FOLLOW THE OBAMA ROUTE
Michelle Obama and her daughter Sasha, were on vacation in Andalucia residing at the luxurious five star Hotel Villa Padierna, in the municipality of Benahavís near Estepona and Marbella. (Update: Ritz Carlton stopped managing this hotel shortly after the Michelle Obama visit. Michelle Obama party stayed in Villa 603 of the hotel since named Villa Obama.)
The visit attracted an inordinate amount of press attention both nationally and internationally. Although the Obama family visit to Andalucia, Spain was private, there was immense speculation on the vacation itinerary.
Below we have distilled a relevant selection of media coverage with links to their source. We noticed a great deal of incorrect information especially in the US blogs and news comments. We hope this information below will be helpful.
As a tourist, if you wish to follow in the footsteps of Michelle and Sasha Obama then follow our guide by clicking through to the various location pages of information on Andalucia.com
Sunday 8th August 2010 - DEPARTURE & MALLORCA
|US First Lady Michelle in Marbella.|
Michelle Obama left Malaga Airport (AGP) at 10.50 in Air Force Two and flew to the island of Mallorca arriving just before 12.00 at the military base of Son Sant Joan airport Palma where she was met by the US Ambassador to Spain Alan Solomon and the Spanish Ambassador to USA Sr. Jorge Dezcállar. The party arrived at the royal palace at 12.30 to join the Spanish Monarchs, King Juan Carlos and Doña Sofia for lunch. According the royal sources the Monarchs presented Michelle Obama with Mallorcan handicraft bracelets whilst the King gave Mrs Obama some seeds for the White house vegetable garden. (39)
The royal party lunched on Andalucian gazpacho soup with garnish , grilled turbot, veal with mustard sauce, oriental rice with salted mushrooms and Mallorcan tumbet. Fruit and ice cream was for dessert . All washed down with white Marqués de Riscal wine and Remírez de Ganuza (reserva 2003). (39)
Doña Leticia the Princess of Asturias (wife of Prince Filipe eldest son of the monarchs) joined the lunch for Michelle Obama in the Palacio de Marivent, en Palma, Mallorca. It is speculated that the Infantas Elena y Cristina will also join the meal or just for a coffee given that they are staying at Marivent, a residence of the Royal Family nearby. La arrival de Michelle Obama is fixed for 13.00 horas, when they will pose for cameras. The Spanish ambassador in Washington and the USA in Madrid, Rafael Dezcállar and Alan Solomont respectively will be in Marivent as well but will not dine with them but with Alberto Aza the head of the King’s house. Don Felipe will not attend as he Will be returning from Colombia where he participated in the taking of office ceremony of president elect Juan Manuel Santos. (38)
Saturday 7th August 2010 - Ronda
The Obama party arrived in Ronda historical town of, immortalized by American writer Ernest Hemingway about 11.00 where the streets were full of expectant well wishers. They walked to the Casa de Don Bosco, a modernist XIX and XX century building known for its gardens and some of the best views of the Tajo de Ronda (Ronda Gorge) where they stayed half an hour before strolling to the Plaza de Mondragón. The next stop was the 15th century church Iglesia de Santa María la Mayor. (37)
Then the first lady walked down the steep incline called ‘la Cuesta de Santo Domingo’ as far as the XVIII century ‘Palacio del Rey Moro’ including its beautiful gardens designed by Forestier, where they took photos and rested on some seats in the shade. They also explored a viewpoint called ‘PadreJesús’ (father Jesus) next to the church of the same name. (37)
The Casa Rey Moro belonged to the Duquesa de Parcent and the current owner is Jochen Knie, who spike to Michelle Obama. “She told me that she was delighted to be here and was fascinated by Ronda”. Knie added that he had commented that he wanted to turn the building into a hotel. The first lady answered that it seemed an ideal location for this, and she promised to return and stay there if it ever happened. (41)
This brief conversation passes over a 14 year history of frustration between Joaquin Knie and the local authorities which culminated last year in him affixing of a large banner reading “Casa Rey Moro - without hotel since 1997. 200 Employees!" (41)
About one a clock in the afternoon Michelle Obama and her daughter went to the restaurant El Escudero situated in the ‘Paseo Blas Infante’. The Obamas tried the ham, which the enjoyed according to sources at the restaurant. The menu by chef Faviola Higuero was elaborated with a langoustine lasagne and a salad goat cheese with an apple base. Sasha preferred spaghetti with tomato and manchego cheese. The sweet was ‘yemas del Tajo’ a local speciality which they liked a lot. They drank water and juices, no alcohol. (41)
After lunch was the time to visit the famous Ronda bullring, the oldest bullring in Spain before returning to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento taking a moment to wave at the waiting crowds before getting into the official car. (37)
A detailed Route of the tour in Ronda is published on Ronda Today website.
