Alicante City

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The clothing dried out eventually, although the shoes were still soggy as I headed off the next day. Bright sunshine was tempered by a chilly headwind coming from the north east, and this was to stay with me all the way. A reminder of what was happening in higher latitudes.
South of Alicante lie large saline lagoons, huge heaps of salt, and one of my favourite birds, the flamingo. They wander about filtering the waters, and in the process colour their plumage with the various nutrients contained in it. Some are almost white, while others turn a stunning pink, but all have that wonderful way of moving forwards with the head low-slung and that perfectly designed beak just below the surface.
Alicante is a vibrant living city as well as a tourist destination( and there are few of those at the moment). As soon as you enter, one of the most striking sights is the Esplanada de España, created with an estimated 6.5 million tiles. The men who laid them must have been quite familiar with the job by the time they had finished. It has a disconcerting 3-D effect on the eye, and several times I have been tricked by non existent ridges under my feet.

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The castle dominates the hill above the city, with its profile of the the Arab King Ali clearly looking south, as legend would have it. A waiter told me the story which is quite protracted and something I would never have learned without listening to his tale. The walk to the top is leg and lung sapping but the view all around is breath-taking, the Old Town clinging to the base of the hill and mountains stretching as far as the eye can see.

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My initial wanderings around the Old Quarter in warm sunshine brought unexpected delights. The cathedral sits cheek by jowl with its neighbouring buildings, and is one of the first I have ever seen with ancient scripts on the outside walls. More interesting than the inside really.

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This place is a maze of small streets and squares, filled with bars and restaurants, many of which stay open virtually through the night. Characters inevitably inhabit them and there is a lively social scene. I have been staying in a one star Hostal hereabouts, the first I passed on arriving in Alicante. A tall,narrow archaic building with work in progress. Dust, noise, bags of cement and workmen on the tiny stairs. A room that could have come from a Dickens novel, with ill-fitting doors. My landlady has a heart of gold, and the sense of peace I feel here she attributes to the building: ‘ tranquillo’. I think she’s right.

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Tomorrow though, I move up the hill to an apartment, with a cave for a bedroom as many have in Southern Spain. The number is 13, not that I’m superstitious. Next door is also 13, and I haven’t quite worked that one out yet.

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