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With the summer months only a country mile in the distance, there’s no better time
than now to start piecing together your itinerary for an adventurous, sun-drenched
holiday abroad. Anyone who’s on the lookout for more than just a few rays should
take a punt on the south of Spain, where a world of culture, adventure and sporting
opportunities awaits, writes Domhnall O’Donoghue
106117 IRISH TATLER MAN
hould the day of reckoning ever arrive, and bullfighting, religious and tomato-throwing festivals or
Spain is asked to detail its contributions to the darling way in which some speaks with a lisp. Simply
the world, St Peter would be well advised put, when it comes to countries, there are few as
to place a comfortable seat alongside the colourful, spirited and diverse as España.
Pearly White Gates for the response is
Should your preference be quick city breaks, relaxing
Scertain to be lengthy, dynamic and golfing excursions, fun-packed road-trips or tan-
wide-ranging. Whether it’s a tip of the hat generating holidays by the beach, Western Europe’s
to Christopher Columbus and the country’s naval second-largest country makes the perfect hostess. But,
dominance during the 15th century or waxing lyrical arguably, the jewel in her well-decorated crown is found
about her endless beaches, fiery climate and magnificent in the south, where endless sandy coastlines and magical
architecture, since Year Dot, Spain has been effortlessly Mediterranean waters are beautifully complimented by a
delivering the goods. vast selection of villages, towns and cities, all of which
deftly marry traditional heritage with cosmopolitan living.
How about a pat on the back for her mouth-watering
selection of culinary delights, such as paella, olives, From luxurious Marbella to dramatic Seville, from
tapas, tortillas or chorizo sausages? Or her impossible- bull-fighting Ronda to home-from-home Benidorm,
to-refuse libations ranging from Sangria to Rioja wine? whatever your preference, rest assured that these
And sure to get a mention are her global sporting heroes southerly regions are also equipped with some of the
such as Rafael Nadal and Fernando Torres, her world’s most magnificent hotels, villas and palaces, where
Hollywood stars including Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz you can rest your noggin after a day out and about.
or Pedro Almodóvar, her musical maestros like Julio
Iglesias or Plácido Domingo, as well as the artistic genius So, if you’ve been living la vida loca for far too long,
of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali or Antoni Gaudí. And root out your tatty suitcase, dust off your passport and
that’s saying nothing about flamenco dancing, sneak away to the very bottom of the Iberian Peninsula
where a world of adventure awaits.
welltravelled This page, clockwise Once known as Miramar Fuente, the recently
from top left: refurbished and rebranded adult-only Amàre
108109 IRISH TATLER MAN Spain’s coastline is Marbella Beach Hotel is ideally located in the
blessed with some of centre of the city. Translated as ‘love’, this
Europe’s finest beaches; modern, art-filled offering will leave your heart
bullfighting at the skipping a beat thanks to private beaches,
famous Ronda bullring; second-to-none views and stylish interiors. Not
Marbella is a popular a single detail has been passed over, ensuring
spot for boaters; Amare that couples are guaranteed a heavenly and
serves up a feast; romantic stay.
Balinese beds are
available poolside; the The hotel is particularly proud of its beach, a
Belvue Rooftop Bar is a private area just metres from the rest of the
highlight; the Old City is building, complete with wooden decks,
bustling with activity comfortable sunbeds, waiter service and even
live DJ music sessions. However, should you
MARBELLA prefer to go for your dip in more confined
spaces, the pool, kitted out with Balinese beds
Affluent and glamorous Marbella, found in the and giddy cocktails, is just the ticket. In terms
province of Málaga, is a shining light in the of its size, a word like ‘intimate’ might be a
Costa del Sol. Having the good manners to more appropriate description than ‘Olympic’,
locate itself on the stunning Mediterranean but unless you’re Michael Phelps, it’s hard to
Sea, this famous and wealthy destination lays complain.
claim not only to a dynamic cultural calendar
and 27km of unbeatable beaches such as Playa Be it the Mare Nostrum or the Amàre Beach
de la Bajadilla and Playa de Fontanilla, but also restaurant, guests can fill their bellies with
world-class sporting facilities, making the spot traditional fare or tapas, as well as the chef’s
particularly popular with golfers and boaters. innovative creations. Using a fusion of local
Mediterranean ingredients, the hotel’s menus
With a population of 140,000, famous are ripe with delicious cuisine.
