Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.

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Magic Monika Hotel, Benidorm

Where to start with this hotel. It was both better and worse than our expectations. We normally stay in a quieter, family orientated all inclusive hotel in countries either known for their beauty or due to there being something we wanted to visit. Having had our preconceptions of Benidorm well and truly established by rumour and exaggerated TV comedy, it was the last place we thought to go and ended up here due to it being the best of the few remaining choices. That’s what you get for travelling last minute in the last week of the school holidays.

So, price wise. Actually pretty reasonable, the exorbitant pricing was in the return flights and not the hotel itself. For an all inclusive hotel the cost was reasonable. And this was the first all inclusive I have stayed at that included brand name drinks in the price. The drink portions were more than generous too. A regular rum drinker myself, even I was knocked sideways by the strength of the shots.

The rooms are a fairly decent size. We had a one bedroom apartment which had the 2 beds for the kids in the living area. But it wasn’t a squeeze, although if we had tried to use the little cupboard kitchen area I may have struggled. A kitchen area supplied with 4 saucepans, 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 cups, cutlery for 2 and a nut cracker. Slightly limited for a family of 4 and as for the nut cracker . . .

The buffet meals were fine. Not a gourmet explosion but all perfectly edible and a fairly extensive choice of hot and cold meats, potatoes, salads and breads. The usual selection of puddings and cakes. However there was a complete lack of vegetables. Oh, every night there was a bowl of soggy broccoli but nothing tasty or crunchy. Not a hotel for vegetarians. Breakfast had a good variety of cooked and cold options and a huge pile of freshly heated pain au chocolate. In comparison to other experiences I would say the food was decent but not adventurous.

The problems in this hotel were in two things. The basic decrepitness of the building and the major overcrowding. The pool for example was a great size. Lots of swimming room. But every day there was a rush for beds (see Zombies versus Sunbeds for more details on that) as there just was not enough room around the pool side for the amount of beds needed to allow for all the guests. Not to mention the number of locals who came over and under the fence for a free swim and free meal in the poolside cafe.

The pool itself had broken tiles everywhere. The guttering around the edge was brown and the stench from the gutter was awful if you got close. Not helped by the Spanish kids who climbed out of the pool to pee in the gutter. And since we didn’t see a single Spanish child in a swim nappy, who knows where the rest of their leakage goes. (I went shopping for more swim nappies when we ran out and couldn’t find them in any supermarket!)

The pool has a bar in the middle (not for swimming up to, it’s just perched mid pool and reached by a bridge) which looks nice till you get close enough to see the peeling paint. There are two pillars in the pool, presumably fountains but actually just full of stinking stagnant water. There are slides for the kids and ours had a great time on them. Just don’t look too closely at the bolts holding it together. The kids pool has a seesaw (one cracked seat) and some rocking horses that no longer squirt water as they were clearly meant to. There were also some lifeguards dotted about the pool, something I haven’t come across abroad before. They were friendly and fair with the kids. It was a little off putting though watching the previously mentioned fence jumping locals then getting their generously portioned alcoholic cocktails (for free) and handing them to their lifeguard friends.

The restaurant is hard to describe. Picture a school canteen but with a paper tablecloth on each table and the entire ceiling covered in mirrors. Yes, a huge room with mirrors everywhere. It’s downstairs and window free. Not quite the views of the scenery while eating on the terrace of an evening one would hope for. Due to the sheer volume of diners passing through it was more of a case of grab, shove and snarl to get the food. The staff, to be fair, worked their fastest (if slightly surliest) to keep it clean, change tables over and maintain some order in the frenzied stampede.

Canteen at Magic Monika

Other observations were that there was a room of pool tables and every night there was entertainment, albeit a little repetitive. The bar staff were slow, but cheery. When it rained water poured in through the ceiling of the main foyer and bars. But every night the staff put away all of the sunbeds tables and chairs and cleaned the poolside. So, Magic Monika had good staff, the place is clean, plenty of facilities and potential but it is very rough round the edges. What it needs is a refurb, repairs and to reduce the number of guests by half.

All in all I would say that, once we got used to the masses and worked out how to join in the morning race for sunbeds, we had a good time doing what we came for, which was to lounge by the pool in the sun and relax with the kids. Would we come again? No. Next year we will book earlier for somewhere a little higher star and less crowded.

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Who are the chavs?

Everyone judges other people when they see them, often before they have even spoken to them. We form an impression of each other based on what they are wearing, hairstyles, jewellery, tattoos etc. And we play to our own stereotype by dressing appropriately for the impression we want to give.

