The Costa Blanca
LIVING ON THE COSTA BLANCA, SPAIN
Costa Blanca climate and nature
Every year more people choose the mild Mediterranean climate of the Costa Blanca for a second or retirement home and immediately improve their lifestyle with year round sunshine, open beaches and boulevards, and friendly welcoming people.
The northern Costa Blanca shares the same privileged climate as California, South Africa and Southern Australia with average temperatures ranging from 25ºC in August to 12ºC in January and an average of 320 sunny days per year. Spain's Northern Costa Blanca is characterised by it's miles of sand beaches, spectacular mountain ranges and terraced almond and olive groves leading down to the lowland orange and lemon plantations.
The symbol of the Costa Blanca is the Peñon de Ifach (Calpe Rock) - the natural stone outcrop that stands out in the sea to a height of 332m providing an outlook over the whole of the coast. The summit can be reached by following a narrow path that passes between the nesting sites of the more than 80 species of local and migrant birds. Calpe Rock is a favourite destination for the international climbing community as is the nearby Moro de Toix.
Calpe combines outstanding natural beauty with famous sand beaches and a lively year round town making it a frequent first choice among foreign buyers for a second home or permanent residence.
Further down the coast, the Sierra Bernia (likened to the Black Rock of Skye) divides the Marina Alta from the Marina Baja along the Calpe, Benissa and Altea border. This formidable natural barrier is one of Spain's many mountain ranges and is crossed by tunnels that carry the N332 national road, the A7 motorway and the railway. The international sports harbour of Luis Campomanes with its impressive collection of luxury yachts shelters under the Bernia at Mascarat exactly on the Greenwich meridian 00º 00' and a short step away from the prestigious Altea Hills urbanisation and the 5 star Villa Gadea Hotel.
The southern side of the Bernia range overlooks beautiful Altea bay, making a gentle arc with the old hilltop town of Altea at it's centre and curving around to it's far end at Albir and the Sierra Helada. The attractive palm lined promenade of Altea is being extended along to Albir village and the Puerto Deportivo Luis Campomanes is current being enlarged to accommodate the strong demand for berths. Alternative harbours are the Calpe Club Nautico under the Peñon de Ifach, Moraira Club Nautico beside Moraira village, Javea harbour, or the spacious Denia Yacht Club. A cause of celebration on the Costa Blanca was the selection of Spain and particularly our regional capital, Valencia, by the Nautical Society of Geneva and the America's Cup winning Allinghi yacht team as the venue of the 2007 America's Cup competition.
Moving north/east from Calpe a visitor can pass the Calpe Las Salinas salt lake with its year round flamingo population and follow the winding coastal road along the rocky bays of the Benissa coastline to arrive at Moraira village. Moraira is situated beside the sea among the Teulada vineyards with their moscatel grapes. The 18th century seafront tower has recently been renovated and it featured in one Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/ Maturin naval historical novels.
Other features of great natural interest are the the inland date palm forest of Elche established by Moorish settlers and the 1.558m high Sierra Aitana mountain range with it's traditional mountain villages such as Sella or Guadalest. Sometimes snow covered in winter it is the home to the Aitana Safari Park with its giraffes, elephants, lions, tigers and many other animals. Watch out for the little horses as they can quickly give you a chase if they see some apples or carrots.
The Blue Flag Beaches of the Costa Blanca
Calpe's Levante Beach is one of the most famous on the Costa Blanca and the Mediterranean with it's natural beauty having been commented on in past centuries and by among others the travel writer Sachaverell Sitwell who visited Spain in the late 1940's. It is fine sand beach, 2 km in length, 40m wide with the Peñon de Ifach towering over it at one end and an attractive promenade running the length of it with restaurants and beach bars (try "Coconuts Bar" for great food and cocktails).
Calpe's other beach is the popular 1,2km Arenal-Bol running from the Port side of the Peñon de Ifach to Calpe town centre. Lucky occupants of the new Solymar Hotel have in on their doorstep with all the advantages of being on the beach and in town. The Blue Flag grading was introduced in the 1987 European Environmental Year and is of particular interest to Spain with annual awards by the European Federation of Environmental Education to beaches in excellent condition and with full services.
