Marbella. There aren't many places offering year-round sunshine in Europe that, from beaches and golf to shopping and fine dining, tick as many of the luxury holiday boxes. Sounds tempting?…
Perhaps one of the best things about taking a villa break in the Summer is the chance to indulge in a couple of good books in a way that we rarely have time for during the rest of the year.
Our good friend Molly has kindly shared a couple of her top recommendations for this year’s Spanish summer reading list. We would love to hear what you think of these books so please do leave us a comment if you have read them.
Three Novels set in Spain
1. Voices of Angels by Hannah M Davies
The main character of this novel, Lizzie is an English schoolgirl, misunderstood by her classmates. Having a bit of a schoolgirl crisis she flies out to Spain to spend the summer holidays away from it all. Her stay is with her Expat grandmother who lives in the countryside of Andalusia.
As I live in Andalusia I was curious to read this debut novel written by Hannah M Davis. It is quite a while since I was hooked on a book. After the first ten pages I couldn’t put it down. I already wanted to know what was going to happen next.
This story has a great balance of romance, mystery and drama. Soon after the opening page of the novel we discover that Lizzie has a unique gift. She can see when people are going to die. We experience the emotions that she goes through as we witness what this psychic power has in store for her.
As different plots in the story unfold, the tale becomes quicker moving and intense. The main characters of Lizzie, Rafa and Ariadne are well developed and you feel an involvement as a reader. I was satisfied with the description of Andalusia that the author depicts. The hills around Malaga, the beaches of Cabo de Gata and the characters in Andalusia really are true to life. I could even relate to some of the situations in the story. Even the hot summer sun and dust thrown up along the olive grove dirt tracks can almost be felt as you are turning the pages.
If you want a short intriguing novel and love Spain this is for you.
2. The Seamstress by Maria Dueñas (Spanish title Tiempo entre Costuras)
This novel is about a young woman, who is swept off her feet by a handsome man.
Set in Madrid, the main character´s hometown, it turns out that he is not as wonderful as she first thought. Although the tale begins in Madrid, it has many twists and turns and soon leads us to Tetuan, Morocco.
She ends up in Morocco alone and penniless. The war is raging in Madrid preventing her return. In the novel there are many interesting characters, providing depth and richness to the story.
As well as the trials and tribulations the protagonist experiences, the political situation in Spain at the time provides a dramatic backdrop to this captivating novel. (We are taken through streets of Tangiers, Tetuan, Lisbon and Madrid with wonderful descriptions, the destroyed and desolate city of Madrid is also a feature towards the end of the book.
The novel has romance, mystery and intrigue as well as historic references to some of the key characters in Spain at the time.
3. The City of Sorrows by Susan Nadathur
This recently released novel had me intrigued from the first page. How could a young Indian student, a wealthy Andalusian business man and a local gypsy who works as horse trainer be connected? The story begins in India but swiftly moves to Spain and is set in beautiful Seville.
The story begins with Rajiv a young Indian who defies his father when trying to set up an arranged marriage in his local village and leaves for other opportunities in Spain. Initially his adjustment to Andalusia is difficult but he soon fits into the lifestyle and makes friends.
Andres, a more complex character seems to have it all, from a wealthy family, he works with his father and is often aggressive towards his family and colleagues. As the novel moves forward his rage intensifies at the same time as we learn more of his past.
Diego, a gypsy living in a neighbourhood on the edge of Seville seems to have the world against him. Nothing seems to be going his way. We see a happy family man distraught with grief give into a darker life that he previously led at the stables.
The three stories are carefully intertwined by the author and will have you turning the pages quickly to discover each characters path. With the descriptions of Triana and the traditional Easter processions in Seville it really makes a captivating and intense read.
Reviews by Molly Sears-Piccavey
Molly Sears-Piccavey has lived in Spain since 1998, initially in Barcelona, but now lives in Granada. Working in Communication and PR, she uses her spare time to read books, she is a also a busy Blogger and a frenetic twitterer. Molly speaks fluent Spanish and English as well as some French and Catalan.
