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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Bumper to Bumper parking in Benidorm

Article in today´s Daily Mail
I read with great amusement an article in this mornings Daily Mail - that Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is under police investigation following a "fail to stop collision". From reading that you would have thought it was a major incident, but no, he was performing not a 3 but 7 point turn and clipped another car without realising. This only came to light after CCTV footage was viewed.... If I was in his shoes I´d be more embarrassed that it took 7 "manoeuvers" to turn a car in the opposite direction!

Now if you are in the least worried about your car being "clipped" then DO NOT drive to Spain is my advice! The Spanish are notorious for using bumpers as guides, after all, that´s what they are for. If you ever watch a Spaniard park you will notice that they NEVER use their mirrors but go back and forth, hitting the bumpers of the car in front and behind. Virtually every car has scratches and bangs, so if you in the least bit "fussy" then just don´t.

Normal here....
A friend of mine recently had an altercation with a Spanish driver. He was sat outside a cafe with his car parked directly outside. A car pulled in and scratched his bumper - one that had just been repaired and respray the day before. He confronted the driver who initially denied it was him then when he pointed to the blue paint left behind, exactly the same as his vehicle he looked and just said "oh it´s only a little graze". He spoke to half a dozen witnesses who were also sat outside and they all agreed it was his vehicle that caused the damage so the police were called. On arrived he explained what had happened to them yet when the police started asking the "witnesses" suddenly no-one had seen anything!

Alicante airport car hire desks
If you are hiring a car it is probably worth taking out the full cover as you will almost certainly end up with some damage by the end of your holiday. It is frustrating, but you soon get use to it - I know that I certainly have as my car has plenty of dents and scratches through no fault of my own. The resort is jam packed with cars this week for the Easter holidays and sometimes I wonder whether half of those driving even have their license!

But onto a more serious issue of licenses, Benidorm local police and the local AFA Alzheimer´s Association are calling for the Directorate General to introduce changes to current traffic regulations for those people affected by the condition. The current situation is that a license is valid for a ten year duration for those under the age of 65 and thereafter, it needs to be renewed every five years. Both the Psychologist and President of the AFA explained that "until the patient has to renew the license there is nothing to stop them from getting into their car". Obviously each case needs to be assessed individually as those in the early stages would still have the capability to drive, but specific legislation would ease the burden of many families and careers.  They are contacted on a regular basis from worried children and spouses of sufferers who do not know how to act to prevent them from getting into their cars. The local police have also indicated that they see more and more incidents involving drivers with some form of dementia. The proposal has already been referred from Alicante to Madrid, where it has generated "great interest".

Relevant articles
Parking fines in Benidorm
The rules of driving in Benidorm
Driving in Spain

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sunny weather not good news for all

Vibrant Levante beach last weekend
The continued good weather here in Benidorm is great news - particularly for those holiday makers who have chosen to spend their Easter break here. The Levante beach has been packed, with many even taking to the waters to cool down! This week also sees an influx of domestic visitors, with many driving from Madrid for the "Semana Santa" - so parking will be even more difficult than normal.

Breathtaking view - you wouldn´t believe this was Benidorm
If you want a slightly more tranquil beach environment then head to either the Poniente or La Cala beaches - both sandy but much quieter. However, if you are a little more adventurous why not head to one of the semi hidden coves dotted around the coastline.

Tio Ximo
Almadrava and Tio Ximo are 2 such treasures, both located at the foot of the Sierra Helada in the Rincon de Loix. You can drive part of the way to both or if you don´t have a car then you can pop onto the number 24 bus. This will take you part of the way but they only run a limited service between 11am and 1pm then again 5pm till 8pm. From the bus stop there is a short-ish walk to either, but Tio Ximo is far more accessible.

However, this prolonged dry spell hasn´t been appreciated by all. The hoteliers, bars and restaurants love it but it has been devastating for local farmers. This Autumn and Winter has been the driest of the last 150 years and as a consequence virtually all of the almond and olive crops in the province have been lost, costing farmers around 60 million euros in lost revenue.