That evening by coincidence the Starlite Charity Gala took place at the Villa Padierna hotel where Michelle Obama was staying. Antonio Banderas co-hosted the event with Eva Longoria Parker. Melanie Griffith & Tony Parker, Boris Becker and wife Lilly also attended. So did Deepak Chopra to receive 2010 Humanitarian Starlite Award for his global force of human empowerment, wellbeing and for bringing light to the world.
With 167 expectant press bussed in to the Starlite Gala under full police escort, the coast was clear for Michelle Obama to slip out and dine at La Meridiana restaurant on the other side of Marbella. News of this will have disappointed the 500 guess who paid 1.000€ each. Some guests were hoping for a late entrance, but a late night would not have been conducive to a mid day meeting with the King of Spain in Mallorca, even if you do have Air Force 2 to fly you to the island.
Perhaps the local press should have researched the internet better and listened to Lynn Sweet (columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times) who reported at 16.54hrs (Spanish time): The East Wing told me Saturday, "They are not hosting or attending a charity event. There is an unrelated event taking place at their hotel with some big movie stars expected, but the first lady is not going, nor is she on any host committee." (40)
Lynn Sweet also reported: “I've seen reports that Mrs. Obama brought 40 friends on the trip. The East Wing has told me earlier in the week that is not true. On Saturday, the East Wing confirmed that Mrs. Obama is travelling with two female friends and four of their daughters.” Andalucia.com would confirm this from the group photographs published in local media. (40)
Friday 6th August 2010 - BEACH
Spanish police cleared off a stretch of beach for U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha to relax by the Mediterranean Friday after a busy day of sightseeing. Police used palm trees to mark off the boundaries of a 100-meter (100-yard) expanse for the American delegation. On either side, onlookers gawked. As the first lady rested inside a canvas hut by the shore, her 9-year-old daughter splashed around in the sea and a security guard swam with her.(34)
To visit Malaga and not get to know one of its beaches is a sin. For this reason the first lady, Michelle Obama and her daughter did not want to miss the opportunity to take the sun on the Malaga. The location was the beach club of the Hotel Villa Padierna in Costalita, en Estepona. (35)
The convoy of 13 cars which accompanied Michelle arrived at 12.40 at the beach although one could not see much. The beach called ´Club de Mar’ is part closed, an exceptional image for those that know the zone. There is a security cordon on both sides and it is not permitted to bathe in the zone of the beach and there is a maritime patrol by the Guardia Civil. All for security reasons given that Michelle Obama had not expressly requested a private beach. (35)
Hundreds of people, between neighbours and journalists were waiting since 09.00, some called out her name but it was not easy to see the lady given the various layers of curtains surrounding the sun beds. Michelle Obama, arrived with a head scarf and kept to the Lebanese style sun beds while Sasha played in the sea with her and a security agent. The photos of the family on a Malaga beach will, without doubt form a good part of the worldwide promotion of the Malaga coast called the Costa del Sol. (35)
(This source (35) included a video report, in Spanish which gives a good impression of the situation at the beach)
At four in the afternoon the party left the beach and after a rest in the hotel, Sasha Obama and her friends visited the Selwo wildlife park in Estepona. In the evening the party of 25 enjoyed a meal in ‘La Veranda’, restaurant of the Villa Padierna Hotel. (36)
Thursday 5th August 2010 - GRANADA
About 15.30 hrs Michelle Obama and Sasha arrived at the Plaza de Isabel La Católica in Granada. First stop was a famous ice cream parlour called 'Los Italianos' where Michelle chose three flavours of Chocolate and Sasha chose melon and raspberry. The first lady with her hair tied up in a bun and wearing a printed rose, orange and green printed dress with black belt then entered the Cathedral. They were particularly interested in the tomb of the catholic monarchs who conquered the region from the Moors in 1492 and financed Columbus’ expedition. Michelle Obama received a guidebook to the Cathedral from Manuel Reyes the head custodian. And an exhibition catalog entitled “300 years of Spanish presence in the USA”, Sasha received a collection of XV & XVI century music recorded in the Cathedral (33).
