Alicante is the second largest city in a province of Spain that’s famous for oranges, paella, speaking Catalan, and a beautiful Mediterranean coastline.
Whilst the capital of the province, Valencia, is known for its cultural attributes (such as the City of Arts and Sciences, and Las Fallas, a festival of burning giant papier-mâché statues), Alicante has a bit of a bad rep for being little more than a crowded port city that has nothing to offer, other than jam-packed beaches and budget accommodation.
After having just spent three days there, I can’t say much to the contrary. There didn’t seem to be anything do there but go to the beach. But in Alicante’s defence, I didn’t actually bother looking (does anyone?). And are crowded beaches and cheap accommodation really such a bad thing?
Thanks to my thorough, investigate research, my official consensus is: if you want no-frills sun and sand, easy beach access, and guaranteed lunchtime menus of under 10€, then look no further than Alicante.
If you want your own private coastal paradise: I have very little first-hand advice to offer. But as a foreigner, you’ll probably need to do a bit more research, have access to a car, and pay a fortune for accommodation or have rich friends with well appointed holiday houses. It’s also possible that you’ll need to wear a lot of white, start smoking cigars, take out a loan to pay for each gelati, and get used to being surrounded by the type of people that wear false eyelashes and/or toupees to go jogging.
Ok. I’m exaggerating. There are plenty of decent, affordable, non-pretentious non-crowded holiday destinations in Spain. I just chose Alicante because I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before, that was easy and cheap. And I actually like ridiculously crowded beaches.
You get to see all the bodies.
Without sounding too perverted (okay I already sound perverted), it really is fascinating to see all the different shapes and sizes and colours that people come in. One of the things that I love about Spain is that at the beach, everyone lets it all hang out. In Australia we’re so reserved. Given that we’ve got more coastline and less people, it’s only natural that at the beach (and in general I suppose), we have a lot more ‘personal space’. But personal space doesn’t really exist in Spain. People stand much closer when they talk to you, and in Alicante, everybody squishes in together on the sand. Luckily there are no flies, or you’d be swatting your neighbour with your thong by accident. (Sorry, I mean flip flop).
Anyway, on Spanish beaches, people don’t frantically cover their cellulite with a sarong the moment they get out of the water. All flesh has equal right to vitamin D. Unless you’re a doctor, nurse, mortician, or bikini waxer, the beach is probably the only place where you’ll be exposed to the sheer range of possible forms the human body can take. There are Mediterranean goddesses that make Penelope Cruz look ordinary. Overweight idlers that make Jabba the Hut look petite. Elderly couples that have morphed into shimmery cellulite reflections of each other (you can’t actually distinguish him from her…they’ve both got boobs and a gut). There are the most curiously proportioned people… there really are no laws of distribution. Wrinkles can fan out at 360 possible angles. Anything that has a cheek can have a dimple. Everyone is so refreshingly, fascinatingly human.
If being at the beach is great for body image (I felt completely unabashed of my regular 4pm ‘menu del día’ belly), swimsuit shopping has the opposite effect. Trying on swimsuits makes me feel like an extra terrestrial ugly duckling. How is it possible to be too fat and thin at the same time? How did all the people on the beach find their swimsuits? There must be some bewitchment going on… department stores are clearly the Devil’s work.
Clearly I have no choice but to join a nudist colony. Which will hopefully excuse me from all future photo-less blog posts.