As much as I could sit on our balcony and stare out at the Mediterranean all day every day – rough life, I know! – I want to make sure that we take advantage of our location to explore pieces of the countryside here too.
While we were in Barcelona, we mostly stuck to visiting the popular attractions in our down time, not wanting to miss the famous spots. However, now that we’re in a slightly more remote area known primarily as a vacation destination, there aren’t as many obvious “must sees” other than, of course, the sea. So, my tactic for uncovering destinations that I think we’ll really appreciate has shifted to searching fellow bloggers’ tips for off the beaten path locations.
I first learned about Novelda, a small town about an hour outside of Alicante, on TravelBlog.org. It was a short piece with just enough info about the Santuario de Santa María Magdalena to pique my interest. So, off we went in search of this masterpiece.
The Santuario sits just outside the city center, so we pulled into town in search of lunch first. It can be quite hard to find anything open on a Sunday, especially in smaller towns, but we happened upon a charming cafe with the most gracious staff who worked with us, meshing their bits of English with our bits of Spanish, to decipher the menu. How sweet it was when they delivered croquettes with “Good day!” written in dipping sauce across the plate! After a terrific meal, including yet another unbelievable potato dish, we set off in search of Maria Magdalena.
Most of the information I’ve uncovered about the Santuario has been in Spanish, so I’ve had to rely on broken Google translations to piece together details about the structure and architect, José Sala. A protege of Antoni Gaudi, Sala’s design reflects many elements of Sagrada Familia, on a much smaller scale, of course. The spires flanking the entrance are almost identical in shape, and the organic forms, azuledos, and trencadis indicative of Gaudi’s Modernist Architecture are prevalent throughout the exterior.
We found the interior design to be surprisingly simplistic in comparison. However, a marble organ, the only one of its kind, takes center stage with its massive teardrop shaped pipes. We didn’t have the great fortune to hear it played, as the blogger who tipped me off to the Santuario did, but the pipes were quite stunning nonetheless.
Equally spectacular was the sunset on our way home. The area reminded me a lot of California – perhaps what Southern California looked like before the population exploded and irrigation took hold. The desert-like landscapes along this particular route were reminiscent of the drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but with the coastal views found between L.A. and Santa Barbara. Half a world away, yet feels like home!