Book your hire car with Gomarbella & Spain now and Then

Friday, 31 October 2008

Car hire rentals at Malaga Airport

"What's a car rental office pic doing on Gomarbella's Costa del Sol bus pages?" I can hear you ask.

Can I ask you a question in reply? "Have you ever had a life changing moment?"

Mine happened a few weeks ago on the day the Costa del Sol buses stopped running and I started answering question like; "How do I get from Marbella to Malaga airport if there is no bus?", or "Can you recommend a car hire company at Malaga airport?" or "Are the trains from Malaga airport still running?"

I get a lot of visitors to my page on the bus from Malaga airport to Marbella Bus Station so you can imagine when that bus service shut down for a week, I had to make a lot of suggestions about alternative ways to travel on the Costa del Sol and the subject of car hire from Malaga airport came up pretty often.

By the way, did you spot that you are actually looking at the car hire office at Gatwick airport North terminal? I took the picture a few months ago when I hired a car to travel to Stratford on Avon and then on to Birmingham airport when I went to the Bruce Springsteen concert in Dusseldorf.

I have been hiring cars in Spain since I settled here nearly 30 years ago so I'll pass on as many tips and suggestions as I can at the same keeping you up to date with any likely problems with the Portillo buses on the Costa del Sol

Don't worry, I'm not giving up on buses. In fact in a couple of weeks I'll tell you about a life changing bus stop, the one that probably brought me to Spain!

Contact me through the comments box at the bottom of this page if I can help with my recommendations for travel on the Costa del Sol.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Fourteen hours from Bordeaux

By now you'll know that stopping along the way is very much part of my travelling. Overtaking a convoy of highsided trucks I missed a road sign and found myself off the AP1 north of Madrid heading for Miranda del Ebro. Listening in to the chat between the women petrol station assistants where I stopped to get directions, you would wonder if there is equal opportunity employment in the province of Burgos.

Some hours later swinging south off the busy, bumpy, concrete surfaced stretch of the A4 linking Madrid with Cordoba I stopped at the first BP station to refuel and have a coffee. The late afternoon light warmed the forecourt and pumping Latin music flooded the shop, the cafeteria and even the loos. I thanked the young cashier for her warm welcome and the music and was rewarded with an even brighter smile. It felt good to be back in Andalucia.

My journey yesterday started at the Gare St Jean railway station in Bordeaux. After seeing my wife off on the early morning 5.35 TGV to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris I walked back to the hotel, checked out and was gone by 6.50. Heavy rain fell all the way down into the Basque country and it was 10am before I could switch my wipers and lights off. Whereas the French drivers scrupulously observed the speed limits, back in Spain, at 130kmh I was one of the slowest cars on the road in the 4.30pm Friday afternoon rush by Madrid drivers to escape south from the capital for the weekend.

The Autovia de la Sierra Nevada heading down towards Granada bordered by olive trees on rolling slopes always gives my spirits a lift. Around 6pm I stopped at the venta which you see in the picture above and checking an sms from my daughter in Germany I learned that my wife's flight to Boston had arrived on time and that the plane was already at the arrival gate in Boston.

Dodging the Costa del Sol cinema going cowboys at the exit roundabout from La Cañada in Marbella as I came off the A7 was the most severe test of my driving skills over the last two weeks of driving in Europe but by 9.30 pm I was safely back home.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The Day the Buses Stopped Running

As well timed as any industrial action by French air traffic controllers, the Portillo bus company employees went on strike today, bringing coastal bus services to a halt and stranding thousands of tourists and working folk alike up and down the coast.

I went up to
the Marbella bus station this morning to check it all out and noted the police cars parked at the entrance, the demonstration banner and the very serious looking local policemen inside watching carefully for any problems from the picketers.

As I left I spoke to a woman next to her suitcase hop¡ng to catch the
Malaga airport shuttle bus.

"How are we meant to find out if there will be a bus to the airport at 11am if they don't tell us anything?"

I assured her there would be no bus at 11am and she went off to the nearest cash point at the petrol service station next to the bus station for money for a taxi.

I went back again this afternoon and found these three pleasant Canadian fellows you see in the picture to pose for me. They had been trying to get some sense out of the monolingual sales clerk and get tickets to
the Prado de San Sebastian bus station in Seville.

