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Visit Alicante, Spain
Bacillica of Mary
Our visit to Alicante in June of 2012
As part of a larger vacation sailing the Aegean Sea and touring Crete, my husband & I spent the week of “Fogueres de Sant Joan” in Alicante (June 19 - 24, 2012). If you find yourself in Spain, Alicante is a wonderful place to see and to visit. We are lucky enough to have friends who allowed us to bunk with them, showed us the sights and did a fair amount of translation as my husband’s Spanish is non-existent and mine is deplorable. The city of Alicante has changed a bit since our last visit about 10 years ago. It has wider streets and bigger cars, many more people and lots more houses and businesses - in short, Alicante is a bigger city than it was on our last visit. However, it still has the charm of a city with its own castle, cobblestone walks, beaches and sites to see. In addition, it has festivals. Our friends, Len & Paquita, are the ultimate hosts. Len organized our week on the sailboat, the Stressbuster, drove us around Crete and still had the generosity to want us in their home for the Fogueres week. And what a festival the Fogueres de Sant Joan is! With fireworks at 2 pm each day, statues erected around the city over the several days of the festival, and a final night of fireworks and bonfires as each Hoguera is set ablaze in its neighborhood.
Alicante hosts several beaches along the Costa Blanca (both with or without suits) where the water stays shallow for quite a ways out and bathers play along the shore or swim out past the breakers to enjoy the warm and salty Mediterranean Sea. The water is salty and warm in June - even warmer later in the summer.The sand is cleaned regularly on the a couple of the beaches, so there is a warning not to sleep on the beaches at night. - What a good idea, to clean the beach sand. What is done is more of a sifting for large pieces of garbage, and anything washed up on the shore.
The Spanish Galleon in the harbour
In the Alicante main harbor, sits a replica of the Spanish Galleon the Santisima Trinidad, which was launched in 1769 in the Cuban Navy yard. For 5 Euros apiece you can tour the ship and get a beverage. The deck, and below deck are set up with tables and chairs to accommodate those who wish to tour it. There are genuine artifacts from the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s on display both below and on deck. This ship was the biggest (208 ft long, 55 feet across, and 27 feet tall) and most armed (140 cannons) vessel around the world in its day. The ship & its crew of 160 men captained by Baltasar Hidalgo Cisneros “The Great”, took part in decisive historical events as the flagship of the Spanish fleet during the American War of Independence. It was also part of the English Channel missions late in 1780 and helped capture an English convoy formed by fifty-five vessels. The Santisima Trinidad was incorporated into the Mediterranean Squad and fought at the Espartel’s Cape. But, in 1805, the Santisima Trinidad met its demise during the Trafalgar Battle and was seized by the English. It sunk at the Cadiz South, on October of that year. We visited the accurate replica which took over two years, and more than 4 million Euros, to build. Check it out at www.eltrinidad.es
The castle of Santa Barbara
The Castle of Santa Barbara stands on the Mount Benacantil and houses artifacts that have been found on the slopes of the mountain.
The origins of the castle date to the 9th century at the time of Muslim control of the peninsula
The castle was captured by Castillan forces on December 4, 1248 and so was named after Saint Barbara, on whose feast day it was captured.
The castle, as with many other castles in Spain and around the Mediterranean, have been captured several times by a variety of peoples. This castle was Bombed by the French in 1691, then during the War of Spanish Succession was held by the English for three years. In was again bombarded by the Cantonalistas from the Frigate Numancia.
But, the castle was abandoned in more recent times until 1963, when it was opened to the public. Most recently, since our last visit, elevators have been installed inside the mountain, so you can ascend to the mountain top from the streets of the city (actually just the one street).
The Festival the Fogueres de Sant Joan
What a festival the Fogueres de Sant Joan is! With fireworks at 2 pm each day, statues erected around the city over the several days of the festival, and a final night of fireworks and bonfires as each Hoguera is set ablaze in its neighborhood.
The Hogueras is Alicante’s answer to honoring their patron saint, St. John. The week has a variety of contests, one being the daily "Concurso de Mascletàs" at the Plaza de los Luceros. (Cris's note: a mascletà is 6 very loud minutes of firecrackers and fireworks going off in sequence ) Each day a new fireworks team shows their stuff, gets scored and the winner gets a prize – or at least bragging rights. Spectators gather round, applaud and provide the appropriate ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’. Several folks told me to keep my mouth open so the air is equalized inside and outside my eardrums. You don’t want to get a busted eardrum, after all. One of the days, a TV camera and announcer came over to us and asked us how we liked the festival. She chanted the traditional “A la llum de les fogueres ” and we responded with “S'abaniquen les palmeres! ” (trans: In the light of the fires, the palm trees fan themselves )
There is also royalty amid the Hogueras. Yes, young ladies and girls from each neighborhood (Cris's note: each one a "Bellea" for their own Hoguera ) vie for the crown of Bellea del Foc. I personally met and had my picture taken with the tall beauty who was this year’s Bellea for the Hoguera Mercado Central (central market neighborhood) . She went around town with her own band and accompanying ladies and gents.
Young girls also vie for a crown and gents attend both young and older damaes, in folk garb. The costumes are so colorful and pretty.The royalty attend the 2PM fireworks each day, and go around looking at each structure. And on the final night, the Bellea del Foc lights the fireworks at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento that end in the blazing of the Hogueras. (Cris's note: each Bellea lights the mèche that starts the fire in"her" Hoguera)
Hogueras in flames
Along with fireworks mid-day, there are the Hogueras downtown and in all the neighborhoods of the city. Each structure is created (planted) and judged. There is one children’s and one adult Hoguera erected in each neighborhood. These are also judged.
And then on the last night of the festival, June 24th to 25th, they are torched. First the Hoguera in the harbor and the one in the central square are torched. After the biggest Hogueras are done burning, the Firefighters go to the next biggest ones and they are lit. All night long neighborhoods wait for the fire fighters to come and light the Hogueras.
So, we went around the town viewing the fireworks and ultimate blaze of several Hogueras, and joined the crowd chanting “Agua! Agua! Agua!” which resulted in us getting hosed by the attending firefighters.
Thanks to Cristina Beans
A big thank you goes out to Cristina Beans for posting this information, in very similar form on her blog spot: http://criscrossing.blogspot.com
Cristina has a lovely blog about her travels around the world. She travels much more than I do, and has a wonderful way with words. She allowed me to be a guest blogger on her site.