Thursday 8th June 2017 – Thursday 15th June 2017
Last September my aunt told me about the Carry on Comedy (CoC) weekender in Calpe, Spain, happening in June 2017 – featuring top comedians and DJs from the UK. The price included the hotel, on a half board basis, and all the shows and parties etc – excluding flights and transfers. There were two hotels to choose from for your stay, the 3* Esmeralda Hotel or the 4* AR Diamante Hotel & Spa. My aunty forward me the details and I did my research.
I found out that it was more cost effective for us to book 7nts staying 4* AR Diamante Hotel & Spa with Thomson Holidays, as the flights, transfers and hotel were all included in the price just leaving the CoC weekend pass to be purchased separately. Plus, we would have a few days to relax, chill and go sightseeing when the weekender was over. Also, as I needed an adapted room, assistance at the airport and accessible hotel transfers, this was the best option for us. We booked the holiday with Thomson, in October, and they sorted out the necessary requirements – Job done!
Over the coming months we paid for the holiday and bought our CoC weekend event ticket. I received an email, around the end of May, with the full CoC itinerary, which featured Cava breakfasts, pool parties, games, Sangria on the beach, evening comedy shows and themed afterparties. All there was to do was sort out my holiday wardrobe, which meant it was time to go shopping!
Our flight to Alicante on the 8th June was at 6am, so a pre-booked accessible taxi picked us up at 1.30am to take us to Gatwick airport, this meant no sleep. We arrived at Gatwick at 3am and checked in, we then went through security. We had an hour spare to do any airport shopping that we wanted before we had to head to the gate for 5am – wheelchair users board first and at 6am we were off….
When we landed in Alicante I was taken off the plane last and my electric wheelchair was waiting at the aircraft door. We collected our luggage and went to the Thomson desk for our accessible ‘taxi transfer’ to the AR Diamante & Spa Hotel.
We arrived at the AR Diamante & Spa Hotel at 11:40am, while waiting to be checked-in at the reception desk we saw the CoC organiser and we received our yellow wrist bands. Then everything went “Pete Tong” (wrong)! The hotel receptionist tried giving us a twin room rather than an adapted room – as requested and confirmed by the reservations manager. Also, as they had a large disabled group booking they did not have any availability for an adapted room. And the headache began!
The hotel then denied that it was their mistake and blamed Thomson, suggesting that they had not booked the adapted room – I knew that was false and I had my paperwork to prove it. When you book a holiday with Thomson with accessible requirements, Thomson welfare contacts the hotel. Once the hotel has confirmed they have booked and grantee the adapted room in writing, the booking is confirmed otherwise the holiday will not be booked.
I called my travel agent, back in the UK, and explained the situation. She got on the case and emailed the written confirmation, that was sent from the hotel manager, confirming my grantee of an adapted room. The hotel, realising that the mistake was on their side, started to call other hotels in Calpe within their hotel group for an adapted room.
Finally, at 6pm the receptionist came over and explained that they found us another hotel within the hotel chain, called The Cookbook. She then called us a taxi so that we could go and see it.
We arrived at The Cookbook with all our luggage at 6:30pm and the staff immediately made us feel welcomed. We viewed the room, it was lovely and large – and so was the adapted bathroom. There was a balcony but there was a step to get outside. The bathroom door was narrow and it would have been difficult to get my manual wheelchair through to the bathroom. The manager arranged to hire me a narrower manual wheelchair, which they paid for, and a member of staff went to collect right away.
We decided to take the room as it’d been a long day, I was tired, I was in pain and dirty, where else were we going to go? I’d had enough. Plus, it felt that The Cookbook was an upgrade to the Diamante. The manager was nice, he showed us around the hotel and invited us to go and have drinks, free of charge, on the terrace while we waited for the wheelchair and checked us in. When he had checked us in he informed us that all the taxis from The Cookbook to the Diamante Hotel, Esmeralda Hotel or to the beach (which was where the CoC events were taking place) and back would be free for the whole of our stay – and would be paid for by the Diamante Hotel. The staff took our luggage to our room and when the wheelchair arrived, we went to the room and got ourselves settled in.
