I fell in love the other day. It was the heart pounding, gushing, can’t-stop-thinking-and-talking-about-it type of love that’s usually reserved for schoolgirls but here I was at 31 feeling it all in a rush as my breath was stolen away and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was love at first sight and I did what came naturally: I told David all about it. I said it in English, I even tried it out in Spanish. And then I repeated it again and again from the scenic lookouts over the Mediterranean and again in the nooks of the small, winding streets because it only seemed appropriate to be declaring my love to this little village that had captured my heart in a language that could be understood by all.
The true beauty of my amorous experience and what rendered it truly exhilarating was that, as is often the case when it comes to love, it happened when I was least expecting it. When we had set out that morning, I had never imagined that this is what awaited us at the end of the three hour trek that involved scooters and trams – my imagination could not have painted a more perfect place – but when we finally arrived at our destination, and the tram doors slid open, we found ourselves in paradise.
It turns out that, in Spain, paradise is called Altea. A small fisherman’s village along the Mediterranean, this tiny haven is also home to musicians, writers and artists alike. And, while definitely a touristy town considering its close proximity to Benidorm (a city nicknamed “Beniyork” for its skyscrapers though I can personally attest to the fact that it’s nothing at all like New York), it offers a reprieve from all that is commercial and mass produced and entirely disenchanting. Unlike Torrevieja which is crumbling under the pressure of a temporarily hot real estate market and offers up a landscape with little character and unfinished buildings, Altea has been carefully crafted with an artist’s touch.
I found Altea’s stunning coastline impressive, I adored its structures and white pebble beaches which made me think of Greece (though I have never been), and I reveled in the beautiful restaurants lining the promenade that each have a character of its own and a quality of food and service that is absolutely refreshing. But it was when we entered into the old town which was once a fortress that I really started feeling weak in the knees. Beautiful, narrow, pedestrian streets all leading up. Small stores featuring the work of local artists perfectly embedded to complement the scenery. And as I fell head over heels, I greedily drank in more. And the more I took in of my surroundings, the more enchanted I became. For around every corner, there were more buildings to marvel at, more winding streets to discover, more restaurants that were so hidden away that they were charming in their exclusivity. It was a labyrinth of European charm, and I would very happily have gotten lost in this life size maze.
And as we slowly weaved our way up the meandering streets, we soaked in the sites. We paused to take a photo of an artist capturing the scenery in a painting while the woman who lived in the apartment above stood on her balcony to talk to others below. That scene could have been a painting in and of itself. We also tasted the local delicacies, stopping for some mojito and turron ice cream at a small heladeria. But the sweetest was yet to come. At the top, we admired the famous Virgen del Consuelo church and gazed down on a sea of white rooftops and clear blue water.
We left the paradise of Altea at 9pm, but only because we had a long road ahead. We took the tram back to Alicante and the scooter the rest of the way, arriving in Torrevieja at midnight. And as our perfect day came to a close, we felt refreshed and inspired by what we had discovered. Somehow, everything seems feasible when you know that paradise lies just around the corner. Somehow, life takes on new hues when when tinged with love. And therein lies the true beauty of life: you never know what tomorrow will bring. Perhaps love awaits just a scooter and tram ride away.