Friday, 30 March 2007

Okefenokee and Marriotts Marbella

As a kid I had read about alligators in the Okefenokee swamps in south Georgia in a National Geographic magazine so imagine my surprise when a very pleasant Okefenokee dweller, Pauline, wrote to me last year to ask how to get to Marriotts Marbella on the Costa del Sol from Malaga Airport. I mean do you correspond with anyone from Okefenokee?

Anyway I only give advice on what I know about so I tooled out on my motorbike one Sunday morning to find out exactly where Marriotts Marbella was. OK it’s true that on April 7th of this year I will have lived in this part of the world for 27 years, but I don’t know everything about the Costa del Sol.

Now and again I am asked for information on getting to Marriotts so I took the opportunity of taking a few photos of the area and put together a page with suggestions on how to get to the popular time share resort Marriotts Marbella. I hope you find it useful. If you were wondering why I have shown you a picture of a bus stop, this is where you have to get off for Marriots.

Pauline, thank you again for writing in from Okefenokee. I have dedicated this page to you. Watch out for those pesky alligators now.

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Thursday, 22 March 2007

This is Tarifa

I am never sure at what point exactly I fall under the spell of Tarifa. I think it happens somewhere between the last roundabout behind Algeciras before the winding climb through the straits and just before I catch my first glimpse of the long white sandy beach stretching away from the walled frontier town to the foot of the giant dunes on Punto Paloma in the distance.

It could be that I am revitalized by the energy radiated from the humming generators nesting high above the road on wind turbines. First there were only six and now there are hundreds of the giants lining the hills and blown ceaselessly by the levante and poniente winds sweeping this most southern point of Europe.

We make for Hotel Restaurante La Torre where we have often stayed before. They have a special offer this weekend, dinner bed and breakfast for € 45 per person. It is a 100 year old house which has been extended and decorated in warm earthy colours. After our welcome we unpack and make straight for Punto Paloma.

Kite surfers slide across the cold clean foam flecked Atlantic waters with their sails soaring high above them. The butterfly coloured sails of board surfers flick backwards and forwards across the bay. On the beach elite wet suited athletes chat or lie entwined in the heat of the late afternoon Saturday sun. This is Tarifa.

At 9pm we are first down for dinner. The dining room is almost deserted. Our waiter explains apologetically "Real Madrid is playing Barcelona this evening". I catch the replays of the six goals by craning my head back to see a screen in the lounge. The meat roasted in a wood oven is delicious. Two good looking young men photograph each other and then examine the pictures approvingly. The wine is excellent and our room is comfortingly close above the dining room.

We go down to Sunday breakfast at ten. We have toasted rolls with olive oil and brushed with newly cut tomato. Fresh orange is followed by cups of coffee. Our waitress, different to the local girls is a Madrileña, a curly haired young woman with exotic features.

Checking out we make for the Hurricane a few hundred metres along the beach. The colonial style hotel is set amongst tall trees and tropical gardens. It is a beautiful morning and we pick an outdoor table overlooking the sea on the beach restaurant terrace.This becomes our base for the day.

Between excursions to the beach we have a salad and paella lunch piled high on our plates. We queue for large glasses of hot tea. No one is in a hurry, this is Tarifa. You will get your food and drink. At some point the magic of the clean Atlantic waters, the white sands and surrounding hills will wash over you.

On the way home we drive slowly, it has been a perfect weekend. As we climb back over the straits the whisking sails fade into the distance behind us. The enormous blades of the windmills are still turning. Across the straits we can see the flat roofed houses on the African shores. The peace of Tarifa stays with us long after we enter the sprawl of the Costa del Sol.

PS: You can now do online bus ticket reservations from the Costa del Sol to Cadiz using the gomarbella reservation system.

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Sunday, 11 March 2007

Madrid Bombings March 2004

The King and Queen of Spain today inaugurated this monument in front of the Atocha railway station in Madrid, to mark the third anniversary of the 11th March 2004 Islamic terrorist attacks on the regional trains in the capital. 192 victims lost their lives and nearly 2000 others were injured in the 10 bombings on different trains in the vicinity.

