Oliva and the Costa Blanca (Or, a lesson in how to have a real holiday)

Now let’s get one thing straight here, homies- I am not very good at having a ‘proper’ holiday, in the traditional sense of the word. I can’t sit still for long enough, and feel guilty if I’m in unchartered territory that I’m not actively exploring. Your average human being goes away to relax, but when I go away I suddenly feel the need to pack in at least triple the amount of normal activity than I’m generally used to handling over the course of any twenty-four hour period. This often results in me returning from any time spent in a foreign country with triple the amount of stress and exhaustion than I left with, coupled with the almost unbearable need to go away again in order to recover. It’s a vicious circle. But THIS TIME was different. Because THIS TIME was a real 100% bonafide actual true holiday. Glorious.

And here, in all it’s glorious glory, is the list of holiday-type activities that we did. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Didn’t let a series of unfortunate events defeat us

After arriving at Gatwick airport at 2am feeling broken and shattered after a gig, I for some reason decided to wait until we were just about to enter security four hours later to withdraw some cash to exchange for Euros. BIG MISTAKE. The machine ate my card and consequently shut down, and the woman behind the adjoining Moneycorp desk was unashamedly unbothered by the whole scene playing out before her very eyes. ‘Well it’s Sunday morning, what do you expect? Of course no one can open the machine.’ My pal Mel looked like she was gearing up to knock that lass for six, let me tell you, and I just could not believe the lack of sympathy. It all got rather awkward. The realisation that I was about to spend five days in another country with zero access to cash was not a happy one.

I rang my bank and explained the situation…and here is where my feelings of rage were melted away by the lad on the end of the phone! ‘Oh my goodness Miss Coleman that sounds terrible, I’m so sorry to hear this has happened. I’m going to cancel the card right now and….wait, I’ve just seen something…you and I actually share the same birthday! How amazing, although I’m born a few years before you. Well let me tell you I wish you every success in your life and I hope you have a long and prosperous one! And may your luck improve on holiday!’ Don’t get me wrong, he couldn’t do anything about getting me any money to take on holiday, but what a true gem! I transferred some money to my pals account online and realised, actually there was no need to panic. 

Once we arrived at the villa and were being shown around by the lovely owner, I was then almost taken out by a larger-than-your-average bee as I was skipping merrily down the wooden stairs. I’m not normally too fussed by bees but this guy was of the gargantuan variety and seemed to be directly targeting my face; I leant so far back to avoid contact that I slipped and slid basically from top to bottom. At first I was convinced that I’d broken something but still attempted to stand up and awkwardly smile through the pain ‘I’m fine!!! Really!!!!’ Actually I was completely fine, just rather grazed and embarrassed, but what can you do eh?

Stayed in a villa

We skipped the classic tourist-haven of Benidorm (all I know about Benidorm has been learnt from the TV sitcom and although what I’ve seen does crack me up it definitely doesn’t attract me to the city as a whole), and instead stayed in the little town of Oliva, about an hour or so up the coast from Alicante where we flew in to. It was only the beginning of April, so pretty much off-season, and it felt like we were potentially the only English people around which was really really nice.

Our villa- called Los Sauces, which means The Willows in case you’re interested- was full on CUTE. Just big enough for the 4 of us, with a bedroom built into the attic, a garden that smelt like jasmine and oranges, and a pool which was freezing cold because it was Spring but which we still attempted to swim in because of our English sense of ‘tally ho old chaps!’ You know how it is when you’re English and the sun comes out and there’s a pool. It’s a no-brainer, let’s face it.

Hired a car 

My extremely brave pal Emma decided that it was something she needed to do at some point in her life: drive a car in a foreign country. All I’m saying is…IT WAS TERRIFYING. Obviously we drive on the opposite side of the road to the majority of the rest of the world, so Emma was actually pretty tense throughout the whole experience. But if she was tense that was nothing compared to the rest of us…I found myself involuntarily spasming in an attempt to stifle the screams trying to escape my mouth, instead wincing out the odd ‘er…careful on your right. Bit close…’ The moment when she had to reverse down one of the narrowest hillside (and carlined) streets in the history of the world was a particularly mental moment. BUT she did it and in my opinion that makes her basically capable of ANYTHING. WHAT A CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS!

