Being the busy-bodied British and Irish that we were, we insisted on buying breakfast in Benidorm; no cultural trip to Spain would be quite the same without. Setting off as the sun rose above the Puig Campana, our celebratory cluster drove down from the retreat of the mountains. Winding round the waking country, past derelict developments and undulating orchards, losing altitude and with it a gradual sense of tranquillity.
Circling the water’s edge by Villajoyosa, we fall silent at the view. The scenic landscape dwindles to a dusty concrete sprawl. Suddenly, without warning we find ourselves speeding down the motorway, past urban outlets and graffitied walls. The mountainous ridge is now a distant sight, tucked away behind the rock face shouting Terra Mitica. The theme-park falls adjacent to a soaring sky-rise of gold, a decadent gateway to the mecca beyond.
Joining the morning traffic, we pass billboards and placards for a vast consortium of services; Rodeo Jack’s 5 kilometres further, Tikkita offers discounted drinks. The metropolis has quickly descended upon us, confronted by high-rise hotels and apartments, our car dwarfed in comparison to the life-sized Meccano set.
Dawn is breaking across Benidorm and the streets are vastly empty, the guileful calm before the storm. A far cry from Spanish culture, the paths which we pass are lined with tightly packed commodities; clothing stores, fast-food outlets, pubs and clubs and amusement arcades. We abandon the car within the maze and make on foot to the beach, where we indulge in the fatal attraction of a Full-English, priced at only four euros each.
The irony is that by partaking in breakfast, we ourselves have become our own enemy, essentially seen by those around us as fitting to the stereotype. Perhaps secretly for all our good-intentions, that was always secretly the hope; that for just an hour, we could live like ‘the others’. I certainly did, sipping cider from the bottle, dipping my toes in the sea. For a moment, I was absorbed, lapsing from the keep of time.
Our brief encounter with Benidorm soon drew to a close, our backs turned on the sun-kissed boulevard. Riding round the built-up backstreets of the ‘old town’, we caught redeeming features, remnants of the past. My muggy head pondered, as the sun poured from the sky. Far from nomadic adventure, a short-lived taste for another life. A British love-affair it may be, but in truth it wasn’t mine.