Marigold shinned up the granite column for this closeup.
Breakfast, quayside, in Puerto Banus. Don’t get to write that too often! We were there early and our betters don’t do ‘early’ so we had the whole marina to ourselves. Admired the (massive) sculptures on the way in and took a couple of photos. The eye catching statue of a rhinoceros by Salvador Dali - Rinoceronte vestido con puntillas ("Rhinoceros dressed in lace") is impressive enough, but beyond it on the sea front is a column to rival that supporting Nelson in Trafalgar Square. La Victoria is perched on a 26 metres (85 ft) granite pedestal and was a gift from the Mayor of Moscow. We saw a fair number of Russian registered cars in the area. Must be checking their gift is being looked after.
There’s not much of a beach here, but it was blessedly empty. While visiting our friends staying in the area, we had walked down from their accommodation on a camp site (the address we’d been given was ‘hut 10,’ which calls to mind Colditz or the Siberian Gulag but was actually a bijou timbered holiday dwelling unit, as it probably says in the brochure) to the beach. To do so involved crossing the motorway, but thankfully there was a bridge so we didn’t have to run the gauntlet with speeding juggernauts.
The beach was pretty full, loads of parasols and a big beach bar so we ordered drinks and sat watching the persistence of assorted ‘lookie lookie’ men as they worked the crowd. All was peaceful, the sun shone, waves sparkled and then it all changed. Not for the better. Why, when the beach is packed, trade is brisk and all is going well, does any sane person decide ‘I know what we need now: an irritating, noisy, talentless prat who thinks he’s Elvis reborn to strum three ill matched chords on a guitar and warble songs nobody could possibly recognise with the volume turned up far beyond the capacity of the speakers.’
Rarely have drinks been drunk so swiftly as we fled back from whence we came. Even the noise of the motorway traffic was soothing by comparison. Lest anyone thinks ‘oh, just old farts grumbling’ the teenage boy next to me rolled his eyes and said, loudly, ‘what a tit’ when the ‘music’ began.
We didn’t expect anything so vulgar in Puerto Banus, but wealth does not necessarily mean good taste so remained suitably wary.
After a brief reconnoiter, we eventually sat ourselves down in a well known watering hole, Sinatra’s Bar overlooking the yacht basin. A red Lamborghini ‘parked’ outside, taking up two spaces, was much admired by passers by, but a defecating seagull treats prestige cars and old bangers with equal disdain so it was well splattered.
A suntanned gent at the next table admired Marigold’s earrings. This happens quite often. This latest admirer complimented her on her good taste. I actually chose and bought the earrings in question, but am accustomed to living in Marigold’s shadow by now. We’d finished eating and were at the coffee stage so our would-be friend asked if he could join us. ‘Of course,’ we said. We’re British, right?
Mario, Italian name but originally from Argentina, owned a ‘small business’ in the harbour. He didn’t elaborate further and obviously we didn’t ask, but when he left he took out a key fob bearing a Ferrari badge so the small business must pay well. We chatted about the various boats in the harbour; Mario seemed to know them all, but when he told us he used to work for King Fahd we sat up and took notice.
Mario didn’t elaborate on the services he provided for the King, other than ‘helping out,’ but said he earned as much in a month as he did in three years at his ‘real job.’ Marigold’s fascination reached epic levels as he described the interior of King Fahd’s customised jet,Boing-747. Despite the solid gold toilet, the gold cutlery and plates, and an enormously vulgar gold throne, King Fahd often preferred to sit on the floor, a practise he often also carried out in his own palace. Mario said this was to show his humility and in honour of his father who had risen to become supreme ruler of his nation despite his lack of education. Ibn Saud took his role as the founder of a dynasty seriously. He had 46 sons, the number of daughters not being specified, and a large number of wives.
The architect Noldi Schreck, best known for his work in the design and construction of Beverly Hills, met up with a local developer José Banús and floated the idea of a marina decked out as an Andalucian village. (Note the nautical imagery: ‘floated,’ ‘decked out’, clever stuff eh?) Jose Banus somewhat immodestly gave his own name to the project and Puerto Banus was born.
The official opening was quite some affair. Well over 1500 guests, 300 waiters and every detail planned as a celebration of excess. I read that 22 kilograms of beluga caviar were on the menu. That’s a fair old dent in the hospitality budget for a start. Roman Polanski, the Aga Khan, Doctor Christian Bernard the pioneer of heart transplant surgery, Prince Rainier of Monaco and Princess Grace were among those serenaded by Julio Iglesias. Even Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame (infamy?) wangled an invite.
The shops in the marina area are overpoweringly expensive. Deliberately so as the people who can afford a berth here expect, demand, the best of everything and the best simply has to mean expensive. Not much to tempt Marigold though. Not even a pair of earrings. We examined the boats, made our ‘if only’ choices and finally decided we could manage, at a pinch, without an oceangoing yacht.
As we were leaving, a heavily bearded man in a Russian registered Mercedes reversed into a metal traffic bollard. The crunch of tortured metal brought waiters and customers rushing to the scene to view the resultant devastation. The car driver merely shrugged and drove off, cutting into traffic with wild abandon. Yes, the rich really are different and nowhere is this tenet more evident than in the environs of Puerto Banus.