Tag Archives: Costa Blanca

Travels in Spain, Golf La Maquesa

La Maquesa Golf

I was up early again as usual and had the same performance with the patio shutters, trying my hardest to open them without making too much noise to wake Richard.  I needn’t have worried too much though because I had enough time to enjoy two cups of tea before there was any sign of recognisable human movement from his bedroom.

When he did finally appear he looked rough and I was bemused by what could have caused that?  It certainly wasn’t the beer because we drank roughly the same and it couldn’t have been the food because we had exactly the same, so what could it be?  It must have been the sun because whilst I was covering myself regularly in factor fifteen Richard had been all macho and had tried to rely on one early morning application to last the whole day!

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Travels in Spain, Costa Blanca

Torrevieja Costa Blanca Spain

“By the end…it was clear that Spain’s spiritual and cultural isolation was at an end, overwhelmed by the great alien invasion from the North of money and freedoms.  Spain became the most visited tourist country in the World, and slowly, as the foreigners poured in, its identity was submerged, its life-style altered more in a single decade than in the previous century.” – Norman Lewis – ‘Voices of the Old Sea’.

No golf today but I reverted to my natural tendencies and despite the tightly closed shutters I was awake at my usual early hour.  Richard was still fast asleep  so I did my best to keep appropriately quiet as I crept about the apartment and made an early cup of tea.  Opening the shutters was a challenge but I was successful and I spent a leisurely time on the terrace drinking tea and watching the sun come up and flood the garden with comforting morning rays.  There was a blue sky and it was going to be another good day.

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Ten things I didn’t know about Spain

Spain consists of a number of autonomous communities established in accordance to the second article of the Spanish Constitution which recognises the rights of regions and nationalities to self-government whilst also acknowledging the ‘indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation’.  Currently, Spain comprises seventeen autonomous communities and two autonomous cities, both of which are on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa.  As a highly decentralised state Spain has possibly the most modern political and territorial arrangements in Western European.   Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia are designated historic nationalities and Andalusia, although not a nationality, also has preferential status, the remaining are regional Provinces without nationality.

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In search of the real Spain

With an area of just over five hundred thousand square kilometers Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe after France and with an average altitude of six hundred and fifty metres it is second highest country in Europe after Switzerland.  That is a lot of country to try and see and visit and with so many northern European ex-pats living down the eastern coastal strip then the chances of experiencing the real Spain was always going to be difficult to achieve in this part of the country.  And so it was.

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Every Picture Tells a Story – Benidorm c1960

“It was not only in Farol that brusque changes were taking place…they were happening at a breakneck pace all over Spain…. Roads, the radio, the telephone and now the arrival of tourists… were putting an end to the Spain of old.  And for those who wanted to see it as it had been, there was not a moment to be lost.”  –  Norman Lewis –  ‘Voices of the Old Sea’

In the first few years of the 1960s, in the days just before and then during the Freddie Laker days of early package holidays, my grandparents visited Benidorm in Spain several times.

For people from London who had lived through the Luftwaffe blitz of the 1940s and the killer smog of the 1950s they applied for passports (which was practically unheard of for ordinary people) and set out with pale complexions on an overseas adventure and returned home with healthy Mediterranean suntans and duty free alcohol and cigarettes.

They brought back exotic stories of exciting overseas adventures and suitcases full of unusual souvenirs, castanets, replica flamenco dancing girls, handsome matador dolls with flaming scarlet capes and velour covered bulls that decorated their living room and collected dust for the next twenty years or so.

Spain Promotion

In the photograph my grandparents Ernie and Olive were roughly the same age as I am now and they were clearly having a very good time sitting at a bar enjoying generous measures of alcohol, the same sort of good time that I like to enjoy when I go travelling.

I’m guessing of course but Grandad, who looks unusually bronzed, seems to have a rum and coke and Nan who looks younger than I can ever remember her appears to have some sort of a beer with a slice of lime and that’s about forty years before a bottle of Sol with a bit of citrus became anything like fashionable.  With him is his brother George (no socks, very impressive for 1960) and his wife Lillian. Nan and Grandad look very relaxed and with huge smiles that I can barely remember.  I wonder how they managed to be among the first early holidaymakers to visit Mediterranean Spain in the 1960s?

