Sunday, January 30, 2011

Holidays in Marbella and life in Marbella

A good luck at what it is like to live in a bubble, Marbella precisely.

Holidays in Marbella and life in Marbella

PUERTO BANÚS, MARBELLA (courtesy of Lolo Wikipedia)

PUERTO BANÚS, MARBELLA (courtesy of Lolo Wikipedia)

I had almost forgotten what Marbella was like.  So, it was good to return there a couple of weeks ago – notwithstanding the fact that I was there to look into the darker side of Marbella and the Gil y Gil/Roca scandal over illegal property in Marbella (an amazing tale!)).

In fact, I have known Marbella since the mid 1970s when it was first starting to  grow into a ‘serious’ tourist destination.  Then, of course, it was very much smaller than now but it still had the ‘feel’ of somewhere glitzy and that aspect has clearly not changed.

Indeed, I was, once again, very impressed by much of Marbella – but then how could I not be?  The old town of Marbella is delightful and packed with great bars, restaurants, boutiques, tiny winding streets and pretty squares that, even in winter, have a romance all their own.  Away from the old town of Marbella, it is not so ‘charming’ but it would hard not to feel a sense of dynamism and delight at the profusion of classy restaurants, shop, hotels and shopping malls.

Meanwhile, not far away is Puerto Banus – which must be emblematic for its  conspicuous wealth, awesome marina and designer shops (few of which, sadly,  I would dare to step into!).  In an odd way, Puerto Banus is one of those minor wonders of the world that everyone should see once, if just to experience the frission of what real wealth (and excess) is like.

However, perhaps one of the most impressive aspects to Marbella are its many excellent golf courses around which are estates – many of which have superb villas and some very fine apartment blocks.  Fine quality building is not always the case, of course, but the overriding impression of the area is one of surprise at the sheer greenery of the area.  This is in stark contrast to the stark, parched and barren mountains immediately inland of Marbella.

Needless to say, Marbella is famous for its beaches and nightlife.  The beaches are somewhat disappointing in having little sand.  Mostly, they are full of pebbles and even in the height of summer the water is noticeably cooler (the Atlantic is close by) than that along the eastern coast of Spain.

That said, the nightlife of Marbella more than makes up for any reservations about the beaches.  Marbella is packed with bars, restaurants, clubs, casinos and discos.  Indeed, if you are a ‘party animal’ then you should have the time of your life and be able to go somewhere different every night of your holiday in Marbella (even a long holiday!).

One of the impressive aspects to Marbella is that it is user-friendly for internationals.  In Marbella, you really do not need to have a word of Spanish to get along well – either for your holidays in Marbella or its surrounding area or if you intend to live there permanently.

Indeed, Marbella is international in a way that few areas of Spain are.  It has been the focus of the wealthy since the 1970s and many took their holidays in Marbella well before mass tourism.  However, since then, Marbella has expanded many times over and and now, justifiably, appeals to people of all sorts.

Certainly, you do not need to be part of the wealthy elite to holiday in Marbella as it caters for everyone.  There are thousands of holiday apartments in and around Marbella and a profusion of villas to rent.  The great thing is that the English speaking infrastructure of Marbella is well established.  By this I mean that the Spanish working in the service sector (restaurants, bars, hotels, estate agents etc.) invariably speak English.  This is complemented by the huge number of English speakers who live permanently in and around Marbella – from tax consultants, to lawyers, doctors, mechanics, plumbers and so on – all of whom service English speakers living in or coming on their holidays to Marbella.

Does Marbella deliver the dream?

Well, if you want to holiday in Marbella then I think that it certainly does.  The area is nothing if not glamorous, there is a superb and varied nightlife and the beaches are certainly acceptable.  The area is pretty and there are plenty of activities from water sports and endless golf to day trips out, to keep you well and truly occupied.  You can rub shoulders with the truly wealthy, dine well and ogle at the yachts (and luxury ships) in Puerto Banus.

Meanwhile, the weather is exceptional and closer to that of north Africa than Europe.  So, the winters are usually warm and the days notable for their sun and blue skies, fulfilling the possibility of really satisfying winter holidays in Marbella.  That said, the summers can be very hot indeed, particularly if the Sirocco is blowing off the Sahara – in which case you can be left gasping for cool air!

So, holidays in Marbella can work well.  My only reservation is that, to some extent, you would be kidding yourself if you thought that you were seeing a true example of ‘real’ Spain.  For that you would need to go inland (not far) and visit pueblos and towns that had not based their economy around international tourism.  However, for most people, holidays are about relaxation in the sun and a great night life – rather than an intellectual, in-depth tour of another country’s culture.  So, Marbella works well if you want somewhere user-friendly, fun and with almost guaranteed fabulous weather.

Of course, you may choose to live in Marbella.  If that is the case, then fulfilling the ‘dream’ is a little more complicated and depends very much upon what you want.  Certainly, expat life in Marbella can be very good – and is nothing if not convenient given the sheer number of English speakers already residing in Marbella.  This means that developing a meaningful social life in Marbella can be done relatively easily – as there is a large pool of English speakers to chose from!

Backing up the social angle of life in Marbella is a well developed network of local English language newspapers and radio stations.  National English language newspapers are easily obtainable and there are, literally, numerous clubs and associations on every possible topic and activity.  So, your life in Marbella can be socially very busy and great fun.

Obviously, life in Marbella, unless you are careful, can remain quite separated from ‘real’ Spain.  Marbella is an internationalised ‘bubble’, in some ways, and is probably not were you should live if you want to integrate within a more ‘pure’ Spanish way of life – whether that is urban (as in Madrid or Valencia) or rural such as inland pueblos.  However, Andrew Linn (Culture Spains’ wine and food expert and long time Marbella resident) places an interesting slant on this argument and long term life in Marbella.

It hardly needs me to state that you must exercise the very greatest care with regard to buying property in Marbella – although that is no different from elsewhere in Spain.  The scandal of illegal property in Marbella is far from over and you would be making a grave error if you thought it was or that all was suddenly well.  So, be cautious and have a look at this article about illegal property in Marbella and follow the advice provided there – if you do then you should end up with a safe property in Marbella and a sound investment!


Meltdown in Marbella

Marbella villa or barrio

Marbella illegal building licences

Bargain Spanish property for sale

Holiday villas to rent:

PUERTO BANÚS, MARBELLA (courtesy of Lolo Wikipedia) MARBELLA OLD TOWN MARBELLA GOLF VALLEY CAFE MARBELLA OLD TOWN CHURCH MARBELLA OLD TOWN Share and Enjoy:emailFacebookDiggSphinndel.icio.usGoogle BookmarksStumbleUponTechnoratiRSSRedditAdd to favorites

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