Exploring Alicante’s Santa Bárbara Castle

Yes, this post is a little late. I am feeling very run down and have a sore throat. I really need a few nights of interrupted sleep!

Like in Barcelona, it’s insanely loud in this building until just past 1AM, then quiet until about 10AM. I guess that’s just the normal Spanish rhythm… I didn’t even bother trying to sleep until it got quiet on Friday night/Saturday morning and then I slept like the dead since my room was surprisingly dark and quiet. I only woke up because I was cold and had to find another blanket.

I went out Friday night to get some breakfast stuff at a nearby supermarket, so I was all set to make peanut butter with banana and coffee on Saturday morning. I ended up buying a large bag of powdered milk for just 4 euros (6CAD). Twice what I’d pay in Mexico, half what I’d pay in Canada. It’ll last me for months and since I only have one more stop to make before I land for seven weeks, it made sense to get some last night so that I could make coffee here.

I dropped my groceries off and then went out again to look for a fast food supper around 8:30, eventually stumbling on a kebab shop that was opening up for the night. Thank goodness for the Turks! 😀 I could have kebab just about every night and, really, as long as you go easy on the sauce, there could be worse suppers. It’s a very popular late night fast food option all over Europe.

I then had to put in a couple of hours of work before bed. It’s very rare that I leave work for arrival on a traveling day because I’m always afraid of contingencies, but Thursday night was not conducive to working in the public spaces in my Barcelona flat. Since the job was super easy and not due till Friday night, it made sense to take a chance and finish once I’d landed in Alicante.

I pretty much picked Alicante as my stop this weekend by throwing the proverbial dart at a map of the Spanish coast. I couldn’t afford to stay in Barcelona any longer and I also did not want to have to travel straight to Almería in one day as it would have been something like 12 or 13 hours of traveling time. Alicante is about two-thirds of the way to Almería from Barcelona, meaning a shortish traveling day on Monday, and boasts a charming old town and a magnificent castle to explore. Sounded pretty good to me!

So it was a very, very, very late start Saturday morning. It was really nice to stumble into a super clean kitchen and put together coffee and breakfast. After that, I did a bit of my work for the weekend and then headed out to find a town map and the castle.

My flat is located on a public square and is making me realise I do not want to live right on a public square in Mexico!

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My wonderful host here oriented me as to the main street in town and the pedestrian zone, so I had known where to go look for food Friday night and where to find the info centre Saturday afternoon.

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I love how an interior wall became an exterior wall and that you can still see where the old staircase was.

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I thought I’d found tacos on Friday night, but they want 10 euros/15CAD for two!!!

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The tourist info centre was just past the Mexican restaurant. I came in and was sized up by the person at the desk who yelled towards the back, “We need your English skills!” Bemused, I shook my head and said in Spanish, “I just want a map and walking directions to the castle…” “Oh!” was the reply and then aid was forthcoming. The map I was given was pretty terrible in that it’s not particularly portable, being printed on heavy paper, but it is pretty detailed and colour coded. The instructions on how to walk to the castle seemed clear…

I headed UP into the old town.

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I found this wonderful poem on a building. I photographed all of it, but am only sharing my favourite stanza, the one at the bottom: “How many days does a week have? Seven days, and no more. But I would give it eight days, one more to travel.”

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The Santa Bárbara castle is a rather impressive. It started as an Islamic fortress in the 9th century, with the Christian castle built over top in the Middle Ages.

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Getting to the walking path up to the castle was insanely frustrating. I will never again complain of the dearth of signage in the Balkans as Spain appears to be worse. I think that in this case, it is intentional. The castle is free to visit, but there is a new elevator to get to the top that costs about 3 Euro. I think that the walking path is hard to find so that people will choose the paid option. That had the opposite effect on me. The more I climbed up to a dead end and had to backtrack, the less inclined I was to pay the elevator fee! And, yes, I asked multiple people for directions.

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One man finally gave me good directions, as opposed to a more vague, “It’s that way,” response. I started to climb.

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Spoiler: I would end up higher than that little tower you see jutting out of the cliff at the top!

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It became evident as I climbed that there are actually a few different walking paths of varying degrees of difficulty.

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I ended up on what I would, at the descent, confirm as being the official walking path, and it was very difficult as the step risers were super high.

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This is the part where I got really annoyed with the lack of signage. Right through that door.

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From there, I could go up these very scary steps strewn with broken glass or move ahead on a dirt path.

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There was a bunch of us who were confused and it took a local to tell us that the least obvious of the paths, the dirt one, would lead us to the paved access road to the entrance of the castle. On the way back, I came across a few different groups of tourists all as equally confused as I was at that point and I had to guide them to the entrance. What could have been a really lovely walk up was incredibly frustrating because I was expending a lot of effort to climb up things that seemed to lead to the castle but which ended up being dead ends. To meet other people who felt as frustrated as I was spoke volumes as to the validity of my feelings.

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But I finally made it to the entrance!

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Right through that arch, I saw this sign about a sci-fi exposition. Curious..

