“A PLACE to make a fortune, spend a fortune, drink shots, get shot – whatever takes your fancy – that, at its heart, is Marbella,” wrote Piers Morgan in 2010, when the kudos of the celebrity resort city was at an all-time low.

But no matter how much mud ex-British tabloid editors can sling, it doesn’t stick for long in a Mediterranean microclimate, where 320 days of sunshine turns mud to dust, in time.

That time is now, according to the financial pundits. The economy’s recovering, the property market’s rallying, the glamour’s back … maybe it never wholly went away. The aristos who put Marbella on the jet set map still give a damn about its future. For once, the story dominating recent local news wasn’t about money-laundering Mayors, tawdry Marbella Belles and tone-lowering Towie stars. The ‘Great Skyscraper Scandal’ rallied some seriously high society:

  • The Duchess of Alba, most titled noble in the world
  • Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, heir to the Saudi throne
  • Pablo von Hohenlohe whose uncle Alfonso (a German prince) was Marbella’s  ‘Founding Father’

People who pack the clout of a wrecking ball and aren’t afraid to take a swing with it!

They did that this January, lending their pijo to a public protest that demolished plans to turn Marbella into a cheap copy of Dubai with a skyline of 50-storey mega-towers. For the first time in a long time, a Marbella Mayor bowed to public pressure – and with greater alacrity than Jesús Gil once issued building licenses to print money!

It’s good to see democracy back in action and people who haven’t trashed their I Love Marbella T-shirts. What sizzles for me?

  • Avenida del Mar, strutting snob appeal with marble pavements and Salvador Dalí sculptures.
  • The dawn-to-dusk clubbing. I’ve had to give it up for medical reasons but it’s still fun to watch the bright young things boogying at
  • Nikki Beach or Ocean Club and thinking, thank God I’m too old for all that youthful angst and eyelash batting!
  • The chiringuito culture. Barefoot fine-dining with the sand between your toes is de rigeur, although you have to look the part (a sarong by George at Asda won’t cut the mostaza)!
  • Charity chic at the Cudeca shop where you can rummage for discount cast-offs that might once have been worn by a countess.
  • The cool elephant/shaped beach showers that squirt water from their trunks.
  • The Boob-JobMountain. Landmark La Concha, whose pert peak reminds me of the gravity/defying breasts you can get at the cornucopia of cosmetic surgery centres

Most of all, there’s the Xcess Factor. The swankiest hotels, the flashiest yachts and motors, the chichi-est shops, the wildest parties… You’re probably too young to remember opening night at Puerto Banús in 1970. The Aga Khan, Hugh Hefner and Princes Grace of Monaco were among 1,700 guests who feasted on 20 kilos of beluga caviar served by 300 waiters bussed in from Seville while a 27-year-old Julio Iglesias earned 125,000 pesetas to serenade them. The equivalent of €30,000 today!

Marbella ain’t the 1940s fishing village where Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe broke down in his Rolls Royce and decided to stay on for a bit. But it’s still got classy connections. “The Marbella of my uncle’s day will never return,” says Pablo, the Prince’s nephew. It’s better now, in many ways … but changed.”

But not that changed. It doesn’t have skyscrapers!

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