Yes, another holiday come and gone. This one took me to the Costa Blanca in Spain. I stayed with German friends in Calpe which is located on the eastern coast, nestled in the Balearic Mountains along the Mediterranean Sea between Valencia and Alicante.
It is interesting to note that in winter, many Europeans from colder climes overtake parts of sunny Spain. One finds small communities of Germans, Swiss, Dutch, Norwegians, etc. setting up their own little pubs and eateries in order to escape the cold grey winter while still maintaining their xenophobia. This means unfortunately they are not necessarily interested in the local culture.
Actually, I spoke German the whole time I was there, not a word of Spanish! Talk about cross cultures: on Christmas Eve after an elaborate 5-course meal which included foie gras from the Perigord, champagne, fresh seafood and rabbit, I was taken to a Swiss chalet country/western bar and sang Christmas carols in English and German!
After we couldn’t swallow another drop of bad champagne, my friends whisked me away to a German bar called Bleu Bleu. Here I sang some more carols, was courted by a portly German millionaire wearing a white dinner jacket and danced the salsa until 4 in the morning.
On Christmas day we drove into the mountains and bathed in the sunshine with a spectacular view of the coast. We stopped to pick fresh wild thyme and rosemary to spice the marinade for our lamb dinner. Then it was back through the terraced mountains of olive and almond groves, vineyards, and orange plantations with trees so full and heavy with fruit, they were weighed down to the ground.
While drinking my morning tea, I sat in the living room in front of a bay window and looked down on the huge rock formation called the Penon which jutted out of the sea like a mini Rock of Gibraltar. This “buena vista” dominated the whole coastline and during the course of the day, I watched it change color as the sunlight played upon it.
On Sunday we were invited to go boating. As we rode up the coast I observed more breathtaking views of the cliffs on the sea and the many apartments and hotels rising up on the hills foolishly trying to compete with nature. We sailed by the old city of Altea, topped with a church built in the traditional Moorish style with blue ceramic-tiled rotunda. I saw caves carved in the sheer sides of the cliffs where fishermen climbed down long rope ladders to nestle-in and fish by candlelight through the night. Huge waterfalls gushed into the sea as if the mountains had sprung leaks!
After we ate tapas and drank red wine at a harbor club, we sped back through the wild sea to Calpe. I topped the day off with a fine Spanish brandy as I watched a vermilion sunset blaze the horizon.
On my departure day we again drove into the mountains to a rustic French restaurant where a four course menu was served with bottles of fresh local red wine. There was a warm fire in the hearth of this converted old stone stable where only thirty guests could be accommodated. The cassoulet was simple and delicious. I went outside alone after lunch to breathe the peaceful air, drink in the sunshine and look at the mountain vegetation as birds chirped happily in the distance.
We drove through the mountains in the open convertible and stopped for one last cafe con leche in a hut where nature wanderers took food and drink. As we made our way down the winding roads, I engraved this exquisite holiday and Costa Blanca forever in my memory.