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Monday, 26 October 2015

Via de la Plata from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela

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. I 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 busreservations page. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Holiday apartments and villas to rent

A good friend of mine Chris Hutchinson has run for many years a successful holiday rental business - he has a number of properties across price brackets from 1 bed room apartments in Fuengirola with fantastic sea views to luxury villas with private pools. You can view the properties he has to offer via his web site

If you fancy something front line beach in the centre of Marbella we also have a lovely 2 bedroom apartment - privately managed with a very personal touch.

Enjoy your next vacation on the Costa del Sol and if you need any travel advice or local tips head over to our Gomarbella Facebook page where you can make contact with Mike directly.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Recommended Real Estate Agents in Marbella

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!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Tela Bella - a wonderful new fabric shop in Estepona

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.

For more information and to view a map of their location please visit

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Toll Roads on the Algarve in Portugal

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.

Guadiano River Bridge from the Portuguese side
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.
A motorcyclist registering for the toll road
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.

Credit card toll charge registration booths
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.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Faro to Fuengirola by bus

Terry wrote to me on Facebook: "Hello there, I'm in Portugal from 13th till 20th July and I'm just wondering how hard it is and much it costs to 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.

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. That last journey is about €6.(2013)

You can book the whole trip online right here, 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. You'll see the bus leaves at 01.45 and arrives at 09.45 Cost €45 (2013) Remember leaving after midnight on 20/07/13 it means 01.45 in the morning on Saturday 20 July so you are travelling overnight and arriving on Sunday morning.

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."

Entrance to Faro Bus Station

The main train line along the Algarve runs right behind the Faro bus station and Faro train station is less than 200 metres away.

Faro Bus Station Ticket Office

The pleasant girl on duty in the Faro Bus Station ticket office gave me the timetable for the whole trip. You can also find it using the online bus reservation link above.

Plaza de Armas Bus Station in Seville

Terry's bus will call in at the Plaza de Armas Bus Station in Seville in the early hours of the morning to change drivers. This big bus station serves Portugal, routes to the north of Spain right up to Santander and also east to Cordoba and Granada and south to Malaga. His next major stop will be Malaga bus station.

Fuengirola Bus Station

Fuengirola bus station is the end of the route travelling from Faro in Portugal. Terry will have a welcome cup of coffee and with the early morning sun behind him, travel west towards Estepona, calling in at Marbella bus station on the way.

Friday, 21 December 2012

La Cala bus stops

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
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 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

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
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

Monday, 10 December 2012

Posada de Roncesvalles Review

 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.

Posada de Roncesvalles
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 €9 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.

It's rare to find Pilar alone in the bar reception.
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!

Map of Roncesvalles

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

Calle Única
Roncesvalles-Orreaga (Navarra)

Tel. 0034948760225

Website: Posada de Roncesvalles   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.

Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela

¡Buen Camino!


Friday, 23 November 2012

Pamplona Bus Station

Pamplona Bus Station
I got off the Nº 21 bus which had brought me from 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 in May earlier this year.

I 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. 
Check across on the Pamplona bus station page for more information about the left luggage lockers. They  will all 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. 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

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.

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
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.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Villacana Club Resort Bus Stops

Villacana Club Reception

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.

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

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, you'll have to get on the bus at the Estepona bus station. The long distance buses don't stop at all the small stops in between the different towns. If you buy your ticket in advance from the Avanza Bus pages through the top link on the Gomarbella Costa del Sol bus page to go to La Linea, you will chooose Estepona as your Origin and that's where you'll get on the bus. 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

Monday, 15 October 2012

Monesterio on the Via de la Plata

Real de la Jara to Monesterio 20kms Day 5

Wednesday 21st September 2012

Castillo de las Torres near Real de la Jara
After breakfasting in the only bar in Real de la Jara we could find open we walked out along Calle San Bartolomé. We had checked out our exit from the village the evening before. To our right was the Castillo de las Torres dating back to the early Middle Ages. Shayne and I would have liked to check it out more closely but ahead of us lay our last 20kms of walking.

