I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (no doubt many times) but Ireland West Airport is one of the greatest assets that we have on the west coast of Ireland. With all the recent news about queues and more queues at Dublin Airport, the fact that I had booked a flight out of Knock filled me full of positivity for a stress free journey – and it did not disappoint.
It was the June Bank Holiday Saturday just after 08:30am so the car park was fairly full and I nearly had to walk the length of the runway to the terminal building but it was a nice morning! In the terminal there was one family in front of me as I made my way to the security screening area, paid my development fee and went through the scanners. This process took approximately 4 minutes. Without doubt, the departures area was the busiest I’d seen it but there was three flights taking off within the space of an hour – the return flight to London (that had landed as I was walking to the terminal), a flight to Malaga and my flight to Alicante.
I wasn’t standing around for too long before we were boarding – at this stage I’d left the house just two hours earlier and now I was walking to the plane. Right on time we were wheels up and I got a bunch of podcasts in and a little snooze – 2 hours and 40 minutes later we landed in Alicante – just five hours after I left the house in Bundoran.
The welcome sight of my great buddy Zino waiting for me in the arrivals hall lifted my heart and soon we were heading north east for Altea and the obligatory stop at McDonalds for lunch on the way! Altea, on the Costa Blanca, is Bundoran’s twin town in Spain through the Douzelage Town Twinning organisation – both towns have been members since 1991, however this is my first time to visit – my 13th Douzelage member town.
Visiting a town like Altea is nice but when you have a local to show you around then it’s even better. Strolling along the promenade in 30 degree heat was just nice. The sea area is just so pretty with beautiful walks along the beach front and plenty of palm trees! We also visited the Douzelage installation with all its European flags – never too far away from the reason I was there!
Walking through the old town it is not difficult to see why the area is so popular with tourists – a beautiful area of the city with spectacular views out to the Mediterranean, across Altea, up to Calpe and back to Benidorm. Dinner at Il Timone Pizza Express was a nice escalope. While it had been a long day I still wasn’t ready to turn in just yet so we took a short drive to neighbouring Albir where we strolled the promenade and had some drinks at a really cool bar looking out over the ocean called “Zero Zero”
There are lots of great outdoor things you can do when you have the climate. Altea and surrounding area certainly has the climate. Sunday brought myself, Zino and his girlfriend Britney to Les Fonts d’Algar – an outdoor recreation area located at a waterfall. The water here was slightly colder than expected as there had been a lot of rain in the previous few weeks (I know! Rain in Spain!) but still it was nice to do some swimming and paddling and generally relax. The recreation area provides lots of small natural pools and was busy for all of the time that we were there.
Our mini roadtrip continued as we visited the beautiful town of El Castell de Guadalest high in the Valencian mountains. This is a great place to while away a few hours walking around, exploring the small shops or have a drink and admire the breath-taking scenery that surrounds it.
As the afternoon drew in, we made our way to Calpe (just north of Altea) where again we did some exploring of this beautiful town, including its famous “Spanish Steps” – a must-do photo opportunity! Next we visited the Peñon d’Ifach or the Rock of Calpe. This is a rock which completely stands out on the landscape and apparently is quite inviting for rock climbers – I’ll leave them to it!
There’s so many things to see and our next stop was at the Les Salines lake to see some flamingos! This is a really cool nature reserve with nice views back to the city … but with a LOT of mosquitoes!
Hunger pangs brought us then to the Vreysen family restaurant Makarpi where I received a warm welcome from Zino’s family and some great food to boot. While we waited on our food, we took a quick walk to the nearby Calpe sign. This is another great photo opportunity and perfectly framed for a great souvenir photo!
Monday afforded me some time on my own to explore more of Altea which brought me along the beach front and then up the hill into the old town. You can literally take any set of steps upwards and they will all ultimately bring you to the beautiful old town and the Chuch of our Lady of Consolation – famous for its blue dome roof which is visible pretty much right across the town. This pasty white Irish guy wasn’t really used to the heat – it was hitting 30 degrees each day but wasn’t so bad in the shade which was where I remained for most of the time!
That afternoon we took a trip to nearby Benidorm and hunted out some great photo opportunities! Coming from a tourist town, I was really impressed with all of the facilities offered at their beaches and the level of activities also. Dinner that evening was back in Calpe at Los Faroles and a very tasty burger!
As the days got tighter to me going home, Zino was determined to fit in as much as he could for me to see in my final hours. After a typically local lunch with my Spanish Douzelage colleagues at El Cantó del Palasiet we took a spin up the coast past Moraira to Benitatxell – a beautiful coastal area with some incredible scenery – here we bumped into some Germans who were cliff jumping. Just like the rock climbers at Calpe, I’ll leave them to it!
As well as beautiful spots to see on the ground, there are plenty of high up viewing points including one in Benitatxell and one in Calpe which offered spectacular panoramic views of the area for kilometres. A late dinner at Grizzlys filled the spot but it was not the final thing on the itinerary. For that we were going up 29 floors of the Suitopia Hotel and its trendy Sky Bar offering a really nice atmosphere and great views of the area. As it was a Tuesday evening it wasn’t too busy and we got to nab the “Instagram Corner”!
Wednesday was flight day and despite a warning email from Ryanair that I needed to be there 3 hours ahead of the flight due to problems with the security queues, I pretty much waltzed through the security area within 4 minutes of me arriving at the airport which gave me lots of time before the flight back to Ireland West to reflect on the previous few days and what a great time I had.
Thanks to Britney and the Vreysen family for their incredible welcome and hospitality but most of all to Zino for his welcome, friendship and just being a legend. I can’t wait to go back (though maybe when it’s a little cooler!)