I headed west last week. I didn’t like it.
Not far west, I stayed within Málaga province. I’d already been further west and loved Huelva and Cadiz provinces – stunning coastline with some brilliant secluded beaches. And since choosing to settle in the Axarquía region I’ve obviously explored east of Málaga. But I had reached my ripe old age without ever visiting Marbella.
The opportunity arose when I was invited to a multi-national networking event in San Pedro de Alcántara. It was a chance to visit many places I’d heard of on the way. I drove through Mijas-Costa but didn’t like it. I drove around Calahonda, Elviria and Rosario but didn’t like them. I drove through Nueva Andalucía but didn’t like it. I didn’t get as far as Estepona. West of Málaga seems to me to be an endless strip of over-developed resorts and urbanisations.
There was one brief respite when I spotted a stretch of sea backed by dunes and pine forests. A pleasant walk through the naturaleza, half an hour on the beach, and then a drink at a beach bar cheered me up and offered a break from the endless urbanisations with their English bars.
At San Pedro de Alcántara I checked in, then found a quiet bar for a media-racion de calamaritos. The networking event was fun. People from 17 nations gathered, mingled, and separated inevitably into clusters. Six of us (two Spanish, one Portuguese, one Mexican, one Russian/Finnish, and me as the token Brit) headed off to find food. I love how an apparently unprepossessing backstreet bar can so often turn out to do the best food. We got to El Candil de San Pedro around midnight, and didn’t leave till 2.30, and in between Alfonso brought us plate after plate of delicious hot and cold tapas including ensaladilla rusa, tortilla de espárragos, jamon, ensaladilla de tomate, cebolla y melva, salchichon, queso viejo, frutas secas y nueces, and finally his grandmother’s secret recipe for salmorejo, with her special addition of chunks of fresh orange. With a juice, some water and a decent bottle of wine the bill between six of us came to a massive €41.
Next day was the chance for that first ever visit to Puerto Banus and Marbella. The first shock was having to PAY for street parking in Puerto Banus! Half the cars had blacked-out windows, and despite the cloudy day most people were wearing sunshades. There seemed to be two main groups of people – rich people in elegant clothes carrying miniature dogs, speaking German, Russian, Dutch and Italian, and several large gaggles of English girls in sprayed-on shorts and tight tops apparently visiting from The Only Way is Essex. Of course the main point of Puerto Banus is the shops – oops sorry, I mean the boats. It was nice to wander round the luxury yachts, especially because it appeared to be the week before some owners were due, so there was a lot of furious activity from muscled men stripped to the waist rubbing down woodwork, which was pleasantly diverting! Several tanning shops surprised me – why would one pay? The sun is widely available and free! Fake tans in a fake setting. To visit for an hour? Fine. And that was enough.
On to Marbella. The locals the night before had advised me to skip the sea-front and head for the old town, which was attractive with pretty backstreets, squares and castle walls. Accents were mostly English, American and French. La Plaza de los Naranjos was a highlight, as was spotting a prettily-decorated motor-scooter with a matching owner! Any town with quirky residents has an up-side!. A pleasant town but no big deal, then a glance in an estate-agent’s window reminded me that this is meant to be the jewel of the Costa del Sol. A one-bedroomed flat with no sea views was €275,000. Presumably for the address. Up above the town I could see hints of some of the multi-million-euro mansions that apparently make Marbella so special. Overall, I didn’t really get it.
Half an hour later I reached the city of Málaga. Stopped for a coffee, pleased to feel I was back in “my manor”. Driving north up the A-45 then east into the hills, I passed the sign to enter the Axarquía. I felt a smile creep across my face. I guess I’m just an East-of-Málaga sort of person.
THIS WEEK’S LANGUAGE POINT:
In English we use the gerund (“-ing” form) after “thank you for”, as in “Thank you for calling me” and “Thank you for sending it to him”. But in Spanish we use the infinitive, so it’s “Gracias por llamarme” and “Gracias por enviarselo.”
© Tamara Essex 2013