Sunday, July 22, 2018
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Shuttle and Courtesy Bus Pick Up Point at Málaga Airport

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Shuttle and Courtesy Shuttle Bus Pick Up Point at Malaga Aiport
Shuttle and Courtesy Shuttle Bus Pick Up Point at Malaga Aiport

This is the tunnel in Malaga airport where the rental car and off-site long term parking companies pick up their incoming clients in their courtesy shuttle buses.  To find your shuttle bus, when you walk into Arrivals  turn right out of the building and then right again. if you have to phone the company then this is the best moment to do it. Otherwise you could phone and then find yourself waiting for your luggage.

You’ll see a long row of taxis waiting to your left. Keep walking along the pavement. It’ll be noisy with suitcases and trolleys rattling everywhere. You’ll walk past the dark tinted luxury VIP transfer vehicles and almost at the end of the tunnel you’ll see the Shuttle-Bus and Courtesy bus stop. Keep a sharp look out for your bus and then wave to your driver. In minutes your cases will be in the back of the the shuttle bus and you’ll be off to collect your car.

Believe it or not I took this picture at 20 past midnight early in July a few days ago. The airport was heaving. By the way I always use Parking Sur for my long term parking.

 

Via de la Plata from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela

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You find me on a wet and windy street in Santiago de Compostela last month, September 2015 with my wife Angela and elder daughter Shayne. Shayne and I had just finished the Via de la Plata, a 1000km walk and ride pilgrims’ route from Sevilla to Santiago. We started it together back in May 2011 so it’s taken us four years and a lot of planning and coordination to get  us there. I can now say I know the east side of Spain really wel!  It was a fantastic father and daughter experience. Really memorable can really recommend it.

Most pilgrims do the Camino Francés, made famous in the film ‘The Way.’ That’s just over 900kms across the top of Spain, starting in Saint Jean Pied de Port just over the Pyrenees in France and finishing in Santiago de Compostela. I’ve done that as well.

It might seem strange but from experience I’ve found that sometimes the hardest part of a trek is getting to the start line and that’s why I’m always pleased to help Gomarbella pilgrims to get from Pamplona bus station in Spain to Saint Jean Pied de Port to start their Camino.  Come on, what are you waiting for? You’ll find expert travel advice right here on these pages.

For any online bus reservations on the major routes in Portugal, Spain and France, check in on the Gomarbella online bus reservations page.

 

 

Recommended Real Estate Agents in Marbella

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It looks like property sales are making a come back to the Costa del Sol. This is great news for Marbella and all the small businesses that feed off this industry; real estate agents (of course) interior designers, curtain makers, cleaners, restaurants… the list goes on!

When property starts to sell in Marbella hundreds of small real estate agencies start up. Many of these will be experienced agents but of course there are also plenty of opportunists too – so the question is “Who to Trust?”

Having lived on the Costa del Sol for over 20 years I have a number of friends who I would be happy to recommend as real estate agents to trust who will listen to your needs and help you buy the right property at the right price.

Give them a call, have a chat, discuss your needs and let me know what you think!.

 

Tela Bella – a wonderful fabric shop in Estepona

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Unlike the UK where fabric shops seem to be everywhere, here in Spain, away from the big cities of Barcelona and Madrid, it can often be hard to find a place to simply go and buy material. Such has been the case on the Costa del Sol – Malaga has some good fabric stores but if you live further down the coast then it getting there can be a bit of a hike. A welcome addition then was the recent opening of Tela Bella in Estepona. They have a great space, close to the industrial estate with easy parking and stock some wonderful fabrics with a ton more available on short order. They also stock dress material and carry a great range of party decoration fabrics. In addition they can make up your curtains for you along with any other soft furnishings you need. If you’re not sure about measuring and fitting, they can do that for you too and they even offer an upholstery service.

As a lot of the fabrics that TelaBella stock come from the UK, the designs and styles are different from what you’ll find elsewhere in Spain so naturally appeal to the expat community – they also speak English and French in addition to Spanish so the lingo isn’t a problem when explaining about that tricky window you’ve got on the stairs!

Open every day from 09.30 – 14.30 and 16.30 – 19.30 and Saturdays from 10.00 – 14.00, they are friendly yet professional and can offer some great advice.

Toll Roads on the Algarve in Portugal

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We visit the Algarve from the Costa del Sol at least twice a year. It’s an easy drive. From Marbella on the AP7 toll road down to Los Barrios just before Algeciras and then inland to Sevilla. On maximum alert as we skirt Sevilla to the south, climbing the big suspension bridge over the Guadalquivir river before swinging west towards Huelva then Portugal.

