A quick jaunt around Benidorm’s main stretch confirms the worst: despite the 2 hour plane journey, you’ve somehow landed in a bizarre alternate dimension of the UK – and the only difference here is that you’re burning to a crisp under the Spanish sunshine.
Neon signs and Union Jack bunting guide you through the «English quarter», an area just a few minutes’ walk from the main Levante beach. Bars pride themselves on having imported top-notch British drinks, such as Carling and Bulmers, while others classily boast that their €3 fry ups offer «REAL bacon – None of that Spanish shite». Welcome to the British ghetto.
Think big, burly men in vests, reddened from several days (and pints of John Smiths) under the Mediterranean sunshine; hen parties, more than likely with some sort of penis paraphernalia strapped to them, screaming «OI OIIIIIII!!» and berating their LAD stag-do counterparts; brigades of pensioners on mobility scooters, clogging up the promenade before leaving their vehicles in a specially designated mobo parking area, complete with night watchman. It truly feels as though you’ve wandered into a warped, British dimension. Focusing on all the worst bits of Britain.
Row after row of British themed bars offer cheap pints and even cheaper portions of home comforts. After all, who wants to try any Spanish food and drink when they’re on their jollies? Apart from sangria, of course. «Aye, I’ll have a pitcher of tha’ for mesen – make sure it’s got some orange in it for one of me 5 a day. And I want a sparkler an’ a paper parrot. Ta, love.» – says an obese 40 year old lady sat on the terrace of the Benny Hill Bar. You’re more likely to hear a mish mash of the UK’s roughest accents than a single Spaniard.
A random pop in to the British capital of Spain last weekend confirmed that, even in early Spring, twat-tanned Brits are out in force. Levante beach was particularly bustling and promenade bars were bursting at the rafters while twenty-something’s danced the day away and downed pints of vodka Red Bull. #yolo
This is the precisely why the term «Brit Abroad» was coined. Think of a stereotypical British tourist and what have you got? Socks and sandals? A drunk twenty year old girl spread eagled on the pavement at 8 o’clock after downing too many Jägerbombs? A group of Lonsdale-clad young men with love bites on their necks ordering «7 pints of snakebite, mate» from a bewildered Spanish waiter?
The residents of Catalan town Salou know this scene all too well as British university sports teams arrive by the plane load every year during the Easter break to enjoy sun, sea, sand, sex…sambuca, barfing on street corners, balconing… «Salou Fest» is often met with mixed views – some locals dread the mayhem that the bank holiday brings whereas many business owners welcome the extra cash in an otherwise low season. Other areas, such as the Costa del Sol and Balearic Islands, are also «plagued».
In fact, one source from Calpe said that local Spaniards actually enjoy sitting on the beach and watching young Brits drink themselves into a stupor in one of the main Benidorm bars, Tiki Beach. I hear Sunday afternoons are particularly raucous and highly entertaining.
We know that some of the main draws of holidaying in Benidorm are 1) cheap flights to Alicante, 2) dirt cheap drinks, 3) sunshine and 4) the round-the-clock entertainment. «Entertainment» – if that’s how you wish to define a 70 year old pulling random, absurd objects out of her guff. I know the employment situation is bad right now in Spain, Vicky, love, but I think it’s about time you quit your day job. Cheap accommodation in an undeniably British environment only adds fuel to the loutish fire.
The latter is something that is recognised by hit British television series Benidorm. Quite satirical in content matter, the ITV comedy focuses on several British families that frequent the same high-rise hotel complex year after year. However ultimately heart-warming and hilarious, there’s no deviating from the fact that Brits Abroad and the phenomenon of holidaying in such resorts is turning into a bit of a laughing matter.
The difference between Benidorm and nearby town Altea is so great that it’s pretty hard to believe that the Mediterranean hotspots are ten minutes – and not worlds – apart. The glaring neon lights, Chubby Brown impersonators and yobs in Celtic tops make way for quaint cobbled streets and a much more relaxed atmosphere in the charming, coastal, white-washed village of Altea. Although still home to a large amount of British expats and a popular destination among holidaymakers, Altea has retained its charm and hasn’t given in to the high-rise aesthetic and boozy personality of nearby Benidorm, despite quintos costing exactly the same price.
Nobody wants to be a party pooper, but eating a bacon butty and washing it down with a cup of PG Tips on holiday seems like such a waste and it just goes to show that the Little Englander is alive and kicking. Why not try the local food? Why not make an effort to get to grips with local culture? Why can’t expats who have lived on the Costa Blanca for 20 years not speak Spanish? Or why won’t they? Ignorance and laziness springs to mind.
But at what point does a holiday become ironic? We know what kind of people frequent Benidorm; we’re aware of their habits and we even know, thanks to TV programmes like Benidorm, that it’s alright to have a laugh at ourselves every now and again. Who’s to say having a steak and ale pie in the Yorkshire Pride has to be a huge no-no – especially for expats like yours truly who dream of days of gravy past? By all means, get away from your 9-5 and go on a little bender, but, for the love of God, lay off the lager for just one day and go and do something that makes the most of your time in SPAIN, yeah?
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