Marbella, home from home.

It's great to be back in Spain again. For us it's really feels like being back home. This time we are not in Elviria though, but at the Marriott Playa Andaluza. It is a very nice resort near Estepona and very close to one of my favourite villages in the mountains Benahavis. But what also makes this a great week is being with our friends of some 30 years Margaret and Jim. It appears, also, that our timing has been perfect, because for the last 3 weeks the weather has been lousy, very wet. I was here in October and it was lovely then, but since it has been unusually wet, though I suppose after the summer fires that ruined the mountain forest and trees they could do with some moisture to help them sprout again.

So it's out and about for us visiting the local towns and villages while the sunshine lasts. Thursday we head to Granada to see the magnificent Alhambra well worth a visit for anyone out this way.

Day out on a Catarmaran in Marbella - Video

While on holidays we went out with friends on a catarmaran that left from Marbella and headed around the Med for a good 4 hours. A free bar for an hour and a Banana Boat ride. It was great craic. Following video taken with Nikon D800, GoPro Hero2HD for shots in and under the water, and put together on the new iPad with iMovie app. Very easy and great fun.

Into the Deep Blue from Shay Farrelly on Vimeo.

Hugh Laurie at the Starlite Festival Marbella

Last night we went to see Hugh Laurie at the Starlite Festival in Marbella.  Before talking about the concert a few words on the Auditorium.   It was built about 30 years ago and involved 3 visionaries which include Julio Iglesias and Plácido Domingo.  It is half way up the mountain side in a disused quarry which forms a natural amphitheatre.  For this festival it appears to have been upgraded with a massive stage and “Starlite Village”, which is essentially a large disco, lounge and VIP area in front of the open air theatre.  You can’t drive your car all the way up, you park half way and a fleet of buses take you to the venue, which is impressive.  The auditorium holds 3,000 people and the stage is huge.  The lounge is mega expensive, €12.50 for a Mojito but then this is Marbella.

The Festival runs from 14 July to 14 August and includes some impressive performers: George Benson, Roger Hodson (voice of Supertramp), Tony Bennett, Christopher Cross, Paul Anka, Simple Minds, Julio Iglesias to mention some and Hugh Laurie.

Yes, Hugh Laurie from House, Blackadder and comic partnership with Stephen Fry in a concert.  The highest earning TV actor in the US and the most watched leading man on TV!  Anyone who watches House will have seen him tinkle on the piano and strum the odd guitar, but in fact he is a very accomplished musician, also playing the drums, harmonica & saxophone, and he is very entertaining.  He has also surrounded himself with equally accomplished backing group of 5 musicians and a singer.  His first Album “Let Them Talk” has been a great success. Here is a video of his performance of the Swanee river in New Orleans.

He loves the music of New Orleans. He is very knowledgeable about his music, he performs a great show, and engages with the audience, giving background to the songs and music as well as entertaining.  In fact a very good night all round.

We had good seats centre stage 11 rows back and here are some of the photos.  I'm sorry I didn't take my D800 with me and only my compact Olympus ZX1

My Favourite Places to Eat in Marbella.

We bought our apartment in Spain in 2002 and over the years we have come across some great and some poor eateries along the Costa Del Sol, near us and around Marbella.  Here is a list of my favourites.  They range from those places for special occasions and a little more expensive, to more everyday places to eat that are cheap but provide very good fare. I’ll start off with the good day to day places and work towards those special occasions, so you’ll have to wade all the way through the article to get to the best one near the end.  I’ve included links where they are available and my rating (though they will all be good, since they’re my favourites!) and an indication of cost.

Chiringuitos are beachside bars and restaurants and are great places to eat and enjoy the beach, particularly if you’re like me and don’t like the sand!  These are somewhat under threat these days due to the EU as they tend to be makeshift wooden constructions on the beaches selling drinks and food.  As always some are more sophisticated than others and they employ a huge number of people along the coast.  But I’ve always enjoyed them so I hope they survive.  They tend to close early when the sun goes down.

Andy's Beach Restaurant, Puerto Cabopino ****, €€€

A great chiringuito, holds loads of people, always busy, it even has entertainment some evenings.  The food is good and plenty of choice with a bubbly and lively atmosphere.

The Lido, Lido Beach Las Chapas ***, €€

Another smaller chiringuito just down the road from us.  This one is smaller, quitter but usually good music. The menu is not as extensive as Andys Beach but what they do is good.  A nice place to while away the evening with, a cool drink, a few olives and maybe play a game of cards.

