Reassuringly for those whose idea of remote is a feeling rather than actually being isolated, Alan stays further up the mountain and is always ready with an exciting itinerary if one is required. Cortijo Maria Camila sits on the edge of an expansive nature reserve spanning three mountain ranges, and a 15 to 20-minute drive further up will reward you with yet more fantastic views, flora and fauna. For the cooler months, there are hiking trails, with picnic areas and shady paths.
The nearest beach is a wide sandy sprawl at Torre del Mar, about 15 miles away, dotted with unobtrusive but effective social distancing measures, many little “chiringuito” beach bars, and, the by-now ubiquitous beach clubs Berebere (bereberetdm.com/en) and Bahía Beach Jazba (latribujazba.com/en/bahia-beach), at the far west end. At the opposite end, in Chinchín Puerto, you’ll find the morning’s fresh catch from the local fishermen, and catamaran and boating expeditions. Another 10 minutes further down the coast is Nerja, a pretty and popular seaside town with lots of restaurants and shopping, more beaches, but way more crowds. If you are in any way Covid nervous, this is one to avoid. Beyond Nerja, though, is where the coast gets really beautiful, where the cliffs drop into the sea and you find more secluded and less populated beaches.
Malaga, at just shy of an hour’s drive, has a bit of everything: historic sites, museums, bustling food markets, shopping and restaurants. For a culture fix, Granada and the world-famous Alhambra are about 1½ hours away by car.
But really, absorbing everything the villa has to offer could keep you happily occupied for weeks on end. The interiors are straight out of Architectural Digest while remaining sympathetic to the villa’s Andalucian architecture; cool, spacious and airy, it has six reception rooms including a library. The panoramic pool terrace has an outdoor kitchen and dining area, and gives way to a garden dappled with shade from the mountain’s only eucalyptus tree. A “zen garden” overlooking the villa is where Alan will organise a private yoga instructor, if desired; flamenco lessons, massages and wine tastings are all possible à la casa. (Bodegas Bentomiz with its award-winning Ariyanas wines is also worth a visit for a tour and tasting.) And all around you: those views. Space. Remoteness.
We arrived to the joy of a fully stocked fridge – the list of breakfast must-haves we’d sent to villa operator Oliver’s Travels before arrival had been thoughtfully added to with some local delights (and wine). There was just time for a snack and an unpack before our prebooked private chef arrived. Having sent children’s predilections in advance – pasta, pizza and burgers – we’d paid the possible menu no heed. We definitely hadn’t expected an à la carte table heaving with exquisite tapas, followed by posh burgers and paella and the charming conversation of chef David and partner Elena.