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One of the beautiful things about travelling is that whilst you anticipate some differences when you visit another country, such as the language, climate, food, and even landscape, there are always things that take us by surprise.

As we have been pulling together the information for our website for our El Buen Ocio holiday rental, Alan and I have been reminded of many of the things that struck us when we first came to this part of Spain. These are some of the things we remember; we would love to know what surprises you.

The scenery

 Having visited the Canaries and Andalucía not long before we came here this area is much greener than we expected. We knew about the orange groves but not how many there were, nor did we expect the variety of other trees and vegetation.

The landscape itself is also much more varied, with rolling hills and dramatic mountains, and with soft golden sandy beaches.

Those beaches had another surprise for us the first time we decide to go swimming in the sea – when we discovered you need to walk out for ages to get to deep water – the sea stays shallow for a long way.

Gandia Playa (beach)

Before researching this part of Spain, we had never heard of Gandia and its’ stunning beach which is very wide and around 3km long. Our theory is that either the Spanish want to keep it to themselves or that they simply do not need to advertise to attract foreign visitors as it is already so popular.

A sandy beach with palm trees
Chalkboard with menu del dia in Spain

The cost of dining and going out

The lack of foreign tourists in this region means that the cost of eating out is generally inexpensive. Lunch in particular can be a bargain. In many places you can still get a 3-course lunch, ‘Menu del Dia’ for less than 10€. Often that lunch will include a glass of wine, beer, or a soft drink in the price.  The quality of the lunches vary somewhat, but generally they are pretty good, and sometimes exceptional. It is a great, affordable, way to be try new dishes and foods.

Chalkboard detailing Spanish menu

We were also astonished that, if we both ordered wine with our lunch, in many of the restaurants and bars they would bring us a whole bottle. I must admit it took a long time for this frugal Scottish lady to learn that we do not have to finish the whole bottle, and we can just drink half and leave it. (It still feels unnatural though).

When you go out to bars, the cost of spirits can be pricey – however the measures here tend to be much larger so still represent good value. Don’t expect to drink wine in a local bar though – it is unusual here.

Going out for a Spanish style breakfast is another great value meal and a perfect way to start the day.  Breakfast usually consists of coffee, a glass of fresh orange juice and a tostado, sometimes with just olive oil, but usually with a tomato topping, and possibly cheese and serrano ham.  It is a delicious, filling, and healthy breakfast/brunch which usually costs less than 5€.

(Note all the prices above only apply to places the local Spanish go. The prices in the tourist spots on the coast, especially in places like Moraira, Javea, and of course Valencia and Alicante, are much higher).

The Language

There are actually two Spanish languages spoken in this region, Castellano – which is what we typically think of as Spanish, and the local language, Valenciano, which is similar to Catalan.  Most locals speak both but use Valenciano as their first language but will generally switch to Castellano for you if you ask. (Although they often forget and switch back).

They are also very appreciative of any efforts to speak to them in either language. They are always very kind and patient, even when we know we are butchering their language.

People smiling and saying hello

A truly lovely surprise here was that pretty much everyone in the village will greet you and say “Buenas dias”, “Bon dia” or something similar. We encourage you to smile and do the same. It is such a simple friendly action and in a small way, can make you feel part of the community   

To be continued……