Tapas bars are another great Spanish treat, nothing nicer than a tasty morsel , a drink, good company and hopefully at a good price.

Bodega La Venencia, Marbella ****, €€

Probably my favourite tapas bar down near the beach in Marbella town.  I just love Marbella anyway and this Tapas bar is a real treat.  The tapas here are traditional and the Spanish themselves eat here so it must be good. The food is lovely (try the Morcilla, black pudding made with rice and onion).  There is a great choice on the menu, I don’t drink but my wife tells me the wine is lovely and is cheap.  A definite if you’re in Marbella.

 La Taberna del Pinxto, Marbella & Puerto Banus ****, €€€€

This is a chain of Tapas restaurants and there is one in Marbella & Puerto Banus (and I’m sure other places).  A Pinxto (pronounced pincho) is a piece of food on a stick.  This is a more modern twist on the tapas bar but the quality and range the food is very good.  You can order what you want but what normally happens is that the waiters bring out the hot food that’s ready from the kitchen.  They go from table to table and if you like what they have you take one.  It is presented on a cocktail stick and when you go they count the sticks and you are charged different amounts for different sticks.  For cold food options you go to the counter and pick what you want. The only problem is that it tends to be price and all those sticks add up!

El Estrecho, Marbella ***, €€€€

This little tapas bar is up a side street in the Old Town of Marbella (Calle San Lazaro).  I love wandering around the little narrow streets of the old town and finding new and interesting places.  I  remember finding this place it was a few years ago and Sharon my wife was more interested in places that allowed you sit out in the sunshine.  But I felt that these places were more for tourists I wanted to find the places where the Spanish ate and I found this place. These types of bars tend to be very basic but usually full of locals and the food here is good, but I was a bit surprised to find it a bit more expensive than I expected.  A few years later I saw it mentioned in an Irish Times article and it said it won awards for the best tapas bar in Marbella for a few years.

El Asador the Guadalmina, Guadalmina ****, €€€€

This is both a high class restaurant (will come back to this later) and an excellent tapas bar.  Our neighbour Cait recommended it and after going to the restaurant we decided to head back for the tapas another day.  We’ve only been here the once so and the problem is that they finish tapas at 4pm and we arrive about 15 minutes before they finished up the tapas.  The quality of the food here is excellent, so we will have to come back earlier next time to try out more of the fare.

El Barracon de las Tapas, Elviria ***, €€€

This is a nice little tapas bar only opened in 2010 and it’s just down the road from us in our local commercial centre.  Very traditional tapas, and good quality and not too expensive.  The staff are nice but the problem is the service, perhaps because it is so busy and I don’t think the kitchen can cope.  So the key is to be very relaxed and calm and not expect to be served too quickly.

SeBB, Elviria ?, €€

Another little taps bar beside us but I shouldn’t really be including it as I don’t think we’ve eaten here (the kids may have had meatballs once). Friends do eat here regularly and say it is good.  The thing is the drinks are cheap and very good measures so we like to pop down here late at night for a quick drink or two or three!  Though you can’t really drink more than three or you will be on your ear, be warned!  Nice staff too!

Regular Restaurants to eat in, there are a number of Chinese , and Indian restaurants which are good but for some reason I don't really count them to me they are more like fast food, particularly since you can get take away that's just as good.

Rubyana, Elviria ****, €€

This is a new restaurant to us this year, but we liked it so much we went back 5 times during the month we were there with a number of different friends. My wife had been told about it a few years ago but it’s based beside a busy road and it just doesn’t look very appetising from the outside.  But I noticed it got great reviews on the web and in particular the lamb which has to be ordered in advance.  It’s a very Spanish restaurant, family run for many years and handed down to the next generation.   It’s not very plush looking though it has a nice garden where we ate and a surprisingly big indoor section with its own bar.  The food is excellent and plentiful, that’s why we kept coming back and the lamb dish is huge with loads of potatoes and fresh vegetables and all for only €14 but it must be ordered for two. The rest of the fare is good and the staff are very friendly.  I expect it will be a regular of ours for years to come.

