Alicante: a more placid alternative for Costa Blanca holidays

Posted by admin | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 27-01-2012

Although the Costa Blanca region of Spain has several fantastic resort towns, it seems that Benidorm is the destination of choice for the majority of Brits when booking their Costa Blanca holidays. However, the region plays host to so many fantastic other towns, perfect for a summer holiday, and often cheaper and less crowded than the ever-popular hotels of Benidorm. One such town is Alicante, a picturesque port town, quieter and less expensive than nearby Benidorm, but not without its own attractions.

photo from flickr

The second-largest town in the Valencia region and an historic Mediterranean port, it is loaded with cultural and historical attractions. One of the main sights for anyone visiting the city is the Castle of Santa Barbara, sitting high above the city. The ancient fortification dates back to the 9th century, when the Iberian Peninsula was under Muslim control. The castle opened as a tourist attraction in the 1960s, and has since become one of Alicante’s most appealing tourist activities, offering spectacular views over the town and out to sea as well as telling its own unique story about the history of the city and the region. Similarly intriguing for culture buffs is the Basilica of Santa Maria, whose Baroque façade is one of the most admired in Spain.

Barrio de la Santa Cruz is a flamboyant quarter of the ‘Old Town’ of Alicante, with small higgledy-piggledy houses that line the hills leading up to the aforementioned castle, with narrow streets that are brightly decorated with flowers and flags. For those adventurous enough to head out to sea, the small island of Tabarca is located just a few kilometres away from the shores of Alicante in the Mediterranean. Tabarca is the smallest permanently-inhabited islet in Spain, and is known for its marine reserve, where visitors can observe all kinds of rare sea life.

Alicante is an ideal base for those looking for ever so slightly more cheap holidays to the Costa Blanca region; despite its size, there are a bevy of budget and package holiday options to choose from in the city. Less crowded and thus less expensive than nearby Benidorm, Alicante provides a welcome respite from the often-overwhelming plethora of tourists that descend upon the region in the summer months, and its cultural attractions and picturesque historic settings make it an ideal holiday destination.

Get Away From it all in Fairytale Brugge

Posted by admin | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 26-01-2012

If you’re trying to think of somewhere to relax for a few days or longer this year but aren’t too keen on a lot of sun, sand and sangria, try heading to Brugge in Belgium for a city break with a difference. Car hire comparison sites are ideal for picking up a decent motor and using it to explore Brugge and the surrounding area, as Belgium has perfect conditions for driving and there are numerous interesting destinations within easy reach by car.

Brugge, or Bruges, is of course most famous for its network of charming canals lined with medieval timber-framed houses that look like something out of a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. Cobblestones and quaint gables are much in evidence, and as you stroll along the quiet streets you half expect to bump into the Pied Piper or witness a goose laying golden eggs.

But the enticement of Brugge goes way beyond such attractive fantasies. Brugge is after all a UNESCO World Heritage city and has remained in something like a time warp since the late middle ages whilst also managing to adapt successfully to the demands of the modern world. It is no mere museum but a thriving town that has a lot to offer its visitors.

It’s not for nothing that Brugge is known as the Venice of the North, and its mixture of historic buildings, churches and museums, all set like glittering jewels in a filigree work of snaking canals, is a truly magical one to experience. Once there you can set out to explore the many attractions by foot, boat or even horse, and you’ve always got the car to reach the outlying areas and rolling countryside.
Brugge was originally settled in Roman times but its golden age was between the 12th and 15th centuries, when it was a major trading centre, with Hanseatic ships crowded into the harbour and others from the distant Levant bringing exotic spices and other commodities to medieval Europe. Many of Brugge’s buildings have survived from that time and they offer a unique insight into life as it was experienced then.

Don’t miss popping in to the Arentshuis, a first-rate art gallery packed with examples of the famous art of the region. Bladelin House is one of the city’s iconic buildings, a mansion dating back to the 15th century that has a distinctive Italian look deriving from its time as a Medici bank. The famous Brugge Belfry towers over the city and personifies its proud military and economic history.

After exploring Brugge itself, why not take the car further afield? A great attraction of Belgium as a holiday destination is that it is relatively small and compact. In fact, you can get a good idea of the entire country in under a week, and Brussels and Antwerp are two other great cities here that should not be missed if you have the time.

With a world renowned cuisine that includes of course the famous Belgian chocolate gateau, drenched in cream and accompanying a cafe latte, Brugge has all the makings of the perfect city break and one you’ll want to return too, often.

David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.