I had arranged to phone my wife Angela later in the morning to meet us and take us back to Marbella. It would take her two and a half hours to get to Seville and Monesterio only another hour down the road by car. It was going to take us five days to get there on foot.

After five mornings we had our early morning routine worked out, water bottles easily accessible, bread rolls for our first stop at the top of our packs, the packs balanced and the map needed for the day at hand. It was our last morning's walk and we swung along at a good pace.
Bicigrinos on the Via de la Plata

Not long out of Real de la Jara we crossed the frontier of Sevilla province with Bajadoz, the first province in the Extremadura autonomous community.  We practised saying "On Day Five we walked out of Andalucia into Extremadura!" It sounded good and rolled off our tongues easily.

The enormous Vistahermosa finca took two hours to cross. Men were repairing stone walls, others checked on the pigs grazing beneath the acorn trees. Who owned this huge farm?  A sign advised us that we had come to the Ruta de las Contrabandistas, the Smugglers Route which came down out of the Sierra  de San Roque some kilometres off to our right. Ahead of us we could see blue mountains. Somewhere beyond the mountains was Monasterio, the end of our walk.

It was a warm morning and when we stopped for our midday break under a lone tree, inevitably we talked of when we might continue our pilgrimage on the Via de la Plata. Shayne's time was limited. Each time she walked in Spain she had to travel down from Germany and we still had around 800kms to go to Santiago.  Our next stint would have to wait until next year. As we sat and chatted we saw three cyclists approaching. Their saddle bags were laden and we could see they were pilgrims. Bicigrinos as a roadside sign referred to cyclists on the Camino. We exchanged the traditional pilgrims' greetings "Buen camino!

Without getting up we took a photo of them as they cycled past. Somewhere off to the north beyond them lay Santiago de Compostela. They would get there long before we would. It was then that we looked at each other. Perhaps we could continue our pilgrimage on bikes?  It would be an adventure. Something to plan in the winter months. Would rides along the Ruhr river on flat cycle paths provide enough preparation? Could I do some mountain bike training in Marbella to find out what kind of bike to buy.

Monesterio is only 10kms ahead!

Our discussion about biking parts of the long Via de la Plata route took us with renewed spirit and drive to the junction of the EX 103 and the N630 roads.  Monesterio and the end of our first adventure were only 10 kms ahead. It was hot now and a tunnel of eucalyptus trees took us out of the sun for a couple of kilometres. The climb to the port above Monesterio seemed never ending. 
A long hot climb to Monesterio

A monumental ham
Suddenly we were in Monesterio, a giant ham signalled the entrance to the town and the importance of the pig industry to the town. Just inside the town we heard a happy greeting from a passing car. It was Angela,  she had last seen us five days before departing in a taxi to the bus station in Marbella. We dropped our packs into the car and it felt good to be driven to the Hotel Moya at the entrance to Monesterio.
Pilgrims in the Hotel Moya Monesterio
The Hotel Moya offers special accommodation and meal rates for pilgrims and ater our very welcome cooling gazpacho soup and good helpings of pork chop and chips the waiter was more than pleased to stamp our pilgrim's credentials. By chance, across the car park from Hotel Moya we spotted the Ankay bike shop. I took a photograph of the shop, not guessing then what part it would play in our continuing camino.

Back: Almaden de la Plata to Real de la Jara Day 4

Saturday, 13 October 2012

VDLP Hostal in Real de la Jara

A Pilgrim's Breakfast

Andalusian countryside at its best
Almaden de la Plata to Real de la Jara 17.5 kms Day 4
Blissful pigs
Castle overlooking Real de la Jara
Well deserved monument to local economy

Tuesday 20th September 2011

Having broken down the 34km walk from Almaden de la Plata to Monasterio into two stages we had time for a short lie in and rest. The only bar open was virtually next door and we breakfasted on coffee and enormous doorsteps of toasted bread baked freshly that morning in a wood oven. Two or three old men stared incuriously at the Spanish Finance minister holding forth on the large flat TV screen above our heads.

