Friday, 19 February 2016

Rubbing shoulders with the oldies!

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It is hard to believe but Spain has had and continues to have, even in the current climate of crisis and austerity, a fantastic holiday program for senior citizens which allows any resident over the age of 65 (and I am one of these I am afraid) to take themselves and their spouse to a bunch of holiday resorts for what seems like a heavily subsidised holiday (I mean really cheap) with everything included, and I mean everything..transfers, transport, hotels, meals and in some cases even all the excursions!
When I reached the 65 milestone I was sold the idea of signing up to this program with the possibility of trying out a package even if it meant going along with a bunch of old folks (I suppose like myself) and helping out with zimmer frames and crutches.

In keeping with our usual strategy of avoiding the cold/wet months of Laredo we decided to go this February for a trip to the mediterranean resort of Benidorm, which we have avoided in the past like the plague because of its reputation of being a favourite with the hooligan sets from some northern European countries which I wont name. Our idea was that we would rent a car and do our own thing.
Our fellow holidaymakers!
It turned out to be very interesting, both from a social and a cultural viewpoint. We were a bit apprehensive at the start, specially seeing the fellow tourists on our flight to Alicante, but we soon began to feel good, with the great organisation, great hotel, good food and the nice weather!
We used our rental car to the max with trips to nearby towns and to large cities like Valencia and Alicante, with a few walks through Benidorm and its very nice beaches. It was warm and dry while it rained and snowed in the rest of Spain which made us feel that we had picked the right time to escape.
On one of these walks on the beachside paseos there was a shower and to let it pass we sat down on a bench under cover. we are sitting on this bench with this marvellous to a local man. We start talking about the weather, the place..and while singing praise about the climate of this part of the world..he says 'well  you know, this is like the waiting room..for death'! Its true - that the average age around Benidorm was probably around 60.
So he says 'all you need is a good bank account and you move here and enjoy life' (while you presumably wait your turn)!  Wise words indeed

The waiting room
One of the most beautiful local towns was Guadalesc which is atop a steep hill and you have to go through a handcarved door in a rock to get to its medieval center. Who would have thought of putting the town in such a place! Perhaps it was to protect themselves in the uncertain times, but definitely made it a good place to visit. It also had a fantastic museum of microscopic art that had been created by a local artist.

The other nearby town that we liked a lot was Altea. If Guadalesc was on top of a hill then Altea was all the way up along the face of a hill with town's church at the top of the hill. The houses and most places in the old town could only be reached by walking up steep lanes and stairs. While this was good for the health of the tourists it also made for a very picturesque and nice environment with no noise and a medieval look.

In between we visited the main cities of Valencia and Alicante. Valencia is now famous for its new cultural buildings designed by the architect Calatrava, but its old heritage is equally stunning. The palace of the Marquis of Dosaguas has to be seen as it is absolutely unbelievable.

Alicante too has its own charm and a fort built atop a hill right in the centre of the city.

And in-between all this sightseeing we did walk around the more interesting parts of Benidorm and the occasional contact with the notorious parts. The two beaches in Benidorm have impressive skylines and there is a rock in the centre which is the center of the city and has some old features. One of them is a street which has been given a quite dubious name, (Calle de Coño) which comes from a typical expression of surprise in Spanish, because most of the inhabitants end up here one way or the other and its always full of people.

As one can imagine all this activity involved a large amount of walking. By the end of the week I posted the following on Facebook:
Having kept a running total of steps walked (according to my Pebble), I can reveal that Marisol and I have each walked 100000 (yes thats 100k) steps since we started our current outing 6 days ago! That at about 60cms per step is about 60Kms (37.5 miles). Knackered! Happy St. Valentine Day.
It was time to retrace our steps and get back home..
and begin packing for the next trip!
In Spain they say the life of a tourist is very hard. 
You can say that again.