Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Alicante, Spain: The Palm Groves of Elche

In most cities, trees are few and far between. But not in Elche. Step out of the train station, and you are immediately greeted by avenues lined with palm trees and by parks, fields and squares full of palm trees of all shapes and sizes.

The Palmeral of Elche is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its palm tree plantation is the largest in Europe covering 3.5 square kilometres, 1.5 of which are within the city limits.

There are 200,000 to 300,000 palm trees, some of which are 300 years old. (Palm trees are extremely slow growers. It takes them 100 years to grow to 10 metres in height.)

The Phoenicians brought palm trees to Spain in the first century BC and cultivated the dates as food for their long sea journeys. When the Arabs arrived in Spain, they added extensive irrigation systems and landscaping.

The City of Elche continues to protect and develop its palmeral, and it’s a delight to walk in the shady parks that are filled with trees and flowers.

El Huerto del Cura
The Huerto del Cura is a small, privately-owned garden. Paths curve around ponds and clusters of palm trees from all over the world. A cactus garden contains an extraordinary variety of cactus plants, and there are peacocks and ducks as well as some modern sculptures.

I hope that the slideshow provides at least a glimpse of this garden’s beauty. Unfortunately, I was photographing the garden in the midday sun, never ideal.

The Town of Elche
Elche is a compact town with narrow winding streets and an abundance of interesting-looking women’s fashion stores. I think it would be a delightful place to stay, rather than simply visiting it on a day trip. There are even several better-quality hotels located in the palm tree plantations.

Elche is 20 minutes by train from Alicante and there are trains at least every hour.

Barra Sabors
I had an excellent lunch at Taperia Barra Sabors (C/Mare de Deu del Carme, 14) - also on Facebook. The waiter and cook went out of their way to suggest or modify vegetarian dishes.

The spinach salad with pine nuts, spicy pesto dressing, grated cheese (sharp and dry – maybe Manchego?) and lightly-mixed and cooked scrambled eggs was wonderful.

This was followed by baby artichokes that had been thinly-sliced, floured and fried, ready to be dipped in an oil and vinegar sauce.

And dessert was layers of bittersweet chocolate mousse and digestive biscuits that had absorbed the moisture from the mousse – oh, my! It was very good.


Renee said...

Your lunch sounds delicious...especially the dessert!

Penny McKinlay said...

The dessert was very good - of course, you and I love sweets. I really enjoyed the spinach salad as well. Scrambled eggs is a specialty of this part of Spain, and they serve them in all sorts of different ways, usually as a first course. They're undervalued in Canada as only being a breakfast food.