Next Michelle Obama and party spent an hour clapping hands to the sound of a 'Zambra' (a traditional flamenco rhythm performed at different stages of the gypsy wedding.) in 'la Cueva de la Rocío' a typical cave dwelling of the Sacramonte (gypsy quarter) of Granada. During the flamenco festival they sang and danced a 'soleá' (another traditional flamenco rhythm) and Sr. Curro Albaicín recited poems by Federico García Lorca. The Maya family gave a fan as a present to everybody and to Michelle a Spansh mantilla (a lace veil type head dress) which she promised to wear on a special occasion. The artists sang 'happy birthday' in Spanish and English for one of the friends of Sasha. Sr. Maya assured the first lady that she "clapped her hand very well because, like all coloured people, you have much style." he said they had been personally invited to the USA to perform. (29)
Missing out on Mirador de San Nicolas, (Visited and described by Bill Clinton as the best sunset in the world) perhaps the cadillac could not negotiate the narrow winding streets?
At 17.30 the group moved on to Parador de San Francisco, (a state run hotel) where they had a light meal of local fare such as ‘el remojón granadino’ (cod, oranges, boiled eggs, unions bound in olive oil and Jerez vinegar) and ‘quisquillas de Motril’ (small prawns from Motril) and a birthday cake for Sasha’s friend.
After the meal Michelle Obama posed for photographers in front of the Palacio de Carlos V, before beginning the evening tour of the Alhambra. Palace and Generalife gardens accompanied by the director María del Mar Villafranca who had prepared two different itineraries; one for the first lady and one for the children. (33)
In the Spanish, British and European press the private holiday is generally being reported favourably and the first lady has increased her popularity on all fronts. In the Spanish version of Andalucia.com editor Paz Rosada shares the view in her blog that the vist will increase both national and international tourism to the region of Andalucia. However in the USA press, bloggers, and internet news comments are far from supportive of the trip mainly citing the cost to the American taxpayer in difficult times. Andrea Tantaros has penned a scorching editorial for the New York Daily News (30) deeming First Lady Michelle Obama a "modern-day Marie Antoinette", a phrase which as been picked up by many of the papers. Read the comments to this CBS report for a flavour.(31)
Wednesday 4th August 2010 - ARRIVAL & MARBELLA
|US First Lady window shopping in Marbella|
The Obamas landed in Malaga for their holidays in Andalucia, Spain.
