Lanzarote's princess of pampered luxury
WITH THE wind howling and the rain beating down, it's time to dream about a late winter or early spring break.
Lanzarote's been a personal favourite of mine for years -- mostly staying in the bustling, but still classy, resort of Puerto del Carmen. And now, the once sleepy town of Playa Blanca has emerged as a rival in the affections of Irish holidaymakers.
And it's easy to see why. It's a lively resort, but the emphasis here is on laidback nightlife in its many low-key bars and restaurants. The views across to the neighbouring island of Fuerteventura are spectacular, too, and its beaches and marina are the ideal places to lap up the rays on this sunshine isle.
I stayed in the Princesa Yaiza. The five-star hotel is the ultimate pamper-me place that's a cut above your normal resort. The hotel is furnished in a modern Moorish style and its oozes glamour. It boasts six swimming pools (one seawater; two for children) so a shortage of sunbeds is never a problem.
And you'll never go hungry -- with eight restaurants offering a variety of local and global cuisines.
It's also ideal for families. The family-orientated wing is separate from the main hotel and offers a kids' club and babysitting services.
The thalasso and spa areas are out of the ordinary, too. With massage cabins, couple's treatments, shower jets and dynamic tubs you could be soothing away those post-Christmas blues within hours of touching down from Dublin.
It's also a popular wedding and honeymoon setting -- and it's the ideal place for a couple's cocktail as the sun sets over the Atlantic Ocean.
The gym facilities are top notch, too -- air-conditioned, with a range of exercise classes and the latest offering on the market, the Power Plate, waiting to shed away those festive pounds.
The surrounding area is a lively affair. Next door is Mollie's Irish bar, a home from home with a stunning outdoors decking area and entertainment each night.
By day, check out El Mirador (www.elmirador lanzarote.com) in the Marina -- a place where you can veg out on a Miami-style bar couch, order tapas throughout the day and strip off and take a dip in the sea when it all gets too hot.
Spanish resorts aren't always known for their cuisine, but Playa Blanca is a different kettle of paella altogether. For a blowout affair with brilliant service, try Aromas Yaiza on Calle La Laja in town (www.restaurantearomasyaiza.com). For under €20 you'll get an amazing fine-dining meal, but opt for the €32 eight-course tasting menu and you'll get a gut-busting affair of meats, cheeses and fish chosen by the acclaimed chef himself. It's a mystery tour of food, but it's a meal you'll never forget for all the right reasons.
If you fancy dining down by the marina, try La Casa Roja (www.lacasaroja-lanzarote.com), and do try the steak on the hot plate. With the fish swimming below you in the warm marina waters and the waiter bringing out yet another bottle of chilled wine, it's enough to make you forget the misery back home . . .
. . . and the only trouble is whether you'll want to go back there.