We’re nearing the end of our vacation here in Alicante, and while I’ve chronicled the past few weeks on Facebook through pictures and various status messages, I felt that it would be nice to put a little something of our experiences up here as well, hence Interlude: Spain: Villajoyosa.
I have to say that Spain is my favorite vacation spot, possibly my only vacation spot for more than half my life. I’ve been very lucky. As it were, I know a lot about our little area here in San Juan, Alicante. Of course, the restaurants and beaches are to die for, though I have to admit that the revelation of topless women running about without a care in the world was a bit much the first time I came here at the tender age of nine. Women with their boobs showing? The inhumanity! Oh, the stories I could tell . . . but since my mother reads this blog, I’d better not.
One of our favorite locations is the beach of Villajoiyosa.
Obviously it’s a very colorful place. The water’s always warm and the restaurants that cater to locals and tourists alike pump out some of the best seafood and traditional Spanish cuisine that I’ve ever tasted. Two such restaurants include Le Cabanon and El Madrid. We’ve been going to Le Cabanon for years and have built up something of a friendship with the French owner, Frank. Considering my dad speaks French fluently (among Spanish, Portuguese, and a smattering of German/Italian/whatever-he-feels-like), Frank likes our family. He’s a genial man, always on the go, but when he stops to chat, he always has some interesting stories to tell us.
That being said, we’re mainly there for the food. Conversation is nice and all, but Frank can cook up a mean menu. Good God, the FOOD. I could eat the same meal there every time and still be impressed. In fact, I often do eat the same meal every time, and I’m often impressed. Pollo asado con salsa curry y patatas fritas. Oh it’s to die for. I’ve taken a leap into other meals, like the homemade lasagna in its terracotta bowl larger than my face and rabbit sautéed in garlic sauce, but I have to say that I always come back to my favorite. My brother Ian never strays from his Pasta Carbonara, but luckily my parents make up for our lack of adventure. Dad’s a fiend. He’ll eat anything that doesn’t drop a guy. And Mom likes her varieties, too. She just doesn’t go for the cricket off the street. (Dad did.)
Le Cabanon caters to locals and tourists but has built up quite a list of regulars for all times of the year. When the summer crowd goes home, the local folk crawl out of the woodwork for their usual glass of Muscatel and some pan y alioli for wasting the afternoon away. The blue-green awnings, while not always keeping out the summer heat, do some good for shielding the sun, casting a pleasant azure glow over the tables, and an army of fans keep guests cool while perusing the menu del dia and menu gourmet. The atmosphere is always lively and welcoming with perky waitresses and excellent service. I’d have to say the most popular choice of drink would be the white sangria, which makes sense because it’s damn good.
We just recently started eating at El Madrid. Two years ago, I think. Mom saw the menu up on the wall exclaiming “Bocarrones” (tiny fried fish) and had to have a table. Suffice to say we’ve been back a few times. Just down the street from Le Cabanon, like literally twelve meters away, it’s got a great beach view and offers sumptuous dishes of paella, fresh seafood caught off the rocks, and a wide selection of drinks for all ages. No fans to speak of here, just the salty sea breeze and a few precious umbrellas to hold back the beating sun, but it’s a pleasant place that requires a reservation due to its popularity with everyone around.
Like I said, we started coming here because my mom saw a few tiny fishies being doused in hot oil and batter. Well, she likes them. Mom’s the boss. I have to say, though, that for all I dislike seafood and its trappings, those dishes are really the most interesting to see. Presentation is key, after all, and these Spaniards definitely know how to make fish look appetizing to the cow-munchers. We took visiting friends John and Denise Andico here for lunch, and they went bananas.
El Madrid hits pretty high on my favorite restaurants not for the food (though the food is good) but for the scenery and the variety of people that show up at lunch time. The paellas are made in a tiny room off the restaurant visible from the street, and you always get a whiff of that great cooking when walking past. The constant motion between that room and the tables is a great thing to watch, a reminder to all passersby that food is fresh, hot, and delicious. A perfect view of the beach, fork in hand, wine glass empty and plate scraped clean = Nikki’s ready for siesta time! And let me tell you, after eating as much as I do, a lie-down on the beach is exactly what you need.