An U.S. Air Force 2 aircraft landed at Malaga Airport at about 10:30 where many heavy security measures were put in place. A 11 vehicle convoy drove them to the hotel (22)
At 18.30 they Michelle, Sasha and their close friends left the hotel for a stroll around the old town of Marbella. Mother and daughter enjoyed a little shopping selecting items and souvenirs from Spain including a shop specializing in costume jewellery. The street of the old town were closed as a security measure and they were surrounded by friends and bodyguards. At 20.00 they went to restaurant Buenaventura in the Plaza de la Iglesia to dine. (25)
MIchelle wore a bold fashion statement, a one-shoulder top by Jean Paul Gaultier a stack of bangles and oversized glasses.(32)
And in case they fancied the beach! The National Coast Authority (Demarcacion de la Costas) has authorized the closure of a 45 metre wide stretch of beach next to the Villapadierna beach club in Costalita, Estepona. “They have removed the stones below the waterline and improved the toilets” explained Carmen Ocaña the town hall’s councillor for beaches. The works included improve the access, adding some green zones. “We do not know if they want to come here or go to another beach, but we don’t want any last minute surprises. We have also cleaned nearby beaches and others in the areas in case they change their plans.“ (26)
It is rumoured that this secure beach has been mine swept. It is very unusual to close a beach in Spain, perhaps unprecedented, as the country prides itself on having all public and no private beaches.
It was reported that the only special request made to the hotel was that the beach club be closed during their stay. (27)
Tuesday 3rd August 2010
The huge billboard that gave a welcome to the Obama family was removed Monday evening. The billboard which was installed by two companies was removed at the request of the Marbella town hall. The huge billboard which read "Welcome Obama Family" and in smaller text "Thanks for choosing Marbella" was contracted by the publicity agencies Imagen Consulting and Compremosa Sur. According to the two companies, the billboard was removed at the request of the town hall. A company spokespersons told ABC that they were "obliged" to remove the billboard. (2)
Various commentaries in the local press have compared the visit of Michelle Obama as an opportunity for local politicians to "fatten" their CVs more than with a "phD in sociology from Harvard" (2)
State Department it removed a passage from its website about possible Spanish police racism after calls from Spanish media covering First Lady Michelle Obama's visit to Spain. The State Department deemed it no longer relevant as the incident happened 18 months ago and "since then there have been no other reports," according to the official in the consular affairs bureau who asked not to be named. The reference removed from the website said "racial prejudice could contribute to the arrests of African-Americans who travel to Spain," the official said. It referred to "the February 13, 2009 incident during which two US government workers, both African American, were interrogated by the police in Barcelona for no apparent motive." (4)
Marbella Mayor Angeles Munoz said the visit was a chance for the city to "highlight its lesser known aspects such as its heritage and cultural attractions. "We can boast of being a place where many are proud to spend their holidays or have their second homes," he told a news conference Tuesday, adding that the city would present Obama with a book on the history of Marbella. (5)
The mayor of the nearby city of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre, described Michelle Obama's stay as "very big news" for the region's tourist industry. (5)
Spanish PR firm Oak Power Communication estimates the visit will generate about 50,000 reports on radio and television and in newspapers around the world and provide publicity for the Andalucia region worth around 800 million euros (one billion dollars). "This is a unique opportunity to promote Marbella and all of Andalucia as a tourist destination," the head of the firm, Maria Asenjo, told the Europa Press news agency. (5)
Public Works Minister Jose Blanco said "the fact that the Obama family has chosen Spain for their holiday is a reason to feel proud, it is positive for Spain, and it also reflects that Spain plays a role in the world that is recognized." (5)
But Juan Luis Rascon, a socialist lawmaker from the Andalucian city of Cordoba, condemned the hype over the visit, saying on his personal webpage that Spaniards need to be "more natural and behave less like hicks." "Idolatry and servility do not sit well with a dignified democracy," he said. (5)
The First Lady is expected to enjoy the resort's three golf courses. Mrs Obama and Sasha are also expected in Granada on Friday to visit the Alhambra, the 14th-century fortress-palace. (8)
Workmen busy cleaning gardens outside the Marbella Mosque and other location on the Marbella Golden Mile.
Estepona town halls put up "Estepona" bill board at entrance to Los Flamingos where the villa Padierna is located.
