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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