Turron - main ingredient is almonds
The price of watering crops has soared for farmers, now costing 60 euros per hour which most cannot afford. When you look at the price of local crops such as oranges, you can pay as little as 40 cents per kilo at the market. Factor in the cost of watering and having to employ people to pick them, then you can start to understand how farmers are suffering from this drought. Shortages will cause prices to rise and one local industry which will feel the pinch are the turron producers.

Almond groves in bloom
Jijona, just outside of Alicante is the birthplace of turron production - a sweet nougat made with almonds and manufacturers will have to resort to buying almonds from outside of the region, no doubt resulting in escalating prices. Antonio Rico, Director of the Institute of Geography at Alicante University has warned of the long term damage to the local economy. With lack of long term rain damage to the almond trees will be permanent, costing the local economy 142 million euros. He has called on the Department of Agriculture to approve a restructuring plan to include planting new trees immediately. If you ever drive out towards Jalon when the almond trees are in flower it looks like a blanket of snow - so pretty, it would be a shame if this was lost as it´s a real magnet for the community.

With the shortage of rainfall bad news was reported about the Guadalest reservoir this week. In the last quarter of 2013 enough water was lost from this and a second reservoir into the sea, which would have been enough to supply the town of Benidorm for an entire year! Emergency reservoirs are now having to be activated but the Mayor of Benidorm has stated that there is no risk of water shortages for households and businesses in the town.... hmmmmm.

Relevant articles
Spanish turron production
Jalon - a short drive from Benidorm
Chocolate factory in Villa Joyosa

Monday, 14 April 2014

"EFEX" - coming to Benidorm Palace

You often hear the term "Upping your game"  when it comes to entertainment, but Benidorm Palace are taking things to a whole new level this year. The new show, called "EFEX" will debut on 24th April and will leave you speechless - literally!

Troupe in rehearsals
Once again I had the privilege of attending rehearsals for the new show and was able to speak with David Moore - the Artistic and Creative Director. This year's show is going to be like none other - "totally unique, more modern and very technical" he told me. You will be delighted to hear that the Irish dance is back, however this time round there is a fusion of Spanish -  but with a real twist! They have also gone Oriental - with some beautiful Japanese routines and stunning costumes but what makes this show extraordinary is the involvement of "The TwinsFX" , one of the leading companies operating in the field of theatrical visual effects and illusions.

David Climent with Paul, his mentor
"The TwinsFX" run by identical twins Paul and Gary - hence the name, have spent the last 6 months planning and developing the illusions. I sat down and spoke with Paul during rehearsals who said that this will be THE largest effects show in Europe and that some of routines will have their premier here on the stage of Benidorm Palace. He is here to train David Climent, who will be performing some of the dangerous and very technical illusions, rehearsing 6 hours per day The Twins have performed around the world for the last 15 years and worked on some show stopping projects including Dr Who Live, The War of the Worlds live tour, with all the major theatre, film & television companies and theme parks such as Alton Towers and Chessington.

David Moore on stage directing
The sets for the illusions all came over on a 45ft lorry - some were even built in America and will stretch the boundaries to create exciting and innovative entertainment. It is not the first time that twins Paul and Gary have been involved with illusions at the Palace - how many of you remember that breath taking moment about 10 years ago when a helicopter appeared on the stage? Well The TwinsFX bought that to you so you can only begin to visualize what´s in store for you...

6 of the new British dancers
Many of the illusions will be seamlessly integrated into the dance routines and the troupe are having to learn new and difficult techniques to support and complement the illusions. There is a fantastic military style LED number, with laser lightbulbs part of the outfit which will stun you. The troupe are made up of 18 ladies and 8 men - with several of the girls new recruits from the UK. At one point the majority of the dancers were East European but the Brits are now taking over that position. I spoke to the newbies, who had attended auditions in London and Manchester earlier in the year and were delighted to have been selected for this prestigious show and venue. All are trained dancers and for some their first job, so they in particular were very excited about being in Benidorm.

