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Dénia, Spain

Cocina, Come, Comparte, Convive: Cook, Eat, Share, Coexist

Spaniards seem to be born with the foodie gene. They somehow know, innately, that food is the universal language that brings people together. And one of the best destinations in Spain to experience food, friends, and community, is a medium-sized fishing port on the Mediterranean coast, called Dénia. 

Festivals are a big part of community life in Spain – and in Denia, in particular. For festival lovers, there are few that can compare with Las Fallas in the Valencia region, where Denia is located. Each year neighborhood groups all over the region raise money (usually by hosting foodie events) so they can compete by constructing spectacular statues all over town. Those giant statues are typically irreverent, scathing, or simply comical statements on “Las Fallas” (The Failures) of all aspects of society. There seems to be almost nothing off-limits for these amazing, often satirical, works of art. 

Once the judging is complete and the prizes awarded, the bonfires begin. Around midnight on the final day of the festival, the statues are put to the torch. With their location in small plazas and tucked into spaces beside businesses and apartments, the local fire department has a very long night making sure that everything and everyone stays safe. It’s a sight that you’ll never forget.

If you’re a foodie, this is the place for you. And if international opinion counts, then Dénia is certainly a place worth visiting. Just a few years ago this off-the-beaten-path town was awarded the prestigious title of UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. But maybe, like us, big titles aren’t enough to make you want to visit. It’s what we’ve experienced for ourselves that confirms what UNESCO discovered here. Dénia boasts an unusually large number of great, and affordable, restaurants. It’s not just about tapas and paella. The variety and quality of food is stunning – not to mention healthy.

A story I love to tell of our adventures in Dénia paints a beautiful picture of how connected Spaniards are to their food. While we were enjoying a beautiful evening eating outdoors, we were entertained by a group of 3 young cousins. After being called inside to eat dinner, Patricio, all of 7 years old, came racing out of the restaurant. He screeched to a halt in front of our table (nearly knocking over our wine!), and with wide eyes and a huge grin excitedly shouted “Oh. My. GOODNESS! Have you tried the MEATBALLS? They’re the BEST I’ve ever had in my ENTIRE LIFE!” 

Patricio and his two younger cousins became fixed in our hearts as the best small-town ambassadors one could ever imagine. They represent the strong ties between family, friends, and good food that permeate the atmosphere of this very special place.

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