Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun team (including the lovely Jasmine Harman), who were filming in my area. They have some house hunters who want to move to the Gandia area, which gave the A Place in the Sun team a reason to come here and their first experience, to the best of my knowledge, of Gandia – which must be one of the best kept secrets on the Spanish coastline.
In fact, one of the oddities of living in Gandia is that, whilst it is well known in Spain, the town is virtually unknown outside the country. This is despite Gandia being a large coastal town (pop. 80,000) with one of the finest beaches along the Mediterranean (it stretches some 7.5km and is comprised of a wide area of golden sand). There is also a marina and port and an area of nightclubs and entertainment famous for its vibrancy – throughout Spain.
Meanwhile, immediately inland of Gandia beach are extensive, evergreen citrus groves that lie between dramatic mountains that are perfect for walking, climbing, cycling, bird watching and other outdoor activities. Indeed, the countryside around Gandia is a delight and is what makes the area so seductive to Spanish holidaymakers and the few foreigners living here.
And when I say the ‘few foreigners living here’ the word ‘few’ hardly does justice to the situation.
Acting as the local expert for A Place in the Sun for their Gandia filming, I checked out how many Britons live in Gandia (the town, the beach, the port area and the lovely Marxuquera valley) – and found that the records show that there are only 316 Britons on the electoral role (the Padron)!
Of course, it is virtually impossible to know how many foreigners come for their summer holidays to Gandia. However, the numbers are pathetically small and, if you are on Gandia beach in August, then you will probably be just about the only foreigner there, surrounded by Spaniards from Madrid and the interior of Spain.
So, why is Gandia so little known outside of Spain – is there some ‘skeleton in the cupboard’ or a good reason non-Spaniards do not come here?
Well, the truth is that Gandia has remained a ‘secret’ to the world outside Spain because it has never needed to attract foreign tourism. It has been able to rely upon its popularity with inland Spanish as ‘the’ place to go for their summer holidays in Spain. Equally, Gandia remains a very popular destination for Spaniards thinking of retiring – the busy, user-friendly, town of Gandia does not suffer the ebb and flow of mass foreign tourism, has its own economy (agriculture and very light industry) and is perfect for permanent living.
The consequence of all of this is that Gandia must be one of the few, perhaps only, coastal towns within Mediterranean Spain which is still properly ‘Spanish’. It has not been trashed by having to bow to the demands of mass foreign tourism, it has not been anglicised and it has a culture that remains largely untouched by commercial tourism. This also follows for property surrounding Gandia, which is notable for lacking the huge new estates with hundreds of ‘Design A, B and C houses’ – so common to many parts of coastal Spain. Around Gandia there are estates but these are small and contain individual and wildly varying properties the majority of which are owned by the Spanish themselves.
Great stuff – and one of the reasons why I have delighted in living in the Gandia area, for the past nine years. It is also why I was a little dubious about acting as an expert for A Place in the Sun which, with its enormous popularity, will draw attention to Gandia and open up the secret of Gandia to the world (which those of us living here have done our best to keep!). However, the charms of Jasmine Harman are nothing if not persuasive…
In any event, if you are thinking about your summer holidays in Spain or moving to Spain then you really ought to think of coming to Gandia.
However, be prepared for somewhere different and, importantly, somewhere that is properly Spanish. So, if you want the Red Lion pub in Spain, buckets and spades, lots of menus in English, identical retirement homes and the Great British Breakfast – then Gandia will definitely not be for you!
Nick Snelling– Culture Spain
RELEVANT INFORMATION ABOUT GANDIA IN SPAIN
A view of La Drova near Gandia