://www.soldouteventtickets.com/listings/252/320/9595/MotoGP%20/valencia-motogp .
Of course there are lots of fiestas, the important ones being le Fallas (where 30’ papier mache charicatures are built and then burnt at the end of the week, the nearest being Valencia, Gandia and Denia in March. The Moors & Christians battle it out for supremacy: the best being Alcoy but smaller towns have them too.
The famous tomato festival in Brunol is held in August (http://www.thefanatics.com/latomatina/
and lots of bull running festivals in nearby towns. The old bullring at Ondara has bullfighting during the summer and notices on the outside walls usually inform you of dates.
In two weeks you won’t have time for all the sights but you can be assured of a holiday to remember savoring the traditions and kindness of the Spanish people, their culture, customs and their food.