residents over the years include Sean Connery,
George Clooney, Antonio Banderas, Joan Elsewhere, by day, the lounge serves guests
Collins, Zinedine Zidane and Status Quo’s Rick premium breakfasts and gourmet snacks; by
Parfitt. Oh, and Osama bin Laden even night, classic cocktails and cool music take
holidayed there for a stint during the 80s. They pride of place. The piano found here is one of
can’t all be wrong (well, politics aside, that is). the main features in the hotel, with pianists
treating holidaymakers to a fine and varied
HOTEL: selection of music, including flamenco, jazz,
and bossa nova. Multiple storeys above, the
AMARE MARBELLA BEACH HOTEL piano makes way for the strumming of a
WHERE: MARBELLA Spanish guitar at the Belvue Rooftop Bar – the
IDEAL BASE FOR: GOLF, BEACHES, perfect place to be seduced by the sunset while
SUNSHINE, NIGHTLIFE sharing a late tipple with your better half.
WHEN: SPRING, SUMMER AND
AUTUMN But holidaying doesn’t always have to be
WEBSITE: AMAREHOTELS.COM about over-indulgence. As such, the hotel’s
NIGHTLY ROOM PRICES: FROM �150 boutique gymnasium is equipped with the
STAR RATING: FOUR
latest technology, while
instructors are at hand to
provide personalised fitness,
yoga, Pilates and tai chi
It’s not just the Missus
who’ll want to avail of all that
the hotel’s spa offers, which
includes the full gamut of
hydrotherapy, massages and
other therapies. Should your
Spanish sojourn include a
spot of golfing, the spa is ideal
for warming the body down
following a day challenging
your inner Rory McIlroy.
BEYOND THE HOTEL’S in its 16th century genesis. Highlights include Carmon is just a stone’s throw
WALLS... Plaza de los Naranjos, a fine example of from Seville
Castilian Renaissance design; the town hall,
GOLF: CORTESIN HOTEL CARMONA,
(FINCACORTESIN.COM) built in 1568; the Mayor’s house; Encarnation’s SEVILLE
Speaking of golf, Marbella offers some of the Church; and the Chapel of Santiago, the oldest Located less than 30km from Seville Airport,
Carmona is a serene and enchanting fortified
religious building in the city. Be sure to town that sits proudly atop a cliff and spends
finest selections of courses in the entire world, consult the Marbella Tourism Office its days overlooking a vast vega. Julius Caesar is
but none as magnificent as the Finca Cortesin, (marbellaexclusive.com), which provides said to have been truly impressed with its
located about a 30-minute drive away. Thanks to detailed and enjoyable tours around the area. defensive capabilities and, as such, Carmona is
its stunning Mediterranean backdrop and its 100 now a treasure chest of Roman walls, gates and
Between the old town and the sea is an area archaeological sites, baroque churches,
bunkers, this five-star hotel’s course was ranked known as the ‘historic extension’. Here, on convents, and palatial houses. The extremely
as being one of Spain’s finest by Golf Digest narrow and windy streets, however, are sure to
Avenida del Mar, there is a collection of ten leave your car feeling a little self-conscious in
Magazine, and rightly so. With a demanding par sculptures by Salvador Dalí. To the west of this terms of its size.
72, Finca Cortesin has played
road is Constitution Park, which Carmona’s architectural wealth owes much
host to the prestigious Volvo to the surrounding agricultural fields – some of
Finca Cortesin is home to one of houses the auditorium of the the most productive in the country.
World Match Play Spain’s best golf course Unsurprisingly, given its proximity, Carmona
same name and the Skol shares a similar history to Seville, such as the
Championship for three years. commanding 15th century tower built in
Apartments, designed in the imitation of Seville’s Giralda. With a population
A particular highlight here is of fewer than 30,000 inhabitants, Carmona is a
Modernist style by the Spanish slow-paced destination overflowing with history
the Nicklaus Academy, which and heritage – ideal for lovers of times past.
architect Manuel Jaén Albaitero.
