"150 euro for each," demanded a tall Romanian prostitute. She stood on the side of a bustling alleyway in Marbella, Spain's Puerto Banús. Her hair was greasy, streaked with blonde highlights with creeping thick dark brown roots. Her accent was thick and her clothing was tight -- jeans studded with crystals and a black spandex shirt, lustrous with glittery material.
She spoke to an inebriated, red-faced male out-of-towner. The tourist sweated profusely while holding a plastic cup overflowing with warm beer. He had just summoned her fee, along with that of two other ladies. The other prostitutes reclined against the white-washed wall.
In front of the alley, other sloppy drunk tourists hooted and laughed to inaudible sneers and jokes. Among the crowds, no one took notice of the bartering occurring just a few steps away.
Marbella's Puerto Banús was once the tony playground for the rich and famous, packed with toys for tanned white linen-wearing celebrities like Julio Iglesias and Antonio Banderas. Opulent yachts and luxurious mansions were a main attraction. Stores like Versace, Gucci and Louis Vuitton still have a presence along the pricey rows of shops along the port.
But the once fabulous town has been overcome with intoxicated travelers and overpriced, mediocre restaurants. The count of Ferrari's and Lamborghini's parked in front of the locales are dwindling. Real estate has taken a dive due to the country's continuing economic struggles. A scandal involving corrupt public officials' use of building funds, regarding a multi-million scheme of money laundering and bribery in 2006, doesn't help either.
Locals avoid Puerto Banús and instead swarm to beach-side chirniguitos -- quaint restaurants serving up paella and lots of sangria and beer. A favorite is Ahi Te Quiero Ver, widely recognized as the chiringuito with the best fare and beach view. The eatery serves delectable fish and paella mixtas.
Langostinos al pil-pil are served in a sizzling cast-iron pan with slivered garlic, white wine and parsley. Arroz negro is tinted by squid ink and paired with an ivory aioli and an abundance of fresh shellfish.
The chiringuito's fresh fare, Spaniard crowd and beach front views feel distant from the once fabulous, now passé Puerto Banús. At this eatery, wine is plentiful, and the grey-pebbled Mediterranean shore serves as the perfect remedy to even the booziest of buzzes. All it takes is a quick dip in the chilly waves of Marbella's still pristine waters. And it's there that the turbulent scenes of Puerto Banús can actually swim away.
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