Friday 9th October, Armanello Campsite, Benidorm, Spain – We have arrived in what appears to be an alfresco geriatric home, God’s waiting room with the central heating turned-up full blast. Each ‘street’ here is named after a star sign – Calle Aries, Calle Tauro, etc. We’re at the far end of Calle Virgo which is, coincidently, my birth sign. Most of the caravans and tents in our new temporary neighbourhood look like they’re permanent. Embellishments are common – many of them have personal touches such as fairy lights around the door frames, potted plants, and even garden gnomes. The vast majority of the registrations on the caravans and motor homes are British, which doesn’t surprise me given Benidorm’s reputation in the UK. There are a few cars parked on plots next to tents, but they don’t look like they’ve moved in a long time. This place doesn’t have the same cheery affluence I’ve seen on other campsites further north in France and Holland. To be honest, it’s all a bit tragic looking.
Driving around Benidorm – and this area in general – it’s obvious that Spain is on it’s arse, financially. The three-hour drive from Almeria to Benidorm is punctuated every few miles by derelict hotels; some recently closed and boarded up, others half built and never opened to begin with. Unfortunately, southern Spain has also been in the grips of a drought for years, so the naturally cleansing rain dried-up along with the money – Benidorm is looking unwashed and uncared for.
I’m struggling to see why anyone would want to be here, especially in a caravan, for any length of time through choice… although for sixteen euros a night – with water and electricity included – the cost of living on these campsites might have something to do with it. Perhaps a lot of these octogenarians can’t afford to live anywhere else? Maybe they’re one step away from vagrancy?
There are a few very expensive looking motorhomes on the site, all from The Netherlands; huge white behemoths with satellite dishes, full kitchens and hydraulic racks on the back for the essential mobility scooters. I suspect that these travellers are what they refer to in the United States as ‘Snow Birds’ – retires who sell-off their homes and all their unwanted possessions, buy a motorhome and blow their kids inheritance chasing the sun around North America for their remaining twilight years.
I spent half an hour last night wandering around Camping Armanello with a digital camera, it was 11pm and I didn’t see a single person outside. Tomorrow I’m going to try to talk to some of the residents, find out what their stories are and, hopefully, get some portraits…