High, Rise, and Handsome
When I first saw Benidorm it was at 100 kilometers an hour as I sped past, trying to find the tiny hill village in which I'd rented a house for a week. As I saw the skyline of high-rise hotels I promised myself that nothing would drag me to that horrific testament to the open-toed sandal and knotted handkerchief. My time would be spent in much loftier celebration of Spain; walking in the mountains, eating in small village restaurants, and trying to find out more about this rugged country, which had been tarnished by the image of the cheap two-week holiday. Four month's three weeks and two nights later, as I saw the silhouettes of those same high-rise hotels at two in the morning, after a seven hour drive from Malága, I thought, 'Thank God - I'm home!'
During that first visit to the Costa Blanca I was eventually forced to visit Benidorm to interview a member of the tourist department of the Town Hall. I was expecting to find the usual tourist officer, boasting about the beauties of a place which no-one could tell me was anything other than a glorified strip of sand, scattered with drunken Brits in Union Jack shorts, who spent their holidays drinking, fighting and vomiting. Instead, I was invited to attend the Moors and Christians parade which was taking place that night, and which I found to be one of the most entertaining and colourful spectacles I have ever witnessed.
I could at this point tell you about the delights of a town that has risen from being a fishing village to being a centre of cultural delight and edification. I won't. It would be a lie and an insult to your intelligence. (In fact, despite the misinformation still bandied about by the press, Benidorm never was a fishing village - but read on!)
Benidorm is a tourist resort based on value for money and large numbers, and what I can say, with my hand on heart, is that it is a town which intrigues me and has suffered from a press which has treated it unfairly, a press that has preferred to report the more salacious side of life than look behind the obvious bucket and spade, lager-lout image which is the result, not of fact, but of very lazy reporting. As I walk the city's streets I am constantly surprised how Benidorm has everything an international holiday resort would be expected to offer, but also has the compactness and friendliness of a small Spanish town.
I wouldn't choose to live here otherwise, now would I?