"Take a taxi from here to Fuengirola to the train station, a train to Malaga station and then a bus or a train to Sevilla. " I advised them.

I asked them to check in later to see their picture, it didn't seem right at the time to ask them to smile.

Stop Press Thursday 7th August: This morning on the way up to Ronda to take photos and add to my gomarbella information winding my way up the curves I got stuck behind one of the yellow Los Amarillos buses which operate services from Sevilla down to the Costa del Sol stopping at Ronda bus station and which would still have been operating on the day of the strike. After looking at the back of the bus for about 10 minutes before I could overtake, I realised I had forgotten to mention this option to our Canadian visitors. Really sorry about that guys. How did you get on?

Good News Wednesday 13th August: The weeklong strike finished today. The Portillo bus company employees have got a pay rise, two consecutive days off every week, a break between trips to go to the loo and a promise from their employers to renew the Portillo bus fleet - that's actually good news for all of us.

I went up to the Marbella bus station today again to check things out and the atmosphere was a lot happier. There still wasn't any paper in the gents loo however, that's just one of my measure of passenger care!

PS: You can now do online bus ticket reservations through the gomarbella reservation system.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Malaga Airport Bus

"What time's the next bus back to Marbella?" I was phoning my wife as I went through the passport control right next to the airport concourse this morning. Back home on her computer she had already consulted the Malaga airport to Marbella bus station schedule linked to the day's airport arrivals and departures page so she knew exactly where I was. "It's at 1.00pm!" I had 5 minutes. With only hand luggage I made a break for the airport bus stop which is now straight out from the Arrivals exit. 

I had intended to stop and look over the Malaga airport car rental floor downstairs from the ground floor arrivals level but the
airport bus to Marbella bus station waits for no one so I left this for my next visit to the airport and raced through the baggage reclaim area, turned right and then right again and emerged in the 32º heat and noise of the covered taxi and bus pickup zone. Update: At the new Malaga airport, the bus stop is now is straight out from the Arrivals area in the open air next to the train station. The picture above shows where the bus used to leave from in the tunnel where the courtesy car hire vehicles or car parking companies still pick up their clients.

The Avanza bus company operates the route to Marbella bus station and travellers can now reserve and buy tickets online by visiting the Gomarbella Costa del Sol buses page and use the Avanza link at the very top.

My bag was about the last one on board and even though I am always telling travellers who ask
"Where do I buy tickets for the Malaga airport bus?" not to be polite when it comes to getting on the bus, I found myself the last one on board. Apart from about five empty seats covered in bags or newspapers with their owners in the adjoining seat averting their eyes from mine (We all do this don't we?), the bus was full.

I took the picture from where I stood at the back of the queue because it shows the airport bus on the left and the L19 bus service just in front, about to pull out from the bus stop. A twice hourly bus takes travellers right into Malaga city centre and also to the main
Malaga bus station which is right next to the train station.

When I got off the bus in Marbella I asked the pleasant young driver if the airport bus was ever full and if he had to leave passengers behind. He said it had only happened around midday in the summer and not every day. I wondered if Gomarbella was responsible for the increasing use of this service, I guess so. I am sorry about that and the only thing I can suggest if you find the bus is full, is wait for the next one, which won't take long in the summer or hire a car!
PPS: When the new airport opened earlier this year, (2010) the Avanza bus bus company put a double length bus onto the Marbella Bus Station to Malaga Airport service so you can now be sure of a seat.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Marbella Bus Station

I took my son-in-law Chris looking fit and tanned up to the bus station this morning to catch the special Marbella to Malaga Airport bus. He was flying back to London. We got his ticket and as we put his bag onto the bus I was delighted to bump into Raquel, seen in the middle of the picture. She was also bussing to Malaga airport and then flying on to Barcelona. Raquel is an former travel agent student of mine.

Quite a lot is written in the local press about the Marbella bus station and the CTSE Portillo bus company that operates it. One recent article mentioned that at night the lights above the taxi rank in front of the building weren't working. Another mentioned the state of the toilets. My impression was that first thing in the morning the bus station looked clean. There was however no paper in the gent's toilets and I am sure there would have been none in the ladies' so if you think you might need a pit stop at the Marbella bus station before your onward journey best to bring your own loo paper.

