Whether it’s scenes from a sun-soaked gangster flick, a warts ‘n’ all exposé of the moneyed ladies that call the town home, or an ‘EXCLUSIVE’ – and obviously staged – topless beach shot of the latest flavour of the month Z-list celebrity as she frolics in the surf with her synthetically-augmented pal plastered across two pages of Saturday’s Daily Star, Marbella’s name certainly packs some punch when it comes to impressing the Brits.
The town has become a byword for playboys, Essex girls, wideboys and even wider vehicles; a place where money doesn’t just talk, it shouts; and a destination for thousands of hen and stag parties to descend upon all year round in pursuit of memorable and ostensibly ‘classier’ celebrations than those found in Magaluf or Faliraki. Yet, at the same time, Marbella remains a place that draws admiring glances from other resorts; a town that can be both hedonistic and decadent at once, an exclusive place for the rich and famous that also affords the Average Joe his chance to hob-nob with the elite in a way that just couldn’t happen in Monte Carlo or St. Tropez.
One of the most glorious ways to experience Marbella is to take an early morning or late evening stroll along its delightful Paseo Marítimo – a sweeping stretch that takes in the entire length of the main town area, where palm trees guard beautiful terracotta villas, lavish hotels elegantly creep towards the beach and only impose in the most discreet manner, people of all ages stroll, run, skate, cycle and chatter their way along as charming cafes, traditional tapas bars and chilled-out chiringuitos serve all manner of delights for the hungry and the thirsty.
This is Marbella at its best. Forget the international reputation for glitz and glamour – for now at least – and enjoy the town as it was meant to be enjoyed. The warm sunshine acts as both orchestrator and timekeeper, beckoning children into the water, dictating restaurant’s opening hours and al fresco settings, and generally deciding on the mood of the inhabitants. Invariably, the mood is one of contented relaxation, particularly on the beach or in the cool of the Alameda Park.
There are shops, bars and clubs aplenty, sure, but Marbella was and still is a very Spanish town, albeit one with a tangible and complementary international edge. Locals, expats and tourists co-exist alongside one another in the most harmonious way, with seemingly nowhere off limits for anybody, and a warm welcome awaiting all.