Saturday, 31 January 2009

Old Town

As mentioned, the old town of Benidorm has some beautiful parts to enjoy. Narrow, cobbled streets reminiscent of 'The Shambles' in York take you from the levante beach up to the Placa del Castell and the church of St. James. The presence of these cannon are an obvious reminder of the area's past.There are no discernible remains of the castle now but the 'placa' where it once stood is a wonderful part of the city and affords the visitor some great views of the beaches either side.

White tiled, with whitewashed balustrades around, it's a lovely place to sit and enjoy the sun.On the seaward side of the 'Placa' there is a long flight of stairs leading down to a smaller viewing platform. On a windy day the surf comes crashing up the rocks below and it then becomes clear why the whole promontory is beginning to overhang the sea - quite unnerving!

It's all a long way from this map of Benidorm from 1575 which shows the castle but almost nothing else! How things change in 400 years.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Signs of faith.

In the heart of the old town of Benidorm, overlooking the Plaça del Castell, sits the church of St. James - or to give it it's correct title, Iglesia de San Jaime. Built in 1740, the blue tiled domes of St. James' church are one of the best known landmarks in Benidorm. Seen here looking up from the walls of the harbour.Inside the church is like many others in Spain, richly decorated, beautifully adorned with icons and idols - and the entrance is usually blocked with beggars trying to rid you of your hard-earned euros!

High above the Poniente end of Benidorm to the south, is a small building referred to as the Hermitage.

Sitting on a rocky outcrop over 150ft above the beaches, the small building houses a 'grotto' dedicated to the 'Virgen del Mar'.It could be argued that She has one of the finest views over Benidorm and far off into the surrounding countryside.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

High Rise

Benidorm is famous for many things (not all favourable) but among the most visible attributes of the city have to be the numerous 'skyscraper' buildings which dominate it's skyline. The tallest of them all is, at the moment, the 'Gran Bali' hotel.The hotel - seen here from the hermitage which stands on a rocky outcrop to the extreme southern end of Benidorm - stands some 610ft high and has 52 floors. It was 'topped out' in 1998 and officially opened in 2002. It took 14 years to construct because apparently it was paid for without loans. It remains the tallest building in Spain and the second tallest hotel in Europe. More HERE.

My favourite high-rise building in Benidorm is without doubt the Torre Levante. Finished in 1985 it stands 394ft high and has 35 floors. It was the tallest building in Benidorm until 2002 when the Gran Bali was opened. It remains the tallest building on the seafront - which is up against some pretty stiff competition! It is a dramatic and very slim building which seems to accentuate it's height. More HERE.

The newest addition to the Benidorm skyline is the Torre Lugano. Standing 518ft and 43 floors above the ground, it actually stands higher than the Gran Bali but only because it is built higher up on the hillside below the southern end of the Sierra Gelada and the famous cross overlooking the city.
There are five floors below ground level for car parking and when completed in 2008 it became the highest (but of course not the tallest) residential building in Spain. Sadly a builder, working on the construction died when he fell from the 36th floor in 2006 - which doesn't bare thinking about! More HERE.
When you see these buildings stand up to hurricane force winds, as were experienced in Spain last weekend, you have to wonder how they don't topple like a pack of cards.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Back again.

Arrived safely back home this morning. After a lovely couple of weeks in the sun of Spain, I have lots of new photos to share. Spain had the worst storms it had seen for 14 years while we were there and the fall-out was felt in Benidorm too with walls blown down, windows blown out and Malcolm and I nearly blown over! On reflection, it was probably not the best decision we ever made when we went out for a walk around the cliffs and coves to the 'Castell del Mar' last Saturday, but the strength of the wind around the exposed twists and turns of the walk certainly made it one of the most dramatic and hair-raising (literally) walks we had ever done.

More over the next few days as I get the photos downloaded from my camera and sort the good from the not-so-good to share with you.......... Stay tuned!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Off again.

Fed-up with the cold weather, we are off again on our travels. This time making our (fast becoming annual) migration to Benidorm.Hopefully we will have some sun and wonderful walks around the 'Sierra Helada' which overlooks the town. I promise there will be more pictures when we return.