The Mayor of Benahavis, Jose Antonio Mena, announced today that everything is ready for the arrival of the Obama family to the town. Since the town council first received a call more than two months ago announcing the visit of the First Lady of The United States, work has not stopped in the town. Remodeling, widening of roads, lighting and gardening so that the stay of the Presidential family in Hotel Padierna would be optimal and most comfortable for their break. (13)
The visit is not only a good opportunity to promote tourism in Marbella and its surroundings, it also brings with it political interest. Or at least tries to. For that reason, the President of the Partido Popular Andaluz (People's Party of Andalucia) did not hesitate to criticize the President of the Regional Government of Andalucia, Jose Antonio Grinan, who had not visited the city since taking office, despite it being one of the most important of the Autonomous Region. (14)
As a result, Angeles Munoz, Mayor of Marbella, called this morning a press-conference to report on 'the municipal initiatives that will be carried out by the Council for the journey of the First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama to the city'. The hotel where Michelle Obama will be residing is called 'Villa Padierna Marbella', but it is situated in the Municipal District of Benahavis. The Mayor of Benahavis district has not said a word, but the Mayor of Estepona, through who's Municipal District runs the hotel street, but not the dual-carriage way, fortunately did not waste time when he learned of the press call to his neighbour. Presto, had printed 40 banners of different sizes with a slogan claiming that without doubt it 'is Estepona. Costa del Sol. " Unless someone wants to keep what is not theirs the road is part of its jurisdiction and it is necessary that Mrs. Obama knows this. (14)
Monday 2nd August 2010
At the end of the holiday, it has been reported that they will be flying to Mallorca, after accepting an invitation to meet with the King Juan Carlos of Spain and Queen Sophia at their summer palace. (6)
Meanwhile, Marbella Mayor Angeles Muñoz said the First Lady "could have travelled anywhere in the world but chose Marbella." She added that the with the Obama visit the negative connotations of the city will finally disappear. (6)
Marbella Town Hall sets up press centre for visiting press. It has put on a press shuttle bus between the hotels and Marbella and Puerto Banus. It organizes press conferences about various non Obama related topics.
Large USAF Boeing C17 military transporter plane parked on cargo apron at Malaga Airport.(AGP)
Sunday 1st August 2010
It seems an unlikely holiday destination for a First Lady, but the Costa del Sol resort of Marbella will be the setting for Michelle Obama's summer break. More commonly associated with reality television stars and gangsters, Mrs Obama and her youngest daughter Sasha have booked 30 rooms at the Villa Padierna, one of Spain's most exclusive hotels, in the Andalusion resort. (11)
El consejero andaluz de Cultura, Paulino Plata, ha asegurado este martes haber contactado con el Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores de España y con la Embajada de Estados Unidos para ofrecer una visita a la Alhambra de Granada a la familia del presidente Obama, que descansará unos días en la Costa del Sol. Paulino Plata dijo haber hablado con el actor malagueño Antonio Banderas para que "anime" a esa visita a la esposa del presidente Obama ante la eventualidad de que ambos puedan coincidir en una gala benéfica que el actor promueve en la Costa del Sol en los mismos días de vacaciones de la familia del presidente estadounidense. (12)
Road to Villa Padierna resurfaced.
The Royal Family will offer to the First Lady on Sunday 8thAugust a lunch at the Marivent Palace of Palma Mallorca. According to Europa Press, Michelle Obama's daughter Sasha, is not expected to attend a meeting with President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero or the Asturian Princes. (15)
Sat 31st July 2010
Next week, Michelle Obama will visit Granada to see the city and its monuments, especially The Alhambra. It is clear that the American ambassador in Spain has indicated to the mayor, José Torres Hurtado, that Mrs. Obama is "likely" to accept the invitation to go to Granada, but above all, for an image that was shown yesterday in the center of the capital.
