JEWELLED and JOYOUS!!
For today's ABC Wednesday, I would like to introduce you to the pretty little town of Villajoyosa, known locally as La Vila, which lies just 10km south of Benidorm, where I live.
The town's name is a matter of interest, and also one of controversy - as depending what literature you read, it either means "joyous town" or "jewelled town", in Spanish. I tend to believe the meaning is jewelled town, as the houses are famously painted many jewel colours, as you can see above... also the word in Spanish for jewel is joya, which of course is very close to Villajoyosa!
The 16th century Gothic church, which sits on a hill inside the old walled town, was designed as a fortress as well as a place of worship, and there is a legend that St. Martha rid the area of dragons long ago - with her fan and bucket!! Before this, apparently the townspeople were reluctant to settle in the town... for fear of the dreaded winged beasts!
Villajoyosa is still a very important fishing port, with a busy harbour and afternoon fish market selling the freshest of the daily catch. In 1860 the port recorded the second highest number of boats registerd in Spain.
The houses are painted in the most gorgeous vibrant colours, and this is so that in olden days, the seamen could recognise their homes straight away, after being away at sea for a year or more. If a white flag was flying from their house, good news awaited the seafarer... but if the flag was black, a death had occurred in his absence.
The town has 3.5km's of palm-lined beaches - this is Centro beach above - but there are also many little coves with calm, transparent waters, which are perfect for learning to windsurf or scuba dive.
In the last week of July the town really comes to life when it celebrates its' famous Moors and Christians festival - a re-enactment of the defeat of the Algerian pirate Zala Arráez who came to ransack the town in 1538. The celebrations have now been held for the last 250 years! For seven days almost the entire town dress up as swashbuckling, gaudy, Moorish pirates or heroic Christian defenders to re-enact the valiant defence of the town. Spectacular fireworks, and lots of delicious food and drink abound for everyone.
The town is also well known for its' chocolate factory, which makes the hugely popular Valor range (which is sold in Harrods of London no less) and there is a large variety of chocolate bars, drinks and sweet things to take your fancy, including bars using the local turron, which is a kind of sweet nougat made from honey and almonds, and is produced in hard and soft varieties.
There are also many Valor shops in the area, selling all manner of delicious confectionery delights - especially around this time of year, with Easter just around the corner... mmmm, choccy Easter bunnies, come to me!
On Thursdays, the town hosts its' weekly street market which is always worth a visit, as it is choc-a-block full of fresh fruit and vegetables, clothes, ceramics, arts and crafts... well, everything under the sun really! To top it off, it is held right along the pretty seafront, so after your bargain hunting, you can sit down in one of the many frontline restaurants, and enjoy a delicious seafood dish for lunch - maybe the town's popular salt cod - and wash it all down with a foaming cold glass or beer, or wine. Hic!
All in all, this colourful little town is definitely worth a look if you should ever be in the Costa Blanca... for its' food and drink, its' history, its' winding old town streets, and of course the glorious clean beaches and views out to sea.
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