Driving Along the Coast of SpainDecember 3, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent
The Presidential Suite at Malaga’s Don Pepe has beautiful vistas of the sea
Those who want a new and unique way to experience the Mediterranean may want to explore two destinations in Spain—Valencia and Malaga—that are only a day’s drive apart, but have distinct and exciting features to recommend.
An ancient coastal city that has thrived under the Romans, the Moors and, for the past 500 years, the modern Catholic monarchy of Spain, Valencia is famous for its cuisine (paella was invented here), and its divided nature: The older part of the city has maintained its classical architecture and mood, while the newer area has an enormous complex called the City of Arts and Sciences (arguably the most important modern tourist destination in Valencia).
There are numerous luxurious hotels in Valencia to enhance the Spanish experience. The 135-room Westin Valencia, housed in a 1917 heritage building, is a short walk from the old center. The property is home to the largest hotel suite in all of Valencia—the 2,150-square-foot Suite Real, which has a lounge, library, wine cellar and two bedrooms. Contact General Manager Franck De Weerdt (011-34-96-362-5900, email@example.com) for reservations.
The Westin’s El Rosmarino Restaurant (run by Michelin-starred chef Oscar Torrijos) also hosts the only Sunday brunch in Valencia, and jazz fans will want to stop by El Jardi Lounge and Sushi Bar on Thursdays for some swinging music. Contact Maria Dolores Martinez (011-34-96-362-5929, firstname.lastname@example.org), personal assistant to the general manager.
Another option is the new Meliá Valencia, which has 262 rooms on eight floors, with artwork by the famous Valencian artist Toni Miró throughout the property. It also has a full Yhi Spa, a wellness brand operated by Sol Meliá.
Other popular hotels in the city include the four-star Hotel Husa Reina Victoria, which is centrally located; the Ayre Hotel, which is two blocks from the Ayuntamento (city hall); and the Tryp Oceanic, close to the Oceanographic Park (the largest aquarium in Europe) and the City of Arts and Sciences.
To explore the city, recommend to your clients a Valencia Card, which provides free public transport and entrance to the Fine Arts Museum, the Silk Exchange, the Arab Baths and the Lladró and Bullfighting Museums. The card is available for one day for about $7.60 (6 euros), two days for $12.80 (10 euros) or three days for $19.20 (15 euros). Cardholders receive discounts at the Prince Felipe Science Museum, walking and sightseeing tours, bike rentals and discounts at participating shops and restaurants. The card is available at tourist information offices at Plaza de La Reina 19, the airport, train station, convention center, the City of Arts and Sciences and many hotels.
Once your clients have had their fill of Valencia, they can hire a car through Auto Europe and get on the National 32 (or the toll E15 Motorway) for a leisurely drive to the Costa del Sol.
Gianni Miradoli, chief operating officer of Central Holidays Travel Group, which focuses on travel to and within Spain, notes that the countryside in between the two cities is “full of history and stuffed with Spanish culture and art.” There is also plenty of nature to enjoy in the uncontaminated wetlands of Albufera, the habitat of hundreds of bird species. (Bring a pair of binoculars.)
Miradoli recommends a visit to Cartagena, the ancient city founded by the Romans in 200 B.C. “The ruins of Castillo de la Conception with the surrounding park, the Byzantine wall and the Maritime Archeological Museum are the focal point of interest on this ancient city,” says Miradoli.
If sunbathing and swimming are more appealing than museums, suggest quaint Almería’s San Miguel de Cabo de Gata beach, considered one of the most beautiful along the coast. Nature lovers can visit the Cabo de Gata Nature Reserve, which covers 177 square miles, from beaches to mountains. For a different kind of nature, stop off at El Playazo—the largest naturist beach in Europe. (This time, don’t bring any binoculars.)
After a day of driving along the scenic coastline, the seaside city of Malaga awaits. The beach, of course, will be one of the most popular attractions in town, but recommend your clients walk up the hill to the Gibralfaro castle where they can look out over the city. They can also wander along the Paseo del Parque to the harbor and Calle Larios, the main commercial street.
The city has plenty of great hotels to choose from. Molina Lario is opposite the Cathedral in the center of its commercial and cultural area, close to the port and the Picasso Museum. The 103-room hotel is made up of two completely restored 19th-century buildings, and one completely new building.
Sol Meliá has two notable properties in the outskirts of Malaga: the four-star Meliá Costa del Sol in Torremolinos, and the five-star Gran Meliá Don Pepe in Marbella. The Costa del Sol has 540 rooms, including 18 Suites, 36 Junior Suites (and—thoughtful touch—two rooms for disabled guests), all with sea views. The Don Pepe has 184 double rooms with sea and mountain views (Superior and Deluxe), 12 Junior Suites, two Senior Suites, and one Presidential Suite. Attic Suites #1 and #3 have private terraces and views of the Mediterranean Sea, the Costa del Sol and—on clear days—as far as Morocco. The property has a luxe pool, and Dani Garcia, the young chef of Calima, the hotel’s restaurant, was recently awarded the annual National Gastronomy Prize by the Royal Academy of Gastronomy. Contact Resident Manager Jose Antonio Rubio (011-34-952-770300, email@example.com).
Suites at the 135-room Westin Valencia are decked out in a funky yet elegant American art deco style