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groves of trees bearing palms, lemons, oranges and pomegranates. Elche’s botanic gardens are among Spain’s most spectacular. By the gate, a stall dispenses various palm-based temptations, from delicious dates to palm-leaf baskets. A little museum puts the oasis into historic context, its rear windows overlooking Arab irrigation canals that have kept the palms watered for a millennium. The arrival of the railway in the 19th

century brought industrialisation to Elche with one product soon taking over… yes ladies, fine leather shoes! With over 2,000 shoe businesses, Elche is arguably the footwear capital of the world and visitors have been known to visit just for the factory shops scattered around the outskirts. Another Elche icon is a striking image of a handsome woman sporting a headdress much like Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movie. This is

A taste of Tarragona

Tarragona, in the Catalan region of Costa Dorada, combines a superb coastline with rich history. Beach life is centred on the

resort of Salou, where star turns include tiny Cala Crancs, pine- backed Llarga and bustling Llevant. Away from the sand, however, architectural treasures beckon, with Roman memorials a plenty. The province’s eponymous city boasts a 2nd century coastal Amphitheatre and an ancient boardwalk known as Passeig Arqueologic, plus the remains of Santa Maria del Milagro, a church built by the Knights Templar, and a superb 13th century Cathedral. Just outside,

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the Dama d’Elx or the Lady of Elche, a masterpiece of early Iberian statuary believed to depict a 4th century BC priestess, which was discovered at the Neolithic site of L’Alcúdia two miles outside the town. The original statue sits in a Madrid museum but there’s much to enjoy in the town’s MAHE Archaeology Museum, carved out of the honey- stoned Palacio del Altamira. With appetites stimulated by our

exploration, we were glad to find Elche also has some excellent places to eat. For lunch we tucked into more delicious rice dishes while dinner at Mesón El Granaino offered a menu of rustic classics in a pretty traditionally-tiled dining room. After dinner, the adjacent bar area

proved ideal to toast the discoveries of the holiday — an elegant beachside city, a secret little island, plus Europe’s palm capital — all clustered together off the beaten tracks of the Costa Blanca.

the Aqüeducte de les Ferreres is another magnificent Roman testament and now a UNESCO site. Elsewhere in the province, visit

the fortified Cistercian monastery of Poblet and the 11th-century Santa Creu del Castell church in the pretty hilltop town of Calafell, while the busy town of Reus is known for its Modernist style — hardly surprising in the hometown of the legendary Gaudí.



Onagrup Club Ogisaka Garden (2928) Close to a sandy beach and having a spa, sauna, and two swimming pools, this resort offers many ways to relax. While the daily quayside fish auctions in nearby Denia are fascinating to watch.

Acuasol (2970) This resort is walking distance from the beach and also near the ancient town of Peñíscola with its 13th century castle. You can also enjoy excellent seafood at the fish market at the harbour.

Mar y Golf (2930) This resort sits on the edge of a golf course and is less than a mile from a wide, sandy beach. The lively town of Roquetas has many shops, restaurants and nightspots, while on resort a glass-domed pool is the perfect place to unwind.

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