Monday, March 05, 2012
The day we went to Beni
Benidorm has to be one of the oddest towns in Spain. For a start it looks odd. Far too many tall buildings for your average Spanish town. It also seems to lack any sort of cultural life in the theatre and museum sense of the word. I'm sure that isn't true but as an average visitor all I saw were bars, restaurants, poundstretcher type shops and sex clubs. All of them had that sort of seedy, run down look reserved for brash seaside towns.
Benidorm feels oddly foreign too. Obviously the majority of businesses in a Spanish town dedicated to tourism are Spanish but there are so many British, German, Dutch and even Chinese businesses that it would be easy for any of the nationals of those countries to forget that they had left their homelands.
Benidorm was odd in another, much less quirky, way. At one point on Saturday night we were strolling along a pedestrianised street. There were bars on both sides and planted firmly in the middle of the street were muscly, shaven headed men. I presumed that they were under-employed bouncers being used as early evening leafleteers until the bars got going and their bouncerial skills were required. Every bar had some sort of offer - free shots with every beer, bargain pints of vodka and Red Bull, two for one deals etc. We'd been given a couple of leaflets as we strolled though I suppose for most of these places I was too old. They'd have me down as a customer for one of the bars with the other white haired men where María Jesús would be playing her accordion. But there was something wrong with the way the bouncers were standing; with their lack of movement. Maggie noticed it too. There was menace in the air and I'm still not sure whether it was from the bouncers themselves or because of what they were waiting for.
I can't remember the last time I felt threatened walking the streets of a Spanish town. Last night, in Benidorm, surrounded by signs for British Breakfasts, Scottish bars and roast beef dinners I did. A Spanish couple we talked to later commented on the same unease.
We were there, in Benidorm, with the people of Culebrón, with people from the Neighbourhood Association. Elena, who heads up the Association, had found a deal at a Benidorm hotel. For the princely sum of 27€ per person we got the coach ride from Culebrón to Benidorm and full board in one of the big Benidorm chain hotels for twenty four hours. It was the sort of hotel that has a featured dance band in one lounge and a music quizz in another. There was a two for one deal on most drinks too.
To be truthful we didn't do much except eat, drink and stroll for twenty four hours but that would be a majority pastime here. The weather was excellent, the room was good, the food was plentiful and we were made to feel very welcome. I had predicted disaster but I was wrong. It couldn't have gone much better.
Just one last observation. We left Culebrón at 4pm in the afternoon. It seemed odd to our British sensibility. Obviously, if we British are going somewhere we get up at the crack of dawn and try to get there before the shops open. Probably the timings were linked to whatever package the hotel was offering but none of our Spanish travelling companions thought that a late afternoon start was in the least odd. We'll be there in nice time for dinner they said.