Leaving Spain in the morning, we have the sun behind us and gain an hour entering Portugal. Leaving the Algarve in the afternoon and driving east towards Seville, we have the setting sun behind us. Our journey gains urgency as we cross the River Guadiano and lose an hour from our day. Approaching Seville in the late afternoon we can expect three full lanes of traffic heading in the same direction for some kilometres outside the city.

Two kilometres after the bridge over the River Guadiana along the A22 / IC highway, signs invite foreign motorists to pull off the road into a drive though area to register for the automatic registration plate recognition toll road charging system.

Our visit in mid August coincided with Spain’s Virgen del Carmen long weekend and well trained teams of smiling Portuguese helpers were positioned ready to explain the system.

Have your credit card ready to insert into the roadside machine. As your card is checked, so your front registration plate is being read by a camera  on an overhead gantry, associating your car registration number with your credit card. The machine will
print you off a ticket with all details recorded on it. This is valid for a month.

Not all of the A 22 toll highway is charged however, and as you approach the metered sections of the road, you’ll see the cameras on overhead gantries and the charges for the upcoming section will be displayed.  The automatic toll charging system means you can move easily from one side of the Algarve to the other, avoiding the overcrowded N125 old coast road which runs parallel to the A22 / IC toll road. It’s overcrowded because the local Portuguese residents refuse to use the toll road and show their opposition to the scheme by simply avoiding any tolls.

If you prefer not to use the A22 toll road for your stay on the Algarve, simply drive past the toll registering area and take the first exit down to Villa Rea do Sto Antonio. You’ll join the N125 coastal road which is not metered. Most of your driving will be on the lower N125 road which joins the coastal resorts. Driving standards in Portugal are generally good.

If you are driving on up to Lisbon or Oporto along the  magificently empty IC 1 toll highway, then make very sure you pick up a ticket from an automatic ticket dispensing machine. You will be charged at your exit point. This system is separate to the Algarve toll roads. If you don’t collect a ticket on entry, you will be charged the full north to south transit cost, nearly €50, even if your journey on the IC 1 was much shorter.

Elsewhere in Portugal, the overhead camera gantries will continue to charge your credit card automatically as you enter and leave the metered areas. The system works well and you can feel comfortable about contributing to Portugal’s economic recovery. Please don’t repeat me on that to any of locals though.

Tap into my forty years of giving advice and travelling on the Iberian Peninsular by visiting the Gomarbella Travel Page.

Faro to Fuengirola by bus

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Terry wrote to me on Facebook: “Hello there, I’m in Portugal from 13th till 20th July and I’m just wondering how do I get to from Faro on the Algarve in Portugal to Estepona on the  Costa del Sol in the south of Spain, thank you.”

I wrote back: “Hi Terry, thanks for writing in. It’s very easy actually. You take the midnight bus out of Faro which travels through Sevilla, stopping in the early hours of the morning in Sevilla before taking the inland route to Malaga, stopping at Malaga bus station and then travelling down Costa del Sol through Torremolinos and stopping in Fuengirola which is the end of the route. Book your ticket from Faro to Fuengirola on the Gomarbella online bus ticket reservations and booking page here. 

Have a welcome early morning cup of coffee at Fuengirola bus station and then jump onto the next local bus along the coast to Estepona, it’ll call in at Marbella bus station and then travel on to Estepona, total time about 90 minutes.

When you book the whole trip online using the Gomarbella online bus reservations link  you’ll see the exact timetable and the fare for the journey. Select INTERNATIONAL then put in Portugal and Spain for the countries of Origin and Destination. Then enter Faro and Fuengirola as your towns. Select the date. Remember leaving after midnight actually means at 01.45 in the morning on the next day so be careful with your dates!

I hope this sounds OK to you Terry, I love the Algarve and go there at least twice a year. We stay about 17 kms inland from Faro. Best wishes from Marbella,  Mike.”

La Cala bus stops

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John wrote in this week to me:
“Hi mike i have read your information on here with interest over the years and found it of great value, i have never, and don’t know how to contact you other than with a comment. my question, how to get to cala azul apartments {which bus stop}in la cala de mijas. i can get there after reading your info.  regards john…”

I wrote back: “Hello John, thank you very much for following my posts on Gomarbella, I appreciate it very much. I’ll email this reply and some photos to you also and please feel free to contact me anytime. I do like receiving questions through the blog though because my replies then become available to everyone. I’ll also dedicate this blog to you!