Papagayos, Elviria ***, €€€

Papagayos means parrot and this year the poor resident parrot died in February. This is one of my wife’s favourites. It has a lovely garden to eat in and the owner is friendly and helpful.  She is originally from England but has lived and brought up her family in Spain, in fact her daughter works here too.  The helpings are very good but for those that have smaller appetites she offers half portions for some dishes and doesn’t mind you sharing either.  It probably has the best kids menu I’ve seen they are treated just like people! They even can get a kiddies steak. Lovely atmosphere even though it is close to the main road you don’t really notice the traffic.

El Barco de Pedro, Elviria ****, €€€

I’m not generally a fish eater, but I love the way fish is cooked in Spain and in particular here.  It’s cooked over a fire on sticks (you’ve seen how they do sardines, usually in an old boat set up outside the restaurant), but also on the grill or fried in batter.  I just love this place, it is so Spanish in fact we are usually the only non-Spanish here.  We have arrived here around 9pm to an empty restaurant but by 10pm the place is hopping and full of people, chatter and a great atmosphere.  The staff are great but may not have English, they didn’t even have an English menu until a couple of years ago.  In fact the English menu only confuses me.  Sharon loves the prawns pil pil, we both love the dorado, the rosada in lemon batter, I love the sardines and the salad for starter is huge.  Absolutely no meat so the kids just have salad and chips or a visit to McDs earlier in the day.

Ponchos, Fuengirola ****, €€€€

For a long time this was my favourite steak restaurant.  In fact it has ruined me for steak as I won’t eat it at home any more.  It’s a great Argentinian restaurant with great fillet steaks with baked potation and a great spicy sauce chimichurri.  I just love to come here, a great place to eat but not cheap by Spanish standards. My girls love it here too, and this is where they got weaned onto juicy pink steaks! The staff are very friendly and a decent desert if you can fit one.

El Gaucho, Puerto Banus ***, €€€€

Another Argentinian steak restaurant in Puerto Banus though it’s a while since we were there.  Very good but maybe not quite as good as Ponchos.

The Orange Tree, Marbella ****, €€€

This restaurant is owned by a girl from Kilkenny and her Tunisian husband. The last time I was there with a friend from Kilkenny who text home to a friend saying he was in her restaurant. A couple of minutes later the husband came out and said ok lads which one of you guys is from Kilkenny.  It’s a small world and made smaller with texts! They vary the menu regularly with good food.  The staff are very friendly and there is always Irish people here especially for the early bird menu which is good value.  It is just around the corner from Orange Square in the Old Town of Marbella so it can be a bit pricey, but another favourite of ours.


This is not a restaurant but a village nestled 160m above sea level half way up the mountains about 8km inland from Marbella. If I tell you it is called “the dining room of the Costa Del Sol”, it gives you the idea.  It is a small town with about 4000 inhabitants but has a selection of great restaurants and bars.  A few years ago I told a neighbour of ours in our apartment complex about Benahavis, a couple of years later I noticed he was missing so emailed him to find out how he was doing.  He said I sold out of Los Patios and it was my fault.  Why what did I do?  You told me about Benahavis and I liked it so much I sold out and moved up there!  So it can’t be bad, in some ways it reminds me of Kinsale with its circle of good food restaurants.

Da Bruno Ristorante, Las Chapas & Marbella, ***, €€€€

A chain of Italian restaurants in Marbella, although we normally go to the one is Las Chapas, just down the road from us.   A lovely restaurant, quite large, with a nice bar to have a drink in while, you wait for your meal.   Good Italian food and lively sometimes with a singer.  Always something for the kids like pizza or pasta, but a bit on the pricey side.

Da Fabio, Rosario & Marbella, ***, €€€

I’m not really a big Italian fan, I don’t normally like pasta although I do think it is done much better in Italy, probably because it is fresh.  We came across this restaurant in Marbella and then I noticed there was once closer to us in Rosario.  We had to have a quick meal one night so we headed in here and we were pleasantly surprised.  It would give Da Brunos a run for its money but would need to try a few more times to be sure.

The Playwright Bar & Restaurant, Elviria ****, €€€€

This restaurant and bar only opened in February 2011 just down the road from us.  It’s an Irish restaurant and the owners also own Beckitts in Marbella.  They have done a good job in doing it up and it has a bit more style and substance to it than traditional Spanish restaurants. The food also has more thought put into its presentation.  They have a good early bird menu, for a 3 course for €25 but you pay an extra €7 for the fillet or rack of lamb, both of which are gorgeous.  The bar is nice for a drink and they regularly have a singer in to entertain.  But you are paying a bit more for that bit of style.

