Words: Charlotte Philby
The first time my then-boyfriend, now-husband went on holiday after having a baby, we opted for NYC in January. Restaurant week! We reasoned. What could be more perfect with a three-month-old baby in tow than a rented Brownstone apartment with enormous steps, in what turned out to be the most ferocious blizzard the city had seen in a long time? Let’s just say there were tears, and not only those of the permanently-awake child.
But that was four years ago. One more kid, and several thwarted attempts at pre-family style holidays later, we have learnt our lesson. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t intend to spend the rest of our lives holidaying at Butlins, but when it comes to a truly restful getaway there are times when you need to strip back. And for family-focused breaks that are grounded less in culture and more in Chilling the Hell Out, there are two words you need to know: Marbella Club. After that there are three more words: The Kids Club.
As you might have figured from the photos staying at Marbella Club does not come cheap. Though, FYI, the hotel’s rooms and suites are considerably less bank-breaking than the villas, the jewel of which costs – wait for it – 30,000 euros a night. But some things are worth saving up for, and I cannot stress how worth seeing the kids club is. Even if you have to sell your kids to get here.
Previously, our personal experience with kids clubs has always been disappointing. They always seem to be any combination of the following: closed, fully-booked, a bit crap. So the one at Marbella Club comes as a particular surprise. Set over 5,000 square metres and designed by Madrid-based design firm Minimec, this area is the latest addition to the 60-year-old Andalucian resort that was once the rural finca of Prince Alfonso of Spain. Opened 18 months ago this newly-renovated area is part of an ongoing series of improvement works to the hotel, which has seen a number of its rooms – including our Garden Family Suite – updated to look as shiny and beautiful as the hotel’s expansive gardens, which are home to 500 species of flora and fauna, maintained by no less than 50 gardeners.
The perfectly-created kids space is a rare combination of sleek design and child-friendliness; divided between a yoga and dance studio, pottery and art studio, baby room, computer room, aromatherapy room (yes, really), vegetable garden and outdoor play area which includes several jungle gyms, giant chess set, a paddling pool like no other. There are cookery classes, outdoor evening film screenings, horse-riding, an amazing library. The list goes on…
Today Marbella is arguably not quite the draw it once was, but thanks to a steady flow of minted expats and tourists this pristine enclave of Southern Spain has largely withstood the financial crisis which has hit less bolstered parts of the country. We went out of season, at the beginning of November, so were particularly grateful for the bright sunshine. The perfect backdrop to a day at the salt-water pool overlooking the beach, just a stone’s throw across the promenade which leads from Marbella Old Town on one side, and to the marina at Puerto Banus on the other.
An afternoon stroll down the promenade, utilising the playground on the shore, ice cream vendors, as well as the ample bars serving mind-blowingly ratio-ed Gin & Tonics, is the perfect warm-up before dinner at the hotel restaurant. Following our previous attempt to employ the services of a hotel babysitter (see recent Prague review for horrifying details), we are baffled by the ease with which we are able to enjoy a cocktail(s) in the Champagne bar before dinner at the Grill, which on a Friday night is heaving with well-dressed locals and posh holidaymakers. The food is outstanding classic Spanish fare served in style by the bossiest waiter I’ve ever encountered, who also has the finest moustache.
Saturday night, we head towards the Old Town, past the port where mid-season you are destined to see a sight or two falling out of the local clubs. On a November evening, however, the buzz is less Jager-bomb, more lightly inebriated couples enjoying an evening drink while their kids play on the pavement. On a quiet square just before the Old Town, where the combined prospect of cobbled streets and buggy make my legs weary, we pull up a pew at a lovely, low-key tapas bar and eat a delicious meal with more wine and food than we can pile in, for just 40 euros. While the baby sleeps and our eldest wiles away several hours getting to grips with her first ever Kinder Surprise. Viva España.
Journey – 4
Ease – 5
Value – 3
Kids’ rating – 5
Adults’ rating – 4
Chilling out with the kids, out-of-season sun, revitalising weekend breaks, breaking the bank
High culture, economising
From February to May and September to December, excluding Easter and Christmas, Marbella Club is offering free use of the kids club on a daily basis and special amenities for kids upon arrival for those booking interconnecting rooms and villas.