If you walk along the seafront promenade at Benalmadena on the Costa del Sol, you’ll eventually reach the Puerto Marina. By day the marina is quiet and relaxed but by night it comes alive with crowds flocking to promenade, have a drink in the bar that’s owned by Antonio Banderas and generally see and be seen.
The residents of Benalmadena are pretty proud of their port, with trophy yachts moored up, and expensive apartment buildings with curvy balconies and Moorish lines, that are inspired by Gaudi architecture. The apartments are set on artificial islands, separated from the main promenade by the water so that the beautiful people who own them can sit on their balconies, watching the rest of the world pass by without actually having to mingle with them, although most of them looked pretty deserted with little sign of life.
The Gaudi theme continued into the shopping centre with brightly coloured stairwells and Gaudi inspired mosaics. This is the place where you can easily part with your holiday spending money in one evening, buy some inexpensive jewellery, have your hair plaited, or have your photo taken in a period hat like a 20s flapper. If you’re feeling flush you might invest in a fake D & G or Louis Vuiton handbag from the African street sellers with watchful eyes, ready to run if the police turn the corner. Look carefully and you’ll see the strings criss-crossing the sheets they lay their wares upon, so they can grab the bundle and disappear in seconds. You may even be chatted up by a charming boat captain, ready to sell you a trip on a Chinese junk that will take you up the coast and back.
When we walked through the Puerto Marina after our seafood dinner in the Chiringuito, we heard that the Virgin festival was being held that evening. I had visions of some smart yachting event sponsored by Richard Branson, but it turned out to be the local feast day, when the statue of the Virgin Mary is paraded from the church to a boat and then sails out of the harbour at Torremolinos, with an escort of the local fishermen with their boats decorated with lights. We were too late to see the statue being paraded but we did catch a glimpse of the flotilla of boats circling around the harbour. The crowds were out in force for the fiesta and so, it turned out, were the pickpockets, as unfortunately my friend had her purse stolen from her handbag. I clutched my bag tightly after that, thinking about the expensive camera and video equipment that I’d been carrying around. The next day she joined the queue at the police station to report the theft with a large number of others who’d suffered the same experience.
It was a shame, but we tried not to let it spoil our evening, catching a few noisy fiesta fireworks on our way home. I can highly recommend the ice creams at the Gelateria di Porto Marina– they were huge and delicious.
More places to see on the Costa del Sol in Spain