Queuing in the hot Spanish sun for 2.5 hours in return for 20 seconds of sheer terror may not seem like everyone’s idea of fun, but when your eldest child wants to go on Europe’s highest rollercoaster, it’s pretty hard to refuse (especially on grounds of fear). Standing in line for Red Force, at Portaventura’s newest park, Ferrari Land, we had plenty of time to contemplate what we were letting ourselves in for and watch (mostly listen) to hundreds of people before us experience the ride.
It was worth the wait. 0 to 180 kmph in just 5 seconds and 1.3G force. It is fast (thankfully), exhilarating and utterly, fantastically terrifying. Definitely worth it if you can handle the 112m height, and the queue. Wait times are very variable, and by mid-afternoon of the day we visited (a Sunday in September) lucky guests just had 10 minutes before getting on the ride - not much time to back out.
Ferrari Land is the latest addition to the Portaventura experience. As well as the jaw dropping Red Force and Thrill Towers rides, there are plenty of more sedate activities to take part in, including roller coasters for the little ones, and a gallery of the history of Ferrari. We loved the Maranello Grand Race where the whole family competed against each other in tiny F1 cars driving round a 550m track. If you’re into Ferrari, F1, or cars, you’ll love it. During our stay we also revisited the main park, which was getting ready for Halloween, and looked suitably spooky. In a break from tradition, we lunched in the Iron Horse restaurant in the main park. It was a bit strange to be sitting down to eat in a cool, table clothed restaurant at a theme park, where our usual food plan consists of snacks grabbed at kiosks along the way, but it was a welcome relief and everyone enjoyed the brief respite from the traipsing, queuing and heat.
Our accommodation for the week was one of the newest offerings at Eurocamp’s Salou Sanguli parc, a 2 bedroom Masai Lodge. Sanguli is a large parc, and we were located in the Sanguli Africa zone, where the theme is.... well, you get it. This side of the parc has a Serengeti feel, and was decorated with large models of wild animals - elephants and hippos in the pool, giraffes at reception. The children loved the theme, and there were lots of photo opportunities to be had. The nearest pool to our lodge had 3 large waterslides and some smaller ones for toddlers, as well as a ‘real’ pool for swimming too. As we were visiting off season, it was easy to keep an eye on the boys without getting in the pool. In fact on some days we had the whole pool to ourselves, though I can imagine this is very different in the summer. One of the excellent lifeguards, friendly but firm, told me that during the summer of 2018, when the temperatures got up to an unholy 40 degrees, all the pools on the parc (5 in total), were packed every day with guests trying to keep cool.
On parc shopping and eating facilities were excellent. Whichever restaurant or takeaway you visited, all offered the same food at the same price, which we thought was very reasonable. The boys loved heading to the bakers in the morning to choose their breakfast treat (usually some chocolate pastry), and the baker also served a buzzy cortado, handy for shaking off those post-vino fuzzy mornings.
The evening entertainment was also first class - based in an amphitheatre (we all looked like we were delegates in the Star Wars Imperial Senate), nimble waiters flitted from table to table taking orders for drinks and food, while the children participated first in the traditional kids disco, then sat in front of the stage when the ‘main’ show came on. This was still very much aimed at kids, and we saw a variety of shows from Alice in Wonderland to a pirate adventure, and a very good magician. The kids were happy; the adults were fed and watered - what more could you want from a balmy evening in Salou?
The parc is essentially on the edge of Salou, approximately a mile or so away from the ‘main’ area of the town. We chose the most rainy day of the week to walk into the centre of Salou, bribing the children with the promise of an ice-cream when we got there. Near to the famous ‘Salou’ sign, we walked through an area filled with artisan food trucks and craft stalls, selling everything from goffres (hot waffles) to calamari in a cone. While the children enjoyed their ice-cream, we adults tried out the trucks, and the food was great. A pop up bar served beer, wine or cava, while we dined on freshly fried octopus - so delicious even the fussiest of our eaters tried - and loved - the fishy treats. It looked like the area was preparing for live entertainment that evening (we visited at siesta time).
Downtown Salou is where to head for nighttime delights too. The town’s illuminated fountains put on a display in the evenings (weekends only outwith peak season), and as well as a high proportion of facilities for stag and hen parties, there’s lots of evening entertainment for families, including the magic and cabaret shows at House of Illusion.
This is the second Eurocamp we’ve been to with the children, and we find it one of the most hassle-free ways to holiday. The parc staff were to be commended - friendly, helpful and good with the kids, effortlessly slipping between Spanish, English and German with ease. It’s certainly somewhere we want to visit again. As for Red Force, well maybe once is enough.
Prices start from £280 for seven nights, per party staying in a Masia Lodge arriving May 1. For further information on Eurocamp, call 01606 787787 or visit www.eurocamp.co.uk
Ferrariland at Portaventura www.portaventuraworld.com