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A secret pleasure If Alicante is something of a secret to


many Costa Blanca visitors, Elche is even more so, despite it being undoubtedly the easiest place in Europe to get a date — the kind that grow on palms that is! Less than 10 miles from Alicante, Elche came to prominence around 1,000 years ago as an Arab palm oasis. Today it’s a city literally blanketed in greenery where more than 300,000 palms outnumber its resident population. Seen from afar, ancient churches and fortresses rise from the sea of palms like strange islands. The Huerto del Cura — or Priest‘s Garden — is one of its loveliest spots, with sun-dappled paths snaking through


The island of Tabarca Elche Town Hall


Island adventure An old stone archway fronts Tabarca’s


tiny settlement, which is criss-crossed by a handful of colourful dusty streets. Around the perimeter, an old defensive wall crumbles gently into the sea and a large church speaks of the piousness of islanders who are descended from 15th-century Genoese settlers. Tall grass sways in the fresh sea


breezes that cross Tabarca, surf frothing onto one of its shores while rocky coves provide shelter for swimming on the other. A submarine nature reserve around the island brings many divers to its shores. The plentiful supply of fresh fish


gives rise to fine dining experiences, and we grabbed a table at Los Pescadores where a leisurely lunch of caldero — a fish and rice stew — set us up for a walk and quick dip in the cool waters before catching the late afternoon boat back to Alicante. We were back at the marina the next


day, though, to eat at Darsena, a prime showcase for Alicante’s rice-based cuisine, where over 170 rice dishes are complemented by five-star views of luxury boats.


36 HOLIDAY www.rci.com


Elche Botanic Garden Pond


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