By chance this afternoon my wife and I picked up a friend from just behind Cala Azul apartments. When we dropped her back in the late afternoon, I took some photos of the La Cala bus stops.

La Cala bus stops between Marbella and Fuengirola opposite the BP service station
La Cala bus stops

Travelling by bus from Fuengirola, stay on the bus while it loops through La Cala de Mijas town and then when it starts to climb up the ramp from the roundabout to rejoin the main A7 road heading towards Marbella, start to get your belongings together.

The bus will swing back onto the road, pass under a pedestrian footbridge and then your bus stop is about 400 metres ahead. Ring the stop request bell as soon as you see Lidl supermarket up on your right and the green BP service station which you see in the photo on the other side of the road.  The bus will hardly have gathered speed before it stops at the La Cala bus stop.

In the photo above you’ll see the bus stop shelter nearest the Cala Azul apartments on the near side of the road and the other La Cala bus stop next to the BP service station on the other side of the road.

Cala Azul Apartmentsm in La Cala de Mijas Costa
Cala Azul Apartments La Cala de Mijas Costa

From where I was standing I turned around and took a picture of the Cala Azul apartments just behind me so you can see how close they are to the road.

In the photo below you’ll see Lidl supermarket on the left and in the distance looking back towards La Cala you’ll see  the pedestrian road bridge that everyone uses to get from La Cala de Mijas town to the Saturday morning market just beyond the Lidl supermarket.

Lidl supermarket right next to La Cala bus stop in Mijas Costa
Lidl supermarket right next to La Cala bus stop
Lidl supermarket right next to La Cala bus stop

Follow the link to see the list of bus stops between Fuengirola and Marbella and you’ll see that the La Cala bus stop is the first stop after leaving La Cala de Mijas heading towards Marbella and the last stop before the bus goes into La Cala de Mijas on its way to Fuengirola.

Looking towards the Torrenueva bus stops and footbridge in La Cala de Mijas
Looking towards the Torrenueva bus stops and footbridge
Looking towards the Torrenueva bus stops and footbridge

This last photo taken in the warm fading afternoon sunlight (mid December!) shows the footbridge over the A7 next to the Torrenueva bus stops.  I hope this helps you John, thank you very much for writing in. Best wishes Mike.

Posada de Roncesvalles Review

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If you’ve been walking for eight hours in the rain and cold up to Roncesvalles from Sant Jean Pied de Port it’ll feel like heaven as you shed your backpacks and poles at the entrance to Posada de Roncesvalles. When you walk into the crowded bar and feel the warmth of the log fire, smell the hot coffee or see Pilar behind the bar pulling pints of beer, serving sandwiches or opening bottles of tinto, you’ll know it’s been worth it. Push forward to the bar and make yourself known. You’ll be cosy and warm until you’re back on the Camino de Santiago the next morning.

If you left Madrid after lunch on your way to France by car and are breaking your journey on the Spanish side of the border, you might just arrive in the early evening as a horde of pilgrims descend from the albergue just above Posada de Roncesvalles for the first dinner sitting. You’ll be wanting your room key but you’ll have to wait as the pilgrim queue up at the bar clutching their €10 to pay for their three course meal with wine. You won’t want to put your suitcase down on the dripping wet flagstone entrance amongst rucksacks, capes and hiking poles. No matter that you parked minutes before the the bus from Pamplona to Roncesvalle arrived just in time for the first dinner sitting, you’ll have to wait, it’s the pilgrim who is king in the Posada.

I stayed at the Posada on my way down to Sant Jean Pied de Port to join my brother who had flown out from the UK. We were going to cycle the Camino de Santiago. To get my bike up from the south of Spain I needed a place to meet up with my bike which I had sent with a transport company. When I phoned and spoke to Pilar the hardworking manageress who together with her busband run the Posada,  to ask if I could have my bike delivered there, she was charm itself. Transporting a bike in Spain is not easy and it took a weight off my shoulders

The address I gave the transport company and for Posada de Roncevalles is Calle Única, which translates as ‘Only Street.’ Until I got to Roncesvalles I couldn’t see how could be but there is in fact only one street, the main road through Roncesvalle. Pilgrims cross the road just in front of the hostal to begin their Camino to Santiago de Compostela, 790 kms away.

After my hour’s journey up from Pamplona bus station, Pilar greeted me to say my bike was safely in the shed outside. What a relief! My room was fine, warm and comfortable and overlooked the very start of the Camino. I had a drink in the bar after a good dinner, logged into the free wi fi and established communications with my family. Things were starting to fall into place. From my bedroom window the next morning I watched as the earliest walkers and cyclists set off in the mists on their first stage in Spain. Some had arrived with me on the bus from Pamplona the evening before, others had come up from Sant Jean Pied  de Port the day before.