Saturday, 10 January 2009


A brisk walk was in order this morning as "...It was cold, bleak, biting weather, foggy withal..." (from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens). We have been promised that the temperature will gradually increase over the next few days, but it will also start to rain! The pines around Shipley Hill were covered in frost and looked as if they had been sprayed with fake snow for Christmas.The view over the park was mostly obscured by the fog. As we turned toward home, the breeze was beginning to pick up and the wind-chill made it even more biting. Home for a hot coffee and a small tot of something 'warming' - purely for medicinal purposes, you understand!!!!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


Remember I was having rouble identifying one of the plants we saw in Fuerteventura (see entry Sunday 28 December 2008)? Well, it turns out the plant in question was a Tecoma smithii. I knew if I kept looking long enough I would eventually find it. All thanks to this website and a certain Prof. Peter Schonfelder - you see, it takes a German to teach a Brit about a plant growing in Spain! The wonders of the internet.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Fuerteventura birds

Leaving behind the cold of Britain for a moment, we return to a few more pictures of Fuerteventura. Some of the bird life of the island is quite exotic looking, none more so than this fine Hoopoe. A bird we get in Britain from time to time in the summer months - although I have never seen one here.Other birds which are seen in Britain but which were very tame in Fuerteventura were the Ravens. Wonderful, huge, black birds with fearsome-looking beaks, they are absolutely magnificent when seen close to.Every morning we were greeted by a couple of Collard Doves on the balcony. Again, quite tame (one of which would even take food from your hand) they are another familiar bird of Britain.Great Grey Shrikes are also occasionally seen in Britain. They are also known as Butcher Birds after their habit of impaling their prey on thorns, sharp twigs, barbed wire, etc in order to facilitate dismembering. Delightful habit! And they look so innocent.A more unusual bird, seen almost everywhere on the island was the Fuerteventura Chat. Looking like a cross between the European Stonechat and Whinchat, it has become a distinct species only found on Fuerteventura. More here.Lastly, a small, inconspicuous bird seen all over the island was the Trumpeter Finch. Easily overlooked as it looks like a pale sparrow in a quick glance, when seen close up, it is quite beautiful with a pinkish colour all over, even in winter plumage. But it becomes more obvious that this is no ordinary finch when you hear it call. A strange, nasal note it is plain why it is called a 'trumpeter'.

Sunday, 4 January 2009


Can there be any symbol more closely linked to the British winter than the Robin (Erithacus rubecula -subspecies melophilus)? You may have noticed that our British Robin is in fact a subspecies of the European Robin although the differences are so small, you wouldn't notice!Famous for being very aggressive, especially toward other Robins, I have often wondered why they are so often referred to as Robin-Red-Breast when their breasts are so evidently not red but rusty-orange! Still, they are a most welcome visitor to the garden feeders. More here.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Power to the people.

While walking around the disused American Adventure theme park this morning, Malcolm and I were amazed at the amount of smoke and steam pouring out of the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station on the horizon. In this picture you can see the enormous cooling towers belching their steam. The tall, thin chimney on the left is pouring out smoke - this being a coal-fired power station.The power station is supposed to be one of the most efficient coal fired power stations in the UK, with a total generation capacity of 2,000 megawatts. It produces enough electricity for about 2,000,000 people. More info here. Some idea of the scale of this power station can be had when you realise that from where I took the picture, it is more than 9 miles away!

Friday, 2 January 2009


Just one picture from yesterday's brief walk. Following a couple of nights of freezing temperatures, the Manor Floods were almost entirely covered with ice. The ducks, swans, moorhens, grebes, gulls and coots seemed to be having a tricky time and any thoughts of 'personal space' had gone out of the window as they all had to get on with each other and make the most of a small area of lake which had remained unfrozen. Strange how birds who spend most of the year squabbling and fighting over the smallest morsel of food, seem to lose all of their animosity when needs must. I hope you can see from this picture just how cramped the free area of water was. If only people got on together so well!