Tuesday 16th February
Time I think, dear reader, to say a few things about Spain in general and Marbella in particular.
I’ve been coming here with friends, family or indeed on my own for the past three years. Not ages, I’ll grant you, but long enough for me to fall in love with the place. If I am going to buy a pied a terre in the sun where I can happily seep piss into waterproof chair pads in my dotage, then it will be here.
But, I quickly concluded, in Marbella Old Town; not in any of the hundred other locations that a host of smarmy silver-tongued property agents tried to persuade me was the Next Big Thing.
Forget Estapona, San Pedro, Benahavis, or indeed the fleshpots of Puerto Banus with its
high rolling Bernie Ecclestone lookalikes being dragged along to the Boss Emporium by leggy Russian prostitutes.
Ghastly place; makes Alderley Edge look classy.
And so it took two years of sifting through property prospectus’ and literally hundreds of viewings until one evening last July, David Manso, the Spanish proprietor of Marbella-based Property Box, showed me a 110 sq. metre, three-bedroomed fourth floor penthouse apartment with sea and Old Town views, slap bang in the middle of where I want to be. It had just come onto the market that day.
The owner is an eccentric old gal who owns nine cats and an assortments of caged birds. The place stinks of cat pee and is barely fit for habitation but it’s perfect.
But the USP was not just the location, the size or the views. No, it was the apartment directly beneath, to which, of course, David had access. Owned by a Norwegian lady, it shares the same floor plan as mine. A blueprint Richard — David suggests — for what could be yours… only of course, one floor higher with the views and all day sunshine on the terrace. Think about it.
Well, as the cliché goes, the rest is history. I put in a full price offer, shopped around for a Project Manager to carry out the work and engaged Gloria Mas of GM Reformas.
Gloria (PMG) had refurbished the apartment beneath mine last year so it was just a case of saying: ‘this is exactly what I want — just repeat what you have done here, but paint the walls white and put in air conditioning.’
The plan is to open it all up, lose one bedroom and create a huge dining/living area and completely refurbish it.
So I hand over an eye-watering amount of cash last October and leave her to it. And with David (the first) keeping an eye on things I receive regular updates and pictures over the winter and then the welcome news that the project has been completed, on time and on budget.
And so here I am, within a maximum of three hundred metres of everything in Spain that I want and neither a Bernie nor a Natalia in sight.
Ok… five things you should know about Marbella:
- Let’s face, the weather is the most important. If the weather was shit, I wouldn’t be here. Put simply, the Costa del Sol has more sunshine and less rain than anywhere else in Spain. If you don’t believe me, click here :
- Marbella is heaven for foodies, with plenty of Michelin stars shining on its eating establishments. But avoid these like the plague. And avoid Orange Square (apart from the Orange Tree) unless you like being ripped off. Not Puerto Banus prices, but not far off.
- You can find all the top designer emporiums here – Gucci, Versace, D&G, Dior – but it also has a pretty, well-preserved casco antiguo (old town) with Plaza de los Naranjos (Orange Square) at its heart, and historic buildings, including a Moorish fort, and Roman remains (columns and a bridge).
Around Orange Square there are arranged three remarkable buildings: the town hall, built in 1568 by the Catholic Monarchs in Renaissance style, the Mayor’s house, which combines Gothic and Renaissance elements in its façade, with a roof of Mudejar style and fresco murals inside, and the Chapel of Santiago, the oldest religious building in the city, built earlier than the square and not aligned with it, believed to date from the 15th century.
- Farmers and fishermen who knew very little about either building or building materials constructed most of the dwellings in the Old Town. That they don’t fall down is due to the fact that they support each other like a house of cards. But if you buy a ‘quirky’ property in the Old Town you mess with it at your peril; either live in it exactly as it is, or you knock it down and start again.
I sleep fairly well on my airbed although I am convinced that it is leaking.
After a jog around town and breakfast in the Meeting Place, I start the enormous tack of turning my living space into a place to live.
First, I hit the Parque Comercial La Cañada, a couple of clicks out of town. This is a huge shopping centre, the focus of which is the largest supermarket I have ever seen.
I soon regret my jog as I cover kilometres whittling down my shopping list. I am limited by the carrying capacity of my car and, even with the roof down, one stacked shopping trolley is her limit.
David tells me I will need to allow four weeks to kit out the apartment, but with guests arriving from Sunday I vow to do it in four days.
And now five things you should know about Spain:
Everyone is Spain smokes. I will come back to this in a future blog but just go with it for now. Spain has an outside living culture and unless you choose to sit inside (and sometimes the Spanish definition of ‘outside’ is sitting inside but reasonably close to the door) you cannot avoid it.
- In the UK, the current big crusade is the WAPB (War Against Plastic Bags). In Spain it is hard to buy anything — however small — without being given one. Even the production of a rucksack or your own plastic bags does little to deter them; it’s as if the checkout staff recieve a bonus for getting rid of the things. ‘Niguna bolsa de plastic, por favor’, has little effect. Gosh… I’m really nailing this language thing, aren’t I? Curious that, as I don’t start my course until tomorrow morning. I wonder could Mr Google Translate have been consulted?
Okay… I said five things you should know about Spain, but the next three are absolute crackers and I don’t want to spoil you, so you will just have to wait for my next blog.
Another cliffhanger… another slope hanger…