By Jay Stone
MARBELLA, Spain — This city at the eastern end of the Mediterranean is known as the “Miami Beach of the Costa del Sol.” I’m not sure what this means, since its been 60 years since I’ve been to the Miami Beach of Florida, but as far as I can tell, it’s not very useful information unless you’re Jackie Gleason putting on a variety show in front of a live audience.
Anyway, you probably want to go there because you read that Sean Connery and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia have places nearby. Well, I was there one recent afternoon and I didn’t see either one of them. Furthermore, if you say to a policeman, “Donde estan King Fahd of Saudi Arabia?” he’ll look at you as if you are the crazy one. And you wonder why these people can’t organize a decent ice hockey team.
Nevertheless, Marbella is a good place to go for a day trip, an hour from your Torremolinos base (five euros, or about $8, each way by bus) along a seaside road that might remind you of the Pacific Coast Highway in California, but without the cliffs. The three main things of note in Marbella are:
1. A nice boardwalk along the sea with some pretty swish-looking restaurants. We ate lunch in one of them, right down beside the water, and came away 100 euros later with a lot of wonderful memories of crashing waves and overpriced bread. It was the kind of lunch that is helped along by drinking wine you can’t really afford, but what the hell, and by the unmatched setting. I don’t want to say we were close to the sea, but during our salad course I began to spawn.
2. The Old Town, a few blocks of charming cobbled streets and alleys so narrow you should plan to navigate them before dessert. There are nice cafes here as well, and high-end stores with beautiful and expensive shoes and clothes, and if you hadn’t had that plate of mussels for lunch, you might have been able to scratch up enough cash to buy maybe half a sweater. There are also picturesque whitewashed buildings with black wrought-iron balconies, leading into little squares and a pretty church with a tower that is topped with black-and-white tiles. It was the sort of scene Sean Connery and I always appreciate after one of our lavish meals. God, how we laugh!
3. There’s a wide promenade running north from the beach that has a collection of Salvador Dali sculptures down the middle, including a depiction of Don Quixote, another one that’s kind of liquified elephant, and some figures from Greek myth. It speaks very highly of Marbella’s prosperity, not to mention its good taste, that it can afford such lavish public art. We spent quite a while admiring them, and when my group asked me what time it was, I couldn’t tell them because my watch had melted over my wrist. On a personal note, I should admit that I spent most of the day trying to refine this joke instead of admiring the magnificent sea views, the striking dinner plates at our restaurant, whatever the hell it was that I was eating, and some of the history of Marbella, which surely must exist.
In any event, we managed to catch the bus back in time for happy hour, which has become the one constant in our adventure in the Costa del Sol. We won’t soon forget the many friends we made here, the historic sights we enjoyed, or the importance of telling the waiter you don’t really want that basket of bread that is going to end up costing you three euros a person — a person! — which, if you multiply it by four people, is 12 euros or almost 20 bucks, not that we’re counting pennies or anything, but I mean, really.