Situated at the confluence of the Paseo de la Infanta Isabel, Avenida de la Ciudad de Barcelona and Calle Alfonso XII, the monument stands 11 metres high and is made of glass pieces which required special treatment to withstand the changes of temperature in the capital.

A transparent membrane suspended across the interior reflects different messages of condolences written in different languages, selected from amongst the thousands of tributes received after the bombings. Depending on the position of the sun during the day and at different times of the year, rays of sunlight project and show a different message on the membrane.

During that terrible day three years ago and for the week following I was too intent on following the tragedy on the national television and in the papers to notice that the statistics on visits to the webcam page from all over the world had soared off the scale. Belatedly I apologize to readers for not updating the page during that week and thank them for their concern for the victims and families of Spain’s worst terrorist attack ever.

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Thursday, 8 March 2007

US tanks heard on Costa del Sol

OK so the APC is not actually in Spain but I did take the picture myself in Fallbrook, San Diego in California last September. I am fascinated by anything military and just had to (digitally) capture the rumbling armoured personnel carrier.

Fallbrook is in the canyons of what the locals call Avocado County above the massive Camp Pendleton marine base. Flares at night and the day long thudding of the enormous troop carrying choppers mark the rhythm of marine training programmes. The more activity you hear in the canyons, the closer we are to increased US military intervention somewhere else in the world.

The closest I’ve been to a US war machine in action was in Marbella on the very last night of the first Gulf war. The enormous B52 bomber appeared to be flying low out to sea. It was gigantic, so impressively large and loud that even the family dog looked up at the silhouette thundering above us and blacking out the stars of the midnight sky.

If you draw a flight path from the US military base in Rota on the Bay of Cadiz towards Iraq, it passes over the Costa del Sol and then south of the Spanish Balearic Islands where the US bombers would pick up Spanish fighter escorts as far as the Gulf.

When the US war machines start to rumble more loudly than usual in the canyons of Fallbrook, it’s generally bad news for someone else somewhere else in the world. Spain is no exception. The Madrid train bombings on 11 March 2004, just three days before the last national elections caused the immediate overthrow of the Partido Popular government.

The Spanish electorate thought at the time that the bombings were punishment for the government’s unequivocal support for the USA in the second Gulf war. What the voters couldn’t know when they voted was that Osama Bin Laden had actually given instructions to the Moroccan Al Qaeda terrorists to reclaim Andalucía for Islam, three years before.

It is true that any water irrigation channel on the dry slopes of the south is probably a relic of the Moor’s occupation of the Iberian Peninsula 600 years ago and it is also often said that the southerners are so friendly because they have been invaded so often! Andalucía is a really fantastic place to visit, learn Spanish, absorb the culture, live and work or build your dream castle, but remember you are doing it on a historic battleground.

While the ownership of Andalucía remains in dispute, maybe it is comforting that we can still hear an occasional familiar deep rumble reaching our shores.

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Thursday, 1 March 2007

Hen Party in Puerto Banus

It’s great to be a web master on gomarbella, getting to meet interesting people online and sometimes being able to help with their travels and adventures on the Costa del Sol.

In the photo you are looking at a hen party in full swing in Puerto Banus last month. From left to right meet Sheena Patel, Sonal Patel, Leena Patel (bottom left), Rakhee Somani & Rav Sura

When methodical organizer Sheena contacted Gomarbella for some travel suggestions I never thought we would end up with a great online testimonial.

"Thanks for all your help and advice Mike. You saved me the time and effort and made things a lot easier for our short stay in Marbella. We had a fantastic time, even in the rain. We used your advice to take a taxi to Puerto Banus from our Hotel and it only cost just over 5 euros, we could have walked as it wasn't far but didn't want our hair wet! The drinks, food and people were great. We are definitely planning on coming back when it’s warmer and the sun’s out. Again thank you very much."

