Last time the gal was at the luxury Kempinski Hotel Bahia Estepona it had left a message of Iberian brutalism, in the architectural sense, that is. Architect Melvin Villarroel, 1931-2010, who had produced the white-painted village-like Marbella Club complex, here composed a sprawling terracotta-sculpture, eight floors high and stretching about 300 yards from one end to the other. Inside, the interiors are mixed, with a spacious marble-floored lobby paired with upper corridors that seem alive with colour – in the photo to the left, look down over and through, from the seventh floor open atrium lobby, to the fourth floor reception. Some hope that hanging fabric artwork behind reception will soon have had its day.
But, and now for the good news, the 145-room hotel has now gained character and a pleasing DNA. I loved wandering the grounds – a boardwalk, opened 2016, allows you to walk along several miles of sea-shore, passing the blocks of residences that stretch for a long way, either side of the hotel. I climbed all of five feet up to the hotel’s genuine 16th century Almeira Tower, one of many such fortifications along the coast here erected by Christians as defence against marauders from Turkey and North Africa. I toured the hotel’s bio garden, which produced the delicious and healthy salad that was my dinner starter. And I greatly admired the adult-only pool, sponsored by Möet – see part of the promotion, in the image above.
Dinner was outside, at La Cabaña del Mar. Background music was the crashing of the waves less than 20 feet away – the beach here, by the way, is tiny pebbles but they sensibly provide wet-shoes as part of the room supplies, along with stylish black bedroom slippers, and an easy-work Nespresso-type coffee machine. After having sole use of the 24/7 Technogym, I made a strong cup to watch the sun come up, and come up it did, heralding another glorious day. This being my last day on the Spanish mainland, it was great to see so many local fruits and cold cuts, including an entire jamón on the bone, on the breakfast buffet. The best Spanish hams, incidentally, are said to be jamón ibérico de bellots, from the pigs that roam oak forests in exactly this part of the Iberian peninsula. The acorns in their diet are supposed to add to the flavour.
And then I met up again with Carla Lopes, the GM of this friendly and so-family-friendly luxury hotel. What a fascinating story she has to share. A trained graphic designer in her home city, Lisbon, she realised many of her girl friends were getting married and having babies but she was not ready for that. So up she got, and went to Italy to learn Italian, but she somehow became into enticed into the hotel world, specifically the Kempinski Grand Hôtel des Bains in St Moritz (yes, just north of the Italian border). She started as a room maid, and worked her way up and now, despite various macho obstacles along the way, she is the big boss here. She showed me Ollie, sculptor Pedro Rodriguez’s lifesize bronze in the hotel’s lobby, and we talked about the house red wine we had drunk last night (2014 vintage and bespoke to the hotel): it has Ollie’s outline on its label. AND NOW SEE MORE OF THE RESORT IN ITS OWN YOUTUBE VIDEO, BELOW