“Would you like to see my holiday snaps?”
Yes, I haven’t blogged recently. It’s because I’ve been visiting my mum in her villa at Javea, on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Very refreshing, after 14 hectic weeks of the move & my new house. It’s the first time I’ve been out to see her since she retired there. About 12,000 English retirees live in the area, plus many Germans and some Dutch; so at times it was a little like being in a town-sized old-people’s home. With sunshine. Javea is on the very far tip of Spain and is protected from the inland weather by a gigantic mountain ridge called the Montgo, plus two high headlands running out to sea. In both its geography and demographics Javea reminded me of Llandudno in Wales (nestled between twin headlands, large flat beach area, mountains looming behind it).

I’m told Javea’s character changes after Easter when more and younger tourist families arrive, and then changes again when Spanish families arrive en masse during August. But if you want a sunny relaxed Spanish holiday in late March/early April, then Javea is a good place to go. I had no rain while there, and only one day was overcast.

Disadvantages: car congestion, very few pedestrianised areas, impatient driving; very noisy motor-scooters; occasional short power-cuts; graffiti tags & wind-blown litter especially around the Arenal area; overhearing old British couples having a moan and a mither; hundreds of half-finished building sites in and around Javea town; it’s a very long way from Alicante airport. Advantages: sunshine, sunshine, sunshine; the civilised sea-front cafes & the strong family culture – children who know how to behave & mothers who know how to relax; no bleeping/flashing gambling machines anywhere; a total absence of Britain’s beggars/alcoholics/druggies; armed no-nonsense police on the streets; fantastic fresh food markets; flowers everywhere; all the roads have a painted strip much like a cycle-lane, meant for walkers but in which cycling in permitted and safe; a wide beach & great headland walks; some good flat cycling in the orange-groves between the headlands, and right along the seafront; a mountain to climb (if you want to).

My break wasn’t a ‘photography holiday’, but I took a few presentable snaps:

My plane leaves the grey clouds of England behind & climbs into the sun:

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Sunset from mum’s back garden:

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Javea’s municipal indoor fruit & veg market, and church behind:

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Benitatxell bay, a short drive from Javia:

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The modernist ‘Church of the Sea’, Javea port:

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The modernist ‘Church of the Sea’, Javea port:

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The modernist ‘Church of the Sea’; old carving of a Moorish pirate

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Annual ‘Fallas’ fiesta papier-mache sculptures, Denia:

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The old town on a dull day; old noticeboard.

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The old town on a dull day; orange-grove tree & pebbly soil.

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Half-mile west of the old town; old well & cover.

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The old town on a dull day; doorway.

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Arts and culture info:
There’s a ‘proper’ white-walled two-floor art gallery in the old town area of Javea, Atelier 1, which is worth seeking out. Local shops display photocopied posters for the gallery’s current exhibitions, and they also have exhibition launch parties (if your Spanish is good enough to meet Javea’s local artists). Javea library also had an exhibition of b&w photos of the annual Fallas fiesta, but I could only peer through the glass because this large dedicated gallery space is only open for a few hours in the evenings. In the season I’m told the sea-front hosts a wide range of metal ‘public-art’ sculptures. Local artists also make large ‘sand sculptures’ on the beach, as practice for making the larger papier-mache sculptures seen (and then burned) in the summer Fallas fiesta. For books there’s a useful English second-hand bookshop in the Port, just opposite the Port’s Tourist Information Office, and a good English library hidden away in a courtyard behind the Arenal. There’s a large international festival in the summer where all the European residents compete to display the best of their respective national cultures.

Techie info #1 – Digital photography
First the good news; Fuji MX series digital- camera owners won’t need to buy a voltage adapter, and anyway it won’t have the correct ‘prong’ to go into your camera ‘s 5v DC socket. All you need is a pass-through ‘English three-pin to Spanish two-pin’ plug-socket adapter. These are dirt-cheap and are everywhere on the Costa Blanca. I had no problems using the plug-adapter & my Fuji’s battery-recharging unit, for a perfectly normal battery charge-up. Frequent deletion of my more half-hearted photos meant that I struggled to fill my new 64Mb smartmedia card. Although I admit I wasn’t trying for any kind of ‘photography holiday’. Now the bad news on photography; the bit of Spain I visited seems to be firmly stuck in the age of chemicals and film camera s. I never saw any smartmedia cards for sale, and only once saw two digital camera s in a shop window, although I didn’t visit a really big city like Valencia (a sort of Spanish Birmingham, by all accounts). Also apparently unknown were any kind of dedicated software/DVD/music retail shops, along the lines of HMV or similar. Even Playstation games seemed to be confined to a locked glass case inside small family-run VHS video-rental shops. My guess is that the whole PC/internet/software/video-game/DVD ‘thing’ hasn’t yet really hit Spain yet.

Techie info #2 – Net Surfing
The local Javea net cafe in Javea town (surely it should win an award for the tackiest home-page ever) was fine about my installing the Fuji disk-adapter driver; but their lack of e-mail (you have to set up a Hotmail account before you go) meant it would have been fruitless. I surfed using a very basic install of IE 4.0 (about eight fonts on the whole machine, so CSS style-sheets defaulted painfully to Ariel or Times Roman) on a titchy 12″ monitor, sharing 128kb/s ISDN with eight other users. Slow and expensive. Another option in Javea is the busy Javea Computer Club‘s ‘surfing sessions’ on Monday mornings until about noon (from the Arenal beach, turn right down Avenue Tamarits, walk twenty yards and then go down the steps to the private club on the corner of the block). Or you could try the new Sarah net cafe (the very last shop on the main drag behind the Arenal beach, not a great position and difficult to find for the first time); I did see it open during the day, but the late evening opening apparently doesn’t happen in the off-season, so I never managed to visit.

Techie info #3 – Cycling
You’ll notice there are several pro-am racing teams based in the area; so if you’re a fan of fit men in tight black lycra, head down to this excellent large bike hire / repair / retail / accessories shop in Javea port, on the Lepanto. The owner is a Dutchman who speaks good English. The shop also has a good range of bikes for hire. I think it cost about ?9 to hire a mountain-bike for three days. Don’t forget to take your passport with you, as you’ll need good ID to hire a bike and also give the name and contact number of your hotel/villa. The slightly cramped shop was very busy even ‘out of season’, so allow plenty of time to hire out a bike during the summer. They also sell Dutch electric bikes. There are apparently no cycle-route maps for Javea, but the main Tourist Office can sketch out a good flat circular cycle-route on one of the free street-maps of Javea. There is also a 40-minute “boat-bus” which can take your bikes from the main port breakwater, around the rather choppy waters of the headland (take your sea-sickness pills), to the large town of Denia which has a flat seafront which goes on for miles. There are also excellent off-road walking routes along both headlands, one of which is a national wildflower reserve; but these cliff paths aren’t suitable even for mountain-bikes. Apparently the Montgo mountain has paths which are suitable, though.