One from the vaults: Another Trip down Memory Lane

Of course, at this time of year, we’d normally be watching the Vuelta a Espana and consequently we’re heading back to Marbella for the opening stages of the 2015 race. It’s an area which holds many fond memories for us, as I explain below.

We’ve just returned from a few days in Marbella, one of our old stomping grounds, where we were watching the initial stages of this year’s Vuelta a Espana. It’s an area we first visited almost 40 years ago when my parents bought an apartment there. As newly-weds with little money, we spent many a happy fortnight in the sun, exploring the surrounding area. My younger sisters spent all summer there prompting me to speculate why my parents hadn’t invested earlier. Two words – dollar premium.

In the early 1980s, we spent a month there over Xmas and New Year, taking the ferry to Santander and driving to Marbella via Madrid and Toledo. At the time, it was our longest holiday ever and truly relaxing apart from my beloved, a noted swimmer, getting swept out to sea on his windsurfer. He managed to paddle his way back to shore, albeit several kilometres down the coast, without the assistance of the Spanish coastguard, although it was touch and go.

Puerto Banus has mushroomed in size
Puerto Banus has mushroomed in size

As the years rolled by, we typically spent a week in Marbella either in May or September when the weather was warm but not so hot as to prevent us playing tennis for several hours. Retirement beckoned for my father and my parents decided to sell the flat, preferring to use the proceeds to holiday elsewhere. We however continued to spend a week there most years, often over the late May Bank Holiday.

From time to time my parents accompanied us, as did their closest friends. On my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, we spent what was to be our final family holiday together at one of our favourite hotels, courtesy of my Dad, and we’ve not been back largely due to our move to France.

Family favourite: Marbella Club
Family favourite: Marbella Club



When we saw that the Vuelta was kicking off there this year, my beloved and I decided to take a trip down memory lane. In the intervening years, much has changed but our old haunts are still there and happily flourishing. The trip bought back many happy memories, particularly of times spent with my parents who are no longer with us. We’re not going to leave it quite so long before paying the area another visit.

Things I’ve done: drank way too much Sangria

We’ve all been there! Drank way too much and lived to regret it. I should add this incident occurred back in the late 70s while on vacation in southern Spain staying at my parents first apartment. The memory was triggered by reading that Kenny Dalglish had been knighted in the Queen’s birthday honours. There’s a connection, I’ll explain.

My parents had just agreed to buy a second apartment, this one was in a prime position overlooking the beach. During the two weeks we were on vacation in Spain, the developer of the second apartment threw a party to which we were invited. It was a mid-afternoon cocktail party and Sangria was on offer. I’d had it before and it was mostly red wine watered down with soda water and orange juice. It was a warm afternoon and the drinks just kept on coming.

There had also been a large amount of spirits on offer but no body was drinking that so the bar staff just poured it into the Sangria. It’s taste was masked by the fruit and fruit juice and it’s effect muted as we were all sitting down in the shade.

During the afternoon, we’d gotten chatting to another couple who’d also purchased a property. The wife turned to me and asked if we’d met Kenny Dalglish who was staying on the development with his family? I said “No!” but was contradicted by my beloved who reminded me of an incident earlier that day when I’d turned abruptly in the supermarket and had sent some wee chap flying. My beloved had realized as he’d helped the unfortunate chap to his feet, that I’d knocked over none other than King Kenny, then at the height of his powers playing for Liverpool FC.

As an aside, it just shows you how footballers remuneration has changed. Kenny was renting an apartment for his family (and mother) just outside of Marbella. Today, he’d either have his own multi-million pound pad or at least be renting a suite of rooms at the Marbella Club. But I digress………..

As we left the party I was swaying on my feet and admittedly not feeling too good (huge British understatement) so decided to go back to the flat. My beloved said I was wandering all over the place and that it was a miracle I didn’t fall into the pool though that may have sobered me up. I woke the next morning, vowing never to drink Sangria again – and I haven’t –  to find the room was still spinning. I didn’t reappear until very early the following morning when I went down to the pool to watch my beloved swimming laps in the empty pool.

There was an elderly lady sitting in the shade beside the pool. We struck up a conversation, she had a strong Glaswegian accent, and she told me she much admired my beloved’s athletic prowess and had watched him swim most mornings while on holiday with her son and his family. It was none other than Kenny’s mum which I found somewhat amusing. My beloved confirmed she’d been beside the pool most mornings with her knitting. This is not the first (or last) time my beloved has had an elderly groupie!


40 years of Memorable Moments: Marbella Club

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