As part of GlobalPost's series about the ways budget airlines and changing tourism trends are affecting communities in Britain and abroad, senior correspondent Corinne Purtill spent a night with partiers in Magaluf, Spain. This is her report from the boozy, sweaty trenches.
MAGALUF, Spain —
“It is strictly forbiden [sic] to practise balconing,” reads a sign in the lobby of Hotel Teix, a concrete bunker off Magaluf’s main drag that sells condoms by the pool and rooms so sparse they look as if they’ve been robbed.
Balconing, the desk clerk explains, is the practice of leaping between balconies on the hotel’s upper floors, which apparently can sound like a good idea after a few shots of alcohol.
In the last two weeks, one European tourist was killed and another seriously injured in balcony falls. Tourists die this way every year in Magaluf, including a 23-year-old English woman in 2012 right here at Hotel Teix.
“It’s my second season and I hope my last,” the clerk says.
Read the story: Tourists gone wild, or how not to earn a free drink
Asked about Magaluf’s largely British clientele, he closes his eyes and shakes his head like a parent who’s been driving a carful of children for a very long time. “United Kingdom people, when they drink, they go crazy.”
Families are eating in the beachfront restaurants that sell Yorkshire puddings and pina coladas in helmet-sized cups. On the sand, girls in bikinis are taking selfies with candy-colored phones.
“We get everybody here,” says Patrick, a Senegalese immigrant selling sunglasses, speaking in a mixture of Spanish and French.
“English, Russian, Italian, a few Germans. But the English are the most loco. They drink and drink. There’s so much alcohol here.”
“I’m not telling you my name,” the tout says calmly, checking his well-gelled hair in the reflection of a cracked iPhone screen. “I’d like to be famous one day, but…”
The twenty-something Edinburgher is on his fourth summer in Magaluf. His job is to put on a blue vest each night and beckon passersby into a neon-lit bar, which looks from the outside very much like other neon-lit bars with British bouncers in front lining the main drag of Punta Ballena.
“It’s still early. Families are out. It’s just quiet drinks, as you can see,” he says, gesturing to a street that looks to the untrained eye as brightly lit and busy as Reno, Nevada on a Friday night.
His friend Ricky, who hails from Coventry and works at a bar down the street, says that the recent press around “Magaluf Girl” — a British tourist filmed performing sex acts in a bar in exchange for a free drink — is silly. That kind of stuff happens all the time. This season is no crazier than the last.
So what’s the wildest thing they’ve seen in Magaluf? They pause.
“Someone dead on the floor,” Ricky says finally.
“I’ve seen gruesome stuff. I’ve seen sexual stuff. Violence, death, stabbings, fights,” says Edinburgh. “A sexsome.” You may think you don’t know what a sexsome is, but if you know what a threesome is, you do.
The pair call each other “Bacardi” for reasons they’re reluctant to disclose. It’s rhyming slang, they explain after some prodding, a linguistic code originating in London’s East End.
Bacardi is short for “Bacardi Breezer,” which rhymes with “old geezer,” which rhymes with “woman pleaser,” which is about the highest praise two lads can give each other in public. Aw.
Punta Ballena is crowded with people, a contingent of whom are wearing rainbow Mohawk wigs for reasons they refuse to say.
“It’s no different from an English town on a Friday night,” says bleary-eyed Andrew Johns, 27, of Leicester. “I’d stay in England, but the weather’s not very nice.”
Dan, 22, is in charge of convincing passersby to pay money to be strapped into a neon-lit carnival ride that will swirl them hundreds of feet above the ground. His is one of the harder jobs on Punta Ballena, particularly during these early hours before people are seriously drunk.
“Nope. I like my life,” a young man says, waving off the sales pitch.
The work here is nice, says Dan, an electrician from Cambridge. The money’s good. The weather’s better. He’s gotten to see some of his favorite musicians in concert. The only downside is getting up early.
What is early?
“Uh, eleven? Ten?”
Dan is met with a stony stare.
“I go to bed at four,” he says apologetically.
A “wooo!” is heard in the distance. Moments later, some 200 drinkers on an organized pub crawl round the corner and move slowly en masse down the street, like a herd of intoxicated wildebeest. It is almost magnificent.
The patrons on the patio of Eastenders Bar launch into a slurry rendition of “God Save the Queen.” In response, this passel of passing Frenchmen sing “La Marseillaise.”
Two men pee into the bushes on a side street. Noticing a group of women approaching, one of them zips up, just barely, before spinning around and delivering his opening line: “I like yooooou!” The women keep walking.
An 18-year-old kid from Belfast is sitting on the table at Sorry Mom Tattoo, his leg outstretched, his eyes dilating at the sight of the needle which has yet to touch his skin.
“Ahhh, s**t,” he says, almost to himself. “Oh, oh, oh, f**k.”
“I thought Irish people were tough,” says David, Sorry Mom’s much-inked, bespectacled owner, looking up from the stencil of a Celtic name on the boy’s ankle.
“Not so much,” the kid says.
Sorry Mom is packed. David and his tattooing partner, a barrel-chested Spaniard with far less tolerance for drunks than David, allow one friend per customer in the ink room.
Everyone else crowds in the lobby around the viewing window, where they shout, sing, heckle and complain while a showboating young man gets “Maga 14” in script on his foot.
“The British are crazy,” says David, who was born in France and brought up in Spain. “But it’s like living beside a church. First few days, you hear the clock. After a month, you don’t hear the clock.”
The crowd outside starts singing a ditty about a prostitute. He looks out the observation window and sighs.
“Hooligans,” he says.
“I’m gonna piss myself, dude.”
“You’re not going to f**king cry.”
“I’m not scared of needles! It’s just the knowledge.”
The needle starts and the muscles tense visibly in his cheeks and neck. He reaches for his friend, who is much taller and heavier. Together they look like Sandra Bullock and Quinton Aaron in the poster for the movie “The Blind Side.”
“It hurts like f**k. Hold my hand.” The larger man obliges. The smaller man rocks like a woman in labor.
Ten minutes later, a 20-year-old woman getting a heart tattooed on her wrist exhales quietly as the needle bears down. In the course of two hours, it’s the strongest reaction any female customer has to the pain.
A young man with a baby-smooth face and an accent like a Beatle pulls down his pants.
“I am a wizard!” he shouts.
More in the series: The British towns that Easyjet killed
He is getting the triangular symbol of the Deathly Hallows, a motif from Harry Potter, on his bottom. He’s doing it because he loves Harry Potter. He says that several times. It’s indescribably important to him that the people in this room understand how much he loves Harry Potter, and that he is a wizard, and that he is getting this tattoo because he is a wizard who loves Harry Potter.
A friend crouches beneath the table and holds his hand. The aspiring wizard buries his head in his folded arm.
After a few minutes, David is finished. He asks the boy if he wants to see and holds his mobile phone over his butt for a photo. There’s a click and he hands him the phone showing an image of a freshly-inked Lego man, his cuboid head ringed in angry red flesh.
There have been a lot of shrieks of pain in this room tonight, but none as high-pitched and agonized as the one that comes from this young man.
David laughs. Then shows him the photo of his actual tattoo.
Punta Ballena is a wreck. Everywhere are puddles of vomit and crumpled cups and broken glass. A girl pats the back of a friend vomiting over a railing while waving off a would-be suitor. There are hours to go before the party is over.