The Cookbook Gastro Boutique Hotel & Spa, is a stylish and chic 4* hotel and it is new. It has only 17 rooms, two restaurants and is a 5-minute drive or a 25-minute walk away from the Diamante Hotel & Spa.
After getting showered and changed we both felt so much better, it was 9pm when we went down for dinner. It was officially the start of our holiday. Dinner was gorgeous! We had a taxi booked for 10pm to take to the Diamante for the CoC welcome party, but as the taxi arrived I decided I was going to bed instead. I was knackered as I had not slept since Tuesday, and it had been a stressful day. My aunt went on her own.
Friday 9th June
We called for the taxi which took us to the Diamante to find out what time the Cava on the beach was, as the schedule kept changing. We were told 1pm instead of 3pm and it was 12:30pm at the time so we decided to go and have wonder along the promenade, to look at what was around and get our bearings. The CoC rep saw us and let us know that the Diamante Director wanted to meet with us. The director apologised for the mistake on the booking and said we can have taxis anywhere in Calpe free of charge – Diamante would pay for them.
The CoC team had set up for the Cava on the beach but where they had set up was too far from the path – sand and wheelchairs are not the best of friends. Lendon the organiser of CoC said that they would set up nearer to the path, the following day, so that I would be able to join in.
We then left the beach and back the Diamante for them to call for a taxi to take us back to The Cookbook, we had a 1hr wait because they were on an airport job. We were advised by the hotel staff to pre-book all taxis a day in advance, which we did. The Diamante had sorted a deal with the only accessible taxi company in Calpe, and they only have two accessible vehicles meaning that they were in high demand. This meant we were going to be late for the first Comedy show of the weekend, which started at 9pm followed by the back to school themed after-show party.
We arrived back at the Diamante for the comedy show at 10:25pm we thought had missed it as no one wants to go into a stand-up comedy show late, they will rip you to pieces. When we got to the hall it was still going on, so we looked for another entrance because the first one we saw was by the stage, there wasn’t another one. The CoC rep saw us and opened the doors wide telling us to come in, it was too late, we had to go in. The comedian Mr Cee was on stage hosting – he had seen us – damn! Thankfully Mr Cee wasn’t too hard on us. It turned out that because they knew we were going to be late, they started the show later at 9:30pm. At least we got to see some of it and only missed one act. Rudi Lickwood was the next act to come on stage, he was really funny.
The comedy show finished at 11pm and then the ‘back to school’ party started, with music supplied by Nico T, DJ Ratty and Studio Express 625, playing old school RnB, bashment and funky house. I had a pre-booked taxi for a 1 am pick-up to take me back to The Cookbook, I was ready for bed but my aunt wasn’t so decided to stay until it finished at 3am.
Saturday 10th June
We headed to the beach for the CoC’s Sangria on the beach, it was a hot and sunny 30c. Just like Lendon said they would, they set up by the wooden path on the sand. We got two sun loungers with one right next to the path, it is 5 euros each to hire the 2 loungers but managed to talk him into hiring them to us for 5 euros for 2. Slim the comedian introduced himself and we got chatting, he’s a really nice bloke. I wanted to get on the sun lounger and Slim offered to help, not feeling confident of him lifting me alone, Slim got Dodd from Studio Express 625 and together they both lifted me on to the lounger. It was so good feel sand between my toes!
Chilling on the beach listening to the music they were playing, sipping on Sangria and chatting to people, it was a nice relaxing afternoon. I thought it couldn’t get any better than this. My aunt went into the water and when she came out she said it was lovely. It had been 12 years since I been in sea water and I would have loved to be able to go just sit on the sand, so that the water could wash around me. So, Slim and Dodd carried across the sand like a queen and placed on the sand where the water could go around me. It was an amazing feeling! When I was ready to come out they came and got me and carried me back to my wheelchair. That is my favourite memory of the holiday.
Later that evening we arrived at the hall at the Esmeralda Hotel, where the comedy show followed by the ‘all-white’ afterparty was being held. Mr Cee said, “Clara is here, we can start now”. They were waiting for us to arrive, how sweet!
