What Benidorm did back in the 60’s! A one-time tiny fishing village expanded to become a huge town . It was largely thanks to the amazing forethought, vision and dedication of the Mayor of Benidorm, Pedro Zaragoza.
Franco had imposed a bikini ban in Spain, but Zaragoza appealed to him to lift it, so that the sun worshipping foreigners could take full advantage of the huge white sandy beaches that flanked this little village on both sides. Amazingly, Franco agreed, and Zaragoza got on with the task of putting his village on the map!
With incredible forward thinking he put in big wide tree lined avenues and access roads. At the time,many local people must have though he was mad! But these roads, like the Av’ Mediterraneo and Av’ Europa still exist in their original form, and cope admirably with the amount of traffic which arrives on a daily basis, numbers of vehicles which Zaragoza had obviously never seen, but he knew they would one day come to Benidorm!
He was instrumental in the building of an airport close to Benidorm, and once Alicante airport opened in 1966, it opened the floodgates to visitors who flocked here in their millions to soak up the sunshine they so craved. The era of The Package Holiday had just begun, and up went towering hotel and apartment blocks to accommodate the hoards. Zaragoza respected the agricultural side of the area, and favoured the building of tall blocks, so as not to take up too much of the fertile land. How big would Benidorm be today, if all the buildings had been allowed to sprawl out in low rise blocks?
But just as Benidorm was toasting its huge success, along came the negative press coverage depicting the town as home to cheap holidays which attracted “lager louts,stag & hens”, rowdy behaviour and the “Sun, Sea, Sand, Sex and Sangria” image took hold.
It has taken years to dispel this image, but with careful planning and investment, Benidorm is back on track to being high on the favourite list of holidaymakers from more Northern areas, who need their dose of winter sunshine, and don’t want to fly too far to get it!
Throughout all this chequered history, one part of Benidorm has stood the test of Time, and that’s the Old Town. Here the charm and attraction of that little fishing village can still be seen, with its tiny narrow streets (still cobbled), terracotta roofs and its beautiful old church. Many of the old, original buildings are still standing, and when renovations take place, the Town Hall are very careful not to let people get carried away with stainless steel and modern architecture (internally at least), ensuring that this little piece of Old Benidorm remains forever as a tribute to the little village it once was.
Many of the old buildings have now been turned into British bars, with the old exteriors being in stark contrast to the bright, air conditioned interiors.
There is one part though that remains steadfastly Spanish! And that’s the area which specializes in Tapas. Centred around a narrow streets, it epitomizes our idea of what a real Spanish village might be like. Over the years there has been an influx of tapas bars run by people from all over Spain, but especially from the North and the Basque country, bringing with them the tasty snacks of their region and making a closely knit community, all vying for the attention of passers by.
The food here is like no other on the Costa Blanca, with mouth-wateringly delicious tit- bits being offered with baskets of fresh, crusty bread to mop up the juices! Bite sized pieces of fish and prawns, meat balls and vegetables are combined with local spices and handed down recipes then neatly displayed in trays for you to point to (as you won’t know what they are called) and then stand and enjoy (seats are usually full!) as you discuss the day’s events or generally put the world to rights with friends. Tapas can be accompanied by any drink really, but many still favour the traditional cider or champagne.
Many Spanish (and quite a few Brits) also live in these streets, as they have done for generations, and the area is noisy and vibrant. Hams hang maturing above smoke filled bars, and old men in the traditional berets rub shoulders with smart businessmen and jean-clad youngsters. All are gesticulating and shouting above the noise, giving the area an atmosphere of excitement, amidst the relaxation.
It might at first, appear intimidating to the casual British tourist, with no English menu to peruse, but it is well worth taking an evening out to wander around these streets and let the Spanish noise and bustle surround you just for a while. Stop and sample a small tasty snack, (just point!) and a drink, then escape to the safety of the many British bars which surround this street, and sink into a glass of your favourite beer, happy that you have at least been a part of the place, just for a while, where this huge town first began, the most Spanish of all Benidorm!
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