An Afternoon in Elche, The City of Palms

Going to Elche was never a planned-out thing, but, I was in the area and decided to drop in for the day and see what Valencia’s third-largest city had to offer. It was mid-day, scorching and the streets were empty—all things that wouldn’t necessarily make me fall in love with a place—but despite everything Elche had going against it, it has pockets of charm to be found by the patient explorer.

Since Spain has no shortage of vibrant cities and pretty, small towns, Elche wouldn’t top the list of place I’d recommend visiting—but, if you’re a history buff, or architecture aficionado, you’ll find plenty of reason to book a hotel in Spain and let Elche’s subtle charm endear you.

The Tower of the Basilica. It is said that King Amadeus I called Elche “a wonderful city” upon climbing to the top of the tower and taking in the panoramic views. I myself didn’t enter the church nor visit the top (General: €2; reduced: €1 (groups, minimum 20 people) but was intrigued to learn that it was built over the foundations of a Mosque. Moorish Spain intrigues me to no end, and I love finding little remnants of this part of Spain’s history.

Altamira Castle. Built in the 12th and 13th Centuries, this castle has been a prison during the Spanish Civil War, a fabric plant in 1913, a town hall, and presently, the Archaeology and History Museum of Elche. Clearly, on a 38C/100F day, I was more interested in cooling off in the fountains pictured.

The Municipal Park. Before Elche was a sprawling concrete jungle, it was 80% overrun by palm trees. In the (free!) Municipal Park, you’ll find the Tourism Office on the corner, by the entrance where you can scoop up a free map and some insider info. Head in, enjoy the shade (or sunshine, depending on what time of the year you’re visiting!) and marvel at the groves of towering palm trees that Elche is famous for.

*This post was written by me, and sponsored by a third-party.

Scenes from Alicante, Spain

When a place can combine being near the ocean and qualify in size, culture, dining options, etc. as a city—chances are, I’ll like it. Alicante, Spain was no exception. It’s a mid-sized city stretched out along the Mediterranean coast, famous for its gorgeous year-round weather and abundance of seafood-heavy rice dishes.

It’s full of palm-tree-lined boulevards, open-air cafés and a thriving nightlife—something all too-typical (and wonderful) about Spain.

My biggest mistake was not booking vacation home rentals in the area and making my visit longer than a day-trip. But, I did fit in:

Walking around the Old Quarter, which is almost always the most interesting part (read: full of character) in any of Spain’s cities.


Eating the local favorite, arroz a banda and what might be in the Top 3 bowls of Gazpacho I’ve had in Spain at El Buen Comer (C/Mayor, 8).

Enjoying the city’s beach. I went in August and welcomed the cool breeze and people-watching, but I have a feeling Alicante’s boardwalk is full year-round, as long as the sun is out.

Checking out the port and marina. Because a little day-dreaming of what having a little boat or yacht would be like doesn’t hurt, right?

Seeking the shade in city parks and under palm trees. Though it’s cooler than in-land Spain, Alicante is still HOT in the summer. Parks are always my refuge from the heat.

Taking a gelato break in one of their many, cool cafés. Is it just me, or is gelato a daily sacred ritual while on a summer vay-cay?

Have you been to/heard of Alicante, Spain?

*This post, while written by me, was made possible by a 3rd party.*

Arroz a Banda: A New Favorite Spanish Food


While I consider myself fairly well versed in the likes of Spanish food and wine, my knowledge of arroces just wasn’t up to par. That is, until I left Andalucía and went to the proud home of Spain’s reigning rice (paella) in the region of Valencia; or more specifically, Alicante.

There, I discovered not only that there’s a devotion to rice way beyond paella (there’s even a rice museum in Valencia!), but that there are also distinctions amongst the rice dishes, that only amateurs like me confuse.

First there are “dry” rice dishes like paella. These are considered dry because the goal of cooking them is to have the rice fully absorb the stock. Then, there are rice stews, called arroz caldoso, which aren’t cooked in the traditional paella pan; instead they’re cooked in ceramic or metal dishes. There are also casserole-style variations, oven-baked rice dishes and fideuás, which are essentially a seafood paella made with noodles instead of rice.

Though in Alicante there are many recipes for rice-based meals, arroz a banda is one of the most typical, and beloved, of the province. Made of rice, saffron and seafood, it’s believed to have been consumed in Spain for as long as rice has been in the country; about the time the Moors invaded.

Originally created by poor fisherman, it was a way to use the cheap, common fish that were bony, but very flavorful, to make a filling lunch. Its name refers to the style in which it’s traditionally served: a banda means apart. Arroz a banda was eaten with the rice separate from the broth that it was cooked in because at this time, rice was considered an inferior food.

Nowadays, arroz a banda is served both together and separate (I had it together), accompanied by a dollop of ali oli, which complements the flavors perfectly. To find a restaurant that serves great seafood and arroz a banda, try the Nautical Club (Club Náutico) in the city you’re in. It will be a little pricey, but absolutely worth the splurge.

I highly recommend Restaurante El Puerto in Torrevieja and Taberna del Puerto in Alicante for delicious arroz a banda and excellent service. For extra inspiration on what to see and do, try this Alicante guide written by Teletext Holidays  and this one, written by yours truly.

*This post was made possible by a third-party, but all opinions, as always, are my own.*