Yes, it’s been mentioned G seems to do all the work on ‘our’ blog, so today you’re getting me. Just, don’t expect this to be a regular occurrence!
Benahavís is one of those places you’re unlikely to go to unless you know it’s there. We first came here about twenty years ago, but only because we got lost! We have been back a few times since then and we wanted to see if it had changed since last time. It has.
There’s a new very posh Country Club right at the top of the village so we drove up to take a look at it. Not that Country Clubs are where we normally find ourselves. A sign said Hills Café was up the road so I said to G ‘that sounds like an English Café.’
How wrong I was.
Hills Café is really a restaurant, not a café, and is part of the Benahavis Hills Country Club. We drove up a very steep hill, behind a Fiat 500, and on one of the very tight bends the Fiat stopped, stalled and started to roll back down the hill towards us. G didn’t panic, but I did. Quite a lot. It stopped about an inch away and the driver told his passenger to get out and walk, obviously because she was so heavy.
She wasn’t exactly slim, but it was very hot and the road was very, very steep so after the car in front started up again and crawled off up the hill in first gear G asked the woman if she wanted a lift up the hill. She jumped into our car in less than half a second.
The Fiat driver was parked in the only parking space at the top of the hill so our passenger got out while we drove up an even steeper road to where she said there was more parking. Lovely views over the new estate down to the sea.
We walked down to Hills Café and a sign on the door said please use lower entrance. I suggested G should go back and bring the car down as he wouldn’t be very keen on walking all the way up again from the lower entrance. He didn’t even thank me for my thoughtfulness, just went plodding up the hill back to the car while I waited in the shade.
G picked me up and we found a parking space near the main entrance. A sign said ‘Hills Café is a secret and magical spot run by Michelin star chef Jean Francois Job. The menu features a variety of delightful fusion meals.’ Secret and magical sounds good.
Inside the very swish entrance there were brochures of houses for sale. I found one I liked for only two million euros, but G said the pool was a bit on the small side and he preferred the larger one for four and a half million. There are 38 houses, ‘a collection of luxury rustic contemporary villas uniquely located at the Pinnacle of the historic town of Benahavis, overlooking spectacular views of the Mediterranean Coastline,’ as it said in the brochure. We didn’t bother the receptionist about making an offer as she was very busy sending text messages in her phone. Her thumbs were normal sized, but as she was tapping away so fast I expected them to be worn down to about half an inch.
We went upstairs, gave the gym and Wellness Centre a miss, for now, and were met by Jean Francois himself who was really nice. He told us about his Indonesian themed ‘specials,’ which all sounded pretty grim, and said they also did speciality sandwiches, the cheapest of which were twelve euros. For cheese and tomato. Not very special. We said we’d think about it. There was only one customer, a woman eating a doughnut and feeding it to her little dog. Not sure if it was a Michelin star standard doughnut. The dog didn’t appear to be bothered either way.
As we were going out we met the woman who we had given a lift up the hill again and she took us by the arm and pushed us back inside. Jean Francois looked much happier to see us this time, in the company of someone who was obviously well known here. He kissed her on both cheeks, very enthiasically, then did the same to me. G went to hide behind a palm tree.
Our new friend, Gina, was originally from Canada, but now lived in Marbella and her boyfriend is thinking of buying one of the houses. I wanted to ask, like Mrs Merton, what attracted her to the obviously very rich man in the little Fiat who had abandoned her on the hill, but somehow I stopped myself.
Gina told us lots of things about Benahavís and also quite a lot about herself., mostly about herself. We suspect she is a bit of a good time girl, as the locals probably say about her in Spanish.
Benahavís, Gina said, is ‘the wealthiest town per inhabitant in the whole of Spain, which means there are all sorts of subsidies here that just don’t exist anywhere else.’ This is what attracted her rich boyfriend who runs an import/export business. G said ‘drug dealer then,’ but only after we had left.
There are nine golf courses around here, Gina said, and almost all of them are ‘full up’ and not taking in new members. She told us how much membership cost for a year, which I forget now, but it was a lot and her boyfriend has joined two of them. Wonder why her boyfriend only has a Fiat 500 that can’t climb hills?
We had a cool drink next to the pool, a thanks for the lift up the hill present from Gina, and then we went outside. G was glad now he didn’t have to walk all the way up the road to get the car.
We went into town and parked in a space after only driving around for five hours, well it seemed like five hours. It’s all narrow winding streets and little squares, all very pretty, dozens of restaurants and lots of artists. The best known is a man we met once, not that I suppose he remembers. David Marshall, who must be about 75 by now, but still works as a sculptor, mostly in metal. He was a welder, from Scotland, but found out he had artistic talent and now sells all over the world.
We found his gallery, La Aldea, straight away, part of what seems to be the oldest part of the town, but is one of the more recent. David Marshall had all this area built to look ‘old.’ We had a cold drink at the Bodega which looks hundreds of years old, but the painted barrels outside are actually older than the building itself. It’s all very well done and very clever. Most of the town, Benahavís, is ‘recent’ after it was ‘discovered’ in the 1960s and became fashionable with the Marbella set.
While in the bodega we saw an article about a visit by The BBC Holiday programme which said Benahavis was 'as close to Paradise as you can get'. Not sure i’d go that far, although it is lovely, but who are we to argue with Judith Chalmers. Thinking back, she looked like Donald Trump does now, but even more orange.
It all appears to be a typical Andalucian village, but it’s more like Portmeirion in North Wales which was the setting for 'The Prisoner' back in the 1960's, as most of the buildings, which look ancient, were built in the 20th century and it only got a reputation for fine dining at the end of 1970s.
We drove back down to the coast and realised the hotel we only booked this morning hadn’t given us very good directions. We found the address of the road it was in, set the Sat Nav and drove on listening to the sat nav woman being bossy. When she said, ‘you have reached your destination’ we were a bit surprised as we were outside a sewage works.
G decided to ignore her, turned round, and we eventually found the hotel, an old finca done up in Moorish style. It was lovely, very Moorish, not many mod cons, but had a really pretty garden, two parrots in a cage and the girl on reception was very friendly.
I said ‘is there a Café near here?’ And she said ‘No.’
Then she said there was a bistro on the beach, but it might not be open. We walked to the beach, found the bistro and had tuna and avocado panini each on a terrace overlooking the sea. Lovely.
On our way back we saw our waiter pinching lemons off a tree in someone’s garden. He said, ‘nobody here now,’ and we all laughed. He had about twenty in a bag.
The breakfast at the finca this morning was weird. Cold meats and cheese, yes ok. So far. Followed by bread and marmalade, still ok. Asked for butter but it never came. Followed by muesli and yoghurt, followed by two (over ripe) pears with a piece of choc and 6 walnuts. Bits of odd ‘stuff’ really, all brought out at different times so we never knew what to expect next.
Of course we ate it all, even the nuts. Felt a bit sick and went to lay down again for half an hour. Oh and the tea was like hot water with loads of milk in it, but no taste of tea. G had coffee which he said tasted like turps. (This too clever by half IPad changed ‘tasted like turps’ to ‘tasted liked turds,’ so good job I noticed. It was bad, but not that bad!)
Off to Tarifa today then wander up the coast towards Jerez. Hope G writes the next blog as I am exhausted. He still has to check my spelling and punctuation. Not that it needs checking, but just in case! He’s a writer, I’m a good time girl, like Gina. Still not found a millionaire though, but our car is better than his and it even goes up hills. If G ever stopped the car and told me to walk up the hill I would explode. Don’t think he will.