How I Spent A Week in Jávea, Spain
One thing that holds me back from travelling is not wanting to be alone all the time. This may sound weird coming from the girl who booked a solo trip to South East Asia without looking at the guidebook and making any plans. Also, is it bad that my first thought revolves around who will take pictures of me?
I’m fine with flying alone but usually I’ll meet friends or family at my destination for companionship (and the obligatory photoshoots). I’ve also done a few press trips with other bloggers, but I’m usually able to check out their channels and suss them out beforehand.
Recently I’ve been curious about certain group trips that cater to a millennial mindset. Instead of just following a guide holding an umbrella, there’s Solange-style photoshoots complete with coordinating colour palettes. It seemed like fate when Las Morenas de España got in contact and invited me on their latest retreat. How could I pass up the chance to spend five days in Spain getting reacquainted with paella and hopefully forming some friendships?
A few weeks ago I flew into Valencia and after figuring out the equivalent of the Spanish National Express system (and discovering their fake version of Dunkin’ Donuts), I finally arrived in Jávea. Read on for my thoughts on travelling in a group and the unexpected benefits of confiding in strangers.
I was a guest of Las Morenas de España, but paid for my own transportation to and from the retreat.
Dress – Monsoon (sold out)
What is Las Morenas de España all about?
I’m working on an update to my black content creators post, but here’s an inspiring place to check out in the meantime. Sienna and Danni founded Las Morenas de España three years ago after meeting in a Spanish expat Facebook group and starting up a friendship. The name literally translates to ‘The Black Women Of Spain’ (which isn’t as harsh as it sounds) and they wanted create a community for women of colour who are curious about travelling around Spain or living abroad.
It’s a great example of a side-hustle turning into something bigger as LMDES hold regular brunches, workshops, conferences and retreats throughout the country. There’s also so many useful posts whether you’re planning a short visit, looking for vegan food or the best places for Instagram content.
I’ve written plenty about the complexities of being black & British but I’ve always been curious about what it’s like being black in other parts of Europe. Each country has its own history when it comes to colonisation and immigration, which is something I always try and learn about when I travel. Danni explained that Spain is probably going through the awkward teenage years.
The majority of women in their community tend to be black expats from English-speaking countries but there’s also a mix of Afro-Spanish (those who have parents from a former Spanish colony but grew up in Spain) or first generation African expats. There’s a thriving black community in Madrid (apparently it’s cheaper to get your braids done here than in London) and their posts cover everything you may worry about, from beauty standards to getting questioned about where you’re really from.
What I Learned At The Retreat
So how does a group trip usually work? Well in terms of numbers there were 13 of us in total including the founders, photographer Tanya and ‘wine educator’ Nicole. This sort of size made it easier to organise any last minute logistics in our lively Facebook group. We took over a large, extremely photogenic villa and our timetable for the each day consisted of two main activities with free time in between.
Also it’s worth noting that Tanya and I were the only Brits in the group, so my journey from Gatwick to Valencia paled in comparison to most of the Americans who’d taken between 2-4 flights. It’s interesting how we perceive different countries depending on where we’re based and I take a lot of things for granted, such as free healthcare and having Europe on my doorstep. You only ever know how things impact individuals once you’re deep in conversation and it made me empathise even further.
One thing that set this trip apart was the workshop and personal growth element. We had the chance to sit down on two occasions to discuss moving abroad and creating a life you love. Things got a little deep on the second session, with us analysing three key moments that have shaped us throughout our lives.
I didn’t expect to be in tears when I listened to their group share their personal situations and even though the concept seemed a little bit Oprah and very un-British, it’s actually quite refreshing. It can be easier to open up to people you don’t know and have someone impartial to discuss things with.
There were also plenty of lighter moments and I love learning about various apps and concepts when around a different group of people. Nina introduced me to Wander Year which is great if you fancy travelling in comfort for a longer period of time and I’m very jealous that we don’t have the bill-splitting app Tab in the UK.
Photos of me in yellow dress by Tanya Weekes
My tips for travelling in a group
Analyse the schedule – This is what I tend to do on press trips. I look at the itinerary, research where I’m going (usually with Pinterest and Google Maps) and work out whether I’ll need to get up earlier to shoot. Plot in the activities that are non-negotiable and work backwards. For example there was a huge market only held on Thursdays, but a cookery class scheduled for most of the afternoon, so I made sure that I was up and ready early.
Break free if you need to – It’s tempting to stick to the main group most of the time but if you’re up at 8am and fancy running, then it may be more efficient to just head off by yourself. Although I’m not an introvert, sometimes I like doing my own thing and your free time may be your only chance to see something specific in the area. Google Maps is your friend, wear headphones if you’re using the directions feature so you don’t look like an obvious tourist.
Keep chilled – Sometimes you may wait ages for people to get ready, end up at a so-so restaurant or things may not go to plan. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve definitely learnt to compromise over the years and I made sure to extend my trip by a day, so I could be a little more selfish in Valencia.
The Places You Need To See In Jávea
Jávea (or Xàbia) is a coastal town situated in between Valencia and Alicante and so many people messaged me about it being one of their favourite destinations. If you’re after traditional architecture then I’d recommend basing yourself near the traditional old town, rather than the newly developed area by the beach. I joked that the amount of roundabouts reminded me of a Spanish version of Milton Keynes but in reality prices tend to be a little higher because of all the holiday homes. Here’s a few places I’d recommend.
Chabada – This extremely instagram-able beachside restaurant does a mean paella, as well as other baked rice dishes that are a little easier to recreate. Most people eat lunch at around 2-4pm and the best thing is that you can quite often catch the happy hour and save money on drinks.
El Clavo – If you’re after a bargain, then head to the places that are a little away from the seafront. We shared about seven different dishes at this tapas bar for the grand price of seven Euros. Just remember that some places will often close between 3-7pm.
Cerámicas Vallés – My obsession with buying ceramics on each trip is a little out of hand now and I had to exercise some extreme restraint in this shop. There’s something for every style and budget though, I bought two intricate bowls for around five euros each.
Thursday market – Head to the weekly market on Plaza De La Constitució if you want to buy basket bags, traditional sandals or any other knick-knacks you may have forgotten.
So what did I take from the experience? The personal development element definitely gave me a lot of food for thought and whilst I find it overwhelming enough to deal with all my freelance stuff, it has motivated me to try and change things for the better.
I also have a lot of admiration for the ‘American’ way of doing things and a lot of our conversations seemed like an IRL podcast and a kick up the you-know-what. I’ve finally printed off my 2018 goals (!), I’m not in denial and trying to break things down into manageable steps.
Even though I’m a pretty loyal Londoner, it’s definitely tempting to trade in my flatshare for my own apartment by the beach and still have money left over. There’s a different quality of life you can have in certain parts of the Mediterranean and I’m sure the sunshine could balance out a lot of things keeping me here.
Whilst a move may not be on the horizon, I’d definitely like to see more of Spain and I’ve popped a few of the places LMDES recommends on my list. In the meantime, I’d appreciate it if anyone can tell me where I can get a decent paella in London, I’m now obsessed!
Catch up with the rest of my travel posts!