'The Fat One" ... must be time for El Gordo!

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There is exactly a week left until the El Gordo Christmas lottery is drawn on December 22. El Gordo, meaning "the fat one" is an annual event held in Spain and sends Spaniards into a state of hysteria. I have never known such a gambling nation and queues form outside lottery shops and kiosks daily in the lead-up to the day. It is managed by the Government under "Loterias y Apuestas del Estado"- the Spanish lottery organization. 30% of the ticket sales go to the Government in taxes and the remaining 70% is paid out in prizes, meaning the more people that play the bigger the jackpot. It is a win win situation for the Government as any winnings over €2,000 are also subject to a 20% tax.

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Leroy Merlin opens in Finestrat

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The new Leroy Merlin opens in Finestrat tomorrow, a haven for DIY enthusiasts – and as a special promotional offer, are offering 15 per cent OFF all purchases made on the day! The Mayor of Finestrat Juan Fransisco Perez and the Director of Leroy Merlin Spain, Ignacio Sanchez officially inaugurated the store today, ahead of tomorrow’s grand opening.

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Benidorm's first Tattoo Convention

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Body Art or inking – normally referred to as tattoos, were once the reserve of bikers, sailors and criminals, but now widely accepted in society. Figures show that one in three young British adults have at least one, with many emulating celebrities such as David Beckham, One Directions Harry Styles, Angelina Jolie and Cara Delevingne. But if you think it’s only the young who have them done then think again - actress Susan Sarandon had her first at the age of 61. There are numerous tattoo and piercing studios here in Benidorm, much like many typical towns and cities across the UK – but one thing that has been missing here is a Tattoo Convention. Over 400 are held worldwide every year and in 2017, Benidorm will host its first ever, over the St Patrick’s Day weekend - which also coincides with the Spanish Fallas

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Compensation culture spreads to Benidorm

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The growing compensation culture, prevalent in the UK has spread – and evidence is emerging on a weekly basis of illicit practices occurring here in Benidorm. Spanish hotels are hitting back at so called ‘unscrupulous British lawyers’ for enticing holidaymakers to make claims against them, actively encouraging people to claim for anything ranging from thefts to food poisoning. They offer to act on their behalf on a ‘no win no fee’ arrangement - professing to win thousands of pounds in compensation. These so called reps, usually those in their early 20’s mingle with hotel guests around the pool, dressed in swimwear so as not to attract attention from hotel staff.

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Benidorm did Fancy Dress!

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Benidorm did it again, seeing thousands turn out for the annual British Fancy Dress Day, which always takes place the day after the official Benidorm fiesta ends. The beginning of the week was marred with grey skies and rain – coincidentally, the same as last year, but this morning the sky was a perfect blue and the sun was certainly shining down to greet all those who descended for what has been deemed Europe’s biggest fancy dress party! The entire Calle Gerona was closed to traffic, as were many of the street running off it, giving revelers free reign to party… and boy, do the Brits know how to party!

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It’s fiesta time in Benidorm

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Fiestas feature strongly in Spanish culture and every year towns and villages up and down the country celebrate at various times of the year - and Benidorm's is virtually upon us. The annual fiesta is a celebration of the local Patron Saint, which for Benidorm is the Virgin of the Sufragio and San Jaime Apostle (they have two) and religion features heavily. The event dates back to 1740 when an image of the Virgin was found in the remains of a burnt out fishing boat, which was taken up to the church. A re-enactment of this is played out every year on the Poniente beach on the first official day of the fiesta – which is this Saturday, 12 November at about 5pm followed by a procession up to the San Jaime church at the top of the Old Town.

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UK Cabaret Club in Benidorm re-opens

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Despite unfounded fears that Brexit would have a negative impact on holidays the reverse appears to be true for Benidorm. Hotel bookings by the British are already 16 per cent up on this time last year, proving that a devaluation in sterling will not put many off coming back. To reinforce this message, last night the Presidente Hotel re-opened the UK Cabaret Club (formerly called the Comedy Club) – and the first night was buzzing.

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Benidorm Palace rocked!

