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A Hidden Gem in Valencia

The first few paragraphs of this article is a preamble about our friends, providing more of a story to this trip.  If this doesn’t interest to you, skip straight to the main article clicking this link.   

Pre-amble

It’s been 18 months since our last holiday. To say I was a little excited but a little bit of an understatement. This particular holiday was going to be special. That’s not to say my last one wasn’t, as it was in Australia and we got married! This one is special in a different way.

I’ve known my best mate, Dan, for 22 years! He’s the mate that tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. In my opinion that’s the sign of a true friend.

We’ve grown up together, although I use that phrase loosely! He’s watched me get married, get divorced and get married again. I’ve watched him get married to Nat, and have three gorgeous kids together.

I love his family like they were my own. We’ve all been promising to go on holiday together for as long as I can remember. It was beginning to feel like one of those things you just say to friends but never follow through on. Ya know, like ‘hey it’s been so long, lets catch up over coffee’.

We decided that this year was going to be the year. After batting ideas across WhatsApp like Kevin Anderson and John Isner at Wimbledon, we eventually settled on Spain.

Where it is

We hired a villa called ‘La Perla Blanca’, which translates to ‘The White Pearl’ and really lived up to it’s name. Nestled deep in the Spanish mountains at ‘Puerta Del Valle’, it was peaceful, and the views were to die for, which is exactly what we wanted. Dan found the place on Air BnB and it was one hell of a find.

There was something for everyone. We could relax in the peaceful surroundings while the kids (including the big kids) could burn off some steam in the pool. We were close to shops, local villages to explore, the beach and a waterpark that Dan had eyed up for the kids (yep, including the big kids!).

Getting there

Tara and I hired a car from Europcar, who I can recommend if you’re thinking of doing the same. 15 minutes after arriving, we were on our way. Dan used OK Car Rentals, which was far from ‘OK’. They waited 2 hours for their car, which after an already long journey with three kids was far from ideal.

Driving on the opposite side of the road was weird. Luckily there aren’t many people around in the Spanish countryside as I found myself on the wrong side of the road when driving to the villa on more than one occasion. I’m pleased to report that it never happened again! I got used to driving on the right quite quickly.

Mountains

Spains stunning mountain views 

Oh my god the mountains! This was something high up on my checklist for wherever we decided to go and I wasn’t disappointed. I had no idea there were so many amazing mountain views in Spain.

As if driving on the opposite side of the road wasn’t taking up enough of my concentration. I now had to try and resist the temptation of taking my eyes off the road to glance at the awe inspiring scenery. I failed. Miserably! Which understandably made Tara more than a little nervous as we meandered our way up the side of the mountains like something out of an episode of Top Gear. At least in my mind it was. The reality, in our Vauxhall Corsa (or Opal Corsa as they call it on the continent) was more like Driving Miss Daisy.

Denia

The harbour in Denia

Denia is a small coastal town, about half an hours drive East of where we were staying. My first impressions on arrival is that it relies heavily on tourism and the shipping industry (commercial and leisure).

Dinner at Fuego was amazing. The staff were accommodating and spoke good English, which is good because mi hablo poquito en español.

There’s a couple of small, sandy beaches in Denia. The main beach was packed, even late in the evening. The second, smaller beach looked like it may have been private.

Water park

I’ll keep this brief! The water park in Benidorm isn’t worth what you’ll pay for it. Which includes the 45 minute car journey to get there. There’s a few slides and an area specifically for much smaller children. This is all scattered around the outskirts of a giant swimming pool with a wave machine in it that I could only describe as pathetic.

Calp / Calpe

Looking across Calp to Penyal d’Ilfac

This town on the coast is a short drive from Benidorm and half an hour from our base in the mountains. We didn’t have the time to get to the inner city but admired the view from the Mirador Monte Toix viewpoint. This blog I found gives a good account of Calp (or Calpe, depending on which map/road sign you’re reading)

Xaló

Walking through Xaló

Xaló (AKA Jalón) was the closest main town to us (10 minute drive). It has a large supermarket, some cafes, bars, a place to buy postcards and a post office. Although you’ll need to buy stamps from the tobacco shop. There’s also a very helpful tourist information centre if you’re ever stuck.

The jewel in the crown is Bodegas Xaló. A vineyard offering wine tasting tours. For only €10 there’s a tour of the warehouse followed by a wine tasting masterclass with a sample of five different wines. They’ll even send you home with a bottle of Rose. To me, that’s a bargain. They were very friendly and knowledgeable too.

After the tour, a walk around the typically mediterranean village is highly recommended. There are a number of cafes where you can put your feet up under the shadow of Parròquia Santa Maria, an old church in the Plaça Major (Catalan for ‘main square’). A welcome break from the midday sun.

Cala Moraig

The beach side cafe at Moraig

Another short drive from La Perla Blanca is this creek. Despite some of the images on Google maps looking like this beach has some sandy areas, it doesn’t. It’s entirely pebbled and rocky. This isn’t always a bad thing but it’s not for everyone. I would say it’s worth visiting for the views alone, which can be enjoyed from the beach side cafe. Can you tell I like coffee!

Get there early and bag yourself a parking space as close to the bottom of the car park as you can. Otherwise you’ll have a long and steep walk down, which is a lot harder at the other end of the day walking back up it!

There are loungers and sun shades available for hire from 9am

Guadalest

Castle built in to the cliff at Guadalest

A 9am check out from La Perla Blanca was a blessing in disguise as it meant we had a whole extra day to explore before our flight.

After some research on Pinterest, Guadalest was high on my list of places I wanted to go. It looked incredible and didn’t disappoint. I was dumbfounded by how they managed to build such a structure on the top of a narrow cliff edge and that it was still standing.

It’s not a particularly long walk to the top but the views across the mountains are worth every step.

Flight home

Our entire travelling experience had been a joy and we considered ourselves very lucky, particularly after our friends hire car experience. But that joyful travelling experience was about to come to an end.

We arrived to drop our bags with EasyJet bang on time, and then waited an hour before the desk even opened. But that was just the start. Our flight was delayed 7 hours. The longest delay I have ever experienced.

I wasn’t going to let that sour an amazing week away with my wife and friends. After all, it’s pointless getting annoyed about things you can’t change.

If you’re still reading, I’d like to thank you for sticking with my account of our trip to Spain. I hope there are some useful points in here for you. Please let me know what you thought in the comments.

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