Judy Love was first up, she was very funny. It was the first time I had seen her live. I was chatting to her earlier on the beach, she is a lovely lady.
Next up was Slim, he was the reason I agreed to go on the CoC weekender, I have been trying to see him live for years and kept missing out on tickets. Thankfully he did not disappoint, he was hilarious! I laughed so much I had tears in my eyes, I had to get a tissue to stop the tears running down my face and ruining my makeup.
The show finished at 11pm and the afterparty started. I had a wonderful time dancing and chatting the night away with the DJs, comedians and other people on the CoC weekender. Music was good and there was a great vibe.
Sunday 11th June
It was the last full day of the CoC weekender. We wondered along the beach, down to the harbour, and enquired about the boat ride to Benidorm that we wanted to do on Tuesday. Unfortunately, because it was Sunday the office was closed, but we found out that the boat sails Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday to Benidorm it takes 1 hour, leaves Calpe at 10am, returns from Benidorm at 5pm and cost 25 euros return. So, we decided we would go on Wednesday.
It was the last night of the CoC weekend and theme was a hint of pink, yellow or orange. When we arrived at the hall it was empty – no one was there. For the first time we were early, so we picked our seats and got comfy. The show started at 10pm hosted by Mr Cee. Axel Blake started the night with some games where by audience members up on stage to play a version of name that song. Then Rudi Lickwood came on and did some stand-up comedy. It was 11:30 when the party started. It was a nice vibe, everyone mingling with each other chatting and dancing – it was a nice end to the CoC weekender. As it was the last night I stayed until the end at 3am.
I had an enjoyable time on the weekend CoC and have some great memories, but I was glad it was over. I was so tired and in so much pain I’d had enough, I just wanted/needed to chill, rest and recover.
Monday 12th June
It was all about resting, recuperating and lazing by the pool. The day before I had booked a full body massage for 11am and I needed it so badly! I called the Diamante Director and told him that I wanted the massage for my aunty and I for free, lunch at the hotel for free (half board is breakfast & dinner) and all our drinks free for the whole of our trip. He agreed and said if there was anything else, that we wanted, to just call him.
My massage was great and it was just what I needed – my aunty enjoyed hers too.
On Mondays, the Komfort restaurant is closed, so we had a table booked for 2:30pm at the Beat restaurant. The food by the 2 star Michelin star chef Jose Manuel Miguel was amazing it was like a work of art! He is the only Spanish chef to get a Michelin star in Paris. I can see why people come and eat here, by the bus load, even if they are not staying in the hotel – especially the locals.
Dinner was also in the Beat restaurant, our table was booked 8.30pm, I arrived on time but my aunt was 20 mins late; I had a glass of their own Cava while I waited. Dinner was fantastic! I really enjoyed my meal, it was especially created for me, being vegan and gluten free, and went down nicely with the champagne that the head waiter had selected.
Tuesday 13th June
We went to the Old Town in Calpe around 12pm to do a bit of shopping and to see a part of Calpe we had not seen yet. We’d totally forgotten that most places close for a siesta around 1:30 and open again at 5pm. Old town Calpe is very hilly – not good if you are in a manual wheelchair. We were looking around the shops, that were open, when some pretty shoes caught my eye in a shop called Primadonna, I just had to go in. I then saw these rose gold wedges, I tried on one foot then asked for the other. Well… That was it, I had bought them and decided not to take them off, I wore them out of the shop and for the rest of the afternoon.
When we were ready to leave we went to the taxi rank and one of the taxi drivers called for the “special taxi” on the radio. Within 5 mins our taxi was there to take us back to The Cookbook.
We had another taxi booked that evening for 8pm to take us back to The Old Town to the newly opened 4* Suitopia Hotel – the tallest building in Calpe. On the 29th floor they have the Sky Bar with spectacular views of Calpe and I love a view! We watched the sun going down over the horizon and the stars twinkling in the clear night sky. It was fabulous!
