Anyone for tennis
Marbella is known for its sun and sand but trish morrissey cashes in on its sporty side
Sun, sea and fun for the kids -- the three essential ingredients for any summer break for the family. Marbella's long been a favourite with Irish holidaymakers, and one of the jewels in the crown is the Don Carlos Hotel and Leisure Resort.
Not much more than half an hour from Malaga airport, it's a world away from the hustle and bustle of your working week.
Okay, so it's situated on the area's best bathing area -- Nikki Beach -- which boasts Miami's South Beach coolness with the stress-sapping Mediterranean chill-out factor. But don't let the massages, personal sun lounger service, a la carte restaurant, bars or chill-out lounge keep you from exploring, because there's so much more to the Don Carlos.
The clue is in the 'Leisure Resort' part of the name. If you're sporty, or would like to be, it's a one-stop shop for leisure pursuits. Activities include stretching and yoga classes in the tropical gardens, workouts in the aqua gym, aerobics and Pilates.
A main centre for tennis, it's hosting five of the top tournaments being held in the region this year, and running individual and group coaching throughout the summer for guests, with some of Spain's top tennis coaches. Former Wimbledon winner Pat Cash was in town to launch the tennis programme when we visited and there's nothing like a hunky Aussie to put you in the mood for the sport.
The Tennis & Sports Club would put Irish facilities to shame, boasting seven clay courts, two Rebound Ace courts and an athletics track.
Adults and children are catered for at the tennis academy, while, sporty or not, the kids will have a ball anyway.
At Club Archie, they'll get to meet friends of all nationalities from the age of four up to 12, with a daytime packed with activities and children's discos in the evening in July and August.
That's if you can tear them away from the pools -- Club Archie has its own children's pool, while the Beach Club facility looks out onto the Med and the hotel also has a heated pool, the only one of its kind in the area.
Deals are available, but if you've suddenly got six numbers on the Lotto, or are enjoying the trip of a lifetime, you can hire a helicopter plus pilot and bring five friends up to Ronda or Seville for a cool €1,000. If you want something a little cheaper, bring out your inner playboy by hiring a Ferrari (with your own driver) for €230 a day.
And the action doesn't stop when the sun goes down -- as you feel the summer heat, you can enjoy piano sessions, traditional Cuban and Brazilian music or listen to live '80s music.
All the rooms at the hotel are top notch -- expect flat-screen TVs, upmarket toiletries and all the five-star mod cons, while the deluxe villas, with their own private pool, are to die for.
Sunshine, leisure and pampering are all part and parcel of the typical experience.
The only thing I can't guarantee you is a date with Pat Cash.