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An essential Port of call

Fast rides and family fun are PortAventura’s main draw, but there is increasing appeal for food lovers and culture vultures, as Estella Shardlow discovered


ntil last month, a few drizzly afternoons in Alton Towers and hazy childhood memories of a week in Disneyland were the

extent of my theme park experience. So it was with a little trepidation that I approached PortAventura in Spain. Surely the only people who went on holiday to such places were families with their cartoon-loving kids? I was assured that the resort appeals to couples, teenagers and mature coach parties as much as families with children. I was intrigued – but sceptical.

PortAventura is an hour south of Barcelona and just a 15-minute drive from Reus airport. The four-star Gold River is the most recent of its four hotels. Patchwork quilts and floral paintings give the standard rooms a homely feeling. Outside the window, the scene was straight out of a Western movie: wooden shop fronts with saloon doors face each other across dusty, cactus-lined streets. The

Wild West theme carries through to the tiniest details, with horseshoe-shaped dials over the lift doors.

Gold River adjoins the theme park, with the hotel grounds merging seamlessly into the Wild West section of the park. In fact, the tips of the Stampida rollercoaster can be glimpsed from the hotel pool, and whoops from of its riders carried to my sun-lounger.

Going loopy

Along with the usual log flumes there were several more formidable rides, including the Furius Baco, which propels passengers to 85mph in just three seconds, and Dragon Khan, a blood-red rollercoaster with four loop-the-loops.

The scariest by far had to be the Hurakan Condor. As we rose up the 100m tower, the surrounding countryside opened out far below, just like the patchwork quilt in my hotel room. An agonising wait at the top was

enjoy some summer sun with affordable...


Cyprus £7 Faro £8

Tenerife £13 Alicante £8

Prices are lead in prices per day based on a minimum 7 day rental in June 2010

followed by a stomach-lurching drop. After surviving the Hurkan Condor, I had no qualms about trying the other high-octane rides, and managed to tick off all the other main attractions in a day.

An Express Pass was a big help. These cost an extra €40 a person and guarantee fast- track entry to all the rides. Long queues have to be the worst aspect of any theme park and cutting out the waiting time made a huge difference to my visit.

All for show

When I’d screamed myself hoarse on all the rides, I took in one of the daily shows. PortAventura Live is new this season to mark the resort’s 15th anniversary. Along with the catchy, feel-good tunes, there were some breathtaking acrobatics, including a double act from the Cirque du Soleil and a troop of Chinese acrobats who propelled themselves off a swing through hoops hanging from the rafters. It’s not just a show for kids; the adults in the audience were as enthralled as the younger spectators.

Gold River’s standard rooms have a homely feel

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Gold River

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