So here we are in Benidorm. A place that has a reputation for being a bit chavvy. It’s been described by a number of people we have met here as ‘the Spanish Blackpool’. And even though I have never been to Blackpool I have formed an impression of what they mean due to some stereotyped pre-judgement passed on to me by others.

We, Mr G and I, discussed what we expected to see before we arrived and one thing was that the place would be full of chavs! We sat by the pool in the first day and noted the fellow holiday makers who were tattooed or swearing or drinking in the day and were able to label the people around us as chavs.

As we relaxed into our holiday over the next week we got speaking to a fair number of our sun lounging neighbours. Who mostly seemed quite normal and friendly.

Of course, there were some we avoided from the start. The drunk Irish man who had passed out at the table next to us, only occasionally rousing to shout at Mr G ‘scuuuusssshhheee mi, ooy yousshhh, you wanna drink wi’mi’ before sinking back into his stupor, made an immediate impression and when we saw him sauntering about in his trendy shorts, pants leering out over the waistband, shouting expletives at the bar staff during the course of the week, we did stay clear.

But the families we did chat to, who our children bounced about the pool with, were generally quite alright. And many of them commented on the number of chavs about. As we sat with our lunchtime beer and commenting on our own tattoos, we all agreed the place was just like Blackpool and chavtastic.

And as I remarked to Mr G, if we all agree the place is full of them and if none of us feel that we are ourselves in that select group, who actually are these mysterious chavs?


Zombie versus sunbeds

I have seen my fair share of end of world, zombie infested, civilisation crumbling movies. Mr G and I like to sit down to a good post apocalypse film night and watch how the director portrays mankind descending from a state of technological advancement to scraping a life without phones, supermarkets or a central source of control and order. Order that is usually provided by the government, the army or the lone hero who discovers his destiny is to lead the small ragtag army from their remote village through hordes of the undead, facing starvation, lack of clean drinking water, probable infection or death by being ripped to pieces by cannibalistic rotting corpses . It’s a good theme and one that prompts the same conversation very time, a chat I am sure is repeated across the country.

What would you do when the zombie virus breaks out?

We start to plan how best to defend our families, maybe even a few friends. Would you blockade your home? Is there a more secure place nearby you would reach. Do you search for the nearest army base? And what about food. First things are to secure the family, second is to grab the largest and most secure transport possible and ransack the local supermarket. In the UK we would need to find weapons since gun selling shops are not so readily available.

It quickly descends into a case of every man for himself. How quickly mankind can turn on each other, making sure ourselves and our families are cared for first and then maybe helping small select groups of others, banding together against perceived threats, other people who are different in some way or considered a handicap in our quest for survival.

Now I know where that movie director gets his ideas!

Ok, so no zombies were attacking. But we recently took the family away for a week in Benidorm. A last minute holiday which meant we were left with little choice in destination and one of the busiest resort hotels.

I have never experienced anything like this before. Of course on every holiday there are some people who get up at the crack of dawn to put towels on sunbeds, thus staking their territory and laying claim to prime position for the rest of the day.

But this hotel had solved this problem. No early risers here. No, this hotel had a fence around the pool which was not opened until 10 am.

By 9am, a family member was sent to reserve a place in the queue. By 930am the queue became a herd. Order began to break down. Small groups started to form, the younger men on one side, the elderly and less able in the middle. Brits on the left, Spanish in the right. Those after shade grouped to the right, men with families after the kiddie pool banding together over the far side.

Tactics were discussed, ways to avoiding slipping in the poolside tiles, getting a spring off from the grated shower floor, shortcuts through the palm trees. The more experienced holidayers noted the newbies and dismissed them, the regular pool goers marking their enemies, they being the ones who got prime position yesterday.

At 950 hotel staff repelled the sneak attack from the local children climbing in over the back wall, closely followed by the teenage children thrust over the fence by the holidaying fathers.

A tense silence falls as every group watches the clock and the gate warden. The minute hand ticks over, 10 am arrives. The gate is opened, the symbol of order is removed.

It’s every man for himself as the mass herd surges towards the small gate. A bottleneck of pushing holiday makers intent of getting their spot of sun builds up, the more able squeezing through first. There are the lead runners sprinting round the poolside to prime position, the less confident moving sideways to the first available beds. Weapons are deployed, a random flip flop arching over head like a well aimed missile to land on a sunbed, thereby marking that as taken. Towels are draped over as many beds as they can stretch to.

Sunbeds secured, the pack leaders stroll nonchalantly back through the slower herds still moving round the poolside to take what scraps of sun were left for them.

And as every one of the holiday makers returns to a civilised breakfast with their families they all comment, ‘Never seen anything like it. It’s ridiculous.’