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I went in and as soon as I started to look at the exhibits, I just gasped. I was looking at case after case of mostly original props from many science-fiction/fantasy movies, some of which I really love! This was such a random and unexpected part of my day! These are just a few of the original props that I enjoyed viewing.

Hydra’s cosmic energy battery from Captain America: the First Avenger.

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Bruce Banner’s laptop and drink from The Incredible Hulk (2008).

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Obadiah’s sonic taser earplugs from Ironman.

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A piece from the Tumbler in Batman Begins!

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I could not stop staring at this original mask, hat, and wig from V for Vendetta, one of my favourite movies of all time.

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What a surreal exhibit, and free to boot!

Then, I wandered around the ruins. You can go almost anywhere.

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At the top here, you can see the café. I didn’t plan my day well and got to the castle at about 2PM, lunchtime. I should have had lunch first and then gone exploring. So I decided to pay a premium for a mediocre burger with a great view and didn’t regret it one bit!

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The castle complex is huge.

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This is that little tower we saw earlier and I’m above it, at the very top of the castle. The view was so spectacular!

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I would not want to be a bus driver having to go around that hair pin turn!

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Here’s that archer again.

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I haven’t had ice cream in ages and 2.50 euros was insane for gelato after an afternoon of wandering around flat Barcelona, but was a fair price for this treat after all that climbing!

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The figures fighting in the background of this picture amuse me immensely.

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Found the elevator. It’s free to go from the 1st to the 2nd level and to go down from the 2nd level to the beach.

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The sci-fi expo is showing off some of the best sci-fi movies of recent years! *snickers*

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As some of you know, I did my BA in medieval history and so I know a bit about the construction of these sorts of structures. What I’m seeing here is that there was some sort of wooden construction jutting out of the stone foundation.

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The Mediterranean at Alicante is just…

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Ruins of Saint Barbara’s Hermitage.

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I thought this was a weird coincidence in that at this time two years ago, I was near Arco, Idaho, wandering through an equally amazing space

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It’s forbidden to feed the cats and the doves. Saw lots of gulls, but no doves…

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The hike down was hard on the knees. Just like after the climb in Old Kotor, I’m shocked that I wasn’t sore the next day!

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I may have yelled to this guy that he was doing a fine job with his painting…

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Ah, a dove!

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I was done by this point and just wanted to get in. I thought to stop at the market, but was disappointed to discover I’d missed my only chance as it closes at 2PM on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays.

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I made two stops before coming in. The first was at a fruit and vegetable store for a tomato and small cucumber, the other at the grocery store for ham, cheese, and yoghurt so I could have dinner in when I was ready for it. I am surprised that Spanish grocery prices appear to be low. Four single-serve containers of yoghurt were about 0.75CAD (about four times cheaper than in Assiniboia). A package of good ham was about 1.50CAD. A cheese similar to Boursin, which was 8CAD last time I didn’t buy any in Assiniboia, was just under 2CAD.

I came in and did more work, then made dinner. I have access to not just the kitchen here, but a whole cupboard full of spices and condiments! I had a few things in Sarajevo, but nothing like this, and I had to build a pantry from scratch in Bulgaria with not much available to me locally. So being able to not only pull out oil and vinegar last night to make a dressing from scratch, but also sugar, salt, oregano, garlic powder, and a few other things to make the dressing extra special felt like an incredible luxury.

Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that early, I went to bed around nine, just as the noise level in here started. I managed to fall asleep around eleven, was woken around one, then slept from two to four, five to eight, and 8:30 to ten. Not a great night… I have to leave early tomorrow, so I don’t expect much sleep again. It will be a relief to land in Almería!

It’s 1:30 on Sunday now. Nothing’s open at this hour on a Sunday, so I’m just going to wander around, find a nice lunch, and enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine. 🙂

14 thoughts on “Exploring Alicante’s Santa Bárbara Castle

  1. Wow, that was a long way up. Thanks for all the photos. I spent a few weeks as a 20 year old in Sitges Spain and still remember swinning in the Med. Wonderful country you are visiting. I did a Europe trip with a friend. “Europe on $5 a day” or was it $15 a day?

  2. I wonder if those steps at the castle were deliberately awkward…to slow down invaders. We visited some Irish castles, including Blarney, that had twisty, clumsy steps that favored right-handed swordsmen. (Guess the left-handers just made do.) We were told that they were made that way on purpose.
    I just know there were precious few railings or protective measures. I made extra sure to be careful going up and down, as a result.

  3. What was the magnetic area?

    Thank you to the man who gave good directions, but BAH HUMBUG for the lack of signage!

    The Syfy channel exhibit was pretty darn cool. As an aside (speaking of superheroes), I’ve always been v disappointed that they didn’t make Hawkeye deaf (like in the comics).

    Also, I believe that the ARCO sign was a sign from the Gods that you’re in the right place. JMHO.

    • I think the magnetic interference area is a cell phone tower…

      Signage has been weird so far in Spain…

      I loved the Syfy exhibition! 😀 And I agree about Hawkeye!

      I completely agree with you about the ARCO sign!

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