We’ve just left Alcalali after spending 9 days in this gorgeous setting, and what an amazing 9 days it was.
This is my first ever trip to Spain and thus far we’ve driven from Balboa in the North, through Madrid in the center, and then to our destination in Alcalali.
Although we had booked the accommodation online, in customary Collison way, no other plans were made, we find this normally leads us to the best adventures and places. I’ve found that we’re not very good with sticking to tight timelines (also read: we’re always late). If you don’t know the area, it’s REALLY hard to search online for good places to go. So, as long as we have somewhere to sleep, the rest is self-discovery, speaking to people and a bit of trial and error.
Alcalali is a small town in the Jalon Valley, situated inland from the coastal towns of Denia, Xabia and Moraira, on the North-Eastern tip on the Costa Blanca.
We were met by our amazing host, Jodie, who moved from Manchester, England four years ago with her young family. It was great to connect with another family who have also left the daily grind of 9-5 to live life as it should be now, and not wait until retirement.
The home came with a pool. Our own pool, right outside the front door, and the kids spent at least 3 hours a day swimming. They would be happy if we never left the pool, but we were determined to get out and explore the area. Here’s a short summary of our activities.
Our first trip was to a beach in Calp. Playa Arenal-Bol is almost a mile-long stretch of beach with crystal clear water with the beautiful Calpe Rock in the background. It was early July and the beach was packed. To get a good spot on the beach, to place your towel and bags, we needed to arrive before 10am – naturally we didn’t. Nonetheless, we found a great parking spot and had a great time (see it works every time). The beach has a lovely gentle slope into the sea and the kids thoroughly enjoyed jumping over the waves as they rolled in. The sand is perfect for sandcastle building and hours can go by with just the sand and sea as entertainment. There’s a promenade along the beach with many restaurants and stores and we finished the day with an ice-cream to cool down, then back home to the pool.
The next day we went to the beach at Moraira. A smaller beach with much less people and the same soft sand and gentle slope into the sea. We sat down at a restaurant on the beach for a quick bite and then played in the waves again until it was time to go home. In the water was a giant floating bouncy house structure that we just had to try, but we were late arriving to the beach and decided to go back the next day to try it out.
For only 10 Euros for an hour of fun, we strapped into life vests and navigated our way through the crashing waves to the floating castle. The waves were pretty rough, which made every slide and trampoline even more bouncy, but a good time was had by all.
The next day we found Xabia. A pebbled beach with a steep descent to the sea. The water is crystal clear and after the waves crash they make an amazing crackling sound as water rushing back to the sea drags the rocks back and forth. You definitely need water shoes to play in the water and can easily hurt your feet on the bottom, but look how beautiful it is. Listen to the waves. It’s not possible to resist getting into the warm water and floating effortlessly in its high saline content.
Our next adventure was to Cova Tallada. Located underneath a cliff on the coast of Denia and Xabia, you access the cave by kayak or along the hiking path. Less than a kilometer in length, the hike is deceptively tough. The track takes you along a mass of rough narrow pathways and with sharp rocks to navigate while trying to take in the superb views around you. You follow the path along narrow and steep steps (I counted 79 on one set of steps) and at the end there is a steep descent towards the cave, with a thick metal chain anchored to the rock, to assist. Once inside you can explore the inside of the cave which is right at sea level. It takes about 45 minutes to get there, so pack water and a snack. After the hike to the cave we cooled down in the large rockpools where we swam and snorkeled. This was a favorite of Ricardo and our daughter Amber, definitely some memories made here that will last a lifetime.
On our last day we drove up to Las Fuentes del Algar near Torrevieja. On its way to the Mediterranean, the Algar River forms a series of roaring waterfalls, cascading down the rocks into natural pools. The entire area is a nature reserve and as such protected. Remember to take watershoes as the pools are rocky and slippery.
On our way home from most trips we’d pass fields of almond trees, orange trees and lemon trees, and even found a pear tree where we picked and ate a delicious pear right from the tree. This gave the kids another example of how food tastes different when picked fresh. We spoke about local and seasonal ingredients and other small ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.
By the end of this week, we noticed visible changes in our kids (other than their tan :>).
When we arrived, Meka could not keep himself afloat in the water and one of us needed to always be within arms distance if he wanted to swim. He’s never had a swimming lesson (the plight of the 2nd child). By the end of our stay he’s confidently diving to the bottom of a 2.1m (almost 7ft) deep pool to pickup coins and can get himself across the length of the pool unassisted.
Amber, who previously refused to speak to an adult she did not know, finally approached the store waitress to ask for a drink, even knowing that there was a language barrier and despite the 2 grownups who just pushed in front of her. I am SO proud of her.
They have been sharpening their skill in compromising and negotiation. I think this is due to the fact that our two months of summer adventure, is also a working holiday, a mini retirement if you like. Both Ricardo and I have to work on our online businesses so there has to be compromise in between working i.e. fulfilling orders, fun holiday activities, and screen time (2hrs a day) i.e. ipad, movie time etc. If I must say so myself, we have done a really good job in balancing these three things so far. The time zone difference definitely helps.
I’m loving this trip thus far. It’s more than exceeding any expectations I had. Every day I see examples that prove our decision to travel with our young kids for an extended period of time has benefits that completely outweigh any summer camp we could have found back home. Also, unshackling ourselves from the corporate grind leads to a more fulfilling family life.