Moraira has a small 350 meter sandy beach beside the town that is a full of summer visitors, and along the coast, the small village of Portet has its own shallow sandy bay, ideal for families and lined with beach houses and restaurants.
Javea enjoys a long pebble seafront including the El Arenal beach that is suitable for children due to its mild gradient. Altea Bay is a beautiful long Costa Blanca pebble beach lined by fishermen and sunbathers with the Hotels Cap Negret, Altaya and San Miguel being located right on the seafront. Pay a visit to Altea's La Olla beach in summer at lunchtime and enjoy a fine Paella with wine in one of the Chiringuitos (beach bars).
The wild and open beaches of Denia stretch from the town centre for many kilometres towards Oliva, Gandia and Cullera and are dotted with beach villas, new developments, beach bars and campings among the sand dunes.
Valencian cuisine on the Costa Blanca
Valencian cuisine has a fine range of natural local products to draw on. The coastal rice fields south of the the capital Valencia, supply the special sticky Paella rice that is the basis of the famous Paella itself but also the numerous other rice dishes such as Arroz a la Banda, Arroz Marinero etc.. The local fishing boats catch Merluza (a type of Cod) which is served "A la Plancha" freshly fried or "A la Romana" deep fried in batter or Emperador (Swordfish) which is served as steaks. Popular Calpe specialities are "Cruet de Peix" (a sort of fish pot) and Arroz del Senyoret.
Fruit and vegetables are plentiful in the Costa Blanca shops and daily street markets (each town has a market day) and are of outstanding quality. Apart from the ubiquitous almond and olive fields a number of Valencian towns and villages have their own specialities such as artichokes from Benicarlo, the cherries from the mountain village co-operatives of Fleix and Benimantell, dates from Elche or the nisperos from Callosa de en Sarria which are exported throughout Europe. There are extensive orange groves in the rich red clay soil around the coastal towns of Denia and Gandia.
Typical Costa Blanca meals will be accompanied by a Valencian salad of lettuce, tomatoes, onion, green and black olives, grated carrots, maybe egg and tuna with an olive oil and wine vinegar dressing with water more popular than wine with everyday meals. The Spanish on the Costa Blanca eat out a lot (workers often every lunchtime in good simple restaurants - menu € 8) and the plentiful restaurants offer something for everyone from bar "Tapas" to famous Michelin starred restaurants meals. Calpe alone has 168 different restaurants and if this is your thing you could visit Moraira during the Autumn Gourmet festival. Local luxury restaurants there such as La Sort or the Daufin invite world famous chefs to cook for them for the week.
Traditional village specialities are the Ollas or cooking pots such as the l'Olla de Recapte combining new fresh vegetables with meat or the l'Olla de Cardets including a type of local celery (asalgas) and beans. There are a couple of restaurants on the road from Polop to Guadalest (best known Vipas) that serve delicious Ollas (try Ollet de Blat) for a mountain lunch.
The City of Arts and Sciences and the Tierra Mitica theme park
Valencia, has reclaimed the land of the old Turia river and contructed the largest science themed park and aquarium in Spain and Europe (The Ciutat de les Artes i les Ciencies). The architecture is astounding and includes different natural habitats such as the Red Sea, the Arctic with penguins, Mangrove Swamps with the true fish and the Atlantic, allowing you to walk in a long glass tunnel under the water and have all the species of fish around you including large sharks. Spain's Mediterranean shore is also there. The entrance is expensive but it's worth it for at least one visit.
The Tierra Mitica theme park is situated outside Benidorm and offers some of the best fun rides in Spain and Europe. The theme is Ancient Civilizations, and you can take a boat from Ancient Egypt and visit Greece, Iberia, Rome etc. stopping off at the attractions such as the Journey of Odyseus (pistol to shoot down the Sirens), Mystery of Ancient Egypt or a Bull Run Train. It's worth a visit and of course there are a variety of Spanish, Greek, Italian restaurants etc.