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“…Quite the nicest villa we have stayed in…”

“It really was quite the nicest villa we have stayed in, in the 5 years we have been visiting the Costa del Sol in February. I think the proximity to the beach and local amenity made it very relaxing, and the pool was lovely. It certainly had the best kitchen to date. Many thanks.”
Fiona Pz, Bristol, England 2012.

“…Our family had a marvelous and unforgettable time at your house….

Everybody was happy, there was enough space even for 12 people and they used all the facilities as we had sunny days and mild evenings. We had endless parties at home and in various places in Estepona and Marbella. Jan took us for a sailing tour almost to Gibraltar and we toured part of the family to Ronda and surroundings. The temperatures were so agreeable that the youngsters stayed hours on the beach.
Thank you again for all your efforts you have made to convert the villa into a great holiday home”.
Ulf Von Benckendorff, Germany 2012

“… Quiet Location, Spacious and Very Close To The Beach…”

“I particularly liked the fact that the villa is in a quiet community location yet close to shops, nightlife etc. The beach is safe for children and very close to the villa. This meant not having to take bags and bags of stuff to the beach and one of us could pop back to the villa if we had forgotten or needed anything. A bonus for us was that we could stay at home with the younger children while our teenagers could enjoy the nightlife within walking distance.

There was plenty of room for our 2 families. And bliss having 4 bathrooms! It felt very much like home and lovely to have such a large garden for the children.” Judy Marshall, Ashburton, Devon, England 2012

“…The location and accommodation you have is excellent…”

“We arrived back today. Just to say the location and accommodation you have is excellent and the best experience we have had in Andalucia. Previously we have stayed in somewhat grandiose properties, usually somewhat isolated. Your refurb is great, the kitchen fantastic and the swim pool in great nick.
Thanks again.” Rob and Fiona, Bristol, England 2012

Pluma Piedra was featured in the Daily Mail in  2010 written by James Hughes Onslow. Since then, we have added two more bedrooms and a swimming pool in 2011.

A family fiesta on the cosy Costa

By James Hughes Onslow

When all four of our offspring said they’d come on holiday with us to the Costa del Sol, it came as a surprise. The Costa del Bling, for goodness sake, where Essex girl meets oligarch.

Last time I was there, in 1966, it seemed to be approaching its sell-by date, and things could only have got worse, surely? Since then, Monty Python has sung about the awfulness of Torremolinos, but that was 37 years ago. So what do the young know that we don’t?

Two years ago, our son Andrew, then 21, said he’d rather skip a summer holiday in the Dordogne, Provence, the Alps and Paris. He had better things to do.

The El Tajo Gorge at Ronda is one of the Costa’s great sights

Then, last year, our eldest daughter, Flora, 18, opted out of our Sicilian expedition, which comprised two weeks of sun and empty beaches, excellent food and wine, and Roman, Greek and Norman antiquities.

Our youngest daughter, Harriet, 15, said she had had enough of holidays with her parents – full stop.

But, suddenly, here we all were after my wife had found a villa on the internet – a mere £700 a week – just outside Estepona, midway between Marbella and Gibraltar. It didn’t have a swimming pool, but the sea was only 100 yards away.

We arrived at this villa, with its shady trees and rich green lawns, after a 36-hour P&O crossing from Portsmouth to Bilbao, followed by a two-day drive, stopping overnight at Toledo. It was at least as good as the website boasted.

Four double rooms with en-suite bathrooms, kitchen, living room opening on to a wide verandah looking out on fig trees, pines, mimosa and bougainvillaea.

Harriet brought her friend Issy for the first week and Grace for the second, but Marina – on the cusp of turning 18 – stuck to her guns about not doing another driving holiday and flew out to Malaga by Easyjet. Marina’s two friends, Katie and Lucy, and Flora’s friend, Emily, also flew out.

Our three girls caused something of a sensation at the weekly bullfight in Marbella, but maybe for the wrong reasons.

‘Oh, isn’t he cute?’ they said when the first matador appeared in the ring, depositing his hat in the centre of the arena. ‘Look at his pink socks and his ballet pumps. I hope he doesn’t lose them in the sand. I wouldn’t mind a sequinned outfit like that.’ They ridiculed his mincing sideways movement, the wiggling of his hips.

They laughed at the president in his box and the brass ensemble in the box marked ‘Musica’ who piped up at moments of drama. It was not the machismo image the man in front, with his sleek, shiny black hair, big cigar and loud voice, had in mind. Nor the noisy woman behind.

