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Going LOOPY; Hold on tight at PortAventura.

Byline: Lewis Panther

THE constant clickety-clack and the roller-coaster screams soon became the backing track to our lads' trip to Spain.

In fact it became strangely soothing. And there were also plenty of whoops and ye-haas, which was appropriate enough as we were staying in a hotel that could have been built from the set of a Clint Eastwood cowboy film.

We were at PortAventura, originally built by Universal Studios as a European outpost to the thriving theme parks in the US.

Set behind the 1970s favourite Costa Dorada resort of Salou, it has built up to claim top spot among the ever bigger, faster and packed theme park market.

heme All four corners of the globe are represented here, from Mayan e are ayan temples and Far Eastern pagodas to European cobbled streets. as to ,Travel In the Hotel Gold River, where we were staying, the hotel is clad in wooden planks to make it look just like Tombstone or some other Wild West town. On the inside, it's a smartly kitted out, modern, four-star venue.

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Further afield, there is a waterpark thrown in for good measure. In sweltering 30C temperatures, its slides were a favourite. But queuing up for more than two hours for a es, its euing for a ride of less than a minute can be a bit much. And even with an Express pass, which gives you faster access to attractions, you could still be in for a long wait.

It helps if you have an unlimited access ticket, so you can pick and choose when you go.

Early starts were a struggle on this holiday, so opted for 11pm rides, when most punters were making for the exits or nightly fireworks display. There's nothing like the loop-theloop to make sure the digestive system is working properly after an evening in a Mexican restaurant filling up on burritos and beer.

The plan had been to ride all the wildest roller-coasters in the park 10 times over. But we were soon lulled into snoozing by the pool or hitting the other water park in Salou, Aquapolis, which has some of the steepest chutes I've flown down.

Best of all had to be the Boomerang, where we dropped over the side of a near vertical 15-metre slide... and then all the way up the other side.

Dolphins did a twice daily show here as part of the PS20 entrance fee for adults, PS12 for children.

Unlike PortAventura, where bags are checked for picnics and offenders told to empty their sarnies into black bin bags, Aquapolis has no such qualms about letting families in laden with everything from sunbeds to huge hampers.

Otherwise you're looking at about PS8 for a burger, chips and a drink.

Back to PortAventura on the bus and straight up the stairs for Furious Baco - the second fastest rollercoaster in Europe.

coaO thro - fr film up tea Once we were strapped in, we went through a whole range of emotions - from trepidation as we watched a film of a mad scientist getting chewed up in his own laboratory to sheer terror as the ride catapults upwards at cheek-wobbling speed (it actually reaches 85mph in 3.5 seconds).

We clung on for dear life as it dipped, twisted and corkscrewed its way around the park.

i We then took the short walk from Mediterraneo into China to the front of Dragon Khan - a more traditional roller-coaster and, with fro the trad a mere eight loops, it was actually a piece of cake compared to the shock of Baco.

We even had a few seconds to enjoy the views of the sun going over the Els Ports mountains.

We could have spent the whole week without stepping into the Med, as PortAventura is a few miles inland. But we thought that would have been a crime.

And so to round off the holiday, we spent the day at the Lumine Beach Club.

Set out around seven infinity pools, terraced on the hillside and shaded by pine trees it's the complete opposite to the hustle and bustle of the theme park. Sofas and sun loungers give it an Ibiza feel.

Having never been to this part of the Costa Dorada, it was surprising how the Spanish voices drowned out the British. Even the hotel buffet meals had a traditional Spanish feel. Huge plates of Manchego cheese, Iberian and Serrano hams, paellas and Galician pies were piled high - even if they were a little too exotic for my lot.

FACTFILE: Thomas Cook offers seven nights half board at the four-star Hotel Gold River from PS2,090 for a family of four. Price based on June departure from Gatwick, including flights, transfers and one "kid for a quid", subject to availability when booked by January 31. Visit thomas or call 0844 412 5970.


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REAL SCREAM: Roller-coaster madness

MASTERSTROKE: Lewis takes a dip
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Title Annotation:Editorial; Opinion, Columns
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jan 13, 2013
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