Leaving our hostal keys in the basket on the  the deserted reception desk we closed the front door behind us. Once past the banks of solar panels and trial bike track on the outskirts of Almaden de la Plata we upped our pace to wind in and out of encina tree groves passing horses, cats and dogs.  It was a lovely rural setting, the Andalusian countryside at its best. There was water everywhere, in dams, ponds and arroyos. Money from the EU for financing rural projects had ended up financing irrigation projects, piping and water

We looked at the pigs with new understanding appreciation. They were happy and munched happily on the bellota acorns that fell from the trees. We were well rested and were seeing the normally dry landscape with optimistic eyes. Goats grazed contentedly, cows ruminated placidly and the pigs, big fat hogs and sows wallowed blissfully in rainfilled holes in the road.

Signs advertising lodgings in the next villages were wired to fences. The translations were quaint, on one, 'pilgrims' became 'pilgrins.' Little did we know that one particular sign the next day would play an important part in our continued pilgrimage
on the Via de la Plata.

Two cyclists passed us as we stopped for our first rest in the shade of the deep Arroyo de la Huerta del Corcho, The first made it across the rocky stream bed and about 10 metres futher up the far bank. The second cyclist fell off in the stream. They both pushed their bikes up the steep bank, following tracks  on the rutted road. We didn't envy them at all. Our climb continued for another two kilometres and we could see our cyclists well ahead of us as we dropped down into the private lands belonging to a family, proprietors of the Macarena Hotel in Sevilla. We had another four almost level kilometres to walk across their farm. Under the shade of an oak tree we took our last break on green grass, complete silence surrounded us and we sat happily in the idyllic setting of rural Andalusian campo. On our left their country home built on a rocky outcrop towered above the landscape. A worker we met in the village that night would tell us it had 365 windows and was only used at weekends.

As we walked past the municipal albergue at the very entrance to Real de la Jara along Calle Pablo Picasso, we glimpsed our German pilgrim friends again inside.  They were sitting at the wooden table with their boots and socks outside the door. They must have set off earlier than us. Shayne and I wondered if they had actually walked to the Real de la Jara.  Much later I would come to understand that it did not matter. Every pilgrim's experience is different, it is the journey that matters, not how one travels.

Our hostal, Hostal Rural La Encina was at the very back of the industrial estate. In front were the workshops of the Polígono, at the back, the dry grass of the lands bordering the town. Shayne and I sat in the bar for our first rehydrating beer. We explained to the girl that we had a reservation. She relayed the information to the bartender who made an immediate phone call. Elsewhere in the village Encarna the owner of our hostal closed up her photography shop and came to open up our room for us. She gave us the room key and front door to the hostel asking us to leave it on the bar counter in the morning.

Hostal Rural La Encina
She explained that paying her cash on entry would save her having to come back in the morning. We decided later that as a rule of thumb, cash works best in villages of less than 5000 inhabitants. I have grown used to the two way trust that goes with staying in small villages in Andalucia and would not have it another way.

After a shower and a rest we explored the medieval castle which dominates Real de la Jara on the far side of the village. A beneficiary of EU grants it has been carefully restored. An information panel explained that it was one of a belt of castles across Andalucia which served to confine the Moors to the southern territories of Spain.

Surprisingly our seemingly isolated bar restaurant on the outskirts of the polígono came alive in the evening. Workers called in for a beer and tapas on their way home. A family from the village arrived for an evening meal. We ate well on secretos de cerdo - pork secrets with potato chips, more beer and a glass of pilgrim's pacharán.  A skinny mother fox slunk in from the darkness for a plate of chicken scraps put out by the cook. He explained that the mother had just given birth, as yet he hadn't seen the cubs. The mother fox bolted the scraps down then disappeared silently back into the night through the grass below our bedroom window.

We paid our bar bill, said goodnight to our fellow diners and went upstairs for another excellent night's sleep, the only sound we could hear was the wind in the low bushes outside our room. Could I hear a mother calling her cubs? Perhaps I dreamt it. Contented that our last day's walk awaited us, we slept soundly.

