The burning question: Fancy a beer on the beach in Benidorm?
Chalkmarks: Benidorm, Costa Blanca, Alicante, Spain, 2023

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of our travels this week: Friday 2nd June 2023

Let’s go to Benidorm, they said. The weather will be great, they said. Well, it rained! Not the warm welcome we had expected but what an extraordinary week it’s been for Chalkmarks in the town they call “Come to Sleep – that’s what Benidorm means in Spanish. 
It might seem an unlikely place to take a break if you’re not on a package holiday – and it is, as we report live from the famous Levante beach, where the ITV comedy Benidorm was filmed.
For some this is the last resort when it comes to travel and for us it was too. We went to see what attracts millions of Britons to Spain’s southeastern Costa Blanca each year. As we take a final stroll around the Old Town, eating hot churros fresh from the fryer, we’ll walk you through it.
The two beaches, Levante and Poniente, have a bucket-and-spade-seaside feel to them – there’s no open-air cafes on the sand, just thousands of blue sunbeds laid out in rows. In the caffs a full English is served with alcohol. Lunch and dinner are pizza followed by ice cream topped with whipped cream. Red wine comes out the fridge. In the pubs, there’s always someone singing – a live singer, karaoke or a spontaneous sing-a-long. And on the streets, at all hours of the day, someone is rolling a suitcase on the cobbled pavements, arriving or leaving. That’s been the story here for almost 100 years when Hotel Bilbaíno opened in 1926. Hundreds have since joined it. But holidaymakers it seems don’t come to Benidorm to be in Spain. They come to eat and drink in the sunshine. They also come to spend time with friends and family. And that’s what truly makes an all-inclusive happy holiday.
As Chalkmarks is away this week, here’s a round-up of our favourite beach holidays!

Happy Friday!

Don’t stop me now: We’ve having such a good time, We’re on a golf buggy. We’re having a ball.Welcome to Isla Mujeres. I’m driving around this absolute gem of a Caribbean island at 12mph. By rights it’s a hideous idea that we’re cruising along the Rueda Medina Malecon past wide sandy beaches on this golf cart. But everyone’s doing it. It’s not a super car but it’s a super idea. These pocket rockets will get you up to North Beach in no time. And with North Beach ranked among the 10 best beaches in the world, we want to get up there for sunset. There are hundreds of these buggies on this tiny Mexican island and they’re super easy to find – the minute you step off the ferry from Cancún. Is it safe? Not when we’re around. Where to go if you don’t know!

Sunbathers paradise: If you think summer holidays are best on the Med think again. Varna is the bluest and most beautiful beach resort on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. It’s everything you’d find on the Côte d’Azur or on the Costa del Sol but it’s also packed with history and culture. They even use merci as thank you and chau as goodbye. Very handy! Varna is an extremely pretty and leafy seaside port with a huge landscaped park on the waterfront with a mile-long stretch of glamorous bars, restaurants and clubs to go with it. There are sofas, beanbags, and brightly painted wooden arm chairs down on the sand. As well as being a sunbathers paradise, further along the coast are the popular resorts of Sunny Beach, Golden Sands and Sunny Day – popular with Britons on two-week packaged holidays. Hear more here.

What’s it’s like being in Ibiza when the clubs are closed? Well…it’s going from the hotel, to the beach, to a cafe, to a bar for pintxo and Cava, watching the sun set, and back to the hotel. Not much really accomplished. But we did book a boat trip to Formentera to walk the 6km (almost 4miles) along the coastline and soft white sand, with the sea lapping on both sides of the beach, until the end point where the water meets. During the summer months 3.5million holidaymakers travel to this small Balearic island for the superclubs and sunset cafes Almost a million are Britons. But in February, the beaches are empty, the weather is warm and you can still have a Cava (or two). Pacha will have to wait. This is our view.

