LAST minute deals are always fraught with danger so we thought we’d be safe with a trip to Bulgaria - but to say the Golden Sands resort is lively is something of an understatement.
What we could expect all week was revealed as we sat ploughing our way through a cardboard tasting pizza (£4). We watched – with a mix of shock and awe – a line of 300 teenagers marching down the main drag waving their national flags as they began a mass pub-crawl. It was surprisingly good-natured though, as there didn’t appear to any British yobs joining in.
"Other ‘attractions’ in the resort include the worse replica of the Eiffel Tower anywhere in the world, an overpriced train along the promenade, cheap Viagra and massage tents not offering extras."
On the upside, Golden Sands boasts 4km of absolutely pristine sandy beaches – hence the name – along the Black Sea coast, including a well appointed nudist beach, for those who like to let it all hang out, tucked away behind the harbour at the north end of the strip.
It is also incredibly hot, averaging 32 degrees every day, so the best way to get a tan safely is to hire a sunbed/umbrella combo, which cost about £4 a day.
The other big plus point is Bulgaria is outside the pricey Euro zone, so you get 2 Levs to the pound - everything is reasonably cheap.
The resort began life under the Communist regime and our hotel, the Warsawa, was built in 1969. Although it was allegedly two-star, it was definitely dated.
It might have been enticing for a Komosol party from the slums of Sofia, but not for two middle-aged Brits, so we spent a lot of time outside the hotel and on the beach as our tiny cell didn't really appeal.
It is worth pointing out that Golden Sands is completely devoid of culture unless you think having your photo taken in Victorian dress in a shabby photo booth is it.
But for the bargain hunters there is an amazing array of snide goods on offer including – bizarrely – some knock-off North Face jackets.
Luckily, the booze is very cheap with big bottles of local beers costing a quid, and incredibly strong cocktails on offer in every bar at an average of £2 each. All the bars have cabaret acts murdering the classics, but our favourite was the karaoke Bulgarian Elvis recreating the King’s Vegas period, including imaginary backing singers.
The food on offer was simply awful, comprising barely edible pizzas, limp salads and crap burgers, which seemed to go down well with the hoards of East Europeans who throng the resort.
Hot tip: don't under any circumstances eat in Asgard, where we paid £40 for food you wouldn't feed your dog, and a bottle of Bulgarian table wine masquerading as dry.
But as proud Yorkshire folk we felt obliged to visit Hurry Ramsdens – see what they did there – which also claims to Kate and William Windsor’s fave chippie. I ordered the battered haddock and chips (£7) and pint of local Fessbear (£2) with little hope of it being edible. Incredibly it wasn’t that bad with quality batter coating some decent fish and nicely cooked chips. There were no mushy peas included and, although it was ok I don't think their Yorkshire near namesake has too much to fear.
In a desperate search for non-meat dishes we ventured into the airy Georgian Restaurant, which not surprisingly offers food from that former Soviet republic.
As a starter we ordered tomatoes stuffed with mushrooms (£3), which seemed a little Stalinist but worked well as a combo. The cheese, mushroom and tomato hash (£6) was beautifully greasy and packed full of flavour and fresh ingredients. Across the table the aubergine, tomato and pepper stew (£5) was even better with a wonderfully spicy sauce. The meal of the week – in a weak field – was topped with a sugary yoghurt, honey, ice cream combo guaranteed to rot your teeth.
Other ‘attractions’ in the resort include the worse replica of the Eiffel Tower anywhere in the world, an overpriced train that runs along the promenade, cheap Viagra in the numerous sex shops dotted around the resort and – oddly – massage tents dotted along the beach - but not offering extras.
In fairness, when you go late and cheap you shouldn’t get Brits aboard and expect the earth, so as long you can laugh at the unashamed tack wherever you look then Golden Sands is a decent holiday destination.
The big plus points are a spectacular beach and the cheap booze, which should help to dull the pain after you've walked throuigh your hotel room door...