A very sociable Dutch girl asked me to sit with her at the breakfast table. She was setting off later that morning. We swapped life stories and wished each ‘Buen Camino.’ The cameraderie of the Camino breaks down the normal reserve of most travellers. Pilar had arranged a lift for me down to Sant Jean. It was only as I retrieved my bike from the cellar that I realised I could have ridden down. My taxi driver had to do a school run first so I had time to look around Roncesvalles. There’s not a lot to see but the setting is beautiful, very green, open fields with cows grazing and peaceful.

If you look at the top of the map, the first building you’ll see as you trudge or free wheel down the hill is the Roncesvalle albergue. There’s no short cut so stay on the road until you’ve rounded the sharp bend and you’ll see Hostal Rural Casa Sabina on your left which also serves evening meals. Turn left for the albergue making your way towards the arch between the Colegiata de Santa Marta de Roncevalles and the Hotel Roncesvalles. If you’re lucky enough to be booked in for your first night at Posada de Roncesvalles, carry on down the road, it’s the second last building with a red room at the bottom of the map and that’s Roncesvalles for you!

Here are the address and contact details for Posada de Roncesvalles:

POSADA DE RONCESVALLES
Calle Única
Roncesvalles-Orreaga (Navarra)

Tel. 0034948760225

My advice is to email first for a reservation and if you don’t hear back in a day or so, then phone, especially if you are reserving in in the busy Camino de Santiago months.

Pamplona Bus Station

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Pilgrims waiting for Saint Jean Pied de Port bus at Pamplona bus station
Pilgrims waiting for Saint Jean Pied de Port bus at Pamplona bus station

 I got off the No 21 bus from the Pamplona train station outside a low modern glass building on the edge of an enormous public green lawned area. Could this be Pamplona bus station? It was a vital staging point in my 1000km bike journey from  San Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. 

Pamplona Bus Station
Pamplona Bus Station

Pamplona Bus StationI had started in Marbella in the south of Spain at 6am that morning, travelling by car to Malaga train station, by AVE train to Atocha train station in Madrid, then by train to Pamplona train station and finally by bus to Pamplona bus station. My next stop was the Posada de Roncesvalles in Navarra. My bus would leave four hours later. I needed to offload my hand luggage and bike panniers.

All the left luggage lockers at Pamplona bus station will be full during the week of  San Fermines, Pamplona’s internationally famous running of the bulls fiesta but at the end of May  I had my pick of lockers. The left luggage facility ranged from tall slim lockers to large capacious lockers capable of storing up to three large rucksacks.  I checked I had everything I needed for my afternoon’s exploring. Take note, if you need to open the locker again to get your sunglasses out, you’ll have to pay again.     

Left luggage lockers Pamplona Bus Station
Left luggage lockers Pamplona Bus Station


According to the Artiada bus company timetable my bus from Pamplona Roncesvalles would leave from platform 21 at 19.10. The Pamplona bus station has everything that a 
Camino Frances pilgrim or fearless San Fermin bull runner could need. The internet centre has a large circular table in the middle, ideal for opening out maps. A tourism information touch screen computer gives information about accommodation and Pamplona’s amenities. There are mobile phone charging points, phones, change machines and restaurants and even lifts to the ground floor for heavily laden travellers. It’s only one block away from the main Camino Frances route through Pamplona and well worth stopping off here for any communication or maintenance checks.

I made the most of my short time in Pamplona. Armed with a free street plan from the bus station I walked the 825m length of the running of the bulls route. 
For so many years during the second week of July I’ve watched the festivities on the national Spanish TV channels, now I was on the street itself. It wasn’t hard to recreate the noise of the thundering hooves and the shouts of the white clad runners chasing or leading the six bulls.

Camino Francés Pilgrims in Pamplona
Camino Francés Pilgrims in Pamplona

Along the bull run I asked a group of pilgrims to pose for me on a street corner in Pamplona old town. Only three days into the Camino Frances from San Jean Pied de Port they were in good spirits. Five days later my brother and I overtook the big chap in the blue anorak on the left later  nearing Fromista later walking strongly. I cycled next to him for a hundred metres and clocked his speed at a steady 7.1km/h. He had done no special training at home Germany other than run 5kms every day. He overtook us again as we carried our bikes and panniers through thick mud.

