Mar 242014

Gandia Las Fallas 2014Guests for “Fallas Fortnight”!

Quite a few months ago we received a booking from Sandy and David who wanted to stay in our self-catering apartment for nearly a fortnight, to coincide with the local fiesta of Gandia Las Fallas 2014. Las Fallas is the famous Valencian fiesta which sees enormous satirical effigies constructed in each town (or in each area of larger towns). These are then judged on their merits and finally burned to the ground on the night of March 19th – St Joseph’s Day, the patron saint of carpenters. In the run-up to March 19th there are daily parades with marching bands and local ladies and young girls bedecked in the most elaborate of traditional dress.

Sandy and David are very keen on the whole tradition of the Fallas fiestas and have been coming to the Valencian region to view the spectacle for a number of years. However, this was the first time they had decided to spend their time in Spain with us and we were delighted to welcome them and show them to the self-catering apartment that would be their home for the next two weeks. They were of course very familiar with the area already and so very soon felt at ease in their surroundings and knew exactly where to go on each day to view the different parades and celebrations in many different towns in the Valencia region.

Although they were staying in our self-catering apartment, this was a choice they made in order to have a space they could truly think of as their own, rather than from any great desire to cook their own meals have a self-catering holiday in the true sense of the word. They were therefore delighted to learn that they were very welcome to take advantage of our evening meal service – and they even joined our other Bed & Breakfast guests for breakfast on the terrace too!

Every day they went to a different town or village and really did their preparation when it came to knowing what parade was going to take place, where and when! In the past they had stayed near Xativa and on one day of each trip would take the train to Valencia city to see the magnificent effigies that are built there. This trip, however, they were so impressed with the offerings on display in Gandia that they decided to forgo their Valencia visit (and all the crowds of people there too!) and spend their time in the smaller towns nearby, with their main focus being Gandia. The “Mascleta” (or fireworks display) was a must for them of course, and this takes place each day at 2.00pm in front of Gandia’s railway station. In line with most fireworks in Spain, it is much more about the noise than a visible display in the sky – and a huge noise it is indeed! Sandy and David only went to the “Mascleta” a couple of times, but loved the whole general atmosphere in Gandia. They involved themselves in watching parades and bands, and especially enjoyed the day of the main parade in Gandia, which culminates in the presentation of flowers to the statue of Mary at the main church.

After very nearly a fortnight’s stay with us, it was finally the night of March 19th and all the beautiful constructions literally went up in smoke, and Sandy and David had only a couple more days left with us. They had genuinely enjoyed their visit to our self-catering apartment very much indeed – and made a great fuss of our pets too! We were very sorry to see them leave, but absolutely delighted that one of the last things they did before checking out was to make a reservation for the same time again next year! We thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and very much look forward to welcoming them back to Villa Florencia again in 2015!


Mar 242014

CIMG4712Spain or France for Property?

We have recently been aware that more guests have been visiting us for the purpose of looking for a Spanish property on the northern Costa Blanca. Spanish property prices are now at a very realistic level compared to many other places in Europe (northern Europe especially), and this has been reflected in a gradual increase in the number of property hunters – once an almost extinct breed!

Colin and Helen arrived to stay with us on one of our Property Hunters Packages, and booked with us for five nights recently. They are very taken with the idea of a home for their retirement and would love to find somewhere that offers a good and healthy lifestyle, reasonable living costs, and of course better weather. They have been turning the idea over in their minds for some time, and are torn between either France or Spain for this big life changing decision, so this trip was very much a preliminary reconnoitre – basically to see what this part of the country is like and whether it is somewhere they could add to their list.

They had not contacted any property agents, but rather wanted to get a feel for the area in general and so each day they went “out and about” to see what sort of towns and villages they might like, and what property was available in different locations. They had decided to come to the La Safor region on their property search on the correct assumption that this area is still not one with a particularly high ex-pat population – they wanted an area that is still predominately Spanish in its flavour and atmosphere. They liked the area very much, but of course finding the right combination of the type of property that would suit them in a town that also met their requirements can always be challenging.

However, they asked us for pointers as to which towns might be to their taste and every day went on trips to check out different areas. Towards the end of their stay they explored the coastal region in the Moraira area, and loved the town and its port. For them it felt like a place they could imagine themselves feeling comfortable in – and such an initial impression is very often the one that stays with you. However, this was very much an initial exploratory exercise, but one that they found very valuable. They now feel that it would be well worth their while to return to us and focus their energy on that specific part of the coast – maybe arranging a few viewings of suitable properties at the same time.

After leaving us, they were going to spend a couple of nights close to Alicante to gain a better impression of that general area and to be able to make a comparison between the northern and southern parts of the Costa Blanca. We thoroughly enjoyed having them stay with us and would be delighted to welcome them back again to continue their search. By the end of their visit, they had decided that Spain would suit them better than a home in France and now it was probably a question of narrowing their search to the Moraira and surrounding area. We very much look forward to seeing them again soon.

