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Princess Diana, John McEnroe… and Stellar Golf

When Princess Diana made what was intended to be an unpublicised private visit to the Costa del Sol with two Sloane Ranger girlfriends in 1994, it all went pear-shaped from the start. The holidaying trio (unaccompanied by bodyguard detectives) made it through the airport unscathed and took a taxi to a Mijas tennis complex where they had booked a room. Once there, however, they decided it wasn’t suitable and they were rescued by a British hairdresser running the on-site salon, who offered to drive them to the swankier Byblos hotel in his Ford Escort. By now, the paparazzi army had learned about her arrival and swarmed to the hotel, setting up camp in the nearby golf course, guarding all entrances and even infiltrating themselves as guests. To their absolute joy, Diana decided to sunbathe beside the pool that weekend, discreetly removed her top and, as she later sat up and before she managed to cover herself up completely with a towel, two of the snappers were able to grab the topless shots of their careers. The photos were put on the market for a reported £1 million (two million pesetas) and the negatives were bought by ¡Hola! magazine (publisher of Hello! in the UK), which locked them away for safe-keeping, apparently as a bargaining ploy for a future exclusive. So why have we recapped the saucy details of this unofficial royal visit? Well, because – in spite of also welcoming other top celebrity guests during its heyday including the Rolling Stones, Saudi royal family members, Julio Iglesias and Antonio Banderas – the hotel suffered financial decline and closed down six years ago. Since then it has become a decrepit shell of its former glory, even though British entrepreneur and reality TV star Alan Sugar purchased it at auction and vowed to revamp it. Unfortunately ongoing legal issues deterred him from that path and he put it up for sale. This week, in some more great news for the Coast as it rebounds from the crisis years, it has been reported that Madrid company Ayco Grupo Inmobiliaria has agreed to purchase the former flagship establishment – which was inaugurated in 1986 and was the first hotel in Spain to have a thalassotherapy spa – for €60 million and plans to re-open it in the next few months. Tennis and Golf Meanwhile, the sporting spotlight will be on Marbella next week with two major international events. From 22 to 24 September, tennis legends John McEnroe, Yannick Noah and Mats Wilander will be heading out onto the Puente Romano courts to compete against Albert Costa, Sébastien Grosjean and Younes Al Aynaoui in the Senior Masters Cup. VIP guests will be able to enjoy dinner in the hospitality lounge after each match, as well as a performance on stage by Noah in his other guise as a musician. Also in town next week will be leading players from the Ladies European Tour, competing from 22 to 25 September in the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España at Aloha Club in Nueva Andalucía’s “Golf Valley”. The field will include Marbella’s own globetrotting star Azahara Muñoz (a multiple winner on both the European and US LPGA Tours) and former model Maria Verchenova from Russia, who dazzled the galleries at the Rio Olympics with a closing course record round of nine-under 62 that included a hole-in-one. [caption id="attachment_4565" align="alignright" width="300"] Maria Verchenova (Photo: Tristan Jones/IGF)[/caption] Luxury Living For our featured home this week, we return to the Mijas area to view this stunning frontline golf villa priced at an excellent €1,150,000. Exceptional Homes We appreciate your taking the time to read about this outstanding property, but perhaps it is not exactly right for you? If not, we invite you to have a look at our other special selections for: La Zagaleta, Luxury Villas, Golf Properties, Seafront Properties, Apartments and Special Offers. Click on the category of your choice and follow the link. Also please feel free to roam around our website: www.villamarbellanow.com