Have you read any of these books, or have a recommendation of your own to share? Leave a comment below
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Where is Marbella?First things first, though. Where is it? Marbella is in southern Spain - in the province of Malaga in the Andalucia region, to be exact - on a stretch of coast called the Costa del Sol. Here's a map of Marbella to help you get your bearings:
Where Do You Fly to?It depends on from where you're flying in. The nearest international airport to Marbella is Malaga. Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (Aena.es) is 51km away and an easy 40-minute car/taxi ride. Virtually all the major airlines fly there direct from the UK and from across northern Europe. The next closest airport to Marbella is Gibraltar (Gibraltarairport.gi), which is just over an hour's drive away. British Airways, Easyjet and Monarch all fly direct from the UK to Gibraltar.
From the USIf you’re flying into Spain from the USA you'll probably have to travel to Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (Aena.es). From there you'll have to either fly, take the fast speed AVE train (Renfe.com) or drive to Malaga and transfer from there to Marbella. The most convenient way to get to Marbella from Madrid is by the fast speed train taking just 2.5hrs or by flying taking only 1 hour and 15 mins.
how to get there from malaga airport
By CarThe best way to get from Malaga to Marbella is to drive. And if you're on holiday that probably means you're going to need to hire a car. As with almost all international airports, Malaga has a frankly baffling array of different car hire options to pick through. To avoid the scrum of the departures lounge, jump on the complimentary minibus to the offices of Niza, Helle Hollis or Enterprise situated a mere minute outside of the terminal. Inside the terminal you can find Sixt, Hertz and Europcar. If you're unsure of which company to use, click the following link. For a more luxury car hire service we'd recommend Sixt (Sixt.com). They're friendly, totally professional, trustworthy and have a range of high-end rental options, from BMWs, Audis and Porsches to Mercedes and Range Rovers - and even automatics. If you're travelling in a large group, they also have 8-12 seater self-drive minibuses available for hire. Of course if you're looking for ease, our Concierge can make the reservation for you to be dropped directly off at the villa. A car of your choice can be delivered to your villa. Once you've picked up your car/minibus hire, driving from Malaga airport to Marbella could hardly be easier. Directions from Malaga-Costa del Sol airport are as follows:
- Leave the airport and head southeast onto N-348
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on N-348
- Take the Torremolinos ramp to N-340/Cádiz
- Merge onto Avenida de Velázquez/N-340/MA-21
- Take the ramp to E-15/A-7/Benalmadena/Algeciras. Merge onto AP-7
- Pass Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola
- Take exit 184 towards Marbella/Casco Antiguo/Avenida del Trapiche
By TaxiFor sheer ease, you can’t beat jumping in a taxi. A taxi rank is situated outside the arrivals sidewalk of Terminal T3, level 0. It's best to ask the driver, beforehand, how much a taxi is from Malaga to Marbella to ensure they don’t overcharge you. There are two transfer prices, and these are dependent on both times of the day and the day of the week. Transfer Price Band 1 is weekdays from 06.00 to 22.00 hrs. Transfer Price Band 2 is weekdays from 22.00 to 06.00 hrs, all day Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, the August Feria and Holy Week. Band 2 transfer time is more expensive than Band 1. Alternatively, you can pre-order a taxi at Malaga Airport Taxi (Malagaairporttaxi.net) and get a price when booking. The transfer time from Malaga Airport to Marbella takes around an hour, in a taxi.
Other Ways to Get to Marbella
- By bus: It is possible to take a bus (Alsa.com) from Malaga airport to Marbella. But it's a whole lot less convenient than driving via hire car or private transfer.
- By train: There isn’t a train connection from Malaga airport to Marbella.
Distances - how far is marbella from...
- Malaga (city): 61km away and 46 minutes' drive.
- Granada: 187km and just over 2 hours' drive.
- Seville: 258km and 2 hours 45 minutes' drive.
