We’re not great fans of cities and built up areas – and in truth we already knew this about ourselves before we embarked on our nomadic journey. Although nothing reminded us more of our appreciation of the natural world versus suburbia than Spain’s Costa Blanca. Although we chose to by-pass the area completely last year, we have come to embrace the fact that everything should be experienced just once – allowing you to make your own mind up as you travel amidst the maze of reviews from fellow journeymen.
So when my mum came to stay in Albir in between Altea and Benidorm for two weeks, it was an ideal opportunity to check out whether these areas had a piece of magic that would send us away with our tails between our legs. Keep open minded to the possibilities, I kept telling myself.
Alas, as we drove from Dénia to pick her up, my fears had been realised. Tower block hotels, wall to wall shops and buildings, main roads, motorways and traffic. All the things we hate most about urban life’s suffocating energy. Still, perhaps there would be something around the corner to change our minds. After tauntingly missing our junction for Albir, as if to prove a point, the N332 took us all the way to Benidorm – ‘That’ll teach you’ it whispered in tune with Scoobie’s tyre tracks. The high rises that took charge of the horizon, creating their own concrete landscape reached out to us like monsters in a nightmare and we struggled for twenty minutes to get out of the area and back on track to Albir.
Now Albir certainly wasn’t quite as bad as its partying neighbour, although there was just something about the whole coastline that made us feel hemmed in and breathless. We saw the same landmarks in Calpe, that we thought would be a quaint fishing village. Disappointment certainly visited us that day. So you can imagine our relief when we took refuge for the night in the mountains a short drive from the tawdry coastline. As we moved mile by mile towards the mountain metropolis we knew our souls would be reset very soon.
The higher we climbed, the more Mother Nature’s high rises drew us into her raw magnetism. Our destination was El Castell de Guadalest, not more than 30 minutes away on the CV70, that had been recommended by a friend. My mum had also been there the week before on an excursion with the hotel and had enjoyed it, so it was a must for us. We were not disappointed, aided by the fact that we arrived after the crowds had long since gone.
We found a Motorhome dedicated parking spot, that for €4 for the night, gave us a peaceful and beautiful spot to rest our heads. And the views were to die for! Now this was far more ‘us’ and we felt like we’d come home.
Because of the area’s historical popularity, coaches arrive in their droves, winding up the mountain roadway to reach this little oasis of gorgeousness. So having been there overnight, we had a head start and, pretty much the place to ourselves. Whilst there are the expected tourist shops and photo-capturing entrepreneurs looking to sell you unwelcome images as you enter the castle walls, beyond these there is a real authentic air to the place.
Perched up high in what looks like a sanctuary protected by three different mountain ranges, bizarrely Guadalest shows plenty of military scars from Moorish battles dating back to 700AD, the earthquake of 1644 and a mine explosion. Yet this small mountain settlement stands firm and resilient against human and natural tragedies. It is a testimony to how people work together to keep their communities in tact.
Today the ‘Grand House’ built after the earthquake, the castle remnants, the clock tower and white-washed village of quaint homes, all offer the visitor a welcome sense of reality, history and substance. The views down to the coast are the only reminder of the concrete seaside conurbation, as this Eagle’s Nest spectacular gives you a taste of real Spain and the struggles that gave the country its character and charm.
The Guadalest Reservoir nestled far below the village’s lofty strong-hold is an emerald green gem that has every form of photographic tool clicking away to capture the artist palette of colours.
The reservoir is worthy of the short drive, so you can take in the scene from a completely different perspective. Looking up towards the village you get a real sense of its dominant position whilst feeling in the heart of a haven of beauty. The mountains tower above you and the chalky curves of the lake’s edges entice you to wander its perimeter and share lunch on its shores. And here there are no tourists; certainly out of season you will have this place to yourselves, capturing your heart as you try to imagine the history that has been carved here.
Guadalest is such an incredible oasis of beauty that must be seen. Don’t drive past on the motorway in pursuit of quieter shores without stopping to marvel at its magic. It cries out to be loved, admired and valued and, in return you will be treated to a natural piece of heaven away from the vibrations of Europe’s party capital.