Celebrating Christmas & New Year in Spain
We set off on our first winter adventure on 9th November 2017 without any real set agenda save to find ourselves some winter sun. I have come to dread the endless damp, grey skies that make up a typical UK winter so the promise of azure blue skies and a lot more winter sunshine than Kent lured us to head for Southern Spain.
The one thing we both agreed on (which in itself is a quite a rare occurrence!) before we left on our winter adventure was we wanted to be in a fixed spot for the run-up to Christmas and the New Year period. We have found on previous short breaks to Spain in the winter that a lot of smaller towns become very quiet, something we definitely didn’t want during the festive period. The Spanish don’t really celebrate on 25th December, although it is a public holiday it is a low key family day. The main celebration for the Spanish is the Dia De Los Reyes (The Day of The Three Kings which takes place on 6th January.
We had only previously stopped in Benidorm for about an hour early one summer and had vowed never to return again. At the time we were totally bemused and if I’m honest a little shell-shocked by the mix of double mobility scooters (who even knew there was such a thing?!) and the stag and hen parties falling out of the bars, where live bands raucously played at 11 am. We drank our coffee and beat a swift retreat vowing never to return again. However, after some research, we decided to brave Benidorm again over the Christmas period; from what we had read there was bound to be plenty going on and it certainly wouldn’t a ghost town. At this point we weren’t entirely sure whether this was a good choice or a totally bonkers one.
We weren’t disappointed, although considerably quieter than our previous encounter there was still plenty of people soaking up the winter sunshine. We aren’t huge fans of large commercial campsites so after having a look what was on offer we settled for Camping Arena Blanca, a smaller site about a 30-minute walk from the main bar and beach area. The site is part of the ACSI camping discount scheme and the per night fee was €17 which includes a 4kw of electric per day (anything above this is metered). We arrived at the site on 17th December and stayed until just after The 3 Kings Festival.
During our stay, we came to realise that Benidorm is a resort of different personas; in the summer it’s loud and brash, making it very attractive to stag and hen parties and those looking for a good value party destination. However in the winter although it’s still vibrant with plenty of entertainment it follows a slower pace attracting those who like to enjoy what’s on offer both in Benidorm and the quieter surrounding areas. When you have had enough of partying Benidorm has great transport links allowing you to explore further afield easily and cheaply. Local buses take you to the neighbouring towns of Altea and Albir for a few euros, both full of great places to eat and have totally different personalities to Benidorm.
Like a lot of tourist resorts, Benidorm is split into the new and old town. The new town is where you will find the square (which isn’t actually a square at all) here you will find a lot of Benidorm’s most popular bars and clubs and entertainment venues. This is the place to head if you fancy seeing one of the many tribute acts performing nightly; Take That, Ed Sheeran, Meatloaf and Cher to name a few. Or maybe you fancy exercising your vocal cords at one of the many karaoke bars.
If you fancy a change of scenery and pace head up to the old town. Although not as traditional as some of the Spanish towns we have visited it’s worth a visit. Wander down its little-cobbled streets checking out the little Spanish bars and tapas alley; a whole street crammed full of bars and restaurants selling hundreds of different tapas an pintxos for you to try.
On our travels, we met with Sandra & Ian (and Hector their spaniel) who were on a year’s great motorhome adventure. We all just clicked and kept bumping into each other at various different locations along our route, even when we hadn’t planned to. They too were looking for a bit of life over the Christmas period. When we told them about our plan to stay in Benidorm they were reluctant to join us – it wasn’t their cup of tea. However, eventually they decided to through caution to the wind and book for the Christmas period at one of the resort’s other campsites. We all decided that we wanted a traditional British Christmas turkey lunch on the 25th. We eventually booked at The ShowBoat. It turned out to be a perfect choice; we were treated to a fantastic Christmas lunch with all the trimmings including crackers, Baileys, Ferrero Rocher and After Eight Mints – a real home from home. Although we like to embrace the Spanish food and traditions this was one day we wanted a bit of Britain – we weren’t disappointed.
After lunch we retired, stuffed to the gunnels, to the bar. We were thoroughly entertained by Stella Artois, a brilliant drag act; although I feel the act had been suitably toned down due to children present. Afterwards, we headed off for a spot of karaoke and festive drinks. A great day spent in great company.
Unfortunately a few days after Christmas everyone apart from Mr B wet down with a nasty bout of flu, leaving us all totally drained. However, we were determined to see the New Year in. After a long siesta, we headed to the prom around 10 pm with suitable refreshments. There was a lively atmosphere with hundreds of people partying on the beach and spilling out of the surrounding bars in anticipation of welcoming the New Year in twice, one at midnight Spanish time and again an hour later for the UK guests. We had heard rumours of spectacular fireworks, but unfortunately, due to the high winds, they didn’t materialise. After the start of the UK new year had been welcomed in we had for our beds totally exhausted.
Unfortunately, our flu bug lingered for several weeks into the new year, but recuperating in the sun is certainly preferable than if you are unlucky enough to suffer a bout of flu in the colder climes of the UK.
On the evening of 5th January headed into town for the 3 Kings Parade, a carnival of colour and noise. The floats were huge, overshadowing anything we have ever witnessed back at home. The floats were interspersed with live animals bands and flamboyant dancers.
Did our view of Benidorm change by the end of the visit and more importantly would we visit again?
I think the answer has to be yes to both; whilst it definitely not our cup of tea during the summer it makes a great stopover if you are looking for a bit of fun and entertainment in the depths of winter.