I could go for a gradual build up; a detailed description climaxing with the declaration that the Puente Romano is the jewel of Marbella’s Golden Mile. But never one for shimmying around the edge or dipping my toe, I’d rather dive straight in and state for the record that this place is truly, truly special.
While the rest of the hotels along this famous stretch of golden sand jostle to be seen – each one bigger and grander and shinier than the next – Puente Romano (named after the ancient Roman Bridge which stands among the lush grounds) is almost inconspicuous from its low-rise and unassuming exterior. Once inside, it’s a different story.
There’s no fuss or fanfare as we arrive, just friendly staff ready to greet us. Miss Smith is already making friends in the cool, polished marble reception, and thanks to a generous receptionist she has a new partner in crime: a teddy bear sporting the hotel logo. Just as well she’s got assistance – there’s a mystery to solve. Terracotta urns acting as table legs to the oversized glass have nesting birds in them! How did they get in there? More to the point, how does a two-year-old rescue them?
Leaving this unresolved for now, our attention is diverted to our easy-on-the-eye porter who has loaded our luggage and Mr Smith onto his golf buggy, ready to give us a tour around the grounds en route to our junior suite. Mr Smith is playing it cool as his two girls playfully flirt with Pau (which, swoon, means ‘peace’ in Catalan). Signorita Smith is particularly enamoured with our tanned chauffeur; she’s never seen such a cool pair of wheels. As the wind blows through her hair she squeals with delight; I do the same as the Pau points out Bar Cascada the ‘best place for sundowners’.
Simple and beautifully decorated, our suite is a lesson in understated luxury. A corner desk and drawers is made from soft cream leather and exquisitely cut Venetian glass. The bathroom, in contrast, is resplendent in traditional jewel-coloured Andalusian tiles. Mr & Mrs Smith agree: we are going to like it here. Keen to explore our miniature version of the famous white towns of Andalusia or Pueblos Blancos as they are know locally, unpacking is put on hold. Traditional whitewashed walls studded with splashes of red in the form of geraniums in baskets abound – it’s like walking through a scene from a postcard, with the added sweet scent of fresh flowers.
Reach any of the hotel’s six restaurants, leisure facilities or the beach, with a walk through sub-tropical gardens of giant bamboo, ferns, palm trees and grapevines complete with ornate water features and a gently bubbling stream. Wildlife in the form of swans, frogs and terrapins make it more magical. Add to that, us being fortunate enough (so Mr Smith tries to convince us) to witness a real-life David Attenborough moment as a water snake wrestles a frog. Those not keen on reptiles needn’t be put off: the excited staff watching assure us that we are witness to a very rare occurrence. Lucky us, eh? It is the frog’s lucky day too, as he lives to tell the tale.
WiFi throughout the hotel grounds means this couple can also keep friends and family updated on our wildlife adventures, sharing pictures of our water baby in her stunning new setting. Delightful bath-water-warm pools (there are three in total, one specifically for children) means that at the end of each day she’s reluctant to be led away by her wrinkly hand.
In-suite computer wizardry means that everything is also available at the touch of a button: restaurants and spa treatments to pore over and book in the comfort of one’s own room, perfect for this indecisive Mrs Smith. The Thalasso Spa offers first-class therapies and those choosing to exert themselves on holiday are also spoilt for choice – the hotel’s internationally renowned tennis club has 10 courts. To my untrained eye I’d say that the centre court is not for the faint hearted with an audience capacity of 2,500 and the claim that the world’s greats including Becker and McEnroe have trodden this clay. Perhaps sign up at the club for a few lessons from a pro beforehand.
The Sea Grill restaurant is an especially romantic beach setting to take in the breathtaking Med view while tucking into mouthwatering fresh fish. The waiters strike a perfect balance between offering enough attention and allowing you to enjoy your feast privately. And then there are the ice-cream sandwiches. Divine little triangles of sponge filled with creamy goodness… The fight is on for the final triangle. Mr Smith goes for an underhand swipe but a sneaky backhand sees Mrs Smith triumphant. Mmm… pistachio. I’d go as far as saying it’s up there with my all-time favourite sweet treats… and the same goes for the hotel. You’d be nuts to pass on the opportunity to try either.