Finca Cortesin, Spain
Head west from Malaga International Airport on the Autopista del Mediterràneo, past the meandering golf courses and tennis courts. Shortly, you will arrive at the little known, but somewhat historically infamous district of Caesars. For it was here, so legend has it, in the sulphuric waters of a local spring, that Julius Caesar, Roman General and Emperor, did cure a complaint of his liver, in the years Before Christ.
After that things got a bit quiet around Caesars. The Roman Empire fell, the Dark Ages came and went, the Enlightenment arrived and the Costa del Sol exploded into a Ballardian darkness, but not so much as a wayward tee shot disturbed the sleepy backwater of Caesars.
Then, in March 2009, the Finca Cortesin arrived, a sprawling five-star complex of multiple delights, the €350 million legacy of a Madrileños property developer, with a marketing budget to match. A multitude of travel awards sharply followed at the mere mention of a complimentary flight, and Caesar, the district, not the General – who’d long since fallen to Brutus’ sharpened dagger – was thrust improbably back on the map.
We have been disinclined to join in the hyperbole, however, preferring to harbour and nurture a healthy ambivalence towards a ‘sport’ in which being portly and badly dressed appears to be advantageous. Hotels with golf courses are, after all, neither one thing or the other, and one would presume that Finca Cortesin, with its Volvo European Open, falls all too easily down the crack of Monty’s checkered pants.
Fortunately, it appears that what the devotees of a posh putting lack, the Finca Cortesin makes-up for in spades. In the style of traditional ‘cortijo’ farm estates – courtyards of white walls, terracotta roof tiles and Morning Glory – it becomes apparent upon entering the galleried atrium that the gushing reviews and twittered acclaim were not in vain.
The luxurious interior takes in wall-hung tapestries of medieval hunting scenes, rough-hewn flagstones, grand Baroque mirrors, fat settees of mustard yellow and plump crimson armchairs. This befits the indulgence of a good Woodhouse, while sipping Earl Grey from the finest china.
Beyond, a three-sided courtyard in which the boughs of ancient olives grow, the east-west wings framing the exposed southern views of formally laid gardens, emerald swimming pools and beyond, the swirling, cerulean depths of the
Nor can one curl their lip at the accommodation. The balconied west wing executive suites overlook the Olympic pool and afford equally spectacular views of the Pillars of Hercules. I am ensconced in a large, lavishly styled suite with a living room, four-poster bedroom, kitchenette (unused), and bathrooms so large Theseus himself would have trouble finding his way out.
Where the Finca Cortesin surpasses the mere mortal 5 star hotel however, is the art and craft of its Michelin-starred chef Van Coevorden. The in-house restaurant, Schilo, embellishes its menu with such culinary creations as Fois Gras Gyoza with Black Truffle and Daikon Salad dressed with Wild Ginger. Such morsels leave lasting impressions and backed-up by an excellent cellar – admittedly not doing your liver any favours – certainly augments the Finca Cortesin’s growing Imperial intentions.