Elaborate headpieces for this years show
The costumes as always are truly a work of art - all hand made on the premises. With the size and weight of some of them it´s amazing that the girls can manage to move with such elegance - often balancing the plume of the headdress, complete with feathers and spanning so wide that the girls have to walk through the doors sideways!
From what I have sneaked it is certainly in a completely different league to previous years - you will be left in awe of "how did they do that" and want to go again and again... trust me! How they will top that next year ..... well there´s a challenge!

Relevant articles
Backstage at Benidorm Palace
Benidorm Palace - Why it´s Europe´s top entertainment venue
Behind the scenes at Benidorm Palace

Saturday, 12 April 2014

2014 Elvis Fest in Benidorm

With 8 Elvis´s...... left me all shook up!
The Benidorm Elvis Fiesta has kicked off - the 4th such event to take place in the resort. The 3 day event sees Elvis fans flock not only from the UK but also from across Europe. The Melia Hotel is the base for the event - and where yesterday I got to meet the participating ETA´s ... Elvis Tribute Artistes, all in character and at various stages of his life. But one thing which they all had in common was passion and sideburns!

Lined up in the picture, starting from the left with the blue jacket is Paul Molloy, Ciaran Houlihan - Irelands No 1 ETA, Benidorms very own Simon Patrick, Mike Nova, Dean Mack, Darren ´Graceland´ Jones - with a name like that obviously from Wales, Juan Lozano and Tom Gilson. There were also others who couldn´t make the photo...

Enjoying a cuppa - It´s not all drugs, sex & Rock n Roll!
I spoke with Veronica, the marketing manager at the hotel who is delighted to welcome back the fans and to be hosting the event for the fourth year running. She told me it creates a fantastic atmosphere and even the hotel guests are enjoying the music, especially those sat around the pool - an unexpected bonus for them.

Opening taster on day 1 at the Melia poolside stage
There is an incredible weekend of entertainment lined up for the Elvis fans - fun filled poolside shows at the Melia, Elvis themed games, a world class ETA line up with shows going on in 3 separate venues and of course the legendary after show parties - which go on well into the early hours!

At the "Rock & Roll House"
As in previous years, Peter Phillips, the organiser of this and the legendary Porthcawl Elvis festival, which attracts over 30,000 fans every September to the sleepy seaside town in South Wales was on hand to oversee the event - together with his assistant Harriet.

It certainly takes a lot of energy to put together the smooth running of this weekend extravaganza and to ensure that all the fans go away buzzing and enthused. Next year Peter told me will be the 5th anniversary here in Benidorm and they are planning a show stopper! The date has already been booked - 17th - 19th April 2015, which is after Easter as it falls on April 5th next year.

At Showboat
The admittance to all the events and venues is strictly restricted to ticket holders - you actually get a wristband much like the all inclusive ones. Places had actually sold out months ago for this 3 day event - this is to ensure that there is enough room for paying fans to get in. As last year the "Rock & Roll House" and "Levi´s Showboat" are also used in addition to the Melia hotel.

However, as it is the 5th anniversary next year, a spectacular closing show on Sunday 19th April will be held at Benidorm Palace - and tickets will be on sale for those wishing to attend this one special show, which will feature 12 World Class Elvis´s all on one stage! That should certainly be an event not to be missed.

Well the sun is shining and if you are out and about in the Rincon area you may think you had overdone last nights partying if you see a line of Elvis´s walking down the street - there are plenty around this weekend.

Relevant articles
Elvis arrives in Benidorm - ah ha!
Elvis Festival comes to Benidorm

Thursday, 10 April 2014

"Pea-Man" files complaint against the police!

Police awareness campaign last Summer
In what could honestly be a scene from a Carry On film as it is so absurd, a "pea-man" has put in a "denuncia" - which is an official complaint, against a member of the National Police for arresting him!
Last Summer the National Police spent a day handing out leaflets on the streets of Benidorm warning people about the scam.

