We used to live in Madrid, which I still think is the greatest city in the world – I may be wrong because, though I’ve visited a good number, I haven’t seen them all – but for the last eleven years we’ve been settled in Calpe, on Spain’s Costa Blanca.
Calpe is a great town. It’s dominated by a large outcrop called the Peñon de Ifach, which is the sister rock to the Rock of Gibraltar, and was once a trading post for the Phoenicians. The Romans were here, too, and work is currently being carried out on excavating their salt pans.
The old town was built on a sharp hill, because of the fear of pirates – it wasn’t an irrational fear, by the way, a few hundred years ago, most of the townspeople were captured and sold into slavery. It has narrow streets, though many of the houses it in are large, and have internal patios in the Moorish style.
The town had a population of around twenty thousand when we moved here, but it is nearly double that size now. At the last count, there were eighty-six nationalities living in Calpe, thought the biggest communities as Spanish, English, German, Belgian, Dutch and Russian, many of whom are retired.
There’s always something happening in Calpe. In February, it’s Carnival, in the summer there are fiestas to celebrate the patron saints of the town and the patron saint of fishermen (we have a fishing fleet), and in the autumn there’s the Moors and Christians festival (which celebrates the re-conquest of this part of Spain) and the largest Oktoberfest outside Germany.
We live in a nice little house on one of the hills overlooking Calpe – there was a time when we would have had a perfect sea view, though now we can only see the sea through the gaps between the hotels and apartment buildings that have been constructed near to the shore. We have a pleasant garden, in which we grow apricots, apples, plums, figs, strawberries, tangerines, bananas, lemons and blackberries.
One of the great things about this climate is that things grow quickly, so the jacaranda tree we planted – as a stick – four years ago is now several metres high.