Twenty nine ago when I travelled by bus up to Málaga periodically to renew my registration with the British Consulate to get a certificate which was essential in those days for my work permit, I would have to wait until the bus I was going to catch to Malaga had left Estepona. The Estepona bus station would then phone Marbella to say how many empty seats there were on the bus. The travellers in Marbella could then buy their tickets to Fuengirola or beyond. Once the bus had left Marbella, the number of empty seats would be phoned through to Fuengirola and so on all the way to Málaga. Times have changed.

I have had a good week replying to visitors to the Costa del Sol. Rulette from Holland wrote in to the
"Spain Now and Then" blog to ask about the Santa Marta bus stop near Bena Vista, so I popped down there to check it out and put up a page for her. Then you will see my correspondence in the comments section with Vivian, who is coming to visit her sister in Torrenueva and who asked about the nearest bus stop and through helping her I found out that the Unicasa bus stop is actually called Torrenueva on the ground.

Sarah is somewhere in Europe right now backpacking her way down to the Grangefield Oasis Club 2 km inland from Riviera del Sol and asked if she would need a hire car or if she could get to Oasis Club from the Riviera del Sol bus stop on foot. (Yes and no.) Last summer Mike Dusswaldt wrote in from the USA to say his daughter Melissa would be staying at Riviera del Sol and I have been meaning to put up this information ever since about the Riviera del Sol bus stop. Check out my impressions of how things are at the Miraflores bus stop!

I never thought there would be such interest in the
list of bus stops between Estepona and Marbella, followed by the list of bus stops between Marbella and Fuengirola and then finally the list of bus stops between Fuengirola and Torremolinos.

The bus page to watch which is climbing in Google's rankings is my
Bus and Train Questions section. It is starting to overtake the Costa del Sol bus schedules page little by little.

Shortly I will be bringing my bus travellers recommendations for car hire. Quite a few visitors to the Costa del Sol, take the bus from the airport to their destinations and then hire a car for a few days in a row. I'll be adding my recommendations for day excursions too!

Please contact me for any information through the
¨Spain Now and Then¨comments box at the bottom of the page. The system works very well. I don't get to see your email address and neither do the spammers. Other readers can share our interchanges. My reply to you will be emailed automatically through the system. I like to have a name to write to if possible even if you make it up!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Two hours to Cordoba

It was hot in Cordoba, pushing 40º but I was there on business. I've driven the stretch of road from Marbella, up behind Malaga, past Antequera and then inland to Cordoba many times and there was no real need to have the TomTom switched on but it was good to see we would have time to have a quick meal by the Guadalquivier river in sight of the famous Cordoba cathedral and right next to our destination, ETEA, the prestigious private business administration university in Cordoba.

Three hours of oral examining with students doing the Cambridge Business English Certificate examinations (BEC) were to follow. It's always a pleasure to assess well prepared and highly motivated candidates and the time raced by.

Another of life's many other pleasures is to drive through the rolling landscapes of Andalucia in the evening. On the way home the earth changed colour from shades of white through to greys, the olives trees gave way to vast yellow tracts of sunflower fields with the heads turning to face the setting sun. Now and again the smell of the olives from the co-operative processing plants washed through the car windows, open in the cool of the evening.

We stopped for old time's sake at the venta nearest the spring between Antequera and Malaga. Twenty nine years ago we would top up the car radiator here or bathe our faces and drink from the pure mountain water which runs all year round under the willow trees.

The setas con ajo and perejil were excellent. That's mushrooms in garlic and served with parsley. Two immaculately dressed Guardia Civil policemen came in for a snack. I turned the blue label of my cerveza sin alcol so that it would be more easily visible.

You'll know by now how much I like travelling through Spain by car, bus, train or by plane. If I can give you any travel help please write to me using the tiny comments link below the blog. If you tick the box you will get a reply from me emailed to you directly and you don't have to revisit the blog. Nobody sees your email address either.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Bruce Springsteen in Dusseldorf

Me: "Woooooooooow!" together with 38 000 other fans.