Back: Castilblanco to Almaden de la Plata Day 3
Real de la Jara to Monesterio Day 5

Here is the address for our hostal:

Hostal Rural La Encina
Polígono de la Encina 7
41250 El Real de la Jara

Tel: 00 34 652 876 827

Friday, 31 August 2012

Malaga Bus Station to Gibraltar

Malaga Bus Station
"Hi Mike, I'm arriving at Malaga Airport at 6.30pm, can I get a bus from Malaga bus station to La Linea to get to Gibraltar? Thanks Jak"

I replied, "Hi Jak, Thank you very much for writing in. The Avanza bus company operate this route and I have just checked on their website, you'll find the link at the top of the Gomarbella Costa del Sol buses page.

I'm afraid you will be out of luck with your arrival time at the airport. From Malaga airport there two buses every hour to Malaga bus station, it's a 30 minute journey and the last direct bus from Malaga bus station to La Linea bus station next to the Gibraltar border, leaves at 16.30. Please check my timings. On the Avanza bus site look for Linea de la Concepcion, La, as your Destino.

By the  way you can also travel to the Maria Zambrano train station in Malaga which is right next to the bus station on the C1 train line, there are three trains every hour and it's an eight minute journey. If you've just missed the bus, take the train!

I also looked at buses from Malaga bus station to Cadiz because this bus stops in Algeciras,  just beyond La Linea and you could have got a taxi back but the last bus leaves Malaga bus station at 20.00 and you still won't get to Malaga bus station in time after collecting your luggage.

I think your best option will be to take the Malaga airport to Marbella bus station shuttle bus and then take a taxi from Marbella to the frontier between Gibraltar and La Linea. All being well you'll catch the 20.15 bus from the airport and you'll get to Marbella at 20.55. The bus fare will be around €8. (2012)

I've just phoned the Marbella taxi company and a taxi from Marbella bus station to the frontier in La Linea will cost €70 on a weekday before 10pm and €94 after 10pm or over a weekend. Does this fit your budget better? It'll be a lot cheaper than a taxi all the way from the airport to La Linea which will be over €130.

Rock of Gibraltar seen from La Linea Bus Station

If you are not in a hurry to get there, you can have a night in Marbella and then carry on your journey the next day on the bus and it will still work out cheaper than including a taxi.

The good news is that on your way back to the airport, you can use buses all the way. Just do the journey in reverse and take the bus from La Linea bus station to Marbella bus station and then the shuttle bus to the airport and you'll arrive in good time for your evening flight.

Please write back if you have any doubts and if a night in Marbella sounds attractive, I'll recommend you a really good, economical hotel. Thanks again for writing in Jak, I do hope this helps you.  Mike"

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Mijas Costa or Mijas Pueblo?

Mijas Pueblo Bus Terminus

Colin wrote to me on Facebook through the Gomarbella Contact Page:

"Hi Mike. We are arriving next week (early evening) to stay at TRH Hotel Mijas in Costa Mijas and are planning to take the train to Fuengirola then use the bus service to Costa Mijas. Could you advise me on bus number, the stop to get off the bus and whether we would be better to walk or use a taxi to arrive at the hotel?  Thanks for the great information your website provides."

I wrote back to Colin:  "Hi Colin, thank you very much for your kind words! Much appreciated. To get to the TRH Hotel Mijas you must travel to Mijas Pueblo (Village) which is up the mountain behind Fuengirola.  Mijas Costa is part of the enormous Mijas urbanisation which stretches down from Mijas Pueblo and spreads along the coast between Fuengirola and Marbella so don't travel there! La Cala de Mijas is the main town on Mijas Costa.

When you get to Fuengirola train station, walk a block to the bus station and then take the Mijas Pueblo bus.Here's a link tp a blog about getting to Mijas Pueblo from Sevilla by bus. As the bus pulls into the village, it goes past the hotel which will be on the left. There is no bus stop right there but you can walk back to the hotel or take a taxi for a minimum fare of a few euros.

