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Condor moment; PATRICK PURCELL at Port Aventura.

Byline: PATRICK PURCELL

THE agonising ascent was slow and harrowing as my clammy hands tightened around the safety grips of the Hurakan Condor vertical drop ride.

I vowed never to go through this ordeal again. Approaching the top of the 98m ride, my feet dangling helplessly in the warm Mediterranean air, I was greeted with impressive views of the bustling theme park underneath and the surrounding coastal resort of Salou.

But it was not the serene Kodak moment you would expect. The inevitability of a free fall at over 70mph played havoc with my stomach.

A quick flash of a camera and the moment of free fall left me gasping for breath. Oddly the youngster who sat next to me was totally unfazed by the experience. I must be getting old.

Port Aventura offers a wide range of adrenaline-inducing rides in its five differently themed areas of the park.

The Far West features two water rides. The Silver River Flume is a bog standard wooden log flume (tip: sit at the front) and a tub raft ride, The Grand Canyon Rapids - great fun with four people aboard. But the stand out in the Far West was the Stampida. I thought it looked tame. I didn't realise the whole premise of the ride was of an escape from a stampeding buffalo herd. It was a bone rattler and a half.

Head out of the Far West and you arrive in Mexico. Set around the Mayan civilisation, the area has the terrifying Hurakan Condor and the Templo Del Fuego. Next up was the China area, home to Port Aventura's most iconic attraction, the Dragon Khan. Of all the rides, this was my favourite. Twisting and looping at furious speeds through eight inversions, I screamed all the way round - then went back for another go.

In the China area you walk across a miniature version of the Great Wall. It was calm amid the surrounding screaming chaos of the park and offered rides of a gentler nature like the Chinese Teacups. Polynesia continued a more relaxing feel. Its two main features were the Tutuki Splash, another flume-based ride which had you shooting out of a volcano, and Sea Odyssey - a 4D cinematic ride. Technology has come along way since this attraction opened in 1999 and if the queues are long, I'd avoid it.

Mediterrania has the excellent roller coaster Furius Baco. While not as mesmerising as the Dragon Khan, what it lacks in loops it makes up for in speed. It shoots from 0 to 83.9mph in just 3.5 seconds.

Port Aventura, though, is more than just a theme park. The stage shows which run daily were a real highlight. And the Caribe Aquatic Park is a sprawling network of slides and pools which you could easily pass a full day in just splashing around.

If you stay in the Mediterrania, Caribe or Gold River hotels, take a short ride on the free internal train service and spend a day at Port Aventura's private coastal resort, The Beach Club, which also features two infinity swimming pools.

Or why not have a round of golf? There are courses with lush sea views at the Lumine Golf Club.

There are four hotel complexes. I stayed at the Hotel Gold River, the newest complex on the site. With four pools to choose from and a good selection of restaurants there is enough to keep you entertained.

Port Aventura might not feel quite as up to date as some other theme parks but it does have some Mediterranean magic.

Just don't look down when you're at the top of the Hurakan Condor.

GET THERE

REUS Airport is 15 minutes from Port Aventura. Ryanair flies to Reus from Stansted and Luton with return fares from pounds 85 inc taxes.

www.ryanair.com. The Hotel Gold River costs from pounds 98pppn, including access to Port Aventura and Aquatic Park.

Standard park tickets cost around pounds 40 adult, pounds 32 child.

www.portaventura.co.uk

Time zone: GMT +1hr Currency: Euro pounds 1 = 1.11

Best time to go: Summer white-knuckle wonder

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 21, 2011
Words:696
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