This blog is about my first 24 hours ever in ‘Marbs’ back in April 2019 and is very much my whistle stop tour of the place. Many of these places I’ll undoubtedly revisit in my time living there and hopefully I’ll write about in much more detail.
Excuse the language for a second but…
I’d been in the Old Town of Marbella for all of 30 seconds and I think it all just sort of hit me at once: I literally blurted out loud to myself “Fucking hell” as I took it all in. I was going to be living here. Here was beautiful. Actually geniuniely beautiful. “Fucking hell” indeed. But chill Matt, it’s only been a couple of minutes – lets not jump the gun yet.
I hadn’t set foot in Marbella ever before, yet I’d just accepted a job there. I was not sure whether should be considered ballsy or just plain stupid. In fact, as I boarded the morning bus from Gibraltar to Marbella I began to question did I know even that much about Marbella at all? Had I really done enough research to agree to move there? I really didn’t know enough. Anyway, there was no going back now and I was definitely moving to Marbella and I now had just 24 hours to explore my future home before I flew out of Malaga the next morning. I hope I liked it…
I needn’t have worried.
There seems to be a few stereotypes that cling to Marbella, but the main one seems to be that of it being a playground for celebrities, international playboys and the nouveau riche with a dosage of drug crime thrown in for good measure. I was neither celebrity, international playboy (debatable that one), rich or a criminal, but I had done enough reading to convince myself that this view of Marbella was a caricature as much anything. And the crime problems that had once dogged the city had been massively cleaned up in recent years – at least that’s what I’d read. Like all stereotypes, it’s one that is laced with segments of truth, but one that has ultimately been blown way out of proportion. That was my initial reaction anyway. Like I said on arriving, “fucking hell…”
It’s a city based right on the Mediterranean, so of course it has some obvious beauty, but it really did surprise me just how stunning the city was. It probably helped that my greeting party to Marbella was the magical Old Town.
The Old Town immediately completely dispels the notion of Marbella as a modern tourist resort – although I suppose the clue is in the name ‘Old Town’ there. With the walled town area dating back to the 1600s it is indeed ‘Old’. The streets are narrow and cobbled and everything just feels utterly charming. Every little street has cool little bars and tapas restaurants alongside small boutique shops and cafes. It’s like a living and breathing, sun-glazed Instagram post – but this was unfiltered of course. I happily wandered the zig-zagging streets, but it seemed all roads led to the centrepiece of the Old Town: the Orange Square.
This is the tourist hub of the Old Town and many were enjoying the sunbathed cafes and restaurants of the ancient square. Plaza de los Naranjos, to give it its Spanish name, is unsurprisingly a square lined with orange trees; if you want to see oranges in town squares, then Andalusia is the place for you. Oranges were not going to be enough to satisfy my hunger though and so I went in search of some real authentic food. Even though every tapas bar looked lovely, my feet were making me explore more and more and seemed to be telling me that there was something special around the corner somewhere. Then I found it. A heavenly place.
I don’t want to write too much about the place here as I fell head over heels in love instantly and think once I’m fully settled in Marbella this place will become a semi-regular haunt and worthy of its very own blog post. The problem was that the little bar enchanted me so much that I didn’t even check the name of it! I was transfixed with everything going on – and being served – within it. I just hope I can find it again, as it really was hidden away down a small alley and it seemed I was the only non-Spaniard down there. I’ll sum it up this way: imagine going to your local chip shop and ordering a lovely salted, cone of chips – well replace those chips with massive, locally-sourced, salted king prawns. Yep, I’m sure to some of you that sounds ‘rank’, but to me this was heavenly. Especially when washed down with some cheap, but lovely Cruzcampo. The waitress was slightly scary and aggressive, but not scary enough to stop me going back. As I said, I reckon you’ll be hearing more of this place on these pages, even if the price of a cone of prawns is a bit mental (I can’t remember exactly, but think we were certainly looking at €10-12 region).
It was then through the beautiful Alameda Park with its beautiful palms trees and a stunning ceramic fountain and onwards to the beach.
It’s hard to say what part of living in Marbella is the part I’m looking forward to most, but it’s probably a toss up between the sun, the food (especially the seafood) and the beach. I lived in Swansea ten years ago and one of my bedrooms during my student years looked right out onto Swansea Bay. I used to love falling asleep and waking up to the sea; I really did too, as my room didn’t have any curtains and as a tight-arse student I never bought a pair for it. I’ve always wanted to live by the beach and sea since and my future flat does indeed have a sea view, but with optional use of curtains this time. So it will be good to be back by the sea – and I mean Swansea Bay no disrespect, but I think the Mediterranean may top it just about; largely thanks to the glistening blue sea of the Mediterranean and it also not having Port Talbot steelworks in the background.
It was here on the beach that I got to experience my first ever Chiringuito – at least since I learned that word. It basically means a bar on the beach. This is when it really began to hit home that I could get used to this living. Clock ticking though and I should probably go see some more of Marbs.
After watching a cool Spanish guitar pop band in some place called The Harbour and then having a few beers with my future boss in La Libraria, I went in search of craft beer in Marbella. As a bit of a beer snob these days, I knew moving to south Spain was maybe not my wisest move, as craft beer is really not a thing there yet. Marbella apparently did have one craft beer bar and I just prayed it was good. I’d never find out. It seemed El Grifo – supposedly the best and only place to get craft beer in Marbs – was closed; at least it was closed when I arrived there early evening. This was the first kick in the teeth Marbella had delivered me, but I just had to hope that it’d actually be open when I rocked up to live in Marbella. One of the things that made my life so easy when I lived in Slovakia was hanging out in my local craft beer bar (conveniently called ‘Lokal’) so it’d be awesome to have something like that in Marbella.
Getting over my craft beer-less evening, I just let my feet do the talking again until I eventually stopped at a small tapas bar towards the top of the Old Town. Again, I reminded myself that I could easily sacrifice the quality of the beer for the quality of the Spanish cuisine. I absolutely love it!
I finished up where I had spent some of my time earlier int he day: The Tavern. The Tavern is the English pub of the town and I’d been there earlier in the seeking information about the Malaga CF Supporters Club that are based there – since the plan is to get a Malaga season ticket. The bar is run by a lovely Scouse couple who were both happy to talk me through life in Marbella and the virtues that come with it. The bar had a few characters pop in too and for anyone who knows me, they’ll know I like ‘characters’.
As I headed for my hotel bed, full of Cruzcampo and tapas, it did dawn on me that I hadn’t actually seen that much of Marbella really. I found myself happy with that though , as it means more for me to discover and unearth on my arrival a few months later. What I had seen was just utterly magnificent.
In my brief exploration I had already begub to fall in love with Marbella – it was pretty instantaneous to be honest. I’m sure I will uncover some of the earlier mentioned stereotypes along the way on my new adventure and there’s even a part of me that sort of welcomes them (I’m all up for champagne-soaked Jacuzzi parties with millionaires if any will have me). Ultimately, this 24 hours showed me that I am going to love living in the city and a lot of fun lays ahead for me.