We left the Sky Bar, about 10:45pm, and went for a wonder along the sea front looking for a place to eat, unfortunately the restaurants were not taking any orders as the kitchens close at 11pm. Our taxi was booked for 12am and we’d had no dinner so went to a road side bar opposite the taxi rank and had a drink. When the taxi arrived to take us back to The Cookbook we asked him to stop off at McDonalds so we could get some fries.
Wednesday 14th June
As we were getting ready for our day out in Benidorm, I received messages of the horrific fire in the Grenfell Tower 2 ½ streets away from my house.
At 8:30am the Thomson rep came to the hotel with our transfer paperwork, it was the first time we had seen her for the whole trip and we were leaving the next day.
The taxi picked us up at 9am to take us to the port for the boat to Benidorm. It was a quiet journey, as we read all the reports that were available in the media about the fire.
When we arrived at the port for the boat trip to Benidorm the office informed us we would be unable to go on the boat as it is not wheelchair accessible. He advised us we could get a train to Benidorm, because the train was accessible. As our taxi had already left, he advised us that we could use local buses to get to the station, because they are accessible, and then directed us to the bus stop.
We arrived at the train station and bought a return ticket costing 4 euros each. The next train to Benidorm was in 15 minutes and they go every hour. When the train arrived the train entrance and the platform were at the same level with only an inch gap in between.
It took 40 minutes to get to Benidorm. We arrived in central Benidorm and we wondered south towards the Old Town with the plan of wondering to the New Town. Once we had reached the Old Town we found that it was a large pedestrianised area; there were shops, bars, restaurants and galleries. It was very busy compared to Calpe. There were loads of brits and lots of brits using mobility scooters, even kids, because they didn’t want to walk in such a large pedestrianised area.
It was a hot 37c so we stopped and had lunch so that we could sit in the shade. After lunch, we had a look around the shops and I bought a white cotton summer dress and 2 clutch bags. We made our way to the Levante beach, but decided that it was too hot to wonder long the promenade to the New Town. We then decided that we’d had enough of Benidorm and that we were ready to go back to Calpe. We went to the taxi rank and asked one of the drivers to call for a “special” taxi, it arrived within 5 minutes and took us to the train station. We had a 30-minute wait for the next train.
We arrived back The Cookbook at 6pm and spent the evening chilling on the terrace reading the updates online about the Grenfell Tower fire.
When the Komfort restaurant opened at 7:30pm we went and had dinner. The food we had in Benidorm wasn’t the best and we were both very hungry, so being it was the last day I ordered everything on the menu that I had eaten before and liked throughout my stay. After dinner, we went and packed for our trip home the following morning.
Thursday 15th June
It was an early start to the day as our accessible ‘taxi transfer’, to take us to the airport, was coming at 7:55am. As breakfast starts at 8am the staff kindly sorted us out with a fruit salad to take with us. We checked out of the hotel and our ‘taxi transfer’ arrived, it was the same taxi firm that we had been using throughout our trip.
We arrived at the airport said our goodbyes, checked in and went through security. Then it was time to do a quick airport shop, I say quick because we only had 45 minutes then we need to head for the gate.
The plane landed into London Gatwick. My electric wheelchair was at the aircraft door waiting for me and once everyone was off the plane they took me off via the transfer wheelchair. We then went and collected our luggage and went to the taxi pick up point for my pre-booked taxi to take us home.
I was a little nervous about going home after the Grenfell Tower fire, the day before, and coming face to face with such a huge tragedy in my community.
I enjoyed my time in Calpe – despite the initial accommodation problems and not being fully able to enjoy the CoC weekender because of the constant clock watching for the taxi collection. It was tricky at times to get vegan, gluten free meals because Spanish people eat a lot of meat and fish. A lot of my food was made up for me and I ate a great deal of salads as everything else was contaminated with gluten. That said, I really liked it and I would go back again. The people were friendly, it has great beaches, great shops, it was hot, it is very accessible and not over run with brits, it feels like you are in Spain.
The Cookbook was fabulous, ideal if you want a quiet break away and if you like quality food, I would certainly recommend a visit.
So, until next time adios!