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BENI THRILL; How Brits still hit Benidorm for sun, sand.. and romance.

Byline: By JACQUI THAKE

THE male dancers were wonderful movers and their slinky tight costumes showed they were magnificently well-endowed.

The girls in our group were even more riveted by their performance when their boss Christine Climent confided that only two of them were gay.

How disappointing then when she gigglingly admitted that she'd ordered the guys to help nature along with a good deal of toilet paper padding!

"Everything on stage has to be larger than life," she says. "The audience wants drama, fun and excitement - and that's what we give them."

Christine is the woman - a Brit - behind the hugely successful Benidorm Palace Theatre.

The toilet tissue may be as gentle as Andrex boasts, but there is nothing soft about the show.

In fact it sums up what Benidorm - on Spain's Costa Blanca - is all about. It's glitzy, glam, hot, loud, slick, bright, brash... and fabulous fun.

Apart from the dancers' dubious undercarriages, what you see is what you get. Don't stay in Benidorm town if you're looking for peace and quiet.

The pubs, clubs, restaurants and bars vibrate until well into the early hours. Follow the Spanish way of life and have a long siesta in the middle of the day or you'll never be able to cope.

And don't go there if you want to avoid other Brits - we make up almost 50 per cent of the tourists.

Full English breakfasts, fish and chips and "tea like mother used to make" are available on every corner - but intermingled are terrific Spanish tapas bars like Aurrera El Bodegon in the old town (we ate there for just pounds 7pp including wine).

These typical local eateries are colourful and chaotic but if you're looking for somewhere more upmarket try lunch on the open-air terrace at Barranco Player on Poniente beach. An absolute feast with decent wine will cost you pounds 24pp.

And another great restaurant for a treat is the Kataria Gastronomica near the Levante beach.

Oh that lovely sandy beach. What memories it brings back for me. The first time I ever went abroad was to Benidorm. I was 16 and I fell in love with the guy who ran the speed boats.

My mother had posed as my sister for the whole holiday until Enrique Jose Pes Gonzalez - that wonderful romantic name has always stuck in my memory - confided in her that we were going to elope.

Suddenly she became my mother again and wrenched me away from him in no uncertain terms. I remember sobbing all the way home to England.

On my return all those years later I couldn't resist a nostalgic wander along the beach searching in the waves for the red speed boat that symbolised so much excitement. Alas, Enrique was nowhere to be seen and I had to settle for the thrills of the local theme parks instead - Aqualandia, featuring a variety of dizzying water rides (pounds 16 adult, pounds 11 child)' Mundo Mar for marine and exotic animals (pounds 13 adult, pounds 9 child)' Terra Mitica, a Spanish Alton owers (pounds 22.50, evening only pounds 13.50) and Terra Natura, offering a trip through different eco systems and cultures (pounds 14 adult, pounds 11 child).

One can only take so much excitement so it was great to discover there is an alternative Benidorm.

Just on the outskirts, with a backdrop of the imposing Finestrat mountains, is an oasis of calm and luxury at the newly-built Sheraton Real de Faula Golf Resort and Spa.

Golfers will appreciate two fabulously laid-out 18-hole courses and indulgers will revel in all the treatments the spa

And you needn't worry about the kiddies - just drop them off at the Discovery Centre and the littles will be entertained with crazy golf, go-karting, ' story-telling, movies, day trips - the ist is endless.

So the whole family ll be as happy as I was to be back in bountiful Benidorm

WHAT'S THE DEAL?

BRITISH Airways flies daily to Alicante has to offer. (www.ba.com). A taxi from the airport (45kms/50 mins) is pounds 41.

WE stayed at the four-star Hotel Mediterraneo, featured by First Choice Holidays where a week's all-inclusive with flights from London costs from pounds 492 (www.first choice.co.uk).

THE Bendiorm Palace Show plus one drink costs pounds 17. Dinner & show with wine is pounds 33.50 (www.benidormpalace.com).

CAPTION(S):

What a lot it's got... the sandy beach at Benidorm' Lost love... Jacqui' Water way to go... kids love having fun at Aqualandia
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 13, 2006
Words:753
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