By Jon Clarke
MICHELLE Obama has followed in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles when she paid a visit to Spain’s oldest bullring in Ronda.
The First lady spent Saturday in the mountain town, which sits 45 minutes inland from the Costa del Sol.
Charmed by its history, she and her daughter Sacha, 9, spent the morning sightseeing, before taking a relaxed lunch in a restaurant overlooking the town´s famous Tajo gorge.
Apart from visiting the house of St John Bosco, which overlooks the famous vista, they toured the controversial gardens of the Casa del Rey Moro, which is due to be sold by forced auction later this month.
The historic property, which is owned by a German expatriate, was to be converted into a five star hotel, but it failed to get planning permission.
After a spot of lunch and a cold glass of rose, Obama and her entourage wandered over to the bull ring, where they spent an hour admiring the ring that was built in the 18th century and is the world´s oldest.
It was here that US writers Hemingway and Welles fell in love with the town, as they studied closely the art of bullfighting.
Hemingway based part of his book To Whom The Bells Toll on the town.
Later on Saturday night she was due to attend a star-studded charity gala hosted by Hollywood A-listers Antonio Banderas and Eva Longoria at her five star hotel the Padierna Spa.
Expectation was high that the First Lady would be the special guest at the event on Saturday night after she received a personal invitation from Ms Longoria, star of Desperate Housewives, who lent her support to Barack Obama during his presidential campaign. Tennis star Boris Becker is also a guest.
More than 400 tickets have been sold for the Starlite Gala at 1000 euros each, according to organisers, and reports suggested that this week another 200 people had applied for tickets and were on a waiting list after learning that Mrs Obama might be present.
A number of controversial guests were expected to attend including arms dealer Adnam Khashoggi, who has long owned property in Marbella.
Mark Thatcher, who also lives in the town, was expected to be present at the charity ball.
It could be an opportunity for the disgraced son of the former British prime minister to re-ingratiate himself with the US authorities.
He has been banned from the US following his conviction in South Africa of unknowingly funding an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea.
If Mrs Obama does chose to attend the event it is unlikely that she will join guests to dance the night away at the after-party organised in Marbella’s premier nightclub, the Disco Olivia Valere.
She has an invitation to lunch on Sunday with Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia at their summer palace on the island of Majorca before flying home to Washington DC.