“(In Spain) there are castles that are villages, like the quaint stronghold of Guadalest, near Benidorm, whose walls are full of houses, whose keep is the cemetery and whose church belfry stands so high upon the ramparts that a long rope is left trailing down to the alley below, for the convenience of the bell-ringer.” – Jan Morris – ‘Spain’
The weather was good to us for most of our stay and mostly it was sunny and dry, which meant plenty of time for lying on the beach or sitting around the swimming pool that was directly outside the front of the hotel.
During the second week however there was a bit of a disappointing change and we experienced some very heavy showers. One afternoon it rained so hard that the Avenida de Almeria, the road to the beach, was completely flooded and rather than a street instead resembled a river in full flow. We couldn’t go out that afternoon so we sat in the bar with another older couple and shared a bottle of bacardi that I had won the previous day on a trip to the mountain village of Guadalest.
I mentioned before that the food wasn’t too clever and one day Linda went down with an awful case of food poisoning and was confined to the room. This was inconvenient because the next day we were due to go on a full day sightseeing trip and because we had paid for the tickets I was determined not to miss it and selfishly made Linda get up and go even though she really wasn’t anything like well enough. At the first scheduled stop the first thing she needed was the WC facilities but they were those old fashioned stand up and grab a handrail ones that aren’t very nice to use at the best of times. Anyway, I won’t go into the details here but the consequence of the visit was that I had to take off my underpants and give them to Linda and this left me ‘going commando’.
At the next scheduled stop was lunch followed by some silly games. Linda not surprisingly didn’t eat lunch and she wasn’t in the mood for silly games either. One of the games was to put half a dozen girls or so in the middle of the floor and get them to obtain things from the audience and in each round the last one to do so was eliminated. A bit like musical chairs but this involved getting hold of other people’s personal possessions like watches and belts before it moved on to clothes.
One girl found me cooperative and kept coming back and soon I was down to just my jeans. Inevitably the game organiser called for a pair of trousers and she came my way. The whole game was designed to get some poor bloke down to his underpants and giggle at him but I hadn’t got any on. I declined but she was persistent and she kept insisting and eventually I gave in, whipped off my trousers while trying to preserve my rapidly vanishing dignity, she ran to the centre of the room, won the game and that is where the bottle of bacardi came from! Linda wasn’t impressed but the other people on the trip found it all very amusing.
After the shock of getting a participant down to his birthday suit the trip continued on to Guadalest by way of a twisting road that climbed ever upwards, passing through the village of Polop and finally reaching a spectacular position at the top of the mountain with breathtaking views and the village sitting perched on the very top of the mountain. This was an old Moorish fortress that was virtually impregnable and the old village and the castle is only accessible through a tunnel carved through the rock and when we reached the other end we had been transported to a secret village of whitewashed houses and narrow streets where the houses crept up towards the top in a most fascinating way and old ladies dressed in black sat in their doorways selling hand made lace.
The narrow path continued towards the top past more small shops and through a cobbled square with friendly little restaurants, as well as a busy school and a very tiny jail. On one side of the square there were stone seats behind a wall beyond which was a stunning view over the mountains and in the Guadalest valley below the ‘Embalse de Guadalest’, a dam and a reservoir, which was built between 1953 and 1971 to supply water to a number of towns and villages in the area, including Benidorm.
Unfortunately there was no water in it because it hadn’t been designed to cope with so many visitors and because of all of the people in Benidorm it had quickly been drained dry. This explained why there was always a large tanker ship in Benidorm Bay, it wasn’t full of oil as I had supposed but water and it was continually being replaced because this was the way that the City got its water supply. The guide told us that the reservoir was unlikely ever to fill again but he was wrong because I understand that it is now full and Benidorm no longer has need of the tankers.
Linda was feeling better by this time and I was glad of that because I had felt guilty all day. After we left Guadalest we returned directly to Benidorm in time for evening meal but I am fairly sure that Linda didn’t join me in the dining room that night.
In fact we had had enough of the unimaginative Don Juan catering and the drastic consequences for the digestive system of dining there and in the second week we went out into the town for a couple of evenings to meet Tanya and Steve who we had met on Peacock Island. Tanya and Steve were a friendly couple who lived in Blackpool, she had big 1970’s hair and wore extravagant amounts of make-up and he was tall and thin with a brittle Lancashire accent that became difficult to understand when he became excited. We enjoyed their company and we remained friends for a couple of years and then after a while we just drifted our own ways and we never saw them again. A shame really but life is like that.
After two weeks we were more than ready to go home. A friend had asked Linda to bring a bag back for her that she had left there earlier in the year and although we were nervous about drugs or something illicit we did it anyway. We declared it at the customs desk but we needn’t have worried because it was all perfectly genuine.
We had enjoyed Benidorm but two weeks was really too long and I never had the any desire or reason to go back. But then in 2008 on a golfing holiday nearby and inspired by the TV series we visited Benidorm and I was surprised to discover a place that I did not recognise and a pleasant day there obliged me to revise my opinion of the place:
Other posts about Benidorm:
Benidorm, Plan General de Ordinacion
Benidorm, The War of the Bikini
Benidorm 1977 – First impressions and the Hotel Don Juan
Benidorm 1977- Beaches, the Old Town and Peacock Island
Benidorm 1977 – Food Poisoning and Guadalest
I, too, found myself back in Benidorm after an earlier visit. I’d first gone in 1979 – to the Hotel Don Juan – and was struck by how many people had awful, persistent, coughs. It seemed that everyone in the hotel had one. In fact, my mom was so poorly that she had to go to the doctor after we got back to Blighty. At the time, though, we all made light of it and called it the ‘Benidorm Croup’ (Package Tourists were a hardy bunch back in the 1970s).
Anyway, you might recall that there was a Legionnaires Disease outbreak in Benidorm in 1980, at the nearby Hotel Rio Park. By 1981 me and my mate were both skint and wanted to go to Benidorm and the only place we could afford to go to was…you guessed it…the Rio Park (given that nobody wanted to go there after the dreadful loss of life the previous year and prices had gone through the floor). Well, to cut a long story short we had a great time. It was loads better than the Don Juan. All the taps, shower heads, etc were brand spanking new and the staff couldn’t do enough for us. And we were both in spanking rude health the whole time. No coughs, nothing. In fact, I was amazed at how many folks there in summer of 1981 had been there the previous summer when all the people died, like it was some sort of nostalgia trip or theme holiday. Those were the days.
If you have been sick on holiday The Holiday Helpline can help you make a holiday sickness claim for compensation.
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