Main Taxi Rank in Mijas Pueblo
Burro Taxis in Mijas Pueblo
The Mijas Pueblo taxi rank is 100 metres from the bus terminal but to get to the TRH hotel it will be quicker to walk.  Is that OK information wise Colin?  Important thing is that you head for Mijas in the mountains and not Mijas on the beach. When the bus stops in the main square area in Mijas, right next to all the souvenir shops, I'm sure you are close enough to walk back to the hotel. Keep a look out for it just after you finish the long climb up the hill then swing left towards the village. Look to your left for the hotel which is set down from the road. By the way, thank you very much for the Facebook 'Like' much appreciated!  I hope your travelling goes well and have a great holiday. Best wishes Mike."

For visitors to Mijas Pueblo the burro taxi service is very popular to have a look around the town.  The donkeys are well looked after.

Colin wrote back after his holiday at the TRH hotel in Mijas Pueblo:

"Hi Mike. Good information regarding location of our hotel as we might have ended up in the wrong place! We were happy to be in the Mijas Pueblo village though and your directions were straight forward enough for us to reach there. Thanks very much for the advice with our travel. We had a great time and totally enjoyed our hotel and location in Mijas - a beautiful place to visit and very friendly. Train and bus links were very good and great value too. We will definitely return to the area and fancy a visit to Malaga for a break as we visited the city and used the bus tour to see the sights and were impressed. Thanks again, Colin.

I wrote back: "Hi Colin, I'm really glad everything worked out well for you. I have to confess I haven't done the red bus tour in Malaga yet, but it's on my list of things to do... I also appreciate your writing back, it helps me to know my suggestions are correct or not. I hope you'll write back next time you come if I can help with anything. Very best wishes Mike.

For other travellers from Fuengirola bus station to Mijas Pueblo up on the mountainside behind Fuengirola I have added the bus timetable below.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Guadalmina Bus Stop

Lindsay Heyes asked me how to get from Malaga airport to Guadalmina bus stop:

"Hi, can you help us please? We have rented a villa at Guadalmina urbanisation next Thursday for a week and would like to use public transport to get there, is there a train or bus that we could get from Malaga airport?" Many thanks, Lindsay

I replied: "Hi Lindsay, take the Malaga airport bus to Marbella bus station and when you get there, change to the Marbella to Estepona bus.  Buy your ticket to Marbella before getting on the bus at the ticket office which is just outside Arrivals at the airport. After 8pm the ticket office is closed  and you'll buy your ticket on the bus from the driver. Pay with a small note, €5 plus coins or €10 and check your change before moving off down the bus to get your seat. At the Marbella bus station, get in the queue for your ticket on the bus to Estepona and say to the ticket seller "Guadalmina." You can add - por favor- if you feel better but in Spain it's not used very much.  The ticket seller is being paid to give you a ticket, why do you have to say please? Welcome to Spain.

You can get off at the Guadalmina stop which is one of the bus stops between Marbella and Estepona but Guadalmina is actually an enormous urbanisation. There's Guadalmina Baja on the sea side of the road and Guadalmina Alta on the mountain side of the road around the golf course.

I would recommend, for the first time anyway, that you get off the Marbella to Estepona bus at the previous San Pedro de Alcántara bus stop where there is a taxi rank. From there, take a taxi to your villa in Guadalmina.

If your villa is close to the main A7 coastal road, you can then use the bus to commute up and down the coast during your stay.

Hope you have a great visit Lindsay. Best wishes Mike"

Monday, 13 August 2012

Malaga Airport to Riviera del Sol

Jennifer Carolan wrote to me on the Gomarbella Facebook page about getting to Riviera del Sol just outside Fuengirola.

Hi. I'm looking for some information. We are going on holiday soon and would like to know if a bus goes from Malaga Airport to Rivera del Sol and what are the times for buses? Also returning home from Rivera del Sol to Malaga Airport is there a bus we can get? Hope to hear from you soon.

Mike Drury:  Hi Jennifer, sorry to take so long to reply. I got back last night from seeing the grandchildren in London. Now that my grandson has discovered the computer, I get less time to answer my emails when travelling. I'll copy you in a link about getting to Riviera del Sol bus and train and back to the airport by bus and by train. It's very easy.

