In years gone by one of our favourite spots for a week’s holiday, particularly in late May or in early September, was the Marbella Club in Andalucia, Spain. This was after my parents had divested themselves of their properties in Spain. I think they just got fed up of holidaying in the same spot but we still enjoyed visiting the area.
Among the most glamorous hotels on the Iberian Peninsula, the Marbella Club was a pioneer of “barefoot luxury” when it was opened way back in 1950 by Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe. Traditional Andalusian architecture combines with immaculately tended mature gardens to create an utterly unspoiled refuge that has attracted heads of state, celebrities, actors, musicians, sports’ stars and us. Just five minutes (by car) from the Old Town of Marbella and Puerto Banus, the hotel offers a wide variety of amenities and activities including two outdoor heated swimming pools, a fitness center, equestrian centre, 18-hole golf course and a Thalasso spa.
We were delighted to discover a couple of years ago that it was as wonderful as ever, if not more so. Set by the shore on the Golden Mile, this legendary hotel’s lustre hasn’t faded one bit, with genteel service befitting its royal pedigree, retro-chic rooms and debonair dining. And, the addition of a buzzy beach club, cool chiringuito and a champagne room has ensured it has kept up with the Joneses and the times. It’s still Southern Spain’s uncontested Grande Dame with stunning gardens, elegant guest rooms and beautiful beaches.
I can’t remember exactly which year we first stayed at the hotel but it was probably around the mid-1990s. Largely thanks to some great offers from American Express, we became regular visitors. My husband would swim, play golf and tennis, while I’d recline beside the pool re-charging my batteries, enjoy a spot of pampering in the spa, plus the odd game of tennis. We would enjoy pottering around the Old Town, visiting our favourite shops and restaurants, and generally chilling in an area we knew well and loved. To be fair, Marbella’s not that “Spanish,” it’s more of an international resort – a bit like Cannes.
We also holidayed there with my parents and with my parents’ friends, which meant we shared one of the large villas in the hotel grounds. They were always happy to tag along with whatever we were doing, or just relax doing a spot of far niente. Because my father always organised everything, I know he rather enjoyed not having to do anything other than turn up when I was in charge.
Our last holiday at the Marbella Club was in 2002 to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. We were naturally en famille with my dad picking up the not inconsiderable bill for all seven of us. We celebrated their wedding anniversary in the restaurant opposite the hotel which has long been a great favourite of ours. It was a very pleasant long week-end though, at the time, we didn’t appreciate that it would be another 13 years before we returned!
It was on this trip that, while spending quality time with my mother, I noted concerning changes in her. She’d learned to speak Spanish pretty well but, when the two of us had gone to the hairdressers, she couldn’t seem to remember any vocabulary and had been happy to let me take the lead. She seemed shy and retiring, two words I never thought I’d use in connection with my mother.
When I expressed my concerns to my father, he rather brushed them aside, explaining my mother wasn’t getting any younger. Of course, it was difficult to get them to face the issue. It wasn’t until my parents spent Xmas with us in France in 2005 that, noting the similarities in behaviour between my mother and a neighbour with Alzheimer’s, he acknowledged my mother might be suffering from it too.
Sadly they never returned to the Marbella Club. My mother passed away before what would have been their 60th wedding anniversary. My parents had been together for the best part of 66 years. When we returned to the Marbella Club in 2015, we reflected once more on that wonderful long week-end en famille, and our previous stays there with my parents. We were so grateful that it had been possible to spend time and share so many special moments with them there.
Images courtesy of The Marbella Club website