For more than 20 years I've listened to The Boss on LPs, cassettes, CDs, watched him on DVDs and TV and then there he was live on giant screens with his voice driving out at a million watts from towering speaker stacks.

I'm glad to share this experience with you even if just to prove I have a life between photographing bus stops. A quick trip taking in London, Stratford on Avon and then on to Dusseldorf to see him live at the LTU stadium next to the airport.

I've seen Freddy Mercury, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Julio Iglesias and others in the Marbella football stadium but this rock concert was life changingly different. We had comfortable leather seats but I can only remember sitting down once. Maybe it was the hospitality suite just behind us and being welcomed on a red carpet from the car just below our seats. Perhaps it was the non stop refreshments together with the great company we were in. It might have been the brilliant camera work or the fact that the German fans knew every word in English. Most likely it was everything together with the brilliance of Bruce's performance and his enormous drive and energy during the 3 hour concert. Life just isn't going to be the same again!

Ryanair brought us back to Malaga from Dusseldorf (Weeze), our car was waiting in the free parking at the end of the airport and by 8.30 we were home.

STOP PRESS: Fast foward to July 7th at 5pm on a hot afternoon I was just getting into my car after taking photos from the
Miraflores bus stop from the footbridge and the announcer on the local Spanish radio station said "It's only two and a half hours until Bruce Springsteen is on stage in Santander this evening" I looked at my watch and I could probably just have made it. A wild dash to Malaga airport departures and a 90 minute flight to Santander and then a taxi to the concert.

Then Bruce started to sing "Radio Nowhere" and the hairs on my sweating foreams stood on end. Take me back to the concert! I can hear you asking "Well why didn't you go?" Can you imagine phoning your partner from 1000 kms away saying "I'm at the Bruce Springsteen concert and it's great and I'm very sorry, but there just wasn't time to come back and pick you up."?

Back to the business of local travel; to contact me please click on the tiny comment label below for help. Remember to tick the box which says "Email me any posts" so that my reply will be emailed to you automatically. Nobody sees your email address. It's a great system to beat the spammers. Give me a first name to reply to even if you make it up!

Write to me now if I can help you with any travel hints on the Costa del Sol or elsewhere in Spain

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

La Cala de Mijas

Meet Lydia who was promoting a live music venue at the La Cala de Mijas Saturday morning market last week.

I was in La Cala checking out some information for a traveller who had written in asking if it was necessary to hire a car when staying in La Cala or could one just use the bus.

Anyway meeting Lydia made a nice change to photographing the Marbella to Fuengirola bus and I certainly hope she gets lots of visitors to her bar.

On the way back to Marbella I checked out the Cabopino beach and camping stops for Chris who was wondering how to get from Torremolinos to Cabopino beach by bus. It was good to be back in Cabopino, I love the smell of the pines which stretch from the main road between Marbella and Fuengirola all the way down the beach, something very rare for the Costa del Sol.

Checking my stats I can see lots of visitors on the way to Spain for their holidays. Don't hesitate to let me know if I can help you. Please use the comments link on the blog page below, it's not so easy to find but it helps me to beat the spammers. Tick the box where is says to email my reply to you. Looking forward to hearing from you!

PS: You can now do online bus ticket reservations through the gomarbella reservation system.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Lagos Bus Station on the Algarve

Look there's the Lagos bus station!" called my wife as I was putting our suitcases into the boot of the car in the morning. We had spent the night at the Marina Rio Hotel in Lagos before moving on to San Bras de Alportel, inland from Faro for another two nights over Easter. She knows my interest in bus stations and bus stops.

I grabbed my camera and got a picture of the Marina Rio Hotel to show how close it was to the Lagos bus station in the background on the left. Coincidentally when I got back there was an email waiting for me from Katie asking about travelling to Portugal by bus from Granada via Gibraltar and La Linea ,
so refreshed by my latest trip to Portugal I put together a page for her about taking the bus from Granada to Faro on the Algarve

Let me just say along the way that the Marina Hotel which overlooks the Lagos marina is brilliant value for money. The hotel is clean and modern and the direct reservation and check in experiences were excellent. It was 67.5 euros for the night including a first class breakfast, the kind you want to linger over.

