I LEANT back, shut my eyes and let the strong jet of hot water gently massage my neck. For a moment I was back in Koh Samui.
Surrounded by greenery and trees, the stylish, state-of-the-art spa could easily have been in a stylish Thai hotel.
But this was La Cala Resort, a couple of clicks inland from Mijas Costa, and easily one of the best appointed golf resorts and spas in southern Spain.
A true valley of calm, I was spending a weekend at the venue that had originally been picked for England’s pre-tournament training camp prior to the 2012 Euros (it was later used by Stuart Pearce’s Olympic team).
But La Cala Resort has long been a hang out for football teams, including Everton, Steaua Bucharest and Zurich Grasshopper, unsurprising with its fantastic facilities that include no less than THREE 18-hole golf courses, grass football pitches, large gym and aforementioned spa.
It is also said to be frequented by plenty a Premiership footballer away for a few days of R&R with his family or mistress perhaps.
I was lucky enough to run a rule over its rooms and facilities and check out its restaurant, which has an excellent new chef Ivan Alvarez, from Madrid.
From a foodie family in the capital, Alvarez grew up surrounded by top class ingredients and has cut his teeth in a number of restaurants and hotels around the country, including three Michelin star restaurant Arzak in San Sebastian.
He’s only been there a month but he cooked a turbot to a tee, as well as a splendid scallop salad with walnuts, ham, cherry tomatoes, green shoots and even grapefruit.
Much of the resort’s recent success has been to do with its young manager Patrick Murphy, 41, who heralds from an Irish farming background, but who has worked in many places around the world and trained at a Galway catering school.
He is working hard on the resort’s branding and managing change, both in its offering and the change in clientele, when and how they stay.
With future golf bookings up 6% on last year and advance bookings in the hotel up 15% one might say he is having some success.
“The challenge is to manage change and to constantly look for new revenue streams,” he explains, in particular referencing the so-called MICE market comprising Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events, which has grown nicely over the last year.
But, I was certainly not worrying about these four legged rodents, instead enjoyed a very restful night in my suite, followed by a superb gourmet breakfast.
Sadly I had left the golf clubs at home as the stunning series of greens looked very appealing. I slid back into the spa for a very restive hour instead.
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