Insight on Spain

The Marbella Club’s Villa del Mar offers unrivaled sea views and direct access to the beach.

The Marbella Club’s Villa del Mar offers unrivaled sea views and direct access to the beach.

 

It is every advisor’s dream to have an immediate answer ready when a familiar voice poses the question, “Where should we go? You know what we like!” Sometimes it is a no-brainer; other times, agonizingly challenging. Search no more. Here is a great idea, easy to arrange and guaranteed to excite even the most discriminating traveler: a fabulous trip to Marbella and Barcelona (you choose how many days), both easily reachable and a cinch to combine. It is a taste of Spain’s most dynamic city and its classiest seaside resort.

On a recent visit to Marbella, I was so pleased to stay at my favorite Spanish resort, the Marbella Club, forever a place to see and be seen for those with means and taste on the Costa del Sol. First started in the ’50s by the Spanish-German Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe (considered the last great playboy) as a seaside group of bungalows for his partying friends to enjoy, it grew through the years to become the Marbella Club, always adhering to the prince’s wishes of having no structure higher than the trees and continued devotion to simple elegance in keeping with the character of this area he so adored.

In 2013, a multimillion-dollar renovation was completed, totally updating all the suites and rooms without interrupting the gracious architecture or magnificent grounds. Newly added to the property is a “Grand Villa” that has to be seen to be believed. Think of it to be for superstars, nobility, royalty, or maybe for those who just want to be “Queen for a Day.” It is a show stopper. I must mention the new Kids Club that will make you sorry you ever grew up. This is not your usual room, filled with plastic toys and cheap arts and crafts, but an enchanting lilliputian complex of activity spaces like a perfectly outfitted chef’s kitchen and a professional artist studio. Lucky kids!

I haven’t mentioned a uniquely appealing feature of the Marbella Club. Directly in front of the resort, before stepping onto the beach, is the seaside walking promenade six miles long, stretching from the fashionable Puerto Banús to the old town that still retains the flavor of a picturesque Andalusian village. The promenade hugging the beach abounds with activity from morning to night. It is enjoyed throughout the day by people of all ages, locals as well as tourists. Strangely enough, it reminds me of how when I was young I loved walking along the “boardwalk” on the Jersey Shore to see all the people, hear all the sounds and smell the ocean waters. Add to this the aroma and color of the magnificent flora; it all adds to the magic touch of Marbella.

I do not want to leave Marbella without telling you about Puente Romano, Marbella Club’s more competitively priced sister property located steps away along the promenade. This luxury hotel has been fully renovated as well. Built in the ’70s and reminiscent of an Andalusian village, including a Roman bridge, it has been transformed into a hip and trendy spot. Famous for its Tennis Club, it has now become an international gastronomic destination with seven dining venues, including a Michelin two-star favorite. There’s no need to leave these two restaurants for some of the best dining in all of Europe.Priscilla Alexander at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona.

Pictured: Priscilla Alexander at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona

If you are so inclined to go off property, how about a round of golf on one of the 65 courses in the area, including the ’97 Ryder locale Valderrama? How about a visit into the hills to a beautiful white village or to Mijas, famous for its narrow perched streets that you can explore on your donkey taxi? Don’t forget to consider a day trip to Granada or even Gibraltar. If you are off to Malaga, to its new international airport, you might want to include the Picasso Museum or the branch of Madrid’s Thyssen Museum. With its temperate climate, Marbella is an all-year destination. The hotels are not seasonal but continue to have full staff sure to deliver top service. The huge pools are heated throughout the year and the spas are as busy as ever.

To learn more about these two hotels, go to Carlos Quereda of Querido Representation Co. at [email protected]

For me, the next place to be is Barcelona, either by train or a short flight. It is one of the most vibrant cities in all of Europe, a leader in fashion, style and design. It’s had quite a transformation from what it had been not that many years ago. When I first visited Barcelona shortly after graduating from college, it was a rather dingy place, dominated by a busy industrial seaport. I had no other reason to go there except to see the works of the highly controversial architect Antoni Gaudi. At that time, his singularly personal and even quirky interpretation of Gothic architecture did not enjoy the world recognition it receives today with World Heritage designations. Unquestionably, the Sagrada Familia is one of the great wonders of the modern world. Today, the cultural life of Barcelona does not begin and end with Gaudi. The arts have played a major role in the excitement of Spain, putting Barcelona in the forefront. There are wonderful galleries and exhibitions throughout the city, as well as carefully restored parts of the old city. A wonderful walking city makes Barcelona a great tourist destination.

Let us not forget the food. From the many tapas bars to the explosion of creative Spanish cuisine, Barcelona hosts many celebrity chefs.

Barcelona is home to a number of five-star hotels, but for me, the relatively new Mandarin Oriental captures the style and international design that defines the city today. This hotel, constructed in a building that was originally a bank, is in the best location for visitors on the Passeig de Gracia. This grand boulevard is the heart of sophisticated living in a city. The shopping, the dining and the elegant liveliness of the streets are absolutely contagious.

The Mandarin Oriental is sophisticated with a western mentality, enriched by a hint of Asian influence. You will find no glitz here, rather a purity of line and function. The newly opened suites are very special with spacious rooms, high ceilings and well-appointed spa bathrooms. If you love well-planned décor and carefully selected pieces of furniture, this hotel is a must.

Recently, one of my granddaughters asked me if Barcelona would be a good choice for a junior year study abroad. Of course you can imagine my answer. When she asked me if I would consider visiting her, my response was “how many times did you have in mind?”

For more information about Spain touring, go to madeforspain.com.

 

The living room of the Mandarin Oriental’s Premier Terrace Suite has contemporary furnishings and access to a large outdoor terrace.

The living room of the Mandarin Oriental’s Premier Terrace Suite has contemporary furnishings and access to a large outdoor terrace.