(NewsMadura) — It’s Spain’s Mediterranean escape, a place that has been a favorite haunt for decades for jet-setters, partiers and holidaymakers eager to relax and enjoy the sun, sea and sand.
But as in so many famous tourist destinations across Europe, the Costa del Sol has suffered greatly over the past 18 months, with tourist numbers declining due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, however, as restrictions on ease of travel, this brash and beautiful part of southern Spain is enjoying a much-needed revival. Something that the owners of bars, hotels and restaurants are very happy about.
Since the 1970s, Brits have flocked to the Costa del Sol for a week of guaranteed good weather with all the trappings of home, from endless pints of lager to full English breakfasts.
The Costa del Sol has long attracted holidaymakers from all walks of life.
However, for some, the urge to stay longer than a week is just too great. And Laura Hutchinson is one of them. Hutchinson and her partner sold their home in Hertfordshire, just north of London, and decided to follow their dream of opening a bar in their favorite part of Spain. Then the pandemic hit.
“It was a dream to live this lifestyle,” she adds. “It’s an outside lifestyle that you don’t get in the UK.”
That’s not to say it’s been easy. Hutchinson says the cost of living isn’t as low as many back home in Britain think, while the lack of visitors has made the first year of her venture extremely challenging. Simply put, she says, she needs more Brits to visit to boost business.
However, her tenacious story shows the allure of the Costa del Sol. Despite the difficulties of 2020 and 2021 and the ongoing long-term issues in the wake of Brexit, it remains a place where thousands of people like Hutchinson can’t wait to return.
A place to be free
Experience a view from the front of the jet set in southern Spain with a royal insider.
“It means freedom,” he says of the city. “The opportunity to be yourself, a place where no one can hurt you. That you can hold hands and kiss or be yourself.”
Torremolinos has a long LGBTQ history. In 1971, the city’s gay population was subjected to a violent and brutal crackdown by Franco’s fascist police, with the dictator curtailing the freedom for which the city had become known in the 1960s.
“Since the 1960s, when the first tourist boom started in Torremolinos, people have been able to roam freely. It doesn’t matter what identity, sexuality you are or whatever. And it was a mishmash of lessons.”
In the wake of the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969, Franco decided to end such freedoms. More than 300 people were arrested for “violation of morals and manners” and Torremolinos was raped until the end of the dictatorship in the late 1970s.
But when the British began to arrive, a new dawn broke for Torremolinos and the Costa del Sol.
Prince Hubertus Hohenlohe.
Today, the Marbella Club is synonymous with luxury in the sun. It was created by Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, a Spanish businessman and descendant of Central European royalty who converted the house his own father had built in the area into the current hotel.
Alfonso’s son, Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe, who skied to Mexico at the Winter Olympics, made a career as a pop star and photographer and even posed for Andy Warhol, remains proud of his father’s legacy and the way his hotel tone for the entire region. still thriving tourist industry.
“This was the original house that my grandfather built — Max von Hohenlohe. He came here in 1947 and decided to make a house here. My father was bored and said, ‘I don’t just want a house, I want a hotel.’ He lived in LA a lot, so he thought, “I’ll make a motel where people will stop by, park their car next to the room, get something to eat, on their way to Gibraltar.” And that’s how it all started.”
His father’s status made the jet set he knew in St. Tropez and St. Moritz find their way to the Costa del Sol. Actor Sean Connery, racing driver James Hunt, Real Madrid footballers and aristocracy from all over Europe began the pilgrimage.
“They came here and they followed Alfonso and his open temper to make everyone enjoy themselves. If you have a bullfighter, a flamenco dancer, a crowned head and maybe a dictator, all together in one room, that’s a nice place,” he say.
Marbella Club: A motel for the jet set.
While Prince Hubertus’ father founded the Marbella Club, it was Count Rudolf Graf von Schonberg, the hotel’s first general manager, who helped promote the sense of shabby chic that remains its calling card to this day. Count Rudi, as he is known, still holds a seat in the club.