Also, driving along with the mountains on one side and the sea on the other is pretty full on AWESOME

Dressed as if it was tropical weather despite it being not much higher than 20 C most days

Back to the English factor. There we were, wandering around this tiny beachside town at the beginning of April in shorts, sundresses and sandals…whilst the few residents of the town that we did see were mainly dressed in jeans and jumpers, with the odd coat and hat thrown in for extra protection. At first this made me feel like a bit of a dingbat…but if I’m honest life’s too short to worry about looking like an idiot and I felt warm enough so after careful consideration I through caution to the wind and just got on with it.

Explored in the rain

Day three was the day of torrential downpours, but still we would not let a tiny factor like the weather ruin our good times. Can you just imagine? We took the car and ourselves to the nearby town of Denía to explore whilst being pelted from what felt like all directions with gallons of rainwater. The day turned into a series of short-distance sprints from the shelter of one coffee shop to the next, coupled with numerous checkings of google weather to see when the rain was forecast to stop. After several hours of this we concluded that it was unlikely the rain would EVER stop, so waded through the gushing water running down the hill regardless, in order to reach the castle that’s perched on the top. The little streets that wind their way around the hill are very cute and colourful indeed, and I found myself stopping to look despite the very waterlogged position I was by then in…what a laugh I tell you! I would estimate that we were four of approximately seven visitors the castle received that day, but all I’m saying is that in spite of the sodden shivering wrecks we’d become by the time we got back to the villa, it was a full on hilarious day.

The castle itself isn’t in a brilliant state and there’s not a whole lot of info provided on its history, but what it is worth visiting for is the view of the city…as long as you’re ok about the steep spiral staircase that leads to the top. That’s a little scary. I did think I was going to die several times during that climb.

Ate and drank far too much 

Really this goes without saying, but food and drink are one of my top things in life so I’ll say it again anyway. This can make or break any situation, let’s not beat around the bush. The region of Valencia is famous for its citrus fruits although we did sample an orange from the garden and it definitely was not edible at that point in the year; it didn’t poison us to death it just tasted terrible. So…select your oranges wisely. Wine is also cheap and abundant  but again…select your wines carefully.

Read several books

Here is something potentially very strange to admit…I don’t normally read books when I’m away. The last time I did was when I was travelling through America and had several 20 hour journeys to deal with, but these days I’m all about the short breaks with jam-packed itineraries; I mean, there’s just no time for reading on that kind of trip! But THIS time was da bomb! I had so much relaxing time that I managed to get through three books…oh how I’ve missed those book-reading days you guys. If only hand-luggage restrictions didn’t stop me carrying more.

Found a restaurant we liked and didn’t eat anywhere else the entire time

Normally I’d be quite ashamed to admit this but in this instance I was fully embracing the holiday vibe and loving every second of it. We found Oli Baba, a Beach-front café/bar on the day of our arrival, and ate there every single day until we left. The giant Buddha statues and random colourful cushions and throws just added to our general happiness levels, and several days in a row we ordered the exact same dishes off the menu instead of trying something new; it pretty much felt like home straight away. Mel was extra excited when she managed to translate ‘mousse de chocolate’ successfully into ‘chocolate mousse,’ so it was brilliant for educational purposes also.

Ordered tea and forgot it’s not the same in Spain

Awkward times. Let’s face it there is something quintessentially English about a classic cuppa, and I haven’t successfully enjoyed a proper brew anywhere but these fair English shores in all my twenty-seven years of life on this planet. This is a fact I should have taken note of and just stuck to coffee consistently…but after climbing to the top of the castle in Denia in the pouring rain what I really needed was a good comforting cup of char. (That’s tea, to the non-English tea drinkers out there.) I ordered and was presented with a cup of boiling water into which was poured half a jug of hot frothed milk…teabag on the saucer. Guys. It was not pleasant. But it was partly my own fault for forgetting my own basic rule of only drinking proper tea in England.

Got embarrassingly sunburnt

I’m completely incapable of learning my lesson about sun cream, and it is a real shame. A real, crying, shame. When we arrived at the airport to fly home we entered a lift filled with a small posse of besuited men, one of whom commented- ‘have you been in the sun?’

At which point, I glanced in the mirror to the side and noticed that my face and the face of one of my pals had turned a shade of pinkish red (most similar to the wrapper of the strawberry creme Quality Street). Upon further inspection and tuning in to the increasing burning sensation spreading across my entire body, I realised that I was actually severely sunburnt and double severely embarrassed. Stupid English tourists.


3 thoughts on “Oliva and the Costa Blanca (Or, a lesson in how to have a real holiday)

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