Tag Archives: Benidorm

Winter 2017: Places and Memories

January

Street Art In Valencia

Returning to Valencia after several months in Catalonia, I resumed my exploration of the vibrant street art scene here.  Some new work, some old but all new to me.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge images.

A Beautiful History of Silk

Falleras in their Valencian silk dresses

I paid my first visit to the Museo de la Seda (The Silk Museum) — it is a remarkable place. Over the years I had passed the Museo many times, always sad to see it in a sorry state of neglect. The building where the Museo de la Seda is located began construction in 1494 and was declared a national historical-artistic monument in 1981.  Restoration — finally — officially began on November 10th, 2014, and it re-opened to the public on June 18th, 2016. A visit to the museum is a journey to the heart of Valencian history and culture.

Silk arrived on the Iberian Peninsula with the Moors. Mulberry trees and worms were cultivated in the Valencian huerta (market farm belt). In Valencia itself,  the weaving of velvet began in the historic Velluters neighborhood.  Velluters comes from vellut, which means “velvet” in the Valencian language. Silk was then introduced and, at the height of the industry in the 15th and 16th centuries, there were more than 5,000 registered workshops weaving velvet and silk. Silk helped bring power and wealth to Valencia.

Tile design in the museum dedicated to San Jerónimo, patron saint of silk weavers

The Museo de la Seda (The Silk Museum) is one of the most important buildings in Valencia. This is where the Gremi de Velluters (Velvet Weavers Guild) was born, officially ratified by King Ferdinand the Catholic on October 13, 1479. It is one of the oldest guilds in Europe. The Guild was elevated to the El Colegio del Arte Mayor de la Seda (The College of High Silk Art ) by King Carlos II in 1686. The silk industry still survives in Valencia today thanks to demand  for use in traditional Valencian costumes — especially las Fallas, which is a celebration of Valencian silk — as well as for decoration.

February

For me, winter months are perfect for visiting the Costa Blanca — the Mediterranean coast north of Alicante.  The weather is warm, the tourists are scarce and the rates are low.

La Vila Joiosa

The colorful houses of La Vila Joiosa

I returned to one of my favorite Costa Blanca towns, La Vila Joiosa, to enjoy walking its beach promenade, exploring the narrow streets and multi-colored houses of the old town, and discovering its new history museum.

A Trip to Altea

From La Vila Joiosa, the town of Altea is an easy 35-minute trip north by the coastal tram. I had always been interested in visiting Altea, frequently described as one of the most charming towns of the Costa Blanca.

The town was fortified in the 13th century, creating what is now the “old town”.  The coastal highway runs through Altea — on the seaside there is a sandy beach with a long promenade and marina. On the other side of the road the old and new town are side-by-side.

The old town does have a lot of charm.  It is whitewashed, with narrow stepped streets that wind up to the historic church Nuestra Senora del Consuelo. The church has a beautiful dome of blue and white tiles — it is the (very) frequently photographed symbol of the town.  Neo-Baroque in style, it was built in the late 19th century on the ruins of a much older structure. The church plaza has beautiful views of the mountains and sea, including  the mighty rock outcrop of Peñón de Ifach, known as the Costa Blanca’s (mini) Gibraltar.

The cobbled streets are filled with restaurants (note: I have never visited a historic town on the Mediterranean coast with more pizza restaurants per plaza!), cafés and local craft shops catering to tourists. In fact, for me, the only disappointing thing about Altea’s old city is that everything is designed exclusively for tourism and all you meet is tourists. The real bustling heart of the city is in the new town.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge images.

Benidorm from a Distance

“I believe in Tokyo, Benidorm, La Grande Motte, Wake Island, Eniwetok, Dealey Plaza.”           J.G Ballard, What I Believe

Benidorm, the definition of package resort holidays in Spain, is located between La Vila Joiosa and Altea. With its forest of high-rise blocks, it has become a byword for the worst of mass tourism, entirely separated from the “real” Spain. Until the 1960s, Benidorm was a small fishing village — today It has the most high-rise buildings per capita in the world. No surprisingly, it was a source of inspiration for dystopian author J.G. Ballard. “Benidorm” is also the name of a British sitcom that features an ensemble cast of holiday makers and staff at an all-inclusive hotel in the city.

I did not visit Benidorm this winter, only seeing it from the distance of the tram.

Exposición del Ninot (Ninot Expo) 2017

When I  returned to Valencia, the Exposición del Ninot was underway. Beginning in during the first week of February and ending March 15th each year, the display of ninots begins las Fallas festival season.

More than 700 ninots were on display at the Sala Arquerías of the Museum of Sciences Principe Felipe, part of the City of Arts and Sciences complex. It is an impressive space to enjoy the carefully crafted ninots.

The Sala Arquerías of the Museum of Sciences Principe Felipe

The display, in which a ninot from each casal (neighborhood Fallas group) in Valencia is shown, has been held since 1934. It attracts large crowds of locals and visitors, offering a preview of what news events, personalities and politicians will feature prominently in the social satire of las Fallas.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Click on thumbnails to enlarge images.

As winter gave way to early spring, the orange trees in my neighbourhood were in full fruit.