I have to say that I have been utterly seduced by Gandia, which is the town in Spain closest to where I live. It is somewhere that has slowly but surely captured my heart – to the extent that I could not envisage living in Spain elsewhere.
The odd thing is that Gandia is rather strange!
Firstly, the town of Gandia is set about 5km inland from the coastline and its small port and marina. I gather this was due to the unhealthy (in the past) marshland that started at the sea’s edge. That, of course, has largely gone now and has been replaced by Gandia Playa – which is a stretch of apartments, casinos, nightclubs and hotels that service a stunning beach of golden sand.
However, the benefit of having the holiday area (Gandia Playa and the Grau) 5kms from Gandia town cannot be underestimated. This because Gandia town is completely free from the ebb and flow of tourism.
So, Gandia town is as busy in September as it is in February and therefore does not suffer the heaving summer over-population or winter desolation of so many Spanish beach front towns. This is a vital (and rare) commodity to anyone living in Spain close to the sea. Importantly, it allows you to continue a ‘normal’ day to day life throughout the year – rather than living a life in Spain defined by tourism
Secondly, my enchantment with Gandia has not come from the fact that the town is pretty, in any conventional sense. Sadly, it is not. However, it works well, it has everything you could possibly need, it thrives, it has a wonderful, broad Paseo and a population who are consistently helpful, lively and kindly.
In a way, it is odd that Gandia is not more ‘historic’. After all, this is pretty much where the notorious Borgias (See my Articles on Spain – above) came from. They are still celebrated in Gandia with all five (Calixtus, Alexander, the Duke of Gandia, Alexander and Lucretia Borgia) standing as statues in one of the squares – with the Borgia Palace being one of Gandia’s few historic attractions.
That said, I have a sneaking feeling that the Borgias (who were nothing if not Baccanalean!) may have left an unintended mark on the people of Gandia. This is their love of music, fiestas and, dare I say it(!), shopping.
In fact, Gandia resembles Brighton in the UK in some ways. Gandia is definitly ‘up-market’ with a street of boutiques (Calle Major) that is known throughout Spain.
However, maybe the strangest thing about Gandia is that it is almost devoid of international tourism! Look around for North Europeans and you will barely see any. Lie on the beach in August and, as a North European, you will be an unusual sight!
Gandia (thankfully) is a bit of a secret. It is where the Spanish come for their holidays – which is probably why the beach area is so pristine, Blue Flagged, friendly and devoid of drunks and the terminally obstreperous! Indeed, if you ever wanted to see the charming reality of the culture of Spain in action then this is probably as good a place to start as any.
Needless to say, I am keen for Gandia to stay the way it is and not to become an overheated North European tourist destination. That is why I have not told you exactly where it is. However, if you do find it – then keep this Post to yourself, please…