Boxing Day is when you traditionally feast on cold meat and pickles, sat in front of the TV watching the latest action movie. However, in Spain the weather can often be too good to waste in front of the box. With this in mind, I packed up a feast of leftovers and took my mother and her two chihuahuas to Novelda and the Sanctuary of Santa Magdalena.
Arriving at the hillside site just 4km from the main town, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you had stumbled across a Gaudi masterpiece, for the church of Santa Magdalena looks like a mini Sagrada Familia. In fact it was designed and built by local engineer Jose Sala Sala between 1918 and 1946. The interior is quite restrained and calm compared to the modernist influenced exterior.
The church shares its perch with the ruins of a 12th century Islamic fortress which boasts a restored triangular tower, unique in Europe. La Mola Castle, as the fortress is known, was passed down through Aragonese kings and nobles until the feudal estates were abolished in the early 19th century. Now the castle is managed by the town and there is a handy tourist office on site, next to a laid back restaurant offering tapas and a very good value menu del dia for €10.45.
However, if like me you have bought your own food, there are plenty of picnic tables dotted around the area offering wonderful views along the Vinalopo river valley with lush vineyards and the high speed train track from Madrid to Alicante (25 kms from Novelda). There are also several walks around the hills to assist in burning off any excess calories you may have consumed.