I was glad to sit down in a Basque restaurant for delicious chicken wings, chips and salad with a newspaper and a couple of cold beers before continuing my explorations. The ancient walled city of Ciudadela just behind the bus station across the green lawns is definitely worth a visit. It took me 30 minutes to walk around it and I was just strolling back to the bus station when off to my left I spotted an enormous El Corté Inglés department store. I needed a pair of rain trousers. I had given mine to a friend in Argentina on my way back from a trekking expedition in Patagonia and hadn’t been able to find another pair.This was my last chance! I sprinted to the shop and ran up the escalator to the sports department. They had exactly what I needed and I would wear them for the next nine days.

Bus to Roncesvalles from Pamplona
Bus to Roncesvalles from Pamplona

Back at Pamplona bus station I watched the other travellers to Roncesvalles assembling at Platform 21. A group of Spanish cycling pilgrims were invited forward by the driver to put their bikes into the underfloor luggage compartment of the bus first. One by one the pilgrims stowed their packs before climbing aboard. My bike pannier bags went in as well. If everything had gone to plan, my bike would be waiting for me in Roncesvalles. The Autocaresartieda bus pulled out of the bus station turning right towards France. I was getting nearer to the beginning of my journey.

Villacana Club Resort Bus Stops

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Jacquie Latimer wrote to me on the Gomarbella Facebook page: Mike, loved your website! I have some questions regarding the bus system. My friend and I are coming to the Villacana resort in Estepona in November for a week. We’re planning to use the local bus system and I saw on your site that there is a bus stop right outside our resort.

Villacana Club Reception
Villacana Club Reception

Can we get on the bus and pay the driver or do tickets have to be purchased in advance? Also, if we purchase tickets in advance to go to Gibraltar do we have to start at the Estepona bus station or can we catch the bus in front of the hotel? Lastly, is “Linea de Concepcion, La” the same as the La Linea bus station? Thank you, Jacquie

Sign outside Villacana Club
Sign outside Villacana Club
Welcome Villacana sign after arriving from the airport by bus

I wrote to Jaquie: Thank you for your kind words Jacquie. I have created a Villacana Bus Stops page and dedicated it to you!  You can get to and from the Villacana resort using public transport very easily.

In answer to your questions:

1) You are quite right. “Linea de Concepcion, La” is the same as the La Linea bus station which is what you need for travelling to Gibraltar by bus. To go to La Linea from Villacana you need to start your journey at the Estepona bus station. The long distance buses don’t stop at all the small stops in between the different towns. You can buy your ticket well in advance to La Linea bus station using the Gomarbella online bus ticket reservations page. Choose Estepona as your Origin and in Destination Linea La.  To get to Estepona bus station from Villacana I suggest taking a taxi from the resort, it’s a short journey and a lot simpler than the local bus into Estepona.

2) About paying on the bus, if you get on the bus at the Venta los Niños bus stop, to travel to Marbella or Estepona, the driver will give you change. He’ll appreciate it very much if you pay him in coins or with a €5 note or perhaps €10 at the most but he will give you change.

Here are some more suggestions for your bus journeys:

At Malaga airport buy your ticket for the airport bus to Marbella bus station from the little transport office just as you come out of Arrivals up until 8pm.  After 8pm buy your ticket on the bus.

When you get to the bus station in Marbella, get your ticket from the ticket office for the bus to Estepona, there’s always a bit of a queue, just say “Villacana.”

At the airport, if you are lucky enough to catch the direct bus to Estepona from the airport you will get off at Estepona bus station, because the direct bus to Estepona does not stop  at all the intermediate stops.  My suggestion is that if you get to Estepona on the direct bus or miss your Villacana stop for any reason, just take a taxi back to Villacana, from the taxi rank next to the Estepona bus station. It’s very close and after two bus rides, you’ll be wanting to get yourself to the resort to take things easy as soon as possible.

Travelling from Marbella or Malaga airport towards Villacana you will get off at the Hotel Gran Playabella bus stop, use the footbridge to cross the busy A7 coastal highway on the footbridge then pull your suitcase approximately 300 metres towards Estepona on the sea side of the road before you see the Villacana Club Reception on your left.

Travelling in the other direction, from Villacana back towards Marbella bus station to do your trip to Malaga airport in reverse, you will get on at the Venta los Niños bus stop right next to the entrance to the Villacana resort. Curiously enough neither of the two bus stops is called Villacana but that’s what they are known as! Just to make things easier still, here is a list of all the bus stops between Estepona and Marbella.

Have a great trip to Villacana Jacquie and thank you for writing in. Best wishes Mike