Basically you take the train from Malaga airport train station to Fuengirola train station, change to the bus station which is only one block from the train station walking towards the sea and then you take the bus to Marbella getting off at the Riviera del Sol bus stop. Have a look at the information and please write back if I can help you. Have a great holiday and thank you for writing in. Best wishes Mike   PS: By the way, thank you very much for your 'Like' on the Facebook page.

Jennifer Carolan: Hi Mike thank you so much for your reply. Lol, no worries hope you enjoyed London. Is there a way of only getting a bus from Malaga airport to Rivera de Sol? We always get taxis but they are very expensive.

Mike Drury:  Hi Jennifer, if you sign up to one of the bus transfer companies like Resort Hoppa, it'll take you from the airport but no kidding, the train and bus combination is the most economical. What you could always do is take a taxi from Fuengirola train station to Riviera del Sol. With all the money you save on the train, it'll still work out really cheaply.

Have you tried the train before? There are three trains every hour to Fuengirola. It really is a great way to travel. I can see you are not convinced about the train.

Jennifer Carolan: Hi Mike, thanks again for the reply I've never done bus or train in Spain this is all new to me. We think we'll give the train and bus a go. Fingers crossed...just bit nervous in a different country. Love the site thanks a million.

Mike Drury: Hi Jennifer, when are you travelling? I'm sure it'll all go absolutely fine. Each part of the journey you do will be part of the adventure and when you do get to Riviera del Sol, you'll be very pleased with yourself. One more question, when you get to Riviera del Sol, do you know where you are heading to? It's  a big resort. If your complex seems a little far from the main road, then you can always just get a taxi from next to the bus stop. Please tell me how it goes. It's very hot here now and you'll need to keep a water bottle handy.

One more thing. I tell all bus and train travellers to be super aware of where they put their purse, wallet or money after buying tickets, where their suitcases are, which member of the group is holding what and who is standing just a bit too close. Also when I get off a train or bus or out of a taxi I always look back at my seat and at the floor to check nothing has slipped out of my pockets. I've learned all this the hard way and I'm just passing on my experiences so that you have blissful and trouble free holiday. Best wishes Jennifer. Mike

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Los Amigos Beach Club Bus Stop

Los Amigos Beach Club Reception
 This is the entrance to the Reception in the Los Amigos Beach Club in the Playa Marina Urbanisation.

The access to the underpass to the Playa Marina beach is at the end of the car park on the right.

When you walk back from the Playa Marina bus stop along the A7 /N340 road, you'll step off the concrete verge and come into the picture from the bottom right.

Shaz asked me for suggestions on getting to Los Amigos Beach Club in Urbanisation Playa Marina

Shaz to Mike: Hi Mike what's the cheapest way to get from Malaga Airport to Los Amigos Beach Club please? We arrive at 10.15am, thanks for your help, Shaz

Mike to Shaz:    Hi Shaz, thanks very much for writing in. That's a great time of the day to arrive at Malaga airport and you have lots of time to get to Los Amigos Beach Club without hurry or worry.Take the train from Malaga airport train station to Fuengirola, it's a 43 minute journey and there are three trains every hour so don't rush when you have collected your suitcases, just stroll to the train station in front of Arrivals and get your tickets from the ticket office or one of the ticket machines just before the barriers.

Only one block away from Fuengirola train station, walking towards the sea, is the Fuengirola bus station. Again no hurry, there are two buses every hour and you'll be catching the M220 bus to Marbella. Here is a list of all the bus stops between Fuengirola and Marbella. The bus stop closest to Los Amigos Beach Club is the Playa Marina bus stop. Just after you have gone past the El Faro de Calaburra lighthouse on top of the hill next to the road on your right, start looking out for the Playa Marina bus stop. The bus fare in 2012 is €1.40.

I hope that helps you Shaz, have a great trip. The weather is absolutely brilliant right now for early June, sunny and warm.  

Here are some more photos to help you, best wishes from Marbella  Mike

Los Amigos Beach Club Playa Marina Bus Stop

On the left you'll see the Playa Marina bus stop. This is where you'll get off the bus coming from Fuengirola bus station towards Marbella.

