Photo courtesy of Gran Hotel Bahía del Duque.
If it was true that location is everything - which it's not, or we'd all aspire to live in beach huts - then Gran Hotel Bahía del Duque resort would be the best hotel in Tenerife. As some things are more important than location, it will forever stand as first runner-up in the shocking pink shadow of Abama, my 5-star home-from-home (eight stays and still stalking) just 15 minutes up the highway.
But WHAT a location! Set on the sweetest beach in Tenerife - Playa del Duque - the entire strip is public, and thus the air of vacuum-sealed cabin-fever which can sometimes smother one with luxury in even the most gorgeous of gated resorts doesn't kick in. However, most of the disparate cafes, bars and restaurants which line it are owned by the resort; you sign for everything, leaving a paper trail of pleasure behind you, and giving the usual beachside bar-crawl a lush twist.
Just a hop, skip and a jump - or rather, this being Tenerife, a stagger, a stumble and a tumble - away from the beach is the Plaza del Duque, an extraordinary mall shaped like a double-decker Trivial Pursuit board where all lanes lead to the Mogu Lounge, with waiters so camp it makes G.A.Y look like the C.I.A and Long Island Iced Teas to make your eyes water. Escada and Cartier strut their stuff here with the Hiperdino supermarket - a reflection of the chavvery both rich and poor which makes Tenerife so vital and attractive to anyone who's not some sort of fun-hating, self-catering, cheese-paring sad-sack.
If you DO wish to stay behind the white wooden gates which open out directly onto the centre of the Playa del Duque esplanade, there's more than enough ways to while away a week in a place whose surreal beauty will leave you feeling as favoured and un-humdrum as the black swans who patrol the resort's waterways.
With eight restaurants, three bars and a multitude of lagoon-shaped, waterfall-and fountain-drenched swimming pools, you won't go hungry, thirsty or over-heated here; when we were there in March, every day was sub-tropically sweltering and reminded us that you're just off the north-west coast of Africa, NOT in Europe, when you're in the Canaries, and need to adjust your parasol accordingly.
Photo courtesy of Hotel Bahía del Duque
Everything from an achingly cool ESPA spa to the giant chess board soothes the eye and the soul, this probably assisted by the fact that another way, location aside, in which it DOES score over Abama - and indeed every other hotel I've been to - is the extremely free hand with the champagne at the breakfast buffet. You know the way it usually is - a dodgy bottle of fizz, two thirds empty, lurks sullenly in a clanky old ice bucket next to the juice jugs, and everyone waits for everyone else to swinishly grab it first, thus revealing themselves an a helpless sot. Here, the corks were kept a-popping by the charming waiting staff from 7.30 till 10.30, and copious glasses of both pink and white fizz laid out on silver trays to be quaffed freely.
Walking tipsily down to the beach in the morning, followed by a pair of peacocks, as the mission bell tolled the half hour, and operetta burst from random speakers, I recalled the place this fantastic creation most reminded me of. Portmeirion, in Wales, is the Italianate village made from unwanted buildings and opened in 1926 by the architectural genius Clough Williams Ellis. It is full of pinks and turquoises, Madonnas and Napoleons, neo-classical colonnades and Ionic columns, Siamese statues and Jacobean town halls...and Gran Hotel Bahía del Duque is just like it, writ large.
AND in a sweltering sub-Saharan temperature rather than a wet weekend in Wales. Call me shallow, but everything looks better in the sunshine...