Restaurant El Rancho Grill, Las Chapas, ****, €€€€

Another very nice restaurant.  Again a bit more style about the dining room and dining garden.  The food is very good and there speciality of steak cooked on the stone is very good.  You are given small trips of raw fillet steak and a heated stone and salt. You then cook your steak to your own liking, my daughters just loved this.

El Asador the Guadalmina, Guadalmina ****, €€€€

My neighbour Cait told me that if you like steak you have to try here, the best place she has ever had steak.  I know Cait loves her food and if she says its good then I want to try it. I already mentioned the tapas portion of this restaurant but this time we went to the dining room.  The night before we watched Rick Stein who spoke about roasted peppers stuffed with mashed cod and potatoes.  One of his top ten dishes, so when we saw this on the menu for starters, we shared one.  It was pure divine.  Then followed by fantastic fillet steak for me and lamb chops for Sharon.  Ponchos is good, very good but this beats it!  We will be back here!

Messina Restaurante, Marbella, *****, €€€€€

This is another recommendation from Cait and perhaps, my favourite restaurant of all time.  The restaurant is very stylish and the staff is first class, so you know you’re in a top class restaurant.  If you are a meat and two veg that likes it piled high you will be dis-appointed.  This is more about quality, style and presentation than quantity.  The good thing about this though is that you know you can go for as many courses as you like and know you won’t be stuffed.  The chef is a pure artist, creating the most amazing dishes.  The flavours just explode in your mouth.  The waitresses are so attentive and the restaurant is sumptuous and serene.  It’s pricey but you get what you pay for, quality.  In truth it would be much more expensive for the same here in Ireland so don’t tell them!

Los Patios, Elviria *****, €

When you’re fed up eating out there is nothing better than sitting on your own balcony late in the evening taking in the sunshine, cooking on the barbeque and eating ribs from Mercadona, chorizo, lamb chops, baked potatoes a salad with loads of their beautiful tomatoes and covered with a dressing of good olive oil and vinegar.  And our apartment in Los Patios is just ideal for this and even better if shared with a few friends and a couple of drinks!!  Hope to see you there!

Marbella - my favourite town along the Costa

Marbella is definitely my favourite town along the Costa del Sol, I won't repeat details about Marbella that you can find elsewhere for example on the excellent website "The Blue Colour of the Sky".  But there's nothing nicer than to get up early (well relatively early) while the kids are still in bed and head into the Old Town.  The narrow streets are clean, colourful, and lined with flowerpots or wall growing bouganvilla, with twists and turns that take you to new delights around each corner: A chapel, fortress walls, a small art gallery or museum, the indoor market where they sell fish, meat fruit and flowers, the cathedral, little shrines where they keep the statues they march in the Easter parades, shops and boutiques, some for the rich others for the locals.  It's great when you find another little tapas bar where you've never eaten before.  The trick is not to go to places that have seats and umbrellas outside specifically to attract the tourists but to look for the hidden local haunts which at first look dingy but where locals enjoy cheap and fabulous treats.



This week Sharon, here sister and I headed in and stopped at a local cafe where we had a light breakfast.  We headed around the town in the lovely sunshine, and very bearable heat.  Sauntering up and down the narrow streets and popping into the odd shop or two.  Sharon delighting in getting a few dresses in a boutique with a great sale. "Just perfect for that wedding coming up!" at home.


Then off to the indoor market, though by now we are a bit late and many places are closed, you need to be early for the market.  But we get some fruit and vegetables and some very sharp knives for the apartment from Jesus.  All in all a lovely morning.

That evening we head back in with the two families and this time head down along the promenade to our usual Indian Restaurant.  At night and along the promenade the contrast is stark, it's busy, bustling with people of all ages, families, couples, and groups.  Street traders, mainly from North Africa ply their trade, weary of the local police, as they pester you with their counterfeit bags, sunglasses, DVDs, watches, bracelets, scarves and other bric-a-brac.  The restaurants of many nations try to entice you in, the bars are full, the streets are teeming with people ambling along taking in the atmosphere, music is playing, neons light up the street, and everything is just a little boisterous and the police keep a watchful eye.  It seldom boils over like in Benalmadena or Fuengirola, well maybe it does later at night but I've never seen it.  None-the-less it's lively and enjoyable.  We stop at a trendy cocktail bar for Mojitos, Daiqaris, beer and soft drinks and soak up the lovely balmy night and watch the world go bye.  Another perfect but contrasting day in Marbella!

