Marbella: Adults Only with a bit of a Buzz
Sun holidays in Europe
Hell, as Jean-Paul Sartre should have said, is other people's children. With your own you can shout, threaten, cajole and bribe, try any of the above with other people's children at your peril.
If all else fails with your own kids, you can run away for a Spa weekend, but you are still stuck with other people's children. Right? Not at Amare Marbella, which is an adult only establishment. 'Adult only' sounds a bit porny, but the Amare Marbella is about as far from sleazy as you can get.
I was a bit worried about going to 'Marbs' in the first place. I don't watch The Only Way is Essex aka TOWIE but if you have a TV you can't escape its erstwhile 'stars' - a vacuous lot with big hair and even larger egos.
This crew spend a lot of time in 'Marbs' and I was a bit worried that I was going to end up surrounded by orange-coloured people screeching "OMG! Shut UP Babes," at each other. So en route I treated myself to a night at the La Suite West in London's Notting Hill/Queensway, a short taxi ride from Victoria Station where I was getting the 5am Gatwick Express the following morning.
The La Suite West is very Zen and boasts a vegan restaurant. After my night there, and despite the early start the following morning, I was in the zone for a Spa treat - even if I had to share it with TOWIE types.
Well OMG Babes, where do I begin? First of all, what the TOWIE lot call 'Marbs' is actually Puerto Banus, a good car journey away from Marbella itself. Contrary to my imaginings, Marbella is a typical Andalusian town, with cobbled winding streets and pretty white houses covered with gorgeous flowers. Thankfully, there was no sign at all of 'The GC' but the BVM was in shrines around every corner.
As for the Amare Marbella - if I thought the La Suite West was Zen this was on another level entirely. The hotel is beside the sea but also in the heart of the town. The property was refurbished earlier this year, and the designers have done a fantastic job of creating a space that is cutting-edge cool yet relaxing. (A pretty mean feat.)
The reception is a flowing gold oblong, which sounds like pure kitsch, I know, but it is gorgeous. The absence of hard lines, the white and pale blues all reflect the ocean. The 'traditional' colours are complimented by splashes of art, including huge black mirrorball faces in the lobby and a wonderful silver elephant outside the entrance to The Beach Club.
The 'Club' encompasses an indoor restaurant, outside seating, a pool and additional seating on the beach. Pretty typical so far, but The Beach Club has one of the best things I've ever encountered. Ever!
Normally, when you are lounging by the pool and you want something you have to struggle up and find a waiter and then, and this is usually the hard bit, catch their eye. It is one of the most unrelaxing activities known to man.
In the Amare Beach Club, they give you a massive red buzzer when you check in and if you want to order something you just press it. The waiters all wear wristbands and the buzzers deliver small electric shocks which makes them attend to your needs super fast! OK, I made up the last bit. The waiters wear little bracelets that vibrate to let them know when someone needs them. Have you ever heard the beat of it? One of the rules of motherhood is that as soon as you sit down your child will ensure you get up again. I saw more than one woman practically kiss her big red buzzer.
I was so relaxed that I almost forgot about the spa. The staff were at pains to tell me that the spa is due for redecoration and for me to excuse it. OK, so it might not be as swish as the rest of the property but it's still a lovely spa. The hydro pool in particular is fantastic.
Unfortunately, my trip coincided with really unusual and unseasonable weather - it rained almost constantly. However, I was so happy, in the endlessly relaxing, child-free atmosphere that I didn't care.
In between showers, I was able to pop out and explore the old town. The people were all extremely friendly and when I got my hair blow dried (for a paltry €18), I had a very amiable conversation with the hairdresser purely through the medium of mime.
The rain was so heavy that a mere umbrella wasn't going to do much for my new 'do', so instead I used the complimentary 'Bonnet de Douche' from my room (commonly known as a shower cap.) With my new headgear on I went to Fuerte Marbella, a long established hotel, to join my friends for lunch. The place was full of older couples, including a few from Belfast, who go every year. Like me, they didn't care about the rain, they were just happy to be 'away'.
With my newly blow-dried hair, it was time to see 'Marbs' aka Puerto Banus. Yes, there was a lot of "OMG babes!" to be heard and plenty of young women in 'difficult' shoes. But I can see why they all love it so much, as the shopping is great.
I'm a great lover of fake designer handbags and the Marina (wall-to-wall yachts) was crawling with vendors. Unfortunately, these guys took pushy to a whole new level, so I left them to it.
Some of the younger ladies in our group returned to Puerto Banus later that night to check out the bars. The dirty stop-outs didn't get back till 4am, and related that the only money they'd spent the entire evening was the taxi there and back. Apparently, the bars are quite happy to entice young attractive women in with free drink, and they were more than happy to drink them. (Hey, I'm not judging, just jealous.)
We weren't the only group enjoying the child-free facilities at the Amare Marbella. Some like us were there for a girlie spa weekend, others were there for the culture and some just wanted to lie on the beach with their big red buzzer. Even when the rain was belting down there were a few hardy souls, under shelter with blankets clutching their buzzers and wine glasses. And with nobody around chanting "Mam! Mam! Mam!!!" on a loop, who can blame them.
Amare Marbella Beach Hotel rates start at £110 per night based on two people sharing, breakfast included. See amarehotels.com for more
La Suite West: see lasuitewest.com for prices.
Monarch operates flights to Malaga from Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Luton, Leeds Bradford and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £49 one way (£80 return). For further information on flights, holidays and hotels visit monarch.co.uk.
Marbella Tourism: marbella-tourism.com.
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