Sheena and her group came out to Puerto Banus at the beginning of February, it was a wet weekend but they had lots of fun. She then went on to organize another Hen party in London for those who couldn’t make it out to Spain and right now will be organizing her sister´s wedding for April. With Sheena in charge it is going to be a big success.

It all started when Sheena wrote to Gomarbella: "I have arranged a Hen weekend for my sister on the weekend of Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th Feb. We are landing at Malaga airport and our hotel is the H10 Andalucia Plaza Hotel in Nueva Andalucia near Puerto Banus. Would you please advise me on the best way to get to the hotel. There are 7 of us in total. I have had a look at taxis to Marbella but the cost was around € 90 per taxi. We are landing at Malaga airport at 11.10am. I also found the direct airport bus to Marbella but wanted to know how far the hotel is from there and how we get there. Also how long it will take on the bus? I would appreciate it if you could get back to me."

I wrote back to Sheena: "I would recommend going in the special Malaga Airport to Marbella Bus Station shuttle bus. The cost for each person would be about €3.91 It takes exactly 45 minutes.

Then from the Marbella bus station you can cheerfully go by taxi to the Hotel Andalucia Plaza it is a short taxi ride, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the traffic and should be around €12 per taxi, you will need two taxis. With all the money you will have saved by using the excellent bus service, you can arrive at the hotel in comfort and style and you won't even notice the cost.

Check out this page for the Malaga Airport to Marbella bus timings, you should use the third column from the left and if your plane arrives on time your bus will be the 12 midday bus to Marbella.

Andalucía Plaza is a great base for your Hen weekend. There is an underpass from the hotel to the other side of the very busy CN 340 road. Use that if you feel like a walk in the early evening to Puerto Banus but get a taxi back."

Sheena wrote back: "Thanks for your help Mike, it will really save us the bother and time of searching how to get to the hotel when we get there. Just another little question, are there many people about in bars and clubs this time of year? Also is it really expensive there? Oh and what’s the weather like? Thanks a lot for your help, I will send you a couple of pics when we're back"

I wrote to Sheena: "Right now the weather is cold 12º - 15º but it has been warm all this winter so far so I am sure it will warm up for your visit.

Cost wise, drinks can be expensive in Puerto Banus, but still cheaper than the UK and you get double the quantity! The trick is to find a cheap bar in the port, top up there and then move on to the glittering places like the discos and nightclubs. Earlier on in the evening you can have a good pizza in Cristian’s in the port, very reasonable and elegantly served and then move on. My daughter Tarryn is visiting from London right now and she is a veteran of Puerto Banus. I’ll ask her for some suggestions."

Tarryn wrote to Sheena: "Hi Sheena, February is still quite a quiet time in Puerto Banus so generally people who are going out, head for the bars that are full of people. As my friend who's out a lot there, said "You can’t really go wrong at all because there are lots of bars to go to".

Here are a couple of names of bars to ask for when you are over; Terra Blues, second line back from the boats is a pretty chilled bar and not too posh really. Havana towards the far end of the port from where you will come in has music and dancing. Seven, second line again right down the end of the port if you start at Sinatras side. Scantily clad girls dancing but quite glam. Artusa is a good Italian restaurant for dinner and so is Picasso, (cheaper and good for a group)

Good idea to go along during the day for a walkabout and you will see the bars. You have to have a good look as a lot of the good bars are on what we call the second line. Plenty of guys outside handing out tickets to have drinks to get you into their bars.

Puerto Banus if you have been there before is pretty glam and everything still starts pretty late so dinner at 9 or 10pm is a good time to start then do the bars after that and night clubs last. Don’t expect too much to happen before 10pm

Night clubs to go to are Olivia Valere and Dreamers which are out of the port, but you will need a taxi there. Still all pretty quiet here in Feb but I'm sure you guys will make the party! Have fun! Tarryn"

Gomarbella wishes the bridal couple a long and happy life together!

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