After the year that was 2020, we all need to do something a little different to celebrate 2021. Living in Marbella we are lucky enough to have a multitude of exceptional activities on our doorstep. From high octane adventures to educational excursions, there is a diverse range of ways to celebrate the New Year. Giles Brown picks some of his favourites.
Race Resort Ascari
You only have to take a stroll through Puerto Banús of an afternoon to realise that Marbella is a petrolhead’s paradise. There are enough top of the range Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis and Bentleys to fill a supercar showroom. Unless you want to begin an impressive collection of speeding fines care of the Guardia Civil, however, there are limited opportunities to push your sports car to its full potential. The answer to this particular problem is located less than 40 minutes from Marbella – or less, depending on what exactly you are driving…
Race Resort Ascari is located just outside Ronda and was the brainchild of millionaire entrepreneur, oil industry engineer and keen racing driver Klas Zwaart. Zwaart realised that it was becoming increasingly hard to find somewhere to enjoy supercars in the manner intended by their makers. While you could hire a circuit or take part in a track day event, often these lacked the kind of facilities that the super-rich were accustomed to. So he decided to create Race Resort Ascari.
“The philosophy behind this circuit is to give people the opportunity to play with their supercars – or our cars for that matter, right up to Formula One level – in a club environment, without any public walking around,” says Zwaart. “Anyone can make a total fool of themselves here if they want to!”
With a full programme of activities available, from track days to 4×4 offroading, as well as race car preparation and secure garaging, Race Resort Ascari really is a petrolhead’s paradise, all be it with a luxury clubhouse and restaurant as well as a country house boutique hotel.
Museo Automovilístico de Málaga
Málaga’s Automobile and Fashion Museum is located in La Tabacalera, an emblematic building in the centre of the city. The only way to describe the weird and wonderful collection is eclectic – and even that doesn’t really do it justice. The Museum exposes an extraordinary private collection which traces the artistic and historical evolution of both motoring and fashion from the end of the 19th century through 13 thematic rooms, with a dash of contemporary art thrown into the mix as well.
With almost 100 unique and lovingly restored vehicles and more than 200 Haute Couture pieces, the museum serves up a heady cocktail of premium brands such as Mercedes, Hispano Suiza, Bugatti, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Ferrari. For truly decadent driving many are upholstered in ostrich and mink fur, precious woods, with mother-of-pearl dashboards and ivory and silver handles, and unpublished custom engines.
In addition, the Maga Sublime Collection at the Automobile and Fashion Museum chronicles the evolution of Haute Couture in the 20th Century through seven exhibitions: “From Mariano Fortuny to Galliano”, “Trilogy”, “The Cocktail of the Forest”, the wide collection of Vintage hats “From Balenciaga to Schiaparelli”, “Fashion Victim”, “Apotheosis” and “Too Much is never enough”.
Molina Horse Ride
If you are looking for the perfect antidote to get away from the stresses and strains of 21st century life, then the Molino Horse Ride is the answer.
From their beautiful base in Coin, less than 30 minutes’ drive from Marbella, Giles and Miranda Crawford offer a spectacular four-hour horse ride that takes experienced riders into some of the most stunning countryside in Andalucia. “The ride is aimed at relatively experienced riders” explains Giles, “those who have their own horse or ride regularly and are confident enough to canter over uneven terrain in an outdoor environment on a forward going horse.
It’s not just a physical experience, “it’s a therapy when you are riding” Giles explains. “It is a type of meditation because you are reconnecting with nature and reconnecting with life, but at the same time you can still have those moments on the horse that are thrilling.”
The ride takes you through a variety of locations. “Many people who know Spain and Andalucia often remark that this region is the most beautiful” says Giles. “One of the reasons is due to the contrast in the terrain and the countryside. In a three or four hour ride we can go through rivers, areas that feel like you are in the middle of a pine forest, over hills that enjoy fabulous views down to the sea, and other areas that are completely open grass plains”.
A typical lunch marks the end of the day, allowing riders to enjoy traditional Andalucian hospitality, as well as a glass of wine – or two. The day starts at 10am and after lunch the riders return to Giles and Miranda’s beautifully converted mill, where they can freshen up with a shower if needed.
Lights, Camera, Action!
While many of us have taken the opportunity of binge watching our favourite series and movies during lockdown, there really is no substitute for the real thrill of a big screen experience. Although cinemas have responded to the gradual reopening of public spaces after lockdown, creating social distancing areas and sanitising after every screen, many people are still a little nervous of going to the cinema.
At the Cine Teatro Goya in Puerto Banus, they have come up with an ingenious solution to get round that particular problem. For €200 you can enjoy a private screening for yourself and up to 14 friends (which works out at an excellent €12,90 per person). Available Monday to Thursday, the price also includes popcorn and a drink.
You also have the opportunity to have your own personalised content shown on the screen before the main movie – perhaps a birthday greeting, embarrassing photo of one of your guests or even a ‘F*** 2020, this is 2021” message. Cine Teatro Goya always has the very latest releases, often before they come out in the UK, and you can choose from whatever is currently showing. I’m sorely tempted to arrange a private screen of Wonder Woman 1984, in 80s outfits, or wait until the new 007 finally comes out and have the mother of all Bond parties!
Due to what you could euphemistically call ‘one thing or another’, the chances of travelling around the world and seeing exotic flora and fauna are a little slim at the moment, to put it mildly. But several of the world’s most beautiful and fascinating animals are just a few minutes’ drive along the coast in Fuengirola. Right in the centre of town is Bioparc Fuengirola, one of several Bioparcs throughout Spain. The mission of the company is clear from the start – there is very much an educational and environmental focus to every aspect.
Bioparc Fuengirola also pulls off an incredible ‘Narnia’ trick. Once you walk through the entrance, the town seems to melt away and you are transported into the centre of a nature reserve. It may be small, but the Bioparc is perfectly formed and you can find yourself getting lost for hours.
The area has been beautifully designed – the Komodo dragons watch over an Indonesian landscape, while tigers laze regally in a large space that has subtle hints of India. It’s also very much a hands-on experience with daily educational shows featuring some birds and small mammals that obviously love being centre stage.
You also get the opportunity to get close to the lemurs who have their own island – and did you know that they are matriarchal as well. So it should be Queen Julietta in the smash hit movie Madagascar…
Bioparc Fuengirola also has a beautiful café/bar area as well as a playground for your own little monkeys. With the financial restraints of 2021 in mind, they have also launched an annual pass for one adult and child, for under €50.
On a positive note amongst some of the doom and gloom, Bioparc Fuengirola has experienced something of a baby boom over the past few weeks, including the first baby gorilla born in Andalucia.
So at least we know what the animals were up to over lockdown…