A ROW of photographers line the track outside the leafy Torre de Tramores estate in the foothills of Spain’s newest national park the Sierra de las Nieves.
Kitted out in khaki shorts and t-shirts, the appropriate attire for an Indian summer on the Costa del Sol, they scour the horizon and wait patiently for a sighting of their subject: the UK’s beleaguered prime minister Boris Johnson, who has fled abroad, conveniently escaping a growing gas and produce crisis festering back home.
All set for a jolly week of peace hidden away in a secret valley ten miles inland from the coast, the Old Etonian must have been spitting in his cornflakes when he woke up to find his hols gracing the front pages on Sunday… the best in the Mirror: What Costa Living Crisis?
Drat and blast! Just the second day of his break, following a rousing Conservative party conference speech (typically short on facts, large on banter) his plans to head out hiking, a spot of beach and carousing the boutiques of Marbella old town came crashing around his ears.
He would just have to make do with the 600-plus hectares of woodlands, with semi-tropical gardens, a trio of swimming pools, tennis court and, one would expect, a croquet pitch or two. How tragic that he should be foiled in his cheeky getaway, while the rest of the UK had been more or less ordered to Staycation! Best way to avoid the hoi polloi, after all!
How ironic that this little slice of Andalucian paradise, had become the redoubt of the world’s most pursued princess, Lady Diana, back in the 1990s.
Incredibly, it had somehow successfully shielded her from the world’s press who were circling all around the area as she hid out with her friend Jemima Khan to escape the scandal of her divorce from Prince Charles and the end of her relationship with surgeon Hasnat Khan.
It was an obvious escape with the estate being owned by Jemima’s dad Sir James Goldsmith, who passed it on to her brother Zac Goldsmith, a Tory politician and pal of Johnson’s, on his death.
At the time, the world had been wondering where Diana had disappeared to, when suddenly the lenses picked up her sons, Willam and Harry, water skiing nearby and the hunt intensified.
But while the princes were pictured at the nearby lake, somehow they were never traced to Torre de Tramores, a short five minute drive inland from the picturesque village of Benahavis, Andalucia’s wealthiest place to live, thanks to its nearby estates of Madronal and Zagaleta.
It is still a marvellous escape today, easily reached by helicopter, with its own helipad, and with at least half a dozen properties sleeping up to 29 VIP guests. Costing 30,000 euros a week, it divides between the main house, set over three levels, and a two-bedroom apartment with private access. Another smaller villa sleeps 10 with five en-suite bedrooms.
Occasionally visited by Zac and his brother Nathanial, its most common family visitor is youngest brother Ben, who organises a lot of the running of the estate. It has seen many famous guests, including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan who was photographed there on his 1995 honeymoon with his now ex-wife Jemima Goldsmith. Hugh Grant has also allegedly stayed.
It has certainly been an exciting month so far for the village of Benahavis, which has seen a number of film crews traipsing through, as they recreate scenes for the upcoming new series of The Crown, part five.
As well as filming in the town hundreds of cast and crew were also filming in nearby Puerto Banus and Marbella, last week, as well as on a yacht, ostensibly to act as the yacht Dodi Fayed used to propose to Lady Diana in San Tropez.
It was on Friday though that the Olive Press discovered that the British Prime Minister had become the most famous guest for some time, at least.
Through sources in Marbella, the paper was able to establish that he had arrived straight after the Conservative party conference with his new wife Carrie and son Wilfred, 18 months. Carrie is pregnant with their second child. Told he would be spending ‘up to 10 days’ at the estate, we quietly passed the story on to the UK press over the weekend, having just gone to print with our fortnightly edition a few days before.
While the government did its best to try and paint a positive slant, it was impossible to stem the criticism of a leader taking an exclusive break, while most people struggled back home. His first foreign break since before the pandemic critics slammed him for leaving the country in the middle of a fuel crisis and with a predicted winter of discontent, with surging energy prices and stock shortages, brewing.
The boss of the GMB union Gary Smith accused Boris of having ‘swanned off on his jollies while the country is in the grip of a crisis’. “While working people worry about how they are going to pay the bills, the Prime Minister is relaxing in a luxury villa – missing in action once more.” UK Steel boss Gareth Stace also questioned the timing of the holiday when key industries in Britain were sending out warning signals.
Steel producers, as well as manufacturers of paper, glass and ceramics claim they may be forced to halt production unless the government does something about energy prices, which have zoomed up due to the price of natural gas. Stace told LBC radio: “I’m sure he can get on the phone and get talking to them but to my mind, now is not the time for a prime minister to be on holiday, from the steel sector point of view.”
The property, decorated by Jaime Parlade, counts on its own ancient Islamic building built in the 10th century, from which the estate takes its name. In fact, the gardens maintain the original streams and irrigation channels planned by the former Muslim owners, from the days of Al-Andaluz.
The property was bought by Sir James Goldsmith, who decided that this would be the place where he would spend the last days of his life. He died of cancer there in 1997. The accommodation, which is fully booked until next spring and very close to the exclusive Puerto Banús, has also a dozen golf courses nearby.
The mayor of Benahavis Jose Antonio Mena, told the press he has no official information about Johnson’s stay. This village – of 8,085 inhabitants – traditionally tops the ranking of the richest municipalities in Andalucia, with a gross income of more than €30,000.
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