effortlessly incorporates all the HOTEL:
latest analysis and training NIGHTLIFE CASA PALACIO DE CARMONA
WHERE: CARMONA, SEVILLE
technologies that should suit The world of celebrity and IDEAL BASE FOR: ROMANTIC
GETAWAY, LANDMARK ANNIVERSARY
every novice – nightlife is synonymous with WHEN: SPRING, SUMMER, AUTUMN
and even every Marbella, with the streets NIGHTLY ROOM PRICES: FROM �100
STAR RATING: FIVE
professional – to bursting with clubbing venues
An example of the
a tee! to suit all walks of life. Whether ornate bedrooms;
Outside of your penchant is for a bit of techno, folk, dance courtyard
golf, the hotel, its or something a little more low-key and
grounds and the romantic, there’s a venue for everyone. But the
selection of fine best dancing shoes are found at Tablao
restaurants are Flamenco Ana Maria. Here, guests can lose
sure to leave both The tennis club is a must for themselves in this unique and intimate setting
guests and day while enjoying some talented and authentic
visitors reaching for their thesaurus in order to dancers nightly on the make-shift stage.
find the words to describe its magnificence Marbella’s Golden Mile is actually
(some options: imperial; transcendent; something of a misnomer as it stretches for a
majestic; exquisite…) whopping four miles! Beginning at the
western edge of the city and going all the way
TENNIS: PUENTE ROMANO BEACH to Puerto Banús, this exclusive area is home
RESORT (PUENTEROMANO.COM) to some of Marbella’s most luxurious villas,
On the edge of the city stands the charming and estates and clubs.
luxurious Puento Romano Beach Resort,
originally designed to recreate the character and CULTURE
charm of an Andalusian beachfront village, a Besides the typical Andalusian cultural events,
feat that has been effortlessly achieved. The a variety of annual festivals are held in
ancient Roman Bridge, which gives the hotel its Marbella, mainly between June and October.
name and dates back to the 1st century, is the Events dedicated to film and music include the
centre-piece of the grounds and is surrounded Marbella International Opera Festival, the
by lush, sub-tropical botanical gardens. Marbella Reggae Festival and the Marbella
Even more impressive is the hotel’s famous International Film Festival.
tennis club – and that’s no backhanded Art-lovers aren’t ignored either thanks to the
compliment! Founded in 1979 under the annual International Contemporary Art Fair I,
management of tennis legend Bjorn Borg, four which exhibits photography, painting, sculpture
years later Wimbledon champion Manolo and graphic design by over 500 artists.
Santana took over the management and today Additionally, the Contemporary Spanish
these facilities are internationally known as Engraving Museum, created in 1992, contains a
being some of the best in southern Europe. collection of prints by 20th century artists such
Over the decades, the club has hosted great as Picasso, Miró and Dalí. The Ralli Museum,
international tournaments in which top players dedicated primarily to art in Latin America,
such as Boris Becker, John McEnroe and Emilio houses sculptures by Dalí and Aristide Maillol
Sánchez Vicario have competed. along with paintings by Dalí, Miró and Henry
Boasting ten courts – eight clay and two hard Moore, amongst others.
surfaces – the club has a unique team of For the green-fingered guests, the Bonsai
professionals that teach classes of all levels, Museum is sure to leave them barking mad.
from beginners and children to the most gifted Opened in 1992, it has a collection of
players. specimens on permanent display with others
for sale. The emphasis is on its extensive
OLD TOWN collection of olive trees and examples of
The ancient and truly beautiful walled city of species such as Ginkgo, Oxicedro and
Marbella retains nearly the same layout as it did Pentafila Pino.
This page, clockwise was founded by Hercules two special features that set them apart from
from top left: and is known throughout competitors: their spectacular Asian-style design
Carmona’s Puerta de the world for its rainbow as well as the materials used in their
Cordoba; Plaza de of colours and sparkling construction – basalt, granite, slate and special
L’Espana is in the vibrancy. The city, the ceramics – all of which has been imported from
centre of Seville; largest in southern Spain, Asia. From the adults-only Faces of Angkor to
Seville’s La Giralda; boasts extraordinary Langkawi, the series of infinity pools, there is
Asia Gardens boasts architecture, such as the minaret of La Giralda; something for everyone to help them cool down
seven stunning pools the cathedral, one of the largest in during a balmy summer’s day. What’s more,
Christendom; La Maestranza bullring; Torre del Thai massages are available poolside on request.
BEYOND Oro; or the Alcázar Palace and its magnificent
WBTHEAYELOPLNASD.L..ACE gardens. Inside, the hotel’s rooms take inspiration
THE PALACE Furthermore, the locals are a dab hand at from Bali, with each space possessing a different
WALLS... the acting lark and put on extraordinary design and personality, with particular emphasis
performances at their annual Feria de Abril, a on the guest’s health and wellbeing – something
OLD CITY week-long party of drink, food and dance, that is mirrored in the restorative Thai spa.