This is why you go to Sardinia: Sometimes you just need to sit down and do nothing for a little while to help slow life down. And sometimes you just need to feel the sand between your toes and dive into the sea to help you realise how good life is. As well as being a chilled Italian island, you’ll find some of the oldest people on the planet there. Many live to be 100 – documentaries have been made about them. But these centenarians aren’t frail. They’re youthful and their bodies are beautiful. The secret is in the food – the olive oil and the the red wine. Live longer here

There comes a point in life when you just have to jump: We’re on a cliff edge, staring down a 2,000 metre (6,500ft) drop, braced for my first paragliding experience. We’ve got on a harness, a helmet and the parachute is laid out on the ground. Next we’ve got all the equipment on, then comes the stomach churching moment when the pilot shouts: “Run!” We take a deep breath and in less than a second the ground falls away and we are walking in the air. We scream “woohoo” as we leave behind the brown Babadağ mountain and look down on the sunbathers holidaying along the Turquoise Coast in southwest Turkey.  In the hands of just the wind and the experienced pilot on my tandem flight, we gently fly out over the sea. We are having the time of our lives spotting the Blue Lagoon, the Butterfly Valley and even, in the far distance, the Greek island Rhodes. In half an hour we land safely on the beachfront in Ölüdeniz, the world famous centre for paragliding.  

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Rolling and riding: The world’s coolest water sport in the world’s coldest waters – way up in the Arctic Circle. There are six of us at the Unstad Camping surf school in the Lofoten Islands, northern Norway. It might not be the place to sunbathe but Unstad Beach on Vestvågøy island offers some of the best waves in the world. While it’s easy to think that a trip into these Polar isles would be blisteringly cold given that they lie further north than Iceland and parts of Alaska, it is actually warmer than you’d think because of the Gulf Stream that sweeps across the Atlantic Ocean. This means there’s are no polar bears or sea ice. The average winter temperature is around the same as in Britain while in the summer it has been known to hit 30C. The landscape is stunning with needle peaked granite mountains covered in fresh snow and paradise-white beaches that provide the perfect playground for outdoor-types. Watch us go

Postcard from Bali: We write to you watching a volcano erupting on Bali. I’m on Gili Trawangan, which is the next island along, sitting on a sandy beach looking across at the smoking gun of Mount Agung. The weather is gorgeous. It’s early December and the sun is beating down. The Indian Ocean dazzles pale blue and the water’s so shallow you can walk far out and it still doesn’t reach your knees. Behind us, wild palm trees blow in the breeze and the bars and restaurants are playing music. Beyond that there’s the sound of hoofs and bells from the horse-drawn carriages – the only transport on the island. We look at Agung. It looks at us. It could go bang any second now.  A volcano won’t spoil our holiday. It’s gonna be a blast. Wish you were here

Yes oui can: Just off the coast of Cannes in the warm seas of the Côte d’Azur is the Mediterranean’s first underwater museum and then there’s the Loire-Atlantique – filled with port towns from Le Croisic in Brittany down to Saint Gilles in the Vendee. It has a rugged coastline, fishing huts that hang off cliffs, miles of cycling trails and wide sandy beaches. 

Bored by ordinary travel: If you’re looking for adventure go to Peru. We’ve travelled up and down Peru in pursuit of adventure, culture and food. We haven’t been back since the pandemic but we miss ceviche and Pisco sours. It’s here we learned to salsa in Arequipa, and how to speak Spanish in Lima, and where to watch the condors fly high in the Andean villages. It was the beginning of my love affair with the country. You’re about as far away as you can get from the UK. But where to start. How about here, the sandcastles that have stood on the beaches for more than a millennia! 

Holiday in Wales: The first thing we noticed when we arrived at Swansea train station was that the signs and announcement were in Welsh. It felt like a great adventure. This Welsh city has a glorious coastline, a rich history and, for the best food head to the main market. We feasted on fresh seafood and Welsh cakes – and we dare you to try the laverbread. The beach is the best sight in the city. It’s a great half circle of a bay. When the tide is out and the sand stretches for miles. And apparently when the sun is shining you can see over to Ilfracombe in north Devon. It must be gorgeous. See here

In case you don’t follow us on social media you really should. Here we are, here too and over here. Say hola muchacha! 

Feliz Viernes!

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