OUCH. The alarm screams in my ears and it takes all my self-control not to throw it off the 11th floor balcony into the swimming pool below, for fear of hitting an innocent early-riser.
Half an hour later, I stumble out of the air-conditioned lobby, shirt inside-out and tinnitus ringing in my ears from the deafening club music I had endured just two hours earlier.
It is not even dawn, but a wall of 30 degree heat hits me as I sidestep a staggering gaggle of tattooed revellers in mankinis and wigs.
Welcome to Benidorm: the city that never sleeps.
Unbelievably, the ‘night’ is still (relatively) young: with clubs open until 8am and a party scene to sate even the most demanding of hens and stags.
No one can accuse ‘Beni’ of being ‘dormant’.
The sky is nightingale blue as I set foot on the dew-damp sand of Playa Levante, Benidorm’s main beach. While bronzing is clearly out of the question at this early hour, incredibly a series of sun-worshippers are already reserving their front-row seats.
Perhaps surprisingly there is not a German in sight and these early birds are all retired Spaniards, as it turns out, taking pole position ‘enjoying’ the quiet moments before the masses descend a few hours later.
Of course, there are a few stragglers from the night before, with a pair of glamorous Swiss 18-year-olds reclining on blue loungers and begging me to take a picture of them topless at sunrise. Meanwhile, a young couple frolic nearly naked in the water, while a Brit falls headlong off a sunbed onto the sand.
Juan Martinez, 58, stops for a chat, jumping down from his tractor, which drives up and down the beach clearing up the debris from the day before. He has been at it since 2.30am and won’t stop till 9am. “People are getting dirtier and dirtier,” he says. “They drop so much rubbish on the beach after bringing their picnics and beers.”
Back at the hotel there is a queue of 30 people eschewing breakfast in the name of claiming their favourite spot by the pool. They are not allowed out until a barrier is raised at 9am and Carol, from Manchester, is at the front of the queue with her family. Incredibly, she tells me, she has been waiting since 7.30am, and will have breakfast after claiming their spot.
It really is like a scene out of ITV’s Benidorm and many tourists admit that they chose the resort because of it. Oh that, and value for money, with the resort being one of the cheapest in Spain, as well as offering financial stability (versus, say Greece) and safety (versus, say Tunisia).
I watch the civilized bunfight for sunbeds from my balcony, and it is an art.
The designated family member lays out colourful towels to mark clan territory with military precision, while the rest of the family fuel up – one thing for sure, these guys have done this before.
Benidorm’s main beach is well and truly filling up and as I stand at one end, bodies blend into one colourful mix obscuring the shore.
Beachfront pubs meanwhile, are filling up and one in particular has dry ice and young things drinking heavily already – and at €1.20 a pint, who can blame them?
The only spot where I don’t hear English, in fact, is the Biblioplaya (Benidorm’s beach library), where the locals – yes there really are some – are reading novels and newspapers away from the 36 degree heat.
We bump into a group of tourists on mobility scooters, which is no surprise as the resort is said to be the mobility scooter world capital. Almost all of them are rented by Brits and incredibly, a large chunk are actually able bodied. The Spanish wouldn’t be seen dead on them… and by the way, the law dictates they are for the disabled or the over-55s, but this is rarely enforced.
At The Guinness Bar (which is mostly populated by Spaniards at the end of the night) a local British radio station is staging a live broadcast watching people trying to pick up a euro coin they had glued to the pavement. It is daft, but it offers up a fun bit of people watching.
In the old town, a procession to celebrate the ‘Dia de san Jaime’, Benidorm’s patron saint sees droves of locals in costume with all the bells and whistles. Soon fireworks are lighting up the sky.
From a vantage point showcasing the sunset with staggering views, you really appreciate the jagged and surprisingly elegant high rises of the ‘Miami of Europe’.
In ‘Tapas Alley’ (Calle Santo Domingo) it is much more Spanish and the food is surprisingly good. It is at the frontier between the old and new towns and heralds and evening meanding through the broad, boulevard-style streets.
Spain’s hedonism capital does not disappoint, and the club promoters, dancers and bar staff all operate with an infectious energy and copious free drinks – and their tans suggest they’ve been on the beach all day.
Benidorm cult adult act Sticky Vicky’s ‘daughter’ Demaria Leyton – strictly for over 18s – leaves the crowd enraptured, if slightly nauseated, at her eye-opening show. Less said the better. There are at least ten women watching, all watching in amazement.
It has been a long 24 hours in the party capital of the Costa Blanca and I am ready for bed. It has been an educational pilgrimage for me. Benidorm is highly developed in more ways than one, having a no-fuss tourist scene that does exactly what it says on the tin (Sticky Vicky look out!). Holidaymakers are flocking here in their droves with visitor numbers up by around 5% this summer on last year and with five million tourists visiting between January and June alone. Like or loathe the 24-hour tourism in Benidorm where siestas are a myth and beer o’clock is around the clock, one thing’s for certain: the crowds love it, and they are here to stay.
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