I’ve lived and worked on the Costa del Sol for the last 12 years ever since I 'did a Shirley Valentine’ and decided to leave suburban England for a new life on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean.
Coming to the area as a holidaymaker and now covering it as a news reporter and features writer for SUR in English, which forms part of one of Spain’s most influential media organisations, I’m able to offer relevant, accurate, opinionated and practical advice on one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations - and the contemporary challenges it faces.
I’m often approached by the likes of the BBC, ITN and SKY to share insights and opinions about the area for their news bulletins and current affairs programmes.
As a freelance journalist, I write for several national magazines and newspapers, including The Independent, Monocle and Time Out, and am currently ghost-writing an autobiography on behalf of a senior British politician.
My Costa del Sol
Where I always grab a beer: Sipping a cold beer in Bar Calle de Bruselas in Plaza de la Merced, one of the most beautiful squares in the historic heart of Malaga, cannot be beaten. The city’s most famous son, Pablo Picasso, would be proud of the coffee-shop/bar’s bohemian, vibrant atmosphere – which is just as well seeing as his birthplace is right next door. The terrace is ideal for the city’s favourite pastime: people watching.
My favourite stroll: I always enjoy a Sunday afternoon walk along the ‘Paseo Marítimo’ (promenade) in La Carihuela, an old fishing district on the edge of Torremolinos. The one kilometre paved walkway has some of the most celebrated seafood restaurants, buzzy bars barbecuing sardines on the beach, and hoardes of locals and holidaymakers soaking in the atmosphere.
Fiction for inspiration: Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart. This is the eternally optimistic former Genesis drummer’s account of moving to a remote Andalusian farmhouse with his wife, Ana. It’s kind of like Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, only funnier, grittier and set in southern Spain.
Where to be seen: The glitzy resorts of Marbella and Puerto Banús have long been favourites with jet-setting A-listers and European and Arabic royalty, as such there are many venues to choose from. When I want to rub shoulders with the glitterati I head to Suite, a restaurant-nightclub combo at the five star Hotel Puente Romano, as it’s always a favourite for Marbella socialites and international superstars.
The most breathtaking views: The views across the shimmering Mediterranean and the historic centre of Malaga from the ancient Gibralfaro Castle and the Moorish Alcazaba fortress, especially at sunset when the sky turns into a blazing orange, are unforgettable.
The best spot for some peace and quiet: When I’m in need of recharging the batteries, I like to take a drive about 30 kilometres to the north of Malaga city, to Antequera’s Torcal Natural Park. It has some of Europe’s most impressive and weirdest-looking Jurassic-period limestone formations, a wealth of wildlife including eagles, vultures, Spanish Ibex, and more than 30 species of wild orchids.
Shopaholics beware: Unsurprisingly, Puerto Banús is packed full of designer stores including Gucci and Dior. For more reasonably-priced, high-street stores head to Marbella, Torremolinos and Fuengirola town centres. Most urban areas also have a weekly street market selling everything from arts, crafts and gifts to fruit and veg.
Don’t leave without…‘doing chocolate and churros’ one morning in the traditional white village of Mijas. Dunk the hot doughnut-like cakes into thick melted chocolate as you take in the staggering views down to the coast and over the surrounding countryside and mountains, from one of the many cafés in the narrow, cobbled streets.
My expert information
Trashy TV shows sensationalising crime levels, property scams and lager louts have, undeniably, tarnished the image of the Costa del Sol. Yet this 110-mile stretch of the Mediterranean coastline, dubbed the ‘California of Europe’ gives its critics the metaphorical finger by attracting millions of visitors each year - including celebrities, royalty, adrenaline junkies, families, young professionals, student travellers and retired pleasure seekers. And here’s why:Read more...
To hear the lions' roar and the elephants' trumpet
Mammals, reptiles, birds and insects from all five continents await you at Estepona’s Selwo Adventure safari park. I’d strongly recommend wearing ‘sensible’ shoes, as even if you go for the four-wheel drive tour as opposed to the walking tour, there’s still a fair bit of walking involved. Look out for offers and deals for groups and don’t forget your camera.Read more...
For the celebrity spotting
Previously the European holiday destination of choice for the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra and Princess Diana, today it wouldn’t be unusual to bump into Simon Cowell, Kate Moss, Rod Stewart, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Julio Iglesias, Bruce Willis, the Beckhams, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffiths, or a host of footballers, TV presenters, and wannabes who want to get ‘papped’. I often spot famous faces in clubs like Olivia Valere, the Suite, or in the front line watering holes of Puerto Banús.Read more...
To see where we came from
It’s long been known that Nerja Caves, covered in pre-historic paintings, were the last place in Europe where Neanderthals lived; but it’s just been discovered it was the place where modern man ‘crossed over’ with them. Last summer, I was lucky enough to see some two concerts in the caves’ natural amphitheatre – it’s the most surreal location - during the International Cave Festival in July.Read more...
For a trip back in time
Despite the influx of foreign residents and tourists, the oldest and highest part of the town, Benalmádena Pueblo, retains its typical Andalusian village feel. I love to peer through the heavy wooden doors of the white-washed houses and see shady interior patios adorned with brightly coloured geraniums and ceramics. From the town hall, walk up the ancient narrow streets to the large church where there are spectacular views down to the coast.Read more...
For the regattas
The 550-berth Sotogrande Marina is at the epi-centre of life in Sotogrande, one of Europe’s most exclusive residential areas. And the fiercely competitive annual summer regattas, the Mediterranean’s answer to Cowes Week, are exhilarating even as a spectator. Get yourself into one of the trendy, yet down-to-earth, bars for the post-race banter.Read more...