Benny and the Hills

Rounding the bend we saw in the distance, the Manhattan skyline, shiny skyscrapers piercing the light cloud cover and a feel of excitement and anticipation as we approached. The nearer we got, the tall tower blocks painted white, neon lights flickering…… white? Hold on, this isn’t New York its…. Benidorm! Well, you can’t be in this neck of the woods and not check it out eh?

We found a great place to stay in between Benidorm and Alicante, two places we’d never been and easily accessible by a tram system. Once parked up, and Jigsaw had calmed down, she’d also been exciting, hoping to meet some suave alley cat in the Bronx for a bit of fun, we headed into Benny. Walking down the hill from the metro stop we went in search of the Old Town and we carried on searching until we basically decided there wasn’t one really. We had gone open minded but sadly, the stereotypes prevailed. We knew Dave was 50 as all his pals had it on their T Shirts and Shirelle was getting married next month. Her girlfriends seem to not be able to remember their own names so had taken to having it printed across their…… We didn’t find a full English (veggie) for E5 either!

There were actually quite a lot of Spanish around early evening, especially around the narrow shop and bar areas behind the beach so it was more pleasant than the invaded promenade. We wandered all the tourist highlights, the beaches, El Casco Antiguo, Eglesia de Sant Jaume but we avoided the zoo and waterparks. Settling down with a drink and churros before heading back we were pleased to have ticked something off our bucket list 🙂

After the culture fest in Benny we needed something different so headed to Alicante. Before reading up we hadn’t appreciated its scale but aside, first stop, the market. A more traditional space than others and trade focussed so we came away with 4 large white radish! other highlights from Alicante include Calle de las Setas (Mushroom Street) No we hadn’t detoured to Amsterdam, in their wisdom, the town invested Euro66K in creating a feature of the street to try and drum up trade in the area in 2013. Not sure if it worked but if there was a charge for selfie taking they’d be fine. Quirky, whimsical and a bit of fun.

After a great, slow, veggie lunch (when the opportunity strikes!) we walked it off wandering the many small squares full of tree’s providing welcome shade in high summer no doubt, to visit the Castell de Santa Barbara. Sitting atop the cliffs, looming over Alicante, it was great to see there was a lift up to it. Even so, there’s quite a climb to the very top for the best panoramic views of the water and marina areas one way, and the endless suburbs the other. Wandering back down the hill the colourful barrios were joyous. Very traditional, children playing outdoors, painted plant pots and colourful terraces.

The Museo de las Hogueras was a find. Spain, having it’s penchant for festivals, Alicante wasn’t going to miss out. Their Las Hogueras de San Juan, annually in June is a festival of pagan origin. A midsummer celebration they too build enormous paper mache and wood figures, that are displayed in the squares and are burnt on the solstice. It’s a shame to burn the artistry and watching some video’s its no surprise the fire teams hose down the properties around the square while it’s alight. Anyhow the museum was full of pictures and some scale models so very insightful. Alicante’s parties are the biggest in the area buy all accounts and a real blast!

Sierra Espuña (not espuma for any Masterchef fans!) is a gorgeous area in the South East corner. Staying near a lively little town called Totana we pitched up and headed to the bike shop, yes another puncture discovered but a new tube, fitted for Euro14 isn’t a bad deal! The delay also meant we didn’t get any further than the square with a drink. Made up for it the following day though with, as we call it, an epic. A 48km loop through the mountains, a climb of 3118ft up to 4222ft we were treated to stunning views across the valley agriculture, swathes of meshed fields like odd snow covered parcels of land and in different directions, lush green forests and some serious rock formations. Back at the site, we had drinks in our hands before we’d even taken our helmets off. Pretty chuffed with ourselves though!

As ever, we get chatting to others who really get us thinking. So many people do what we do and everyone does it differently. This time, the couple were off to Istanbul for 6 weeks (non Schengen so fine!) what a fabulous way to escape and inexpensive. Having spent a short time there we know we could immerse ourselves so they had really sparked our thinking. Even if not now, especially if we get our US visas in May, it’s always possible and as many travellers say, why not?! Our other inspirers were at the younger end of the scale, but two who’d converted a bus and had featured on George Clarks Amazing Spaces. (@idrathergobybus) It’s interesting talking to people who are brave enough to change their own narrative and make choices that differ from the social norms of school, uni, job, better job, promotion, house, bigger house etc.

Anyhow, another US adventure awaits, next stop, Little Texas…..

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