Monthly Archives: November 2015

Quick Travel Guide: Spain

Visitors to Spanish cities can find architecture, history, Toledo, flamenco, beaches, sun, sangria, paella, Serrano ham, The Pyreness, Cervantes & more.

Location: Spain is on the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal. It borders Portugal, Gibraltar, France and Andorra. And, if you’re being picky, it also borders Morocco when you take into account the two African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

Capital city: The capital of Spain is Madrid, and it manages to combine modern energy with beautiful architecture and a sense of history. It’s smack bang in the middle of the country. Curiously, it isn’t officially a city, as no-one has ever got round to redesignating what used to be a tiny backwater town. It was decided to make the capital there in a bid to take some power away from the seat of the Catholic Church in nearby Toledo.

Other major cities: Other cities that can be visited in Spain include the wonderful Catalan capital, Barcelona, and the southern home of flamenco and bullfighting, Seville. Valencia is also emerging as one of Europe’s most exciting destinations, whilst Bilbao in the north has recently undergone a dramatic transformation. To see examples of properties in these areas, visit:

Population: Around 43 million people live in Spain.

Languages spoken: Spanish is spoken across the country, but other languages – such as Basque, Catalan and Galician – have equal status in their particular region.

What we know it for: Most people’s experience of Spain is a two week package holiday on one of the famous Costas (Brava, Blanca or Del Sol). Spain has been attracted mass tourism since the 1960s, and sometimes you can be forgiven for thinking that the entire population of Northern Europe has migrated to the beach. But there is more to Spain than its sun, sea, sand and sangria, and the country has made plenty of other contributions to the world. First up is the food and wine – the likes of paella, Serrano ham, Rioja and sherry all originated in Spain. Then there’s also the country’s contribution to the world of film. Some of the best non-Hollywood films come from Spain, such as those of director Pedro Aldomovar, while the legendary spaghetti westerns were filmed near Almeria.

Why you should go: Spain has an astonishing diversity. It manages to mix high culture from the likes of Cervantes and Picasso with cheap and cheerful bucket and spade fun. Andalucia in the south has arguably Europe’s best weather, while in the Sierra Nevada and the Pyrenees, you’ve also got some of the greatest mountains on the continent. Add to that the sheer energy of the big cities, and there is something that should excite everyone.

Great places to visit: Even if you’ve trawled through Europe, phenomenally bored by seeing a new cathedral every day, you can’t failed to be impressed by the Mezquita in Córdoba or the Alhambra Palace in Granada.

Captivating Calpe – A Spanish Resort

Situated on the northern Costa Blanca in Spain, between the towns of Benidorm and Moraira, the coastal resort of Calpe is among the most popular destinations along this piece of coast. Well known for its towering peak, the Peon de Ifach, one of the landmarks of the Costa Blanca, Calpe has much else to offer, despite having the look of a modern ‘touristy’ resort, with the usual smattering of high-rise hotels and apartment blocks. You can see the types of property for sale in Calpeand neighbouring town Javea here: .

The salt lakes located behind the town, provide both a refuge for birds and local wildlife, and the conditions for a unique micro-climate, giving the town splendid weather throughout the year.

The old town still shows some evidence of Calpe’s former existence as a successful fishing village, which is was for many centuries before being developed into a highly popular holiday resort. Its church towers and walls, remind both visitors and local residents of its Moorish past, being occupied for over 500 years by the Muslim conquerors who controlled much of Spain between the 8th and 13th centuries.

To get a taste of Calpe’s rich history, visitors are advised to head for the town’s two museums – the MuseoArqueolgico and the MuseoFestor, both located in the old town (south of the Peon de Ifach).

Calpe has two superb sandy beaches and also a number of pretty coves and bays nearby, especially when heading towards Benissa and Moraira to the north. The main beaches are safe and manned by lifeguards during busy times.

For shopping, eating and entertainment, visitors to Calpe are well provided for, be sure to try out one of the popular seafood restaurants, to get a taste of fresh locally caught fish. Nightlife, especially during the busy summer season (June to September), is vibrant and lively, with its many bars and clubs attracting fun lovers from both Calpe and the surrounding resorts and villages.

US Virgin Islands – St. John

St. John, in the Caribbean, is a nature lover’s paradise.

The three US Virgin Islands are all popular vacation getaways in the Caribbean. In 2005, the US Virgin Islands were rated as one of the ten best honeymoon locales in the world by Modern Bride Magazine. I had my own honeymoon there on the so I may be biased when I say that Modern Bride magazine got this one right! St. Croix is the largest island, and St. Thomas is home to Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the US Virgin Islands. St. Croix and St. Thomas have their advocates, but my favorite is St. John. I’ve been there twice, and both times found it to be relaxing and friendly, with very little of the “in your face” salesmanship of St. Thomas or the overcrowded beaches of St. Croix. Because the US Virgin Islands are the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean, St. John is far from deserted. However, it is the smallest of the three isles, and fully 2/3 of it is designated US National Park land. It follows that the amount of tourists staying on St. John is necessarily smaller.

Where can we stay?

There are many small hotels, villas and B&Bs on St. John, as well as eco-friendly campgrounds where hardy types can pitch a tent. Maho Bay Camps are based on ecotourism, with “green travel” accommodations like tent cottages, elevated walkways and recycled building materials. The Hillcrest Guest House, on Cruz Bay, has quite possibly the friendliest staff on the island. However, in terms of full service luxury hotels and upscale amenities, there is basically only two of note. These two main resorts offer privacy and children’s programs, along with the relaxed comfort typical of all St. Johns’ lodgings.

Caneel Bay Resort is one of these upscale resorts. Caneel Bay Resort has seven private beaches and no TV’s in the hotel rooms. The idea is to unplug and reconnect with nature. Founded by conservation proponent Laurance Rockefeller, with the philosophy of taking time in nature to relax and rejuvenate, Caneel Bay Resort stays true to his ideals. If you need it, The Self Centre teaches stress relief. I believe, however, that the simple act of an unplugged luxury vacation provides all the relief most of us need to recover from the workaday world.

The Westin St. John is the other deluxe resort on the island. Incidentally, it is on the site of the former Marriott, where I had my honeymoon. The Westin Kids Club will keep children happy and entertained, and day spa treatments will help adults be happy and relaxed – if lounging on the soft sandy beaches isn’t enough. Tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course provide added diversion, but really, St. John is truly a nature lover’s paradise. While the Westin and Caneel Bay provide many full-service resort activities, it seems to me to be a waste of a location not to take advantage of the scuba lessons, sailing and other boat rentals the hotel concierges can arrange.

How are the beaches?

It’s an island in the Caribbean, of course the beaches are amazing. Powdery white sand is typical here, bookended by palm trees and other flora native to St. John. Trunk Bay is a favorite of travelers, with its photo-ready natural curves and rocky outcroppings. Cinnamon Bay is a relatively busy campground with lots of beach and water sports activities, such as rental boats, windsurfing, and volleyball. Hawksnest and Little Hawksnest are more secluded, but tourists can get there by car. Caneel Bay has upscale amenities available for guests of the resort. Honeymoon Beach is accessible only by boat or hiking nature trails through the Virgin Islands National Park (talk about private!).

Leinster Bay has the best snorkeling on the islands, although it’s pretty awesome at other beaches here too. All the beaches on St. Johns have something in common: The quality of the water. The water is so clear here – a real testament to the result of ecotourism and the environmentally-friendly lifestyle on this island – it’s like swimming in air. The snorkeling is great; I could have stayed in all afternoon, were it not for the siren call of pina coladas served right on the beach. Ahh, that’s a vacation!

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