After I recovered from the blissful shock of spending the afternoon at Loly and Jose's, it was time to roll our happy tummies out of their kitchen and subir (climb) the castle. So we headed out for the walk back downtown.
There is an elevator on the seaside of El Castillo de Santa Barbara that costs a couple euro and deposits you sweat-free at the top. But that route is for sissies, and we are no sissies. The long climb up the back for us!
The one noticeable difference about the hike up the mountain was the fancy new walkway. I can't remember exactly what the first half of the journey was like 9 years ago, but I know for sure it didn't include this newly minted staircase with life support rail for leaning and gasping.
The castle is REALLY old. Like really, really old. The actual fortress was built by the Moors in the 9th century, but artifacts in Mount Benacantil (the mountain the castle sits on) have been found dating back to the Bronze Age (couple thousand years BC).
I absolutely adored the wise, majestic feel of the castle during my time in Alicante as a student. I would climb to the top at least a few times a week, either solo or with friends, to take in the view, write in my journal, and basically revel in the fact that I actually lived in this unbelievable place.
The stairs eventually spit you out on a winding road for the rest of the climb. I was so excited to get to the top that I kept leaving Dana and Brian a wee bit behind. Can you blame me?!
Success!! The memories poured in all at once and suddenly it felt like no time had passed at all. The only thing that was missing were my crazy study abroad friends, a bottle of wine and a bocadillo (sandwich).
It turned out that there was a huge festival in Alicante that weekend. (Claro! When was there not a huge festival in Alicante?)
It was welcoming the coming of spring and celebrating the end of winter and also kicking off some kind of countdown to Las Cruces de Mayo. I reserve the right to be wrong, but apparently it is a sort of debutante ball as well because dotted all over the castle grounds were young girls dressed in colorful ornamental gowns posing for photographs. Among the mix were girls in extravagant white gowns too.
It was definitely a neat sight but a little odd at the same time. Some of those girls were awfully young, and their photographers seemed to encourage the face-the-wall-and-turn-around-and-give-me-a-coy-sexy-little-smile pose. Gross. Ew.
Dana and Brian genuinely enjoyed the castle, which made me happy seeing as I'd talked it up for the last 9 years of my life, 8 of those with Brian. I think they were, however, a little less than thrilled at the continued uphill climb involved in enjoying said beauty, but I have to say that I was impressed with their patience on our Alicante day down memory lane.
The photo above is of the old city, the "barrio", where we were staying. The large red splotch right in the middle is a stage they were setting up at the little chapel just up from our place. We had no idea at this time that we'd end up being part of the festivities planned for later that night...
Above is the beach where I spent the majority of my time in 2002. It didn't matter if it was cold or hot, sunny or cloudy, I was on that beach, swimsuit layered under whatever clothes I needed to match the weather.
Below is the port where all the late-night clubs are. After bar hopping in the Barrio until 3am, we would all head to the port where the discos stayed open all night long. I don't even pretend to have that kind of stamina these days. But by God I was going to hit the port on this trip!
The population of Alicante is about 330,000 today. When I lived there it was closer to 275,000. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Spain, and its main economic driver is tourism. The city has an indescribable electricity, and everywhere you look you see young people. It reminds me a lot of my other favorite city - Austin!
See the huge white building above the bull ring? That's the atrocity that was built where the open-air market used to be.
These kids cracked us up the whole time we wandered the castle grounds. They had to be teenagers, and they were all but having sex up there on that lookout point. I couldn't help but snap a photo. Voyeuristic, I know, but I always think it's so hilarious how open the Spaniards are about PDA, like hard-core PDA. In no time this kid had the girl's bra off and was taking heavy petting to whole new levels.
Give me sultry 10-year-old.... Weird right? At least she's facing forward.
I didn't think things could get much better after that chance lunch with Loly, but I was practically floating as we explored and relaxed at the top of the castle. Something about me and Alicante just works really well.
We decided to take an alternate route down because Brian wanted to check out this hillside restaurant we could see from above. He was on a mission while we were in Spain to find restaurants with great views. Dana and I swore it was a different direction, but Brian stuck to his guns and led us down this path. Guess who was right? You've got to listen to the ladies.
The up side to our chosen path was that it literally dumped us out about 2 blocks from our apartment in the Barrio. After the castle extravaganza, we were sweaty and exhausted, so we decided to head back to the piso to get cleaned up before a Saturday night on the town. Unbeknownst to us, Alicante had other plans for us....