MICHAEL'S HOLIDAY TO COSTA DORADA, SPAIN
Who: Michael (Al Fresco Holiday's CRM Manager) with wife Sarah and children Lawrence and Hubert.
Where: Sanguli Resort, Costa Dorada, Spain.
When: Arrival 19th October – Departure 24th October (2017)
Travelling: A two-hour flight with EasyJet from London Luton to Barcelona El-Prat, followed by a 90-minute hire car drive to Salou, the location of Sanguli Resort. Alternative transfer options include rail links from Barcelona Airport to Salou train station, plus a 10-minute taxi ride taking you to the park. There’s also the nearby Reus airport, considerably closer than Barcelona.
Any parent with school-age children knows the hardest part of the year is the run-up to Christmas. Naturally, ahead of having to cope with worn out kids deprived of daylight and fresh air as the winter begins to bite, the opportunity to recharge one’s batteries beneath autumn Costa Dorada sunshine proved too good to pass up.
For those seeking warmer climes at October half-term, there’s no point getting on a plane if you’re not greeted by significantly better weather at your destination, particularly if choosing a shorter break. It was, therefore, a delight following the heavy rain that greeted us on arrival, to savour four sun-drenched days at Sanguli Resort; still warm enough to enjoy the excellent on-site Africa Pool and nearby Salou beach, with the added benefit of knowing you didn’t have to apply lashings of factor fifty every 20 minutes.
Following early morning reconnaissance of the sprawling, stylishly appointed park…fun pools, restaurants, giraffes, bars, shops, rhinos, and a sports club to name but few, as none were yet open, it was time to reacquaint ourselves with Salou’s pretty seafront.
Literally the moment our feet hit the promenade the sun finally made a welcome appearance, sending temperatures shooting into the mid-70s, not to mention lifting everyone’s spirits as the previous day’s exertions melted away, helped in no small way by a couple of timely cold ones at one of the town’s many beachside bars. Simply soaking up the Med sunshine, gazing at the horizon whist watching the boys happily larking about in the sand a few feet away, the barman also obliging with an inspired soundtrack including Bowie and Stones, reinforced that Friday feeling and then some.
Returning for a home-made alfresco Mediterranean lunch, sat on the decking of our Verdi Lounge mobile, using fresh local produce sourced from the surprisingly reasonable on-site shop, the sun glinting between the leafy palm canopy proved another sight to behold. Despite some of the Sanguli facilities being closed for the season, the main Africa Pool, still open, provided the perfect place for an afternoon’s aquatic fun.
Boasting no fewer than five waterslides, an impressive array of life-size elephant and hippo statues, not to mention lifeguards aplenty, one was able to watch the kids at play from the comfort of the poolside sun loungers, the dreamy afternoon reverie punctuated when joining them for the occasional dip into the somewhat bracing waters… brrrrrr!
By now we’d noticed the high-profile nature of Spanish Halloween, all Sanguli resort staff decked out in impressive array of fancy dress each day and I’m not talking just a few spiders penned to uniform lapels.
The weekend promised a Saturday night Halloween disco followed by Sunday afternoon parade but before that, with temperatures nudging 80F, some more cooling off poolside was in order, punctuated by a light lunch at the adjacent restaurant. Lawrence spent virtually the entire day splashing about with mum looking on from the sun lounger, although little brother Bertie, not quite as hardy in the unheated water, ducked out a little earlier, preferring a late afternoon kickabout on the 3G astro-turf 5-a-side pitch. This is part of a fab little onsite sporting complex including basketball, tennis, trampolines, futsal, exercise bikes and more besides. Some of the locals joined us for a bit of tiki-taka which as a newly qualified football coach, also proved lots of fun for yours truly.
With dusk approaching, trick or treaters started appearing en-masse and the well-attended Halloween party at the packed Sanguli amphitheatre provided the perfect way for everyone to enjoy a high-octane monster mash take on the October 31 celebrations. I can heartily recommend to those considering a family visit this time of year, providing you remember to pack some Halloween garb beforehand so you can really participate. The kids seemed to revel in their freedom to spook about in the secure holiday resort setting, seemingly a world away from reluctant parents escorting children along cold dark UK streets during rush hour.
With fine weather continuing, we spent another sun-kissed day at the sparsely populated Salou seafront watching hundreds of windsurfers battle it out in competition, whilst reacquainting oneself with the blissful sensation of sand and sea on the balls of one’s feet. If we’d been at Bournemouth with weather like this, we wouldn’t be able to move; as well as reading the accompanying tabloid "Phew, what a scorcher!" headlines.
Returning to the park for more fright-filled celebrations, including a super-scary Haunted House walk for the boys, followed by a fabulously fiendish teatime Halloween parade, somewhere in between Mardi Gras, Rocky Horror and the Thriller video, all we needed was Vincent Price (no relation) to act as MC. Again, the quality of fancy dress remained impeccable, certainly worth experiencing as everyone on site had really made a fantastic effort, despite it feeling a little odd to see the parade held in daylight.
Our final full day centred on nearby Port Aventura World, Southern Europe’s largest amusement park resort including the Caribe water flume park (peak season), together with the new Ferrari Land complex boasting the 360 ft. Red Force, Europe’s fastest roller coaster reaching speeds beyond 100mph. One of Spain’s biggest draws, it’s a must visit for family holidaymakers in the vicinity, particularly with two giddy roller coaster junkies in tow, despite neither being tall enough to ride on Red Force.
Yet again, the Halloween theme was taken to another level with enough pumpkins on show to be visible from space. Prices aren’t cheap but 2-day online passes represent decent value; and on a weekday in low season the place is hardly packed, meaning queuing times were no more than 30 minutes, avoiding the need for wallet-busting queue jump passes with plenty of time to see everything, Bertie particularly thrilled to be able to join big brother Lawrence aboard the Stampida wooden roller coaster.
As is traditional, the hour-long closing parade treated us to a Halloween themed extravaganza boasting a random selection of spookily attired children’s favourites including Cookie Monster, Woody Woodpecker and Betty Boop, ensuring a fitting finale to a hugely enjoyable slice of late autumn Spanish sunshine. Hasta luego, muchas gracias.