“It was shabby, but it was very chic, but without glamour, without pretense. We’ve always said we have the prettiest place, even if it’s just with whitewashed walls… It wasn’t fake,” he says.
Count Rudi says the aim was to preserve the authenticity and simplicity of Andalusia, of the mountains and countryside rising from the azure waters of the Mediterranean.
“If you have to glue fake decors or if you have to invent new things, it is already not the original thing. Here it is the most exceptional climate, the safest weather and charming people who take care of you.
“Every piece of furniture fit in with nature. There were no false things here and it is mostly quiet, everything fits in what we had found here. We just finished it.”
While it could be argued that the high hotel blocks and bars serving English food along the beaches of the Costa del Sol have led to some loss of authenticity, there remains a strong sense of local culture in this part of Spain. One that foreigners and those from these parts like to shout about.
Step into the passion and true spirit of one of Spain’s most authentic art forms.
“I like walking in the sun,” says Tony Bryant, another Briton. “I love being here. But to actually be on the beach… It always amazes me why people come here for two weeks and do nothing but sit on the beach or by the pool and then go to a lobster like a lobster. go home.”
Bryant is not your average British visitor. While he moved here 27 years ago to work as a chef, today he is one of the foremost academic authorities on flamenco.
His love for the traditional dance started with a flamenco peña, an authentic show instead of the tablao performed in hotels for tourists.
“It’s a very, very complex subject,” he says. “And one day someone said to me, and it was a Spanish guy, ‘The only way you’ll ever understand this is by getting in touch with the community that actually runs it.'”
Bryant is now deeply entrenched in that community and has made it his mission to show real flamenco to those who come to the region. It’s an art, he says, that the public must tune in to fully understand. That way, he says, they can feel the duende.
“The duende is like the wind. You can feel it and feel it, but you can’t touch it and you can’t see it,” he explains. “It’s so fascinating – once it comes out you know it. I think a lot of people miss it. It’s like anything, if you go to the opera and you really don’t understand opera, you might be missing the best part of it.” But with flamenco, if you’re attuned to what they’re doing, how they’re performing, you can feel it. It almost smothers you, and it goes really fast.”
It is not, he says, a spiritual thing conjured up out of thin air, but rather an emotion created by the interaction between dancer and guitarist. Either way, it’s something only those looking for authentic flamenco can experience. Another reason to go beyond the in-house entertainment offerings and look for something a little more local.
An artist’s paradise
Visit the museum dedicated to Spain’s “artistic gift to the world”.
This urge to look beyond the bars and hotels of the beach has begun to take tourists to the mountains that tower above the resorts, to places like Mijas. This sleepy village, which has struggled this year due to the lack of tourists, has become a haven for those looking to create something beautiful and take some time off during their vacation. It’s as far as you can get from the bucket and spade tourism the region is known for.
Mijas’ art workshops allow visitors to paint ceramic tiles and express their creative side in the most spectacular of settings. It is these kinds of activities that have made the Costa del Sol diversify, even before the pandemic, to cater to those looking for something other than a week on a sun lounger.
But while amateur artists can take the 20km drive from the seaside town of Fuengirola, those who prefer to see the finished product will find plenty to love in the area’s main town, Malaga. For many years this was just the place where planes from all over Europe landed for many, before buses took them to their hotels and away from one of the most culturally significant places in Spain.
Malaga, like the Marbella Club or the bars and restaurants of Fuengirola, speaks of why the Costa del Sol still draws crowds and no doubt will continue to do so when the pandemic eventually fades.
Simply put, there’s something for everyone — from the bucket and spade brigade, who hit the beach for two weeks, to the faded aristocracy and nouveau riche who can’t get enough of Marbella. The Spaniards also like to come here and experience a different side of their country. It’s real, as David Gomez Garcia says, inclusive. Everyone is welcome.