Walk back along the road, inside the crash barrier for 500meters until the bend in the road. Look to your left and you'll see the Los Amigos Beach Club Reception and the lovely green lawns.

Bus Stop next to Playa Marina

Here's a view of Playa Marina and the bus stop on the sea side of the road. Use this bus stop to travel back towards Fuengirola.

In the distance you'll see the Faro de Calaburra lighthouse. On the other side of the lighthouse is Club La Costa World.

Footbridge to Playa Marina Beach

Use this footbridge next to the Playa Marina bus stop to cross the road. You'll see people walking over the bridge to the beach.

The other access to the Playa Marina Beach for visitors to Los Amigos Beach Club is from the Reception, see the top photo.

Traffic on the right is travelling towards Marbella. Walk back along this verge against the traffic flow to get to  Los Amigos Beach Club Reception. 

PS: for anyone renting a car and driving from Malaga airport, here's the address to put into your GPS:

Los Amigos Beach Club
Playamarina Urbanisation
Carretera de Cadiz Km 204,
29647 Mijas Costa
Malaga, Spain

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Club La Costa Mijas Bus Stop

Sue wrote to me: Hi Mike, have found your page very helpful and would appreciate your advice. There are 6 of us arriving at Málaga airport at about 8.30pm travelling to Club La Costa in Mijas Costa: Would you recommend the train to Fuengirola then the bus, or is there a better way considering the time and the size of our party and the cost? What about the Airport Express Bus, or does that go out of our way?

I wrote to Sue: Hi Sue, thanks for writing in. I'm glad the Gomarbella pages are useful.

Yes, the Malaga Airport express bus goes directly from Malaga airport to Marbella bus station and takes the inland toll road and doesn't stop before Marbella so you are absolutely correct about the train being the most economical way to move the group on the first part of the journey.

There are three trains every hour from Malaga airport to Fuengirola train station so there is no need to hurry to the airport. Because Club La Costa is just outside Fuengirola, if you prefer not to pull suitcases from the  bus stop to Reception and save time, I suggest you take two taxis from the taxi rank right outside Fuengirola train station to Club La Costa. With all the money you've saved by taking the train, you can treat yourselves to this short taxi trip.

If you are all still feeling fresh when you get to Fuengirola and would like keep costs down and use the bus for the last short part of the journey, walk one block to the Fuengirola bus station and take the bus to Marbella. There are two buses every hour.  Ask for Club La Costa when you buy your ticket. This list of bus stops between Marbella and Fuengirola will help you.  The bus will trundle out through Fuengirola and then  join the busy A7 coastal highway road. Almost immediately on your left you will see the Sohail castle on top of a hill. Be prepared to get off at the very next bus stop.

The bus will pull off onto a service road then stop at a BP filling station. This is where you get off. In the top photo you'll see the Fuengirola to Marbella bus stopped at the BP filling station. The two passengers who have just got off the bus are walking towards the footpath which follows the curve of the road inside the crash barrier for 300 metres before they leave the road and walk up to the Club La Costa Reception.

In the second photo you'll see the same bus back on the main road heading off towards Marbella the big sign on the hill says Club La Costa 300metres but it will seem a bit further!

To walk to Club La Costa you'll need to follow the road right around the corner. If you are arriving late at night, if it's very hot or raining or if you are pulling a suitcase, you probably won't want to walk this far and a taxi from outside the Fuengirola train station will be the simplest.

Walking from Club La Costa World to get onto the Fuengirola Paseo Maritimo,  use this footbridge to cross the road to get to the Fuengirola beaches and to get to Beatriz Playa Hotel which is just over the road from the filling station below the Sohail castle. In the top photo on the extreme right you can just see the pinkish colour of the Beatriz Playa Hotel. Just behind the hotel next to the fir trees is the Sohail Castle.

If you click on the top photo to make it bigger, in the background you'll see the white buildings of Mijas Pueblo halfway up  mountain behind Fuengirola. If you'd like a fun outing, you can get from Club La Costa to Mijas Pueblo by bus from Fuengirola bus station.

I hope this helps you Sue, thanks again for writing in and have a great stay. Best wishes from Marbella Mike