Summer time is almost here.
Even though here in Belgium we’ve had some pretty confusing weather over the last few weeks: hailstorms, heatwaves, floods, and sometimes all in one day. Who says there is no such thing as global warming?
On a brighter note, in this post I’ll be sharing some fun must-sees from our last holiday to Spain, in particular the Costa Blanca. Mid April we went to Orihuela. Friends of ours have a little villa there in a gated community.
Now, I am anything but a beach bum. I need to be able to see things, soak up some culture, keep busy.
But I was willing to give it a try, if not for me, for my 5-year-old. Don’t get me wrong, she loves citytripping, she’s fascinated by museums and old buildings more than your average 5-year-old. But I realised that she’s never actually been on holiday where she could just build sandcastles and play in the water. She recently conquered an immense fear of water, so we needed to take advantage of that momentum.
So off to Orihuela. We took a flight with Ryanair to Alicante (had to be at the airport at an unspeakable hour: 3am), rented a car and after a 45 minute drive arrived at Casa Dulce. What a lovely place. Gorgeous living room and kitchen, 2 bedrooms, big front and back patio, huge TV and lots of games and 2 swimming pools in the enclosure. We felt right at home. So much better than the stuffy hotelrooms we were used to. Do try it out.
A 5-minute drive from the house was Zenia Boulevard shopping mall.
With a foodcourt made in heaven, for someone with gluten intolerance.
Pasta, pizza, ice cream, lasagne, hamburgers and hot fudge brownies: I had it all! Here’s what was definitely worth trying if you’re in the area:
- Good Rices: funny name, but amazing food. This is the place where we dined the most. They make the world’s best gluten free lasagne and pizza. Well at least, compared to what I’ve tasted of the world’s gluten free pizzas and lasagnes. Great, friendly service.
- Tommy Mel’s diner: I was drawn to this place because of my love of fifties diners. We don’t really have that many fifties themed diners in Belgium, so whenever I see one, I just have to go in and pretend I’m in the movie Grease, sipping milkshakes, eating fries and singing songs (usually not at the same time). They have a whole gluten free menu and I had the hamburger with gluten free bun and as dessert (obviously) the gluten free hot fudge brownie sundae. (Shhh, don’t tell my fitness coach) Milla loved it too because they had hotdogs (girl loves sausages) and pancakes with whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate ánd strawberries. Goodness, what a dish!
- Che Ristorante Italiano: This is a special concept. It’s like a buffet restaurant, but you are served at your table. They offer you everything they have and you are free to say yes or no. Lots of little Italian tapas, mini bowls of pasta, mini pizzas. Very interesting concept, but really easy to overeat. They had gluten free penne, but that was it. So I had to skip all the yummy looking pizzas. Shame.
- Jijonenca: ice cream, lots and lots of ice cream. With gluten free cones! And a poster with all the allergy information for each and every flavour. Delicious!
- Fresco Food: Not necessarily anything specifically gluten free, but one of the best chicken salads I’ve ever had. And very tasty smoothies. This was in the centre of Orihuela, not in Zenia Boulevard.
As for shopping (it is a shopping mall after all), they have all the regular shops, like H&M, Primark, Zara, etc. and a huge supermarket with, again, a huge assortment of gluten free food and delicious fresh strawberries. Seems like Spain is gluten free heaven.
Do check out Koala Bay when you’re at Zenia.
As for other things besides shopping and eating, Elche has some beautiful beaches. We didn’t get to see them, because the day we were driving out to one of them, it was raining. So we turned back and went to our favourite beach (again, a 5 minute drive from the house), Cabo Roig. It isn’t very big, but there was plenty of room to lounge. I do think if it’s high season the beach can be packed. It has a little beach bar with some very good cocktails and live music on Sunday afternoons. The water was a bit chilly for my taste (it was April), but we spent hours building sandcastles with several towers, moats, bridges, etc, just so Beauty and the Beast could play. So, we spent a lot of time on that beach, enjoying the lovely weather, relaxing and playing. I’m not used to relaxing, I usually can’t sit still, but this time I actually enjoyed it.
We did have an outing to Elche, a beautiful city with some impressive historic buildings, like Torre de la Calahorra, the Basilica de Santa Maria, a beautiful municipal park and, what Elche is mostly known for (besides La Dama de Elche), the Unesco World Heritage Site: the Palm Groves.
Rows and rows of gorgeous palm trees and the biggest olive tree I have ever seen.
Totally worth a visit! For kids it’s also a pretty fun place, because you can take a train ride through the city and see all the sites (the many playgrounds included). But what was the most fun, was a scavenger hunt. You collect a treasure map and a booklet of clues from the tourist office and with the help of adventurer Ili Palmir, you go searching for dragons all through the city. Lots of fun for kids ánd adults.
In the end, it was a great holiday and I would love to go back one day. We relaxed, saw some sights, soaked up some sun and had a nice rest. If you haven’t planned anything yet, it’s definitely worth checking out.