Travel | #ILeftMyHeartIn Marbella

I left my heart in Marbella. Wait! Don’t click away; I’m not a ‘No carbs before Marbs!’ girl, although we often laugh about it.

You see, I am not the only person I know who has fallen in love with the Costal Del Sol. This infatuation is something I was born into. My Grandad and wife no. 2 had a flat there when I was really small and we would go visit them there in the summer.

The most notorious part of the area, has to be Puerto Banus. Locals, tourists and the ridiculously wealthy all flock to the marina, browsing designer shops, like Louis Vuitton, Hermes or Jimmy Choo; visiting notorious night spots, like Pangea or Sinatra’s for the older crowd. Other favourite activities include seeing how the other half live. Although slightly more expensive, the bars and restaurants located on the front row of the port, provides fantastic people watching spots. Enjoy a delicious cocktail, while watching international playboys show off their super-cars, the filthy rich come off their super yachts or if you go in the height of the summer you are practically guaranteed to spot Z-List Celebrities reality star.

I learnt to swim in the sea next to Puerto Banus, and once as a cheeky and adorable toddler, ‘borrowed’ some money from wife no.2 and went and bought myself ice cream, she was outraged. However, nowadays tourist tend to move away from this beach, instead bathing in luxury, choosing from a plethora of beach clubs, such as  La Sala (pictured above). Both of which are frequented by footballers, celebs and the beautiful. These clubs, usually located close to the beach, have restaurants, bars and the most extravagant sunbeds ever seen. As well as, having at least one pool, there is usually also a hot tub and a good DJ. While people come for the day, they often stay for a night of partying as well.

Having been a few times, it can be expensive, but if there is a group of you get a bed between you, if there are loads of you treat yourself to a four poster. They usually do some sort of package where you get some food and maybe a bottle as part of the cost. Also in the ladies, there are the best ever vending machines, designed to help you go from a day of lounging to being fully prepared for a night of dancing.

I started to fall in love with it Marbella, in 1999, when we flew out to spend the millennium with my, now single Grandad. Even my Nan (wife no. 1) who had not spoken to him since he left her 30 years before, came along. A typical family argument over ice cream (seems we have a theme) a well-aimed can of beer and thirty years of anger, created a fresh start between my Grandad and my Nan. This blossomed into a good friendship. We spent the Y2K countdown at the once prestigious El Paraiso Hotel. While it is still there, it has been taken over by a Spanish hotel company, making it more of a family destination. But if you are still looking for a luxurious hotel to stay at, you needn’t worry, Marbella is full of them. Notably The Marbella Club, The Puente Romano and The Gran Melia Don Pepe.

My heart was repeatedly left in the city each time I went to Grandad, often on my own, which was something the two of us had done since I was 8. We’d go out for food, the cinema, open air concerts and piano bars in the port. I built friendships with ex-pat teenagers, who would take me to house parties, sneak me out of the villa and let me ride their motorcycles on the remote roads. There is plenty to do in the area if you tire of shopping and sunbathing. The Cinema close the port, screens films in English, yes you probably haven’t gone to Spain to watch the latest blockbuster, but depending on the time of year that you go, it is always good to have a plan for a rainy day. Equally, about a 20 minute drive from Puerto Banus, there is another shopping centre called La Cañada, which houses another cinema, a bowling alley and even a Marks and Spencers.

If you have young ones with you, a day at Funny Beach is a must, between go-karting and the bouncy castles, all located on a beach, they will be in heaven. My youngest sister used to be crazy about the place and once threw the mother of all tantrums at a chiringuito when my dad said we couldn’t go there, my mum wasn’t with us so she thought she’d try her luck!

Speaking of chiringuitos, if you are looking for a more authentic experience of the area, then drive in either coastal direction away from Puerto Banus and you will soon find the beaches that the locals go to. They still have sun loungers, but the prices are a lot more reasonable. One that we like to go it is Andy’s beach just down the road in an area called Cabopino. There is a lovely beach restaurant, serving the freshest fish, lovely Spanish classics like Paella, as well as simple foods like Pizza or chips for the less adventurous diners out there. You can also jump on a banana boat or rent out a slide pedalo.

Sadly in 2006, my heart broke in Marbella the day we arrived at the Villa knowing that he wasn’t going to be there, knowing he’d never be there again and wondering if we would ever be strong enough to return. Despite it being the height of summer, it felt cold and the familiarity of the place no longer felt special.

A year later I ventured back, with new friends and slowly my heart started to mend. I began to fall in love, not only with the city, but with a boy. We stayed up drinking on the terrace, explored new bars, new restaurants. I showed them parts of the Marbella I knew, and we discovered places I’d never been, like the now gone TGI Fridays or the more recent addition of Hard Rock. The more we went back, the further we ventured from the tourist attractions and the more we saw of the area from the locals’ eyes.

By this point the family’s’ association to the Costa del Sol had grown. The first family holiday my new boyfriend came on, was not just the 6 of us, but a party of over 20. My sister brought her friends, my dad’s sister and her family joined us, along with his best friend and his family. My mums uncle, aunt and her cousin joined with her family. Not only was this the first time a lot of them had met Joe, but it was his first real insight into my family, and he survived. The memories from that trip will always be some of our favourites.

7 years later, we got married in Estepona, surrounded by nearly all our friends and family and it was magical. People came from all over the world to share our special day, we were united in love. Despite rain falling all around the Villa, not a drop touched us and once again it felt like the Marbella I knew as a teen.

We spent a few nights at the glorious Kempinski hotel as a part of a mini honeymoon. Everything about that hotel is the epitome of luxury. The breakfast spread was overwhelming in size and delicious in taste, only made better by the option of having Champagne with it. The service is second to none.

My heart is still in Marbella, it’s always there and that’s why I return year after year, because for those short weeks I am whole again.

Have you left your heart in a magical city? I’d love to hear where.

This post is my entry to #ILeftMyHeartIn competition, see other entries at Get Your Guide.

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Love Lilla xx

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