Gang operating on Avd Mediterraneo
Earlier in the week, a "pea gang" were operating on the Levante front and a number of holiday makers got very distressed when they realised that they had been the victims of a scam. On noticing their state some of the local shop owners called the National Police. Obviously they have look-outs and disperse on seeing a police car approach. The look outs normally stand in the middle of the street at junctions and whistle when they see any signs of the police for the gangs to leave quickly. The police were given a good description and went in search - and found them not too far away.

Close up of them at work
 They attempted to search one of the women in the gang, who are used as bait to attract innocent passers-by and often end up pickpocketing whilst they are watching. The pea-man "objected" and had to be restrained on the floor by the police while they carried out the search.

The pea man has now denounced the police officer, stating that his rights had been violated and that the police had assaulted him!

National police deal with pea-men
The Police Union is giving legal support to the officer involved, but it seems almost a farcical situation were it not for the fact that it really is a serious problem in the town. According to the Police Union it has seriously impacted their ability to act against this type of illegal activity until a reform in the law is passed, which has to come from Madrid. It is evident that those who sit in their ivory towers in the capital haven´t the slightest notion of what is happening in the real world - and they obviously never come to Benidorm.

If you are here, especially over the Easter break DO NOT stop, as enticing as it seems with all the cheering and clapping. The majority of the so called spectators are actually members of the gang trying to lure you to stop and take part. They will wave a 20€ or even 50€ note saying they had just won and how easy it is. There is no such thing as a free lunch - you will possibly also loose your wallet in the process.

A protest rally that had been organised for Saturday, to highlight the lack of action being taken on such crimes has been postponed as a conflict has arisen between various members and associations taking part but we are assured that another date will be announced in the not too distant future.

Relevant articles
National Police launch campaign
Prison sentences for pea men
What to do if you become a victim of crime

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Benidorm 7 filming progressing

Extras in between takes
Filming of the 7th series of "Benidorm" is now in full swing and into its third week - much to the delight of fans, who can be found waiting outside the locations in the hope of catching a glimpse of the cast. Sadly last week signaled the end for the Garvey's as they had finished all their appearances in the first 2 weeks of recording, but 2 favorites have returned - Johnny Vegas as "The Oracle" and Elsie Kelly as "Noreen", his mother or as he likes to say, his "PA"!

Yesterday the crew were filming at Morgans Tavern - the set for "Neptunes" and they are due to be there for the rest of this week.

There were plenty of extras on hand, which were waiting in the blue gazebo in between takes.
Cast members working included Mateo, The Oracle with mum Noreen, Lesley - as opposed to Les, one half of the swingers -  Jacqueline and Clive & Tiger - from the Dyke family, who were new to the last series.

In between takes Johnny Vegas and Tim Healy in particular would pop out and say hello to the hoards that had assembled, gladly posing for pictures and even having "selfies" taken with the fans - to much squealing and excitement. There were certainly many Johnny fans out there yesterday -  and when they went off for lunch they were delighted that he took time out to speak to them.

Looking at the top which Johnny was wearing I think that perhaps some kind of darts match was going on inside "Neptunes" - what do you think?

A very dashing Mateo - aka Jake Canuso, all tanned and groomed was the perfect gentleman as he escorted actress Elsie to the waiting minibus,  which took them back for lunch.

It´s great seeing all the favourites and the excitement that it causes here every year that they descend on the resort. They will be here until almost the end of June so no doubt plenty of opportunities of seeing many of the cast about.

Not only are ITV here fiming but over the last few days several International brands have also been using Benidorm as the backdrop for adverts - they include El Corte Ingles, Mercedes and Porsche!
Obviously the image of Benidorm is not all cheap and tac if they are coming here... Benidorm 1 - Marbella 0

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Actor Jake Canuso
Extras for series 7