Quick trip to Marbella

Just back from another few days in Marbella with a couple of friends. Great weather, food, and company! We arrived late after hiring our car from Helle-Hollis (they provide an excellent service) and we headed for Elviria. We rushed straight to my favourite fish restaurant Barbacoa Pedro which is directly across the road from the international English college. The fish there is cooked simply yet beautifully. We had a small salad (but big enough for the three of us) Rosada Frito, which was devine, Dorado, some chips, a bottle of Vino Sol and sparkling water for the driver (me!). And the total bill was less than €50.

On the following night we went to Messina, what a great restaurant! The work they put into cooking and presenting the food is phenomenal. A bit more expensive but worth every penny!

We slouched around for a few days with visits to Marbella, Benahavis, Benalmadena and Mijas. In Mijas we came across this very nice wine tasting Tapas Bar where we had a very relaxing afternoon and some good chat with the staff and other customers. My much needed dose of Spain for a while until August.

Thanks lads for a great break!!

The video will be here soon!

Now the Video:

Trip to Marbella from Shay Farrelly on Vimeo.



[singlepic id=348 w=320 h=240 mode=watermark float=right]Marbella is my favourite town on the Costa del Sol and we are fortunate to be only 8 kilometres down the road from the town, which means we can get there regularly and quickly. There is a lot to see in Marbella: the ports, the beaches, the squares and gardens, the shops, the restaurants and bars, the markets and my own favourite the Old Town.

The town itself is overlooked by the Sierra Blanca mountain range and gives Marbella a micro-climate meaning it's kept cooler in the summer and a bit warmer in the winters. The town was founded about 1600 BC by the Romans. The Muslims arrived in the area about 500AD and gave it its name Marbil-la. They built a fortress and a defensive wall to protect themselves from the Christians and their impact on the design of the town is still there to be seen in the Old Town. In the 16th Century the Christians finally managed to recapture Marbella and it started to grow slowly by developing the surrounding farmland for agricultural production. The San Luis fort was built in 1725 to defend itself from Mediterranean pirates. The town grew more rapidly in the 19th century and agriculture was the mainstay of the economy. In 1950 the port was completed. It was not until the 1940's after Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe invested in hotels and apartment complexes that tourists started to come here in large numbers. It attracted the rich and famous who flocked to the town. So in the last 60 years Marbella has grown from a small fishing and farming village to one of the foremost international tourist resorts in the world.

Marbella though is not just a tourist attraction, it's a true Spanish town. The locals are friendly and helpful, particularly if you make an effort to speak a little bit of Spanish. As I said the Old Town (Ciudad Vieja) is my favourite place, I love to wander around the narrow streets looking at the houses, shops and looking for little tapas bars where mostly the locals only go. These are the places where you get the best food and the best prices. But there are also very good restaurants around Orange Square and the surrounding streets.


Some of my personal favourites: [singlepic id=347 w=320 h=240 mode=watermark float=right]

  • The Orange Tree just off Orange Square, it has wonderful food and very friendly service and it is owned by an Irish woman and her husband. They change their menu regularly and their early bird menu is good value.

  • Restaurante Messina. We were introduced to this gem by our neighbour and it's just that, a real gem, one of the best restaurants in Marbella. The food is truly outstanding and the attention to detail and presentation is amazing. A bit pricey but no-where as expensive as Dublin for anything similar, can't wait to get back!

  • For Tapas our favour bars are: La Venencia's and La Taberna Del Pinxto on Av Miguel Cano. In the Old Town is El Estrecho an award winning Tapas bar.

There is plenty of shops in the town itself and I like Baileys men's clothes shop. Just up the road is the really large mall La Canada which all my girls love as it has all the big shops and there are plenty of shops like FNAC that I can enjoy. On a Monday there is a large market. Normally I don't like markets but the one in Marbella is just big enough to have plenty in it but not so big that you can't get around it.

I just love to walk around the town, at any time of the day or night, and take in the atmosphere, to browse the shops or stop for a drink and to get a good meal. In fact if I had the chance I think I would love a place right in the middle of the Old Town. Just thinking about it makes me want to be there.

Marbella travel guide