Last month, I jetted off to the Costa Dorada with Fran Taylor, the product manager for Spain and Portugal, and Oliver Westwood, the tourist board account manager. Our mission? To pack as much PortAventura action as possible into 24 hours. It’s a massive resort with a theme park at its heart, so naturally it was the best assignment ever. Check out what we got up to below…
Rise & shine
It’s a very early start today, but I’m excited. Fran, Oliver, and I drink copious amounts of coffee at Luton airport, before realising it’s the last call and having to leg it to the gate.
Good morning Costa Dorada!
We arrive at Reus Airport to weather that’s decidedly warmer and sunnier than Blighty’s. After a quick meet-and-greet with the airport reps, we’re off on the coach heading to our hotel for the night.
We arrive at Hotel PortAventura – one of 3 hotels with direct access to the PortAventura theme park. It’s bigger than I pictured – and really pretty. Maria, our PortAventura tour guide for the day, tells us it’s modelled on a typical Spanish hacienda. The blocks are painted in peach and vanilla, and are topped with terracotta roof tiles – just like all the villas we saw on the way here.
We’ve just had a tour of the hotel, and Fran and I have decided we quite fancy being kids again. The family rooms are amazing! They’re all themed, with Woody Woodpecker cartoons on the walls, and rainbow-bright pictures of trees and flowers – there’s even a built-in climbing wall. And little guests get their own mini bathroom door to walk through, which is seriously cute. We’re also rather taken with the hotel’s central courtyard. It’s where all the restaurants and bars meet, and it looks just like a proper Spanish plaza. We decide it’d be rude not to stop for a cappuccino in the little Italian café here, and take a 20-minute breather.
We can hardly contain our excitement when we get to the PortAventura gates, which are literally footsteps from the hotel. The park is amazingly well done. It’s split into 6 main themed areas. There’s Polynesia, which is all tropical plants, waterfalls and thatched buildings. Far West, which is modelled on the Wild West. Mexico, where you’ll find Aztec-style statues and Mayan ruins. China, where you’re greeted by a replica Great Wall of China. Mediterraneo, which is styled like a traditional Med fishing village. And, finally, Sesamo Aventura, a zone dedicated to little guests, and centred around the Sesame Street characters. What really stands out here is the attention to detail. The areas don’t just look the part – they sound it, too. In China, the beat of the Chinese drum drifts out of overhead speakers. And over in Mexico, you’ll hear the strum of a Mariachi band’s guitar.
The shops and restaurants follow suit, too. I half-expected the same Woody Woodpecker (the park’s mascot) souvenirs to be on offer the whole way round. But the shops are really authentic. China was my favourite – it had a huge store packed with Buddha statues, Tibetan bell wind chimes, and kitchen-y gadgets for Chinese home-cooking. And because it’s October, all the areas have one thing in common – Halloween. They’ve gone all out with the decorations, with giant scarecrows, 50-strong pumpkin patches, and hairy spiders climbing up the sides of the buildings. The whole place looks incredible. Despite all that’s around us, though, we’re slightly distracted by the skyscraper-sized rollercoaster up ahead…
Oh. My. God. We did it. We really did it. We rode the Shambhala – PortAventura’s newest rollercoaster. And guess what? It’s the tallest in Europe (something I’ve been boasting about pretty much since I got back). Brave or what?! Admittedly, Fran spent most of the ride asking if she was going to fall out, while I held on to my hair extensions for dear life. But we did it. And did I mention it’s the tallest rollercoaster in Europe?
Bring on the coasters!
We’ve got a bit of a taste for this adventure stuff now. We’re now taking on Dragon Khan, a twisty, loopy, upside-downy rollercoaster that’s a little bit closer to ground than Shambala. We give it 10/10 before moving on to Furious Baco. Believe it or not, I actually did lose an extension on this one. By far the fastest thing I’ve ever been on…
Time for tapas
It’s time for lunch, and we join some of the PortAventura management team in a gorgeous little tapas restaurant next to the Mediterraneo lake. We let the team order for us, and before we know it, fluffy potato croquettes, spicy ham, and delicious melty cheesy things fill the table.
Two shows are on the agenda this afternoon – we need some time to let our lunch go down before braving any more rollercoasters. They’re called Bang Bang Halloween and Love For Vampires. They couldn’t have been more different – one was slapstick-style humour, and the other a Spanish nod to Twilight. The costumes were fantastic and the lead girl in the vampire show could easily have given X Factor contestants a run for their money.
Braving the Halloween maze
Fran and Oliver chicken out on this one. And I laugh at them, then wish I’d done the same. This horror maze is TERRIFYING. I’m talking little girl ghosts and ‘surgeons’ chasing after me with chainsaws. Not looking forward to sleeping on my own in a hotel room now…
After a couple more goes on Shambhala and Furious Baco (we’re pros now, didn’t you know?!) we trudge back to the hotel. The buffet restaurant is great – there’s loads of choice, from sizzling paella to thin and crispy pizza. Two platefuls and a couple of glasses of red wine later, and we’re nicely stuffed and ready for bed. Would we come back to PortAventura? You bet. Great food, adrenaline-pumping rollercoasters and spectacular shows have officially sold this place to us. Goodnight world.
Fancy it yourself?
If you want to follow in our footsteps and check out all that PortAventura has to offer (and think you’ve got what it takes to brave the mighty Shambhala), click here for more information. Stay at the Hotel PortAventura, the Hotel Caribe, or the Hotel El Paso, and unlimited use of the park is included in the price of your holiday.
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Author: Elle Hammond
Published: November 22, 2012
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