Then the second matador came on wearing skin-tight trousers – he allowed the bull to pass so close to his oversized lunchbox that the contents were emphasised dramatically in blood. Instead of being impressed by this daring display, the ladies were reduced to hoots of derision.

I had thought they’d be be nauseated by scenes of blood and death, but no. They were touched by the bull’s determination, even in death.

Lord St Helens first introduced me to the Marbella bullring 40 years ago. He was a former Conservative Chief Whip who had a fisherman’s house in Los Boliches, near Torremolinos.

He had a good relationship with his Spanish neighbours, understanding their problems and treating them all as if they were errant backbenchers.

About the same time, my father, then a consultant for a new golf course at Atalaya Park, near San Pedro de Alcantara, had introduced a man called Mohamed Al Fayed to an Egyptian property developer.

As it happened, Atalaya Park was a 40-minute walk down the beach from our villa. It has been greatly enlarged since I was last there, but was not exactly humming and still under the same German ownership.

The manager, a Spaniard who spoke English with a German accent, said trade was down 50 per cent on last year. I had to remind him this was nothing to when Harold Wilson imposed a £50 limit on all Britons travelling abroad to ease his balance of payments crisis.

To celebrate Marina’s 18th birthday, we went to Robin Hood’s fine British establishment about a mile down the main drag. This was her choice. We ate garlicky prawns and calamari.

Gory: The family took in a bull fight in Marbella

Walking there, we passed Moroccan restaurants, Mandarin and Hong Kong Chinese food, Lebanese, French, Indian and English cuisine. This was progress since the Sixties, when all that was available was paella and chips.

Our villa was owned by an Ulster family whose woollen mill had been burned down by the IRA and who had spent their compensation money on a holiday home.

A gardener came to move the sprinkler from time to time. There were shrieks from neighbours’ gardens as children leapt into swimming pools, indicating that English and German were the predominant languages.

There was an occasional sound of chainsaws. A man from Hamburg who had lived there since 1995 explained that the palm trees had caught a bug, imported from Alexandria, causing a fatal disease. Nothing to do with Al Fayed, presumably.

We made a trip to Gibraltar (only 45 minutes away, but with at least as long queuing for customs) and to Ronda, a charming Moorish town in the hills 35 miles away. When there were 11 of us, separate trips had to made in our Renault Espace, with seating for seven.

But, by and large, as the days melted into one, everyone was happy sitting in the garden or wandering down to the beach.

Pepe’s Beach Bar proved a popular eating and drinking place with its fresh evening breezes. There were nightclubs, but they are not my scene.

Deep-sea fishing, equestrian activities, nature reserves and wall-to-wall golf courses are available, but somehow we gave them a miss in the 40-degree heat.

I’d hoped Atalaya might invite us to try out their golf course in view of my father’s pioneering role, but no such luck. Paying £40 for a round of golf, plus hire of trolleys and clubs, seemed a little steep with ten people to entertain.

Although the coast road is a ribbon development, an inland motorway has taken much of the traffic pressure off since my earlier travels. There are still cobbled streets with shops selling leather goods, chinaware and glass.

Traditional food markets are becoming harder to find, but there are still some fine old Spanish restaurants in San Pedro de Alcantara and Estepona.

Peggotty’s ‘finest fish and chips’, near Estepona, boasts that ‘We use only the very best quality cod and haddock. Our fish is caught from selected oceans which gives the Peggotty’s unique flavour’.

All a tourist needs is local produce, and you’ll find it if you wander into the backstreets. A greengrocer sold bunches of grapes such as you’d never see in a supermarket: some of the fruit bright green, some brown and wrinkly, but all so sweet.

So what is it like driving around with seven teenage girls switching on their iPods? It is similar to taking a group of old ladies with hearing aids on a day out. They can’t hear what you say and they all shout at you at once.

Hotels have been suffering from the credit crunch, but this may be good news for casual visitors. Despite notices to the contrary, they welcome non-residents, unofficially anyway, who buy drinks and use the swimming pools and sunloungers.

An open-door policy has taken over. Restaurants and nightclubs are screaming for customers. The beaches are surprisingly empty. There is a Blue Flag beach at Estepona where the locals enjoy an evening promenade.

There have been dire warnings from British expats living in the south of Spain, with bulldozers moving in when Spanish practices and planning procedures have not been complied with.

And with the economic downturn hitting Spain particularly hard, businesses are feeling the pinch. But for the tourist, there are opportunities galore for holidays on the Costa.

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