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The Palace was a total sell out last night with virtually every seat taken – it’s been a while since I’ve seen even the very back row jam packed. Liverpool funnyman Stan Boardman opened the show and quickly had the entire venue roaring with his not always so politically correct gags which everyone loved. After an interval the fabulous Walk Like a Man quartet took to the stage, suited and booted, to a rave reception from the entire room and many ended up dancing in the aisles.

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Poppy Appeal launches in Benidorm

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The 2016 Poppy Appeal was launched in Benidorm yesterday with a spectacular parade, led by the Torrevieja Pipes and Drums along the Levante promenade – making for an incredible backdrop. The sound of the bagpipes drew crowds off the beach and spectators lined the route, applauding as they passed. The immaculately turned out Standard Bearers followed – including one lady this year and behind them two gentlemen who rightfully earned the biggest applause and respect from all, the Chelsea Pensioners, wearing their distinctive scarlet coats and medals.
The Mayor, Toni Perez walked behind, accompanied by the Vice Consul Sarah Munsterhjelm, Lt Col David Whimpenny, Captain Paul Lencass, Mr Nigel Hails – Chairman of District North of RBL in Spain and Robin Hargrave – the Poppy appeal co-ordinator. The parade finished at the end of the promenade and officials took to the stage, where The Rev Ray Andrews, Service Padre gave a prayer of thanks to start the ceremony.

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Work begins on the new SATE office in Benidorm

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Work has at long last begun on the new SATE office in the Rincon de Loix. SATE stands for "El Servicio de Atención al Turista Extranjero" - hence the abbreviation, which roughly translated means the Foreign Tourist Assistance Office. This is where you should go to file a report if you are in the unfortunate situation of being a victim of crime. There was much criticism when the current one was opened in the Old Town back in 2013 – with virtually everyone in agreement that it was the wrong place. But to everyone's shock and amazement, workmen and a digger arrived this morning to begin the construction – which is estimated to take up to five months. It will be located beside the current tourist information office on Calle Derramador – opposite the Flash hotel. The Town Hall have promised that it will be fully operational for Spring.

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Forget the peamen - Fine the punter!

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The peamen – sometimes also referred to as the potato men are the scourge of Benidorm and should be given a very wide berth. They operate in gangs, usually on busy thoroughfares such as the Levante promenade, on the Avd Mediterraneo or around the Indoor Market. They entice people to stop by shouting and cheering, waving €20 notes that they have supposedly just won by guessing which potato half the pea is hidden under – hence the name. But the ‘crowd’ is actually members of the gang, some of which are Brits to make it look more authentic.

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Altea on the march

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The much anticipated Moors parade took place in Altea yesterday evening – the highlight of the annual fiesta calendar. After the carnival in Rio this must definitely come a close second for elaborate and eye catching outfits! Hundreds packed the main street to watch and admire, with cameras poised while jostling for prime position.

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Benidorm campsites

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Now that the peak summer season is over, the resort sees the return of the ‘snowbirds' – retired Brits who flock here to escape the cold British winter. In fact, it is not only the Brits that repeat this annual pilgrimage but other north European citizens such as the Dutch, Germans and increasingly Belgian nationals. Each year the numbers appear to increase, with Brits in search of winter warmth and thus avoid the spiraling fuel bills at home. Many drive over, either with a caravan attached or in a motorhome, with bicycles tied to the back. There is certainly plenty of choice when they arrive – some will have pre-booked a site space, reserving from one year to the next whilst other take their chance and pull up with their life possessions, looking for the best bargain at one of the many sites.

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Colourful Benidorm Pride 2016

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It was a busy day in Benidorm today – firstly with the La Vuelta cycle race this morning, starting stage 20, a 193.2km route which was won by Pierre Latour (ALM) despite many attempts by Britain’s Chris Froome of Team Sky to overtake. But the real excitement was for the Pride Parade, which was scheduled for a 5pm start but was nearer to 6pm before it set off from the Rincon. Hundreds went to great lengths dressing up and getting into the spirit of the occasion – and even Her Majesty made an appearance...in addition to a number of other queens!

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