- Gibraltar: 78km and 1 hour 2 minutes' drive.
- Madrid: 584 km and 5 hours 45 minutes' drive.
A Bit of HistoryThe land previously belonged to the Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi, who it is said, used the estate as his party house and hunting grounds. The property and land went up for sale and a group of Spanish property developers bought it and put plans together to create a playground for the rich and famous in Marbella. Each villa is unique, with their own styles depending on the specifications of the owner.
Location & Getting There
So where is La Zagaleta?The large estate sits in Malaga province in the south of Andalucia. It’s in the foothills of the Ronda Mountains just 25 minutes from Marbella, 18 minutes from Nuevo Andalucia and the nearest beach. It's 20 minutes from the village of Benahavis, 40 minutes from Sotogrande port, 50 minutes from Ronda, 55 minutes from Malaga airport and just over an hour from Gibraltar airport. La Zagaleta is very easily accessed by car or helicopter. There's heavy security surrounding the estate and entrance is on prior permission only.
What Else is in La Zagaleta?It’s worth noting that all the facilities in La Zagaleta are for exclusive use to villa owners only; they pay an enormous service charge to be allowed to use the facilities.
Golf CourseLa Zagaleta golf club is only open to villa owners and their guests. They have exclusive access to two of the Costa del Sol's best private golf courses, La Zagaleta and Los Barrancos. La Zagaleta golf course - known as the Old Course - is to championship standard with 18 holes, Par 72 over a distance of 4800 - 6000 yards. Designed by renowned golf architect Brad Benz in 1991 and redesigned by Marc Westenborg in 2016, it’s a rewarding course with fantastic views to the coast and flanked by mountains. The New Course, Los Barrancos, is very different to the Old Course. It’s a challenging 18-hole, Par 70 with lots of obstacles over a distance of 4356 – 5381 yards.
The ClubhousesThe hub of the estate is the spectacular Old Clubhouse, or La Zagaleta country club. Measuring 5,100m² it has an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, billiards, bowling alley, tennis courts, gourmet food supermarket, pro-golf shop and restaurants (see below). There's also a nightclub, bars and events space where there’s a full schedule of experiences and parties planned. The New Clubhouse is a thatched lakeside venue. A lot smaller than the Old Clubhouse, it's still just as popular with La Zagaleta residents for events or having a quick drink in the bar.
Horse RidingLa Zagaleta is home to some beautiful stables with indoor and outdoor schooling arenas. Horses can either be kept on a full livery basis, or horses and ponies can be hired for lessons or hacks. ‘The Riding Club’ equestrian centre has a team of instructors and well-schooled horses for all levels of rider including Arab, PRE and, for the children, Farabella horses and Welsh ponies.
RestaurantsWhy leave the comfort of a beautiful villa when you can enjoy a top-quality meal at home? At La Zagaleta there are Michelin starred chefs available for in-house dining throughout the estate. However, for owners the clubhouse has two restaurants: the formal dining Old Course Restaurant; and a terrace bar restaurant that's ideal for light bites and brunches.
Famous ResidentsThere is private security throughout the whole of La Zagaleta - so know one really know who lives or owns houses there. It’s a place where the super-rich and famous go to be away from the limelight. However, it is said that Hugh Grant, Rod Stewart and Vladimir Putin all have house in La Zagaleta.
What to Do NearbyWhen staying in La Zagaleta, the houses are so special that it’s sometimes difficult to tear yourself away from the estate. However, if you do want to see more of the area, here's our pick of easily accessible and great day trips:
- Ronda: historic, boutique wineries and ab-so-lutely beautiful.
- Benahavis village: a great option for restaurants; have a lunch or dinner in this pretty village.
- Granada: a romantic inland city and home to the Alhambra Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Malaga: the birthplace of Picasso with a fort, palace and Roman amphitheatre.
- Cordoba: historic city with a stunning mosque-church at its centre.
- Sevilla: one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
- Sotogrande: a lovely port, wake boarding lake and polo hub.