Tag Archives: Guadalest

Day Trip: Historic Guadalest

22 Nov
Iconic Guadalest bell tower

Iconic Guadalest bell tower

Walking through the 1300+ year-old man-made rock hewn tunnel is the only way to get access to the historical and picturesque village of Guadalest, Spain. The town is situated inland within walled fortifications on a pinnacle in the mountains. Historically, it was an important strategic site as its location made it impenetrable. In spite of its inland location and a drive on serpentine, hilly roads, the town is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain, with both historic and touristic offerings.

 

The area of Guadalest was occupied by the Moors starting around 715 A.D., and the Alcozaiba Castle was built in the 12th century. All that remains today of that Castle is a restored tower. The Moors brought their traditions of terraced farming, which are visible throughout the surrounding landscape and still widely used in this area of Spain today.

 

The Castle of Guadalest was built during the 12th century, and renovated in the 15th and 16th centuries. In July of 1644, an earthquake destroyed much of the castle, and in December of that year, much of the town. The castle was further damaged by a bomb during the War of Succession in 1708. The Castle’s hilltop remains are still visible from below, or one take the steep trek to castle ruins.

 

Panoramic view from Guadalest's walled old town

Panoramic view from Guadalest’s walled old town

Other points of interest are the remains of Peñon de Alcala, the watchtower that is located on a rocky peak which juts straight up from the ground, and the jail/dungeon dating back to the 12th century. The charming Baroque-style Catholic Church built in the 18th century was restored after it was burnt and looted during the Spanish Civil War. Next to the church is the Orduña’s family home which is now a museum. The Orduña family rose to prominence in Guadalest from the 1600s until the death of the last heir in 1934. For book lovers, the museum boasts a large historic library with approximately 589 books from the years 1500 to 1800. A look over the town’s walls affords panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, the glimmering blue reservoir below, and the Mediterranean on the vista.

 

18th Century Baroque Church: Our Lady of the Assumption

18th Century Baroque Church: Our Lady of the Assumption

There are eight other museums, which range from the quirky the Salt and Pepper Museum, the historic Ethnological Museum of the Valley of Guadalest, and the macabre Torture Museum. There are the usual souvenir shops, but also unique regional products and high quality items for the home or gifts. Cafés are available for a respite or quality local fare.

 

To get there, one can take the short trip by a tour bus or car. The drive is hilly and windy, but not treacherous, and is quite scenic, with one route passing another castled town, Polop. Bring good walking shoes, as the route up to the historic areas of Guadalest are steep and the round rock pathways can prove slippery. Near Guadalest, there are the waterfalls, Fonts de l’Algar, and numerous physical options such as hiking, biking and mountain climbing.

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Spain: Travelling and Living Challenges

6 Oct
Moros y Cristianos: Altea 2015

Moros y Cristianos: Altea 2015

Life sometimes gets in the ways of one’s plans, or should I more aptly say, my plans. I intended to post about some of the interesting places I have visited near my home in Altea, Spain, during the week visit of my middle son, Michael, but with a few anticipated and unanticipated events, I felt more compelled to blog on the vagaries of the past couple of weeks.

I have found that if things can go wrong in Spain, they often do. Serendipitously, my son, Michael was arriving on the same day as my computer generated appointment was to get my fingerprints done at the National Police in Alicante to finish the steps for securing my first renewal visa. (For details on my experience with the visa process, see my posts: https://starrtreks.com/2015/07/09/how-to-apply-for-non-lucrative-visa-for-spain-as-us-citizen-bucking-the-trend/.https://starrtreks.com/2015/07/26/patience-and-tenacity-requirements-for-obtaining-a-spanish-residential-visa/; .https://starrtreks.com/2015/08/09/you-must-be-kidding-steps-to-get-a-spanish-visa/

More Moros y Cristianos

More Moros y Cristianos

Since he was arriving into Alicante on a Tuesday, on the same day as I had to go for my huellas (fingerprints) and delivering my photo for my Spanish residential visa, I booked a rental car. It took about a half hour on the local bus to nearby Benidorm, where I was able to book the car for 48 hours for only 38€, far less than what it would have cost if I rented in my little town of Altea. As it was the biggest festival of the year in Altea, Moros y Cristianos, lasting many days, many streets were closed and parking spaces were limited. Probably the only benefit to being disabled is having a handicap placard for one’s vehicle. Even then, it was difficult to find a space for the rental car. After a long search, I finally found a spot. Just to be sure, I made sure the word, minusválido, meant handicap parking; it did. I had a bad feeling about the parking spot, which was confirmed when I went to retrieve the car the next morning at 7:30 a.m. to drive to Alicante for my 8:50 appointment. The rental car was gone. I had no time to try to find it, so I walked about a half mile to the downtown taxi stand, where there were no taxis; it was far too early for most people to be out and about.

When I saw one of the ever-present street cleaners (with a shovel and plastic bucket to pick up litter,) in Spanish, I told him of my predicament and need to be in Alicante for my appointment to renew my visa. He kindly summoned a taxi via phone. I did arrive on time, for a fee of about 85€.

I had an uneasy feeling while waiting for my turn with the staff, having gone through so many errant trips to the local Oficina de Extranjería (Immigration and Naturalization Office) in Altea. However, in this case, all went smoothly, and I the worker commented on how fluent my Spanish was for being in Spain about a year, even sharing his observation with his colleague. (There are many ex-pats living in the Costa Blanca who don’t know more than two words.)

I had originally planned to take the now unavailable rental car to the Alicante airport to retrieve my son, but obviously could not. In the meantime, on his side, the phone app he had set up would not work to contact me. He finally called from a pay phone, and I advised him to take a cab and pick me up at the National Police, and then we would head back to Altea. That went well, for costing another 85€. I am supposed to retrieve my renewal residential visa somewhere around the first of November of this year, a mere four months before it expires for the year. Then I get to start this process all over again.

After he settled in by place for a bit, we headed to the police station to try to figure out what happened to my rental car. In the meantime, I tried to stop at several copy shops to scan and send some important papers, but they were closed for a fourth straight day, this day to recover from the festival partying from the prior week. To abbreviate the part of the story about retrieving the rental car, I was told by the local police that I was in a specifically reserved spot for a handicap vehicle. In Spanish, I replied I have travelled to many countries and never encountered this. Placidly, he told me it would be 136€ to get the car released. What he didn’t say was that I needed to retrieve the car immediately, that there are no regular staff on site, so it took three tries before I was able to retrieve the car, just in time to return it to the rental agency, although with a quick side trip to historic Guadalest.

Michael and I had a fabulous time with friends, and day trips to Guadalest, Denia, Albir and even Benidorm, which I typically detest. (More about those destinations and the Moros y Cristianos festival in future posts.) Naturally, getting the Beniconnect Bus from Altea to the Alicante airport was fraught with snafus, mostly the lack of staff answering the phone, and simply disconnecting after 20 to 30 rings. By persistence, and multiple ways of contacting them, we got a departure time late on the evening before his scheduled departure. Ever the dapper dresser, Michael turned many a head as he headed for the bus.

Michael leaving Altea en route to London

Michael leaving Altea en route to London

I love Spain, except for how difficult it is most of the time to get anything in the government and in businesses done efficiently and the first time. For me, this is (sometimes) a good lesson in patience. My advice remains: plan on at least three visits to accomplish your task, and if it is any less, celebrate!