At 12:30am, a convoy of high-level cars, including Audis and a Chevrolet used by the FBI, headed along the Catholic Kings street towards the Plaza de Isabel la Católica, preceded by a municipal vehicle. The cars were placed behind the fountain of Columbus and they left a dozen people with the councillor of Institutional Relations, José María Guadalupe in front and set-off to City Hall. The picture said it all: members of the U.S. Secret Service in Granada. (19)
Friday 30th July 2010
Starlite Gala send out press release.
Starlight Gala send out Press release: A charity event that Eva Longoria could not miss, not only for her involvement in it, but to accompany and support her best friends Sandra Garcia San Juán and Maria Bravo, founder and driving force of the Starlite Gala "Enlightened by the light of the stars. " Antonio Banderas will co host the event with Eva Longoria. Deepak Chopra will receive Humanitarian Award.
Wednesday 28th July 2010
It has been very unfair to this city, "said Munoz, who insisted that the visit of Michelle Obama and one of her daughters will bring" personalities from the political arena together. Who, for so long have only spoken ill of Marbella can now see the other side of the coin, the reality we live every day." Thus, the mayor expressed his hope that the Socialist leaders,"from the President of the Government", Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, "and those below him, begin to speak well of Marbella". "we are probably going to see change occurs," he said. (16)
Tuesday 27th July 2010
After days of speculation, rumours and contradicting media reports, the White House office of Michelle Obama has confirmed, the First Lady will be visiting Spain with her youngest daughter Sasha. US President Obama will not be travelling to Spain. The communiqué also confirmed an official visit to the King and Queen of Spain. (3)
"The first lady will travel to Spain next week for a private, mother-daughter trip with longtime family friends. President Obama will not be joining this trip. While in Spain, Mrs. Obama will pay an official visit to Their Majesties King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain at their invitation. All activities are closed press." (3)
The Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has said that he hopes that President Obama can accompany his wife and daughters Malia 12, and Sasha 9, who have now been confirmed to be staying at the Villa Padierna hotel in Marbella between August 4 and 8. (10)
Speaking on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, said that there was no 'official confirmation' of what is a 'private visit'. (10)
The owner of the Villa Padierna Hotel, Ricardo Arranz, has meanwhile admitted that Michelle's visit is a gift and added it was 'an enormous responsibility' for businessmen and workers on the Costa del Sol. (10)
Monday 26th July 2010
The White House said that the Obamas will be traveling with friends next week and will pay a visit to King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia, but that all other details are secret. Neither oldest daughter Malia, 10, who's planning to attend summer camp, or Mrs. Obama's mother are traveling to Spain. (20)
While the White House isn't talking, the Spanish media have the Obamas traveling to the country's most fashionable resort town for part or all of their stay: Marbella. And they aren't expected to stay at any old hotel, the Spanish press is speculating. The Obamas are expected to stay at the flamingo pink Hotel Villa Padierna, a Ritz-Carlton property some call the best hotel in Spain. (20)
The Spanish press says a number of rooms have been reserved for the Obamas, though the Ritz spokeswoman wasn't available to discuss the stay. From August 4-8, the hotel has just a few rooms left for $2,859 a night, but that includes a breakfast buffet. After that, a room could be had for as low as $336 a night. Unlike a lot of five-star hotels, the Hotel Villa Padierna caters to children like the Obamas. (20)
The White House announced Monday that the first lady will travel next week to Spain for a "mother-daughter trip with longtime family friends." Only Sasha, 9, will make the trip. No further details were released, although Spanish press reports say the trip is scheduled for Aug. 4-8 at the Villa Padierna in Marbella. Although the visit is considered a private holiday, the first lady will meet with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. (7)
Arranz said that this prívate visit would be a 'gift' and an 'enormous responsibility' for the businesses and employees of the Costa del Sol. 'They are one of the most important families in the world and would be a huge support for the Costa del Sol. (21)
Sunday 25th July 2010
According to sources consulted by newspaper 'SUR', the president's wife, Michelle, will come first with her daughters and a group of friends, and Obama will join later during at least two days. (17)
18) Starlite Press release
28) Marbella Town Hall press release