At the entrance to the which takes place day and night in more than a
old town is Puerto de thousand especially-mounted tents. But above In terms of nourishment, varied menus can
Sevilla, a fortified all, these celebrations allow the hombres to be found in any of the hotel’s four eateries,
gateway, and even though it has seen better parade on their fine horses and the senoras to including the Udaipur buffet restaurant and the
days, the structure is still hugely impressive and dance in brilliantly coloured gypsy dresses. à la carte Asian restaurant, all of which serve up
authoritative. Behind the Plaza San Fernando Immediately before that is Holy Week (Semana a masterly combination of Asian, traditional and
and its splendid Moorish-style buildings is a Santa), a spooky religious festival where international cuisine.
bustling market, awash will the ripest seasonal hooded penitents march in long processions
fruit and vegetables. Close by is Santa Maria, a followed by huge baroque floats, on which sit On account of its oriental inclinations, the
stately Gothic church, which is, like many of its images of the Virgin or Christ. Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa might not be the
counterparts in the town, topped by a Mudejar Other must-sees include Plaza de L’Espana; most authentic of Spanish experiences, but the
tower. Dominating the ridge of the town are the Casa de Pilatos, a large 16th century mansion reason it bags award after award is evident from
massive ruins of Pedro’s Palace, destroyed by where Mudejar, Gothic and Renaissance styles the very moment you pass through its gates.
an earthquake in 1504, but now a four-star are successfully combined; as well as the lively
parador. and popular quarter of Triana. BWEAYLOLNSD... THE GARDENS’
The Roman Necropolis is particularly
noteworthy. It lies on a low hill at the opposite BENIDORM, THEME PARKS
end of Carmona amid cypress trees and ALICANTE Benidorm offers an incredible selection of
contains more than 900 family tombs dating entertainment and excitement for people in both
from the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD. Benidorm has shed its lager-swilling image; in its the spring and winter of their lives. Some of the
The tombs are often frescoed and contain a place, a fun-filled, family holiday destination has, biggest theme parks in Europe are found here:
series of niches, in which many of the funeral deservedly, emerged. Terra Mítica is inland from the city, at the foot of
urns remain intact. the mountain, while Aqualandia and Mundomar
The sun-soaked coastal resort boasts four are located on the outskirts of the city.
BEYOND CARMONA’S miles of golden beaches, and is popular with
WALLS… scubadivers thanks to a plethorea of nearby NIGHTLIFE
rocky coves. In the city, there are six large nightclubs,
SEVILLE endless discos and every type of bar you could
Just 33 kilometres away lies Seville, one of HOTEL: wish for – from quiet and sophisticated to the
Europe’s most stunning and immaculately- bombastic and bold. There is also a wide
preserved cities. According to legend, Seville ASIA GARDENS HOTEL & THAI SPA variety of international restaurants, serving
WHERE: BENIDORM, ALICANTE everything from á la carte to Spanish tapas.
110111 IRISH TATLER MAN IDEAL BASE FOR: LUXURY RETREAT Denny sausages are also a staple in most bars!
WHEN: ALL YEAR ROUND
WEBSITE: ASIAGARDENS.ES BEACHES
NIGHTLY ROOM PRICES: FROM �270 The two major beaches, the Levante and the
STAR RATING: FIVE Poniente, are long stretches of soft, golden
A favourite of tennis ace Novak Djokovic, the sand, and thanks to their southerly orientation,
stunning five-star Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai they are kept naturally clean, consistently
Spa is located amongst the Sierra Cortina receiving the prestigious European Blue Flag
Mountains, and lays claim to seven outdoor awards for quality of services and water. ITM
pools as well as magnificent views over the
Costa Blanca. Just a 30-minutes drive from Theme parks are hugely popular
Alicante airport and a brief 2km stone’s throw in Benidorm
from Levante Beach, this is a destination so
reviving it’s sure to breathe life into the most HOW TO GET THERE
jaded and weary of souls.
There are direct and regular flights from Dublin to
The gardens in its name are spectacular and Marbella, Seville and Alicante with both Aer Lingus
imaginatively designed to recreate an Asian (aerlingus.com) and Ryan Air (Ryanair.com).
environment in a Mediterranean climate region,
showcasing over 200 different species of plants
and trees, not to mention the 150,000 shrubs
and 20,000 seasonal flowers.
The whopping seven pools here command