Revisiting Calpe on Spain’s Costa Blanca; fifteen years on

Julie Bowman risks going back to the scene of her idyllic childhood holidays in Spain

Each summer as school finished for the year, there was only one thing on my mind; two long lazy weeks to just hang out and play in Spain. The usual villa was booked, for something like the eighth year running (after all this was the nineties!) and the books, toys and packets of English tea and cereals were packed. Fast forward fifteen years and I’m off to explore my childhood haunts without my siblings and parents in tow.

Funny how flights get shorter…

I love flying and the whole pre-travel build up and it amazes me how, as an adult, the flight seems so much quicker, just under two and a half hours from Gatwick into Alicante. As a kid the flight itself seemed to take an age, although maybe I appreciate it a little more now I have some long-haul flights under my belt. Also I guess there were no budget airlines back in the day, but thankfully today prices are cheaper and flights much more accessible. I’m exploring the Costa Blanca for a long weekend instead of the two weeks I used to have religiously as a child.

This time, a taste of luxury

The first promise I made to myself was to book a decent hire car to get around. I remember the hire cars of my childhood as sewing-machines on wheels, old Fiat Panda types that were already about ten years old. Tiny and tinny and incredible sweaty with five people crammed in (and that’s before a member of the party was sick, you know who you are!) No, it’s air conditioning and iPod docking luxury for me all the way this time!

Familiar landmarks bring back memories

Travelling the 70km up from Alicante heading towards Calpe, it struck me how quickly the journey passed, just me and my singing. The trips fifteen years ago were filled with arguments about directions and sheer tiredness (we always seemed to end up on night flights).

Successfully navigating my way onto the main coast road and heading just outside Calpe itself, I passed a few noticeable landmarks; the large orange supermarket where we used to buy the local brand of bread, “Bimbo”, (to laughs of delight) and signs to the restaurant we seemed to spend half the holiday at. When we didn’t eat at Val’s we ate the instant mash and tins of food hauled over on the plane. Thankfully luggage limits and adult taste buds have put paid to that on this occasion!

The Old Villa beckoned

The turning for our old villa was on a sharp left bend, but signposted so I could find it this time around. Driving up the long straight climbing road it seemed familiar yet unremarkably so. The villa was always signposted so at the top I turned left, then right, down the hill and there it was, still gleaming white in the sun, although a little smaller than I remember. I searched online (ah the modern invention of internet) before I left home and I couldn’t see this villa listed for rent. I probably wouldn’t have wanted to stay here anyway, although I can remember every stick of furniture and every nook and cranny. We even spent Christmas here one year but it was dismal. We hated it! No Santa, no snow and no decorations.

The Beach and the Rock

Nostalgia over, I headed back down to the main road to go into Calpe itself. Once booked into my small hotel I decided to explore on foot, first the beach which I’d never really spent much time at as a kid. It looked much the same, pristine and shockingly blue with the looming Penyal d’Ifac (The Rock) looming over the bay. Then I headed up the main drag into town, past the small shops, bars and restaurants that I couldn’t really remember as a youngster. I guess shopping, eating and drinking have much more appeal now!

So much to see that’s interesting – when you’re an Adult!

Taking a quick rest stop I flicked through the guidebook and realised just how much there was to see and do around here that my ten year old self was never aware of. As an adult we get to be interested in and do so much more; apart from the beaches (these are the Levante or La Fossa to the north and Cantal Roig and Arenal-Bol to the south), I could hike up through the Penyal d’Ifac Natural Park – even to the top of the Rock for a panoramic view over the Bay of Calpe if I felt energetic. Or I could explore the Roman, Iberian and Arab archaeological remains scattered around Calpe and visit the fifteenth century church of Senora de las Nieves (and the renowned new one next to it). Or I could revert to childhood and splash around in the pool and eat ice cream all day.

Ah, the choices we have to make as adults…

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