Marbella is a vacation city at the very southern tip of Spain, which is way too incredible to describe. From the pristine beaches looking onto the mainland, you could be looking at the landscape of “Lost” (but a little more dry). Here, there is a landscape for everyone as the beach meets the city and the mountains. And just across the sea, ten kilometers or so, is Africa. I am at the place where Europe meets Arabia and Africa is just out of reach.
It’s hard to describe the last week or so without it sounding like a laundry list, but here are some highlights:
We spent most afternoons at the different beaches that line Marbella’s coast. They were all full of people because all Spaniards get about a month of vacation time during the summer. Everyone with any kinds of means has one or two homes away from home in which they spend this month. Even the “assistants” took off while we were in Galicia for their month; they were going to Santander. Our time at the beach was somewhat dampened by the abundance of jellyfish that had drifted toward the shore. While receiving the African heat, it would have been nice to take a long swim, but I didn’t mind staying dry. It occurred to me that perhaps nature was reminding us that despite all of the wealth in Marbella, there are still some things beyond our control.
And speaking of wealth—Puerto Banus takes the gold. No literally. This is the “rich” part of Marbella, and that’s probably an understatement. One evening we walked along the main strip. On our right was the marina, holding some of the most incredible boats I’ve ever seen– 100m boats, ornately decorated and holding all of the newest electronics, plush furniture, and beautiful people. Most of these boats have come from the Middle East. Due to it’s proximity to the Middle East, Marbella is a favorite vacation place for Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest, including the Prince of Saudi Arabia. We drove by his home that he has in Marbella earlier this week, and it is enormous. And it includes an entire dwelling for the staff he brings with him. Marbella is also a holiday favorite for Spain’s mafia (much like Cecily for the Italian mafia), and Russian oligarchs. Money is no object here, but that’s beside the point. Continuing down the strip were all of the most wonderful stores you could ever dream of. Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Valentino, etc etc etc were integrated with beautiful restaurants with terraces in which one could spot the exact people who frequented these stores. Dazzled by the yachts to my right and these wonderful things to my left, I was almost run over (more than once) by cars that I’ve never heard of. I’ve never heard of them because they cost anywhere from 100,000 euro to 1 million. I don’t understand cars, but I know a Rolls Royce and a Bentley. They all seemed to parade down the road, showing off their power and wealth. And why not? If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Coming from an entirely different world, we also went to the markets that were held once a week in both Puerto Banus and in Marbella. This was much like the silk market that I went to in China, or a flee market in Mexico. They sold handmade goods and fake Louis Vuitton purses. The one difference is that they were not pushy like the other markets I’ve been to. They did not follow you or yell in your direction; it was a different kind of people shopping here. Most of these vendors had come from Morocco or elsewhere in Africa.
Being extremely cultural, I went to the movies a few times and watched American movies in Spanish. Let’s just say that “Ted” and the new Bourne movie don’t quite have the same effect when you don’t completely understand them. It’s a work in progress, which a few more episodes of “How I Met Your Mother”, Spanish edition will probably help.
And to go back in time a few hundred years, we went to Marbella Antigua, or the ancient part of the city. This was easily one of my favorite things that I did. Made in the tenth century by Arabs arriving in Marbella, some of the walls from this fortress remain. This part of the city is very Mediterranean with narrow roads, flower boxes, and incredible ivy on the sides of the buildings. Due to the lack of light and my lack of skill with a camera, my pictures didn’t turn out well so you’ll have to take my word for how incredibly beautiful this was. It probably wouldn’t be fair to it’s true beauty if I could capture it with a camera anyways. I felt like I was in a fairy tale. This continued when we went up into the mountains to the town of Mijas. This is a small, ancient town very similar to Marbella Antigua. Here we got a full view of Marbella from the mountains.
And many more fairy tales to come as my beach week(s) continue!