We had left Marbella in pouring rain on Easter Thursday morning, been stopped by a hail storm just outside Sevilla, braved the western exit from Sevilla and then driven to the Algarve, exploring Isla Cristina in Huelva just before reaching Portugal. It was from here that Cristopher Columbus set off from here in 1492 to discover the Americas.

The weather in Portugal was fine over the weekend, the usual big Atlantic rain clouds but the sun shone and the wine and sea foor was great as always. On the way back, still on the Portuguese side we explored the stretch of coast inland from Olhao to Monte Gordo on the very banks of the river Guadiana just over the river from Ayamonte in Spain. A very interesting looking area.

We chose the Utrera via Ronda route travelling back from Sevilla to Marbella, it's always my first choice for scenery in rainy or cloudy weather. The traffic was surprisingly disciplined. Maybe it was the eye in the sky helicopter.

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

Friday, 29 February 2008

Three hours to Marbella

"Three hours? Forget it!" You could drive from Seville to Marbella and back again in less time than it took us to walk from Istan to Marbella along a new track last week.

A new track for my walking friend Philip and myself because we worked out that we have now climbed La Concha, the mountain behind Marbella along 7 different routes.

Do you remember in my October blog last year I told of how low clouds and rain blowing in sideways forced us off the mountain? We waited as patiently as we could for the first opening in the weather this year before setting off again.

We left from just behind the hotel perched above Istan, the little pueblo blanco about 17 kms inland from the coast. A sign marks the departure point and indicates a walk of 3 hours to get to Marbella. It's a great route, very scenic and not at all direct, following the ridges, valleys and contours of the mountain above the La Concepción lake.

The picture shows the summit of the ridge seen from the other side above Marbella. We nearly didn't make it again, you can see the clouds curling from either side of the faint track.

Ten hours after starting out we dropped down onto the coast, just behind the big La Cañada shopping centre. Don't believe all the timings on the signs on the walking tracks you come across on the Costa del Sol!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Saturday morning in Sevilla

Saturday morning in Sevilla in the shadow of the Giralda Cathedral saw these two grooms carrying out running repairs. One is holding the hoof whilst the other swings a small hammer. In the background a driver is discussing prices with two prospective clients.

I took the Málaga Antequera route to Sevilla this time, just for a change. It's about 30 kms longer than the route through Los Barrios down in Cádiz but it's faster. I like to go one way to Sevilla and make the return journey on a different road. One of my favourite roadside ventas is about 50kms before Sevilla. The coffee and local olive oil on toast is to die for.

I was back in Sevilla and checking out the two big bus stations in Sevilla. I get quite a few enquiries about buses from Marbella or Malaga to Portugal and I wanted to sort a few things out although when the AVE (Spains high speed train) connects Sevilla with Malaga later this month and brings the journey time down to 50 minutes, the train will be a very good alternative to the bus for this stretch. If you are thinking of taking the bus from Sevilla to the Algarve check out the travel information about the Estacion Prado de San Sebastian and the Estacion de Plaza de Armas bus stations

For more destinations to the south of Seville, you'll travel out of the Prado de San Sebastian bus station next to the Tussam bus, tram and local bus transport interchange.

I love Sevilla on a Saturday. Smartly dressed Sevillanos proudly board their immaculate new trams and others sit in the sun all around the city sipping fino and eating tapas. They do it with such style as well!

I drove back via the historic city of Ronda and on the way checked out Zahara de la Sierra. It's a lovely little pueblo blanco (white village) about 19 kms before Ronda, about 16kms from Grazalema and is perched on a peak above a large lake. I'll definitely be spending more time there soon. I have passed it countless times but I'm really glad I had a look around.

By the way, if you thinking of taking the bus from the Costa del Sol to Sevilla, why don't you break your journey at the Ronda bus station and take a couple of hours to explore Ronda?

The hypermarket in Ronda on the bypass, just on the coast side of the railway line and close to Ronda train station is well worth stopping at for a coffee and some top up shopping before dropping down the coast.

Can I help you with any travel enquiries? Leave a question for me in the comment box below.

PS: You can now do online bus ticket reservations through the gomarbella reservation system.