Mar 192014

CIMG4699Spring Activity Holidays in Spain
The cooler months of the year give a great opportunity to enjoy all that the Costa Blanca has to offer in the way of outdoor activities, many of which would be impossible in the height of the summer. Rock-climbing, mountain biking and bird watching are all hobbies and activities that visitors can take part in, and local tourist organisations are now beginning to promote the area as somewhere to come for more than just the traditional summer attractions of sun and sea.

Recently we were very pleased to welcome Jean-Marc and his wife Nathalie who are from Quebec in Canada. They were in Spain visiting their daughter who is studying in Barcelona, and as part of their trip they wanted to spend some time in the northern Costa Blanca birdwatching. They booked one of our all-inclusive 3 night Birdwatching Packages, which basically takes care of everything they need, with all evening meals included, packed lunches, and 2 days guided birdwatching.

They arrived on the Monday afternoon and settled in, enjoying a leisurely dinner that evening before meeting their guide the next morning. They set off to the Albufeira wetlands just to the south of Valencia city for the day, and were rewarded with sightings of many kinds of birds not seen in north America. The birds were particularly plentiful as this is the time of year that the rice fields are ploughed prior to sowing the forthcoming season’s rice crop – and some of the fields were being prepared on the morning of their visit. They returned after a most enjoyable day and were glad to be able to look forward to a relaxing evening meal and a good night’s sleep.

The next morning they headed in a different direction – inland this time – to the plains of Castilla de la Mancha and had another great day being shown even more species of birds, and in an area that they had been totally unaware of. They were able to tick off several species that they had wanted to see but never had, so returned delighted that it had been such a worthwhile excursion. Wednesday evening was again spent relaxing over a leisurely dinner before leaving on Thursday morning to drive back to Barcelona for a final couple of days with their daughter before flying back to Canada at the weekend.

It had been a perfect interlude for them during their Spanish trip and an excellent opportunity to pursue something they are very keen on – and in beautiful surroundings and perfect weather too! They loved this part of the country and are most certainly keen to return in the future. It was a real pleasure to have another set of guests from Canada and we most definitely look forward to the time when we might see them again.

No sooner had Jean-Marc and Nathalie left us, than two more Canadian guests arrived – this time Scott and Alain, who are two friends who share an enthusiasm for mountain biking. They had visited us at this time last year, along with another friend Mario who was not able to make it this time, and wanted to enjoy more mountain biking trails in this part of Spain.

CIMG4713They had booked to stay with us for 4 nights, and planned to have two days of guided mountain biking and a third day in the middle when they would just go buy themselves wherever the mood – and the bikes – took them! Since they were already familiar with the area and knew the town of Gandia from their previous visit, they checked in to their rooms in the late morning and drove down to the town for lunch and a stroll in the spring sunshine. They returned to us during the course of the afternoon and were able to make the most of the beautiful warm weather in the gardens for the rest of the day. They dined with us that first night before taking the opportunity to catch up on some sleep before their first day’s mountain biking on Friday morning. They met with their guide – Dave Warrington, who had accompanied them last year – and set off for the day in the La Safor mountains nearby. As ever, they were treated to spectacular views and near perfect weather, and of course a good work-out all at the same time. Having come from Montreal, where their plane had been delayed while a snow storm passed over, the lovely spring weather of the Costa Blanca was a real treat, with temperatures in the low 20’s – perfect for biking without being too hot.

On the Saturday, they had decided they would use some of their knowledge of the area from last year and go it alone, following a route they had particularly enjoyed previously. This included an especially scenic route along beside the Serpis river, following the line of a disused railway track that had originally gone from Alcoi to the port of Gandia. This brought them to the town of Villalonga, and from there it was a question of cycling along country roads and lanes through the orange groves to get back home to us in time for a shower before heading out to Gandia for the evening.

Sunday was another day spent with their mountain biking guide, who showed them a new route, again through beautiful scenery – and of course up some fairly demanding ascents! However, it was a great day and the weather played its part to perfection yet again, showing that the Costa Blanca really is a great spring destination for activity holidays of all kinds. They returned to us in the late afternoon, again in time to enjoy some late sunshine in the garden. Their only regret was that the pool is not yet warm enough for swimming – although they were nearly tempted! Their last evening was spent with us over a relaxed dinner before a well-deserved night’s sleep. The next morning they were heading off in the direction of Alicante province to spend a couple more days biking in an area they had not explored before – this time higher up in the mountains there. It was great to see them again and they thoroughly enjoyed their time with us – hopefully we shall see them back for a third visit next year, on another one of our Activity Holidays in Spain!