In 1950 a Russian émigré called Vladimir Raitz founded a travel company in London called Horizon Holidays and started flying people to Southern Europe and the package tour was born.  Within a few years he was flying to Majorca, Menorca, and the Costa Brava.   In 1957 British European Airways introduced a new route to Valencia and the designation ‘Costa Blanca’ was allegedly conceived as a promotional name when it first launched its new service on Vickers Vanguard airoplanes with four propeller driven engines at the start of the package holiday boom.   By the end of the decade BEA was also flying to Malaga on the Costa Del Sol.

The flight took several hours and arrival at Valencia airport some way to the west of the city was not the end of the journey because there was now a one hundred and fifty kilometre, four-hour bus ride south to Benidorm in a vehicle without air conditioning or air suspension seats and in the days before motorways on a long tortuous journey along the old coast road.  Today visitors to Benidorm fly to Alicante to the south, which is closer and more convenient, but the airport there was not opened until 1967.

I am curious to understand how they were able to afford it?  Grandad was a bus conductor with London Transport on the famous old bright red AEC Routemaster buses working at the Catford depot on Bromley Road (he always wore his watch with the face on the inside of his wrist so that he didn’t break the glass by knocking it as he went up and down the stairs and along the rows of seats with their metal frames) and Nan worked at the Robinson’s factory in Barmerston Road boiling fruit to make the jam.  We were never short of jam in our house!

I cannot imagine that they earned very much and at that time the cost of the fare was £38.80p which may not sound a lot now but to put that into some sort of perspective in 1960 my dad took a job at a salary of £815 a year so that fare would have been about two and a half weeks wages! Each!

The average weekly wage in the United Kingdom today is £490 so on that basis a flight to Spain at 1957 British European Airline prices would now be about £1,225.

After paying the rent on the first floor Catford apartment Grandad used to spend most of the rest of his wages on Embassy cigarettes, Watney’s Red Barrel and in the Bookies so perhaps he had a secret source of income?  He does look like a bit of a gangland boss in some of these pictures or perhaps he had a good system and had done rather well on the horses.

benidorm-holiday-poster

Benidorm developed as a tourist location because it enjoys a unique geographical position on the east coast of Spain.  The city faces due south and has two stunningly beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean Sea that stretch for about four kilometres either side of the old town, on the east the Levante, or sunrise, and to the west the Poniente, you guessed it – the sunset, and it enjoys glorious sunshine all day long and for most of the year as well.

Today, Spain is a tourist superpower that attracts fifty-three million visitors a year to its beaches, 11% of the Spanish economy runs off of tourism and one in twenty visitors head for Benidorm.  The city is the high rise capital of Southern Europe and one of the most popular tourist locations in Europe and six million people go there each year on holiday.

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Please read on, it is a fascinating story…

Benidorm c1960

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

Benidorm – The Anticipation

Benidorm – The Surprise

World Heritage Sites

Thanks to http://www.realbenidorm.net/ for the use of the image

Benidorm 1977- Beaches, the Old Town and Peacock Island

Benidorm 1978

During the day there wasn’t a great deal to do except to visit the beaches and spend endless pointless hours sunbathing.  Benidorm is famous for its two main beaches which stretch for four kilometres all along the bay.

The city enjoys a unique geographical position on the east coast of Spain because it actually faces due south and has two stunningly beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean Sea that stretch out either side of the old town, on the east the Levante, the sunrise, and to the west the Poniente, the sunset, and it enjoys glorious sunshine all day long.

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Thanks to http://www.realbenidorm.net/ for the use of the postcard image

Benidorm 1977 – First impressions and the Hotel Don Juan

Benidorm in the 1970s

In 1976 I travelled to Europe for the first time to Sorrento in Italy with my dad who obligingly stepped in at the last moment following a bit of romantic trouble when just before departure my girlfriend went off with the head reporter from the local newspaper (Rugby Advertiser).

Very soon after that we patched things up and in October the following year I went to Spain with my (now) fiancée, Linda.  We could have gone practically anywhere we liked, so long as it was within our restricted budget of course, but we choose to go to Benidorm on the Costa Blanca for two whole weeks and we selected the Don Juan hotel on the Avenida del Mediterráneo, just behind the Levante beach because Linda had been there some time before with her parents and had liked it.

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Thanks to http://www.realbenidorm.net/ for the use of the postcard image