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Hogueras De San Juan 2014: An amazing, but noisy weekend in Alicante

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La Rambla Méndez Nunez in Alicante is a hub of activity during Hogueras De San Juan in Alicante

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Art: The huge bonfires (such as this one on Carrer Pintor Velaquez) are works of art, made of wood, Papier Mâché and other materials, and often are critiques on politics and society

Alicante is a great destination for both a city break or longer, with a lot of museums, beaches, churches and is said to be home to Spain’s best nightlife. However, for one week every year in late June the city is taken over by the Hogueras De San Juan (Bonfires of Saint John) festival. In June this year, a group of friends and I decided we wanted a beachside city break somewhere in Europe. We plumped for Alicante and it just happened to take place during Hogueras – one of the biggest festivals in the Andalucian – and more specifically Alicante’s – calendar.

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Our modern loft apartment in Alicante was a great location and very comfortable

When it came to searching for accommodation, there are a lot of choices – hotels, hotels, pensions and self-catering apartments. I have become a recent convert of AirBnB, having used them in recent months in Venice Beach, California; and Paris. My friends and I were flying in late on a Friday night so didn’t want the hassle of setting an alarm clock for an early hotel breakfast, so decided to go self-catering. Airbnb gives you the chance to rent either rooms or an apartment/house direct from the owner. After much deliberating between staying by the beach or the city centre (which is very compact anyway), we opted for the latter. We chose a one bedroom loft apartment sleeping up to four a stone’s throw from the bullring, located just five minutes walk from the market and 10 from the beach. Before booking, we inquired if a midnight arrival time was too late and happily the owner was able to accommodate us. Before arrival, we were sent the owner’s personal guide to Alicante, with restaurant reviews, opening times of shops, museums, etc, which was very helpful and a nice personal touch. Just as the positive reviews had said, the apartment was modern, spacious, with lots of windows letting in plenty of fresh air, so we were really pleased. We had a balcony that managed to have the sun on it for most of the day so a perfect location for lazy brunches and views of Santa Barbara Castle – the ancient fort on top of the rocky hill overlooking Alicante.

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The city beach, Playa Postiguet, has plenty of loungers if you want to top up your tan

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The party never stops: Women in traditional costumes dancing along Rambla

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Head down the pedestrianized streets of El Barrio (old quarter) for some of the city’s best bars and restaurants

Usually, the apartment would be quiet because it is in a residential area, however during the Fogueras festival the whole city of Alicante is taken over by the festivities. Huge bonfire structures featuring ‘Ninots’ are erected all over the streets, usually a critique of political, societal or cultural issues in Spain or Alicante. Referring to Spain’s current economic problems, I saw one Ninot depicting a 50 euro note with wings. Neighbourhood groups also raise money to create pop-up party venues including restaurants, bars and discos. Throughout the night, these venues will play blaring loud music – hence it may be difficult to sleep if you’re staying in central Alicante, so it’s probably best to forgo sleep and join the fun! Although many of these venues are only open to the neighbourhood residents who have funded it, some are open to the public so you can join in the fun. There are also a host of bars and clubs – many concentrated in the city’s El Barrio (old quarter), which are open to sunrise. Towards the end of the festival, bonfires are lit all over town, while fireworks are set off on a daily basis – both day and night, adding to the noise. It’s worth checking out the daytime firework display ‘mascletàs’, for which ear-plugs are thoroughly recommended! During the festival, there are also nightly parades. Chairs were placed all over town so you could sit and watch bands, dancers and children parade through the town in their traditional dress. The streets were heaving with people of all ages, drinking, dancing and generally enjoying themselves. The atmosphere was amazing.

My friends and I were only in Alicante for a whirlwind two days which went by very quickly. Most of our trip was spent enjoying the sights and sounds of the festival, with a little sightseeing and relaxing in between so I can’t offer much in reviews of the museums and other sights. The city beach Playa Postiguet is popular both day and night, with the Hogueras action moving to the sands in the evening with bonfires dotted around. During the day, we rented sunloungers and an umbrella and enjoyed sipping 5 euro giant glasses of fresh Sangria sold by the vendors while sunning ourselves. If you don’t mind travelling a bit further afield, the Playa San Juan beach is a short drive away and is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. Read the rest of this entry

Back to the White Isle: Relaxing and partying in Ibiza

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San Antonio draws 100s of holidaymakers to watch its beautiful sunset from the seaside cafes

For anyone who likes clubbing or dance music, Ibiza is a must do at least once in their lifetime. I have been twice and am definitely planning to return. I have clubbed in London since the late ‘90s and noticed a huge decline in clubs over the years. Most of the superclubs have closed down, with Fabric one of the few exceptions, so no wonder so many people are drawn to the Balearic Island every summer. While I’m usually a lover of culture and sight-seeing when I go abroad, my recent holiday to Ibiza was strictly partying, eating and chilling out.

In June this year, I spent a week on the White Isle. My previous visit two years ago was very fleeting, so I was looking forward to exploring more of the island’s resorts and nightlife. The three main resorts for those looking to party are Ibiza Town, Playa d’en Bossa and San Antonio. Ibiza Town is the island capital and includes a huge range of restaurants, port side bars for pre-clubbing drinking and is home to the iconic Pacha – the original Ibiza club which has been there since 1973. It also includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site old town with the cathedral, museums and a necropolis for those looking for some history.

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Check into the Hotel Es Vive for some R&R in between partying

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Vista: The rooftop terrace at the Hotel Es Vive was a relaxing place to finish the day

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Café Mambo is a good place to eat, watch the sunset and start off your evening

A great place to stay near all the action is Hotel Es Vive – a boutique hotel located just west of Ibiza Town and near Figueretas beach. The hotel provided a perfect place to unwind after the hedonism of the night before. Es Vive is designed in an Art Deco style with swimming pool, spa, restaurant and bar. The food and cocktails were delicious and the service was top-notch. The staff throughout the hotel were incredibly friendly and had answers to any question you had. As well as giving you all the clubbing information you need, there was often an on-site DJ playing tunes as you sunbathe around the pool. However, as you may have noticed in previous posts, I’m a sucker for a rooftop venue so was particularly drawn to the rooftop terrace at the hotel. Including comfortable sunbeds and chairs, it’s a great place to catch some late afternoon rays and watch the yachts on their way to Ibiza Town. Although I didn’t get one myself, my friend had a body massage at the on-site spa and said it was incredibly relaxing and good value.

On the opposite side of the island is San Antonio – a popular destination for package holidays. Admittedly Ibiza can be expensive for nightlife, however San Antonio is the place to go for more affordable drinking. Some of the drinks offers were incredibly cheap for large quantities of alcohol if that’s what you’re looking for! We only visited San Antonio once during our trip – the main draw being to watch the sunset. The famous Café Del Mar and Café Mambo are situated side by side with great views of the sunset. If you can’t get a table at either, there is plenty of room on the rocks below. On the night in question we went, the DJ at Café Mambo blasted out a classical song as the sun sank into the sea, prompting a huge round of applause and cheering from the crowd as it finally said goodbye until tomorrow. I have watched many sunsets in my time, but that was one of the most enjoyable. It became an event and the atmosphere was brilliant. We ended up eating at Café Mambo – the tacos were particularly yummy and were washed down with a bottle of Cava. Following our dinner and drinks, we headed to nearby Es Paradis – one of the island’s big superclubs. The venue has an airy outdoor feel and plays host to its famous water parties and Kisstory on Thursday nights. Not forgetting Amnesia and Privilege, both located on the road to San Rafael.

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