Our final port of our Canary Island cruise was Alicante, Spain. We decided to take a tour to the ancient military town of Guadalest. It is built on top of a granite mountain. We met our guide William and our driver Fernando at the pier.
As we drove east to Guadalest, William told us about Alicante. The Patron Saint of the city is St. Nicholas. There are 340,000 residents. It is the capitol of world sailing, due to the Volvo Ocean race, that starts in Alicante and sails to various ports around the world. Many sailing teams train here, year-round. They also have a nice harbor for the numerous yachts.
At 600 feet above the city, located on Mount Benacantil and dating back to the 9th century, you can see Santa Barbara Castle. This is the largest fortress in Europe and the oldest monument in Alicante. It was captured by Castilian forces on December 4, 1248 from the Arabs. It was named Saint Barbara, as December 4th is the feast day celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches, in her honor. Until the 18th century, it saw many battles, it was then used off and on as a prison. After being empty and abandoned for a number of year, it was re-opened to the public in 1963. An elevator was installed inside the mountain, making for easy access.
There is a quarry east of Alicante, from where the blocks for the ancient city wall were cut.
The area surrounding Alicante is very arid and especially dry on the coast. Romans called the area, Sparta Gras or Sparse Grass. 7000 years ago, as people inhabited the area, they lived in the mountains near springs. This is why Guadalest was built high in the mountains.
In the early 1550s, Phillip the 2nd, ordered a dam be built. This would provide a reservoir for water storage. Then in 1660, a canal was completed that transported water to the coast. People began moving from the mountains to the coast, particularly to the cities of Villajoyosa and Benidorm. This has now become a very modern area.
There is a tall building that dominates the skyline. It was built to be Spain’s largest twin tower apartment building. With the economic down-turn in 2008, the building was never finished and thus never occupied.
Along the cost there is a prominent mountain called Puig Campana, or translated to Bell Hill. It is 4613 feet tall making it the second highest in Alicante Province. It has 2 peaks, with one having a notch. Legends has it that during a battle on top of the mountain, a sword was swung high for the fatal blow to an opponent. The sword missed and hit the mountain, cutting a chunk that fell into the sea. Alicante Province has the 2nd largest number of peaks in Spain, with over 50.
The area has suffered from centuries of economic woes due to conflicts over it’s land. In the 20th century, to help sustain the economy, chocolate and nougat production, shoe factories, and agricultural, mainly Valencia oranges, medlars, and almonds. The medlar is like an apple and has an orange skin. In recent years, due to an over-abundance of medlars, avocados are being grown. The fields are covered by netting to protect from birds and the wind.
Being spring, the almond trees were in full bloom.
As we turned to the north and drove into the mountains, we saw Guadalest for the first time. It really is built on a granite peak.
We stopped at a small shop. There was jam, nougat, honey, and wine samples.
Outside there was an olive tree.
Back on the bus we headed for Guadalest. The area was first settled in 715 AD. The town grew around the fortress built on the top of the granite rock. The surrounding rock was used as a natural barrier and completed with a city wall. It was very well fortified. In 1707, during the Spanish Succession War, the fortress was the site of many battles. We started a walking tour of the town and our first stop was the old community laundry bath. There were divets formed in the stones, so that the women could scrub the clothes.
The “lower/outer” area of the town has 5 museums. Jerie and Jade would tour the Museo de Antonio Marco later in the day.
The town had narrow streets and as in most Spanish towns a community water fountain. There had even been a bread delivery to one of the home, simply hung on the door. The area contains carob trees which were important to commerce. Carob beans are always exactly the same size and weight, therefore, they were used to weigh gold. The quality was based on how many carob beans it weighed. Originally the gold would be known as 5 carob gold (if it measured to 5 beans) but evolved to be called carat gold.
To enter the older “inner” Castell de Guadalest, you had to walk up stairs and walk through a 1000 year old tunnel, known as the Puerta de San Jose. There were stairs in the tunnel on the left, but a ramp has been built on the right to provide access for goods and supplies. This is the only entrance to the “inner” area of the town. Guadalest has been chosen one of the best villages of Spain and has a population of 200 citizens.
Once inside the city walls, we entered the Orduna House. It was built after an earthquake in 1644 destroyed most of the houses in the town. Half of the house is built on the granite rock, while the other half is built on top of the adjourning church.
It contains a display of artwork…
There was a painting of Jesus, with a front and a back view. (The glare was really bad) Also a ceremonial funeral dress.
We walked through the house and looked at the kitchen and bedrooms.
Since the house is built on top of the church, it has it’s own room over-looking the chapel. The family could attend church services privately.
The views from the house’s balcony were wonderful. A dam was constructed in the valley below in the 1960s, resulting in the reservoir. It brought workers to the area who left when the construction was completed, but went home and spoke of the beauty of Guadalest. This opened the door to tourism, which is now the area’s main industry. The reservoir collects rain water and is supplemented by 2 pumping station that pull water from an underground lake.
From the house you can walk up the stairs to see the castle and the bell tower.
The bell tower…
We continued up the stairs to the cemetery…we all commented on the hike it would be for a funeral procession
From the top you had amazing views…
Monte Ponoch or as the locals call it the Sleeping Lion mountain is to the north. It rises to 5600 feet and had slight dusting of snow.
We walked back down to Guadalest. Jim and Cindy took pictures of town square and went into a shop selling local jam. They didn’t have their reading glasses, so the pack of jam they bought contained the flavors beer, wine, cucumber, onion, kumquat, and strawberry. At least they got one regular flavor. The public entrance to the church is just off the square with a statue of St. Gregory nearby.
Jade and Jerie went to the Museo of Antino Marco. It contains models of houses and churches built with natural materials. The highlight is a model of Bethlehem built into the rock. Not great pictures due to lighting, but interesting. Cost 3 Euros to enter.
We met up and shared the Spanish nougat we bought as well as a Valencia orange that Jim found in the parking lot. Both were very delicious!!!
On the way back to the port, we learned about several interesting areas. One was above Benidorm, along the Avenue of the Elements. Every round-about had a theme of water, wind, fire, and air. We needed the bus driver to slow down just a bit for better pictures 🙂
We learned that Alicante Province has 22,000 palm trees. These were originally brought to the region from North Africa by Venetian explorers.
The sites of downtown Alicate…the fountain has four horses representing the four forces of nature as well as the four seasons.
Back on board we watched as we sailed away from Alicante and up the coastline toward Barcelona. It is always sad when you leave the last port of a cruise.
We took the evening to complete some compliment cards for the crew.
We watched our final sunset…
and enjoyed dinner in the dining room. It was delicious!!
A cool thing on a cruise ship is the photographers. Some people don’t like having their picture taken but we always take advantage of it. There is no sitting fee for the professional portraits, you only buy what you want, and being frequent cruisers on NCL we get a great discount. This cruise, we had numerous pictures taken, one photographers even called us his family and lent Jade his tie clip.
We had embarkation and port pictures. We don’t always buy these, but since this was a new itinerary and the first cruise with Jade and Jerie together in 9 years, we splurged.
We had candid pictures at some parties and restaurants…
And some of Jade and Jerie.
We had to disembark at 5:30 the next morning to catch our flight to the US. It would be a long trip. Since we were flying on points, we had a 6 hour layover in Miami, and a 13 hour layover in Phoenix. The long layovers did save us over $3000.00, so we only complained a bit 🙂
All in all it was a wonderful trip. A bit of cool weather and not too rough of seas. Wonderful ports, great food, and the best company….can’t wait for the next adventure!!!