Hola (hello) from Spain

A is for  Alicante, Arabic for the City of Lights  The White Hill, the powerful mass of white limestone on which the sunlight returns a blinding impression between the blue of the sky and the sea is one reason for Alicane being called the City of Lights.

.Also, the original name of Alicante was Lucentum given to it by the Moors

Lucentum, is now the current display  at the Archaeological Museum of Alicante.

The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years, with the first tribes of hunter gatherers moving down gradually from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000 BC. Some of the earliest settlements were made on the slopes of Mount Benacantil, where the Castillo de Santa Barbara stands today. By 1000 BC Greek and Phoenician traders had begun to visit the eastern coast of Spain, establishing small trading ports and introducing the native Iberian tribes to the alphabet, iron and the pottery wheel.

Although the Carthaginians conquered much of the land around Alicante, they were in the end no match for the Romans, who established rule in the province for over 700 years.

Neither the Romans nor the Goths, however, put up much resistance to the Arab conquest of Medina Laqant in the 8th century, which brought oranges, rice, palms and the gifts of Moorish art and architecture, it was the Moors who gave the city its modern name – Alicante is Arabic for the city of lights.

The Moors ruled southern and eastern Spain until the 11th century reconquista (reconquest). Alicante was finally taken in 1246 by the Castilian king Alfonso X, but it passed soon and definitely to the Kingdom of Valencia in 1298 with the Catalonian King James II of Aragon.

Monjas-Santa Faz Square in Alicante.

After several decades of a battle field between the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon, Alicante enjoyed a segle d’or (golden age) during the 15th century together with the whole Kingdom of Valencia, rising to become a major Mediterranean trading station exporting rice, wine, olive oil, oranges and wool.

In the early 18th century Alicante, along with the rest of Valencia, backed Carlos in the War of Spanish Succession. Felipe won, punishing the whole region by withdrawing the semi-autonomous status it had enjoyed since the time of the reconquista. Alicante went into a long, slow decline, surviving through the 18th and 19th centuries by making shoes (the city of Elda Petra still makes shoes) and agricultural products such as oranges, olives and almonds, and its fisheries.

A view of Alicante from the Castillo de Santa Barbara.

Castillo St. Barbara from the waterfront
Castillo St. Barbara from the waterfront
Iron soldiers placed where they can observe the port and the approaching enemies
Iron soldiers placed where they can observe the port and the approaching enemies

The proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic was much celebrated in the city on April 14, 1931. The Spanish Civil War broke out 5 years later. Alicante was the last city loyal to the Republican government to be occupied by General Franco’s troops on April 1, 1939, and its harbour saw the last Republican government officials flee the country. Alicante was the target of  vicious air bombings during the three years of civil conflict.

What could he be thinking
What could he be thinking

For 20 years Franco’s dictatorship was as difficult for Alicante as it was for the entire country. However, the late 1950s and early 1960s saw the onset of a lasting transformation of the city due to tourism. Large buildings and complexes rose in nearby Albufereta (e.g. El Barco) and Playa de San Juan (where I have been staying).Sunset view from Nurias Condo

With the moderate climate being the best lure to bring prospective property buyers and tourists. Condominiums line the coast for miles on end.Esplanade walk

When Franco died in 1975, his successor Juan Carlos I successfully oversaw the transition of Spain to a democratic constitutional monarchy. Today it is a thriving economy based on tourism and exports of olives, almonds, grapes, wine, leather goods, granite, marble, and those fab ORANGES.

B is for Beach(s), lots of them.  Alicante on the left, Mallorca on the right.
beachfrontSan Juan Beach, north of Alicante proper

IMG_2463

D is for Dogs, Bella and Cookie whom I had the pleasure of dog-sitting with for a week in an agricultural valley not far inland from Alicante.  Right across the road were vineyards for almost as far as the eye could see; almond trees on the other side of the road.  Bella and Cookie on the patioHarvesting GrapesWild Thyme in bloom

E is for English Immersion Program, which I had the opportunity to participate in, in Madrid.  Approximately 20 native English speakers ranging in age from mid-20’s to 70 something conversed with 30 Spaniards who came to the program with moderate English skills.  We taught the Spaniards about American idioms – mine was “pull yourself together”.  We played games, ate together and learned how much we are alike as opposed to different.  

I was paired with a female engineer who had been an exchange student in her high school days; and, who had spent her time in America in a small Oregon beach town – Walport – which is where Georganne and I had our summer mobile hot-dog cart.  Small world!

M is for Mallorca, the island off the coast of Alicante, Spain that is home to Le Seu Cathedral.  A most majestic piece of construction, was originally a mosque (right side of the photo) when the Arabs ruled the Iberian Peninsula (Spain).  Then Spain’s King James I decided to cover the mosque with a chapel (why build something new, when there was already a building standing).  King James the II of Aragon came along and had much grander ideas .. and we now have the cathedral.

St. Luc Cathedral

http://www.mallorca-spotlight.com/guide/cathedral-palma-de-mallorca-la-seu  This is the link if you want to see more photos and history of the cathedral.

O is for Oranges, The Arab conquest of Medina Laqant in the 8th century,  brought oranges, rice, palms and the gifts of Moorish art and architecture to Alicante.   A big thank you to the Moors, because it gives me fresh squeezed orange juice every day.

By the way, when you buy fruit in the stores here, you must first don a disposable plastic glove – no personal hands on the fruit or veggies.  If you buy in the main market (Mercado) the vendor picks the fruit and veg for you.  I almost got my hand slapped for “almost” touching a plum.

T is for Tram, which in Alicante gets you where you want to go quickly, cheaply, in clean cars (no graffiti). Seattle should have these.

V is for Volvo Ocean Race Museum a wonderful place to feel the wind blow through your hair, even if you are inside a building.  Great educational attraction for kids, with interactive displays – I steered (if that is the right term) a huge sailboat through a beautiful waterway, all inside the building.

(This is NOT America’s Cup .. it is a 40,000 mile open ocean race.)

Watch this amazing video and imagine seeing it on a huge screen, with ocean water projected at your feet. Then go down and click on the individual moments of the race – heart stopping, tear jerking and inspirational!

https://www.youtube.com/user/volvooceanracevideos

Poster At Volvo Ocean race Museum, Alicante, Spain 92015

On the 4th of November my former boss and friend from the Millionair Club in Seattle will be arriving in Madrid.  This is her first trip outside of the US.  I will be meeting her and we will have a 17 day adventure in Spain – Ronda, Gibraltar, Granada, Alicante, Valencia and back to Madrid.  What was that song Willie Nelson sang so often?   Oh yes – On The Road Again!

On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is making music with my friends

And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again

Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again