Spain – Costa-Del-Sol – 2016/17

Following 3 months in Turkey from August to November 2016, we needed somewhere to over winter. We planned to return to the UK for the Christmas and New Year period and stay with our kids but we had no home to go to as such as our house in Bolton is still rented out and will likely continue to be for another year at least.

An ideal solution, for me at least, would have been a return to Asia for a few months of sun and cheap living but we did want to be home for Christmas and so we decided upon Spain as a  more practical and affordable solution. We had several time-share weeks that needed to be used
(before they expired) and we worked it so that over the period December to March with almost 3 weeks at home over Christmas, a combination of time-share and rental properties enabled us to spend a very pleasant winter in Spain. Better still, because of the proximity to the UK and Ireland, various friends and family came over to  join us at various times.

Actually our period on the Costa Del Sol was an eye opener for us. We had never really visited the area before except for an occasional holiday in Marbella and Puerto Banus when our kids were small. We certainly didn’t expect to enjoy our stay so much on a coast commonly regarded as a downmarket coastal strip of concrete full of Brit friendly pubs and fish and chips cafes in the Blackpool genre.

Whilst we found that there is certainly no shortage of the aforesaid British pubs and cafes in some of the resorts, most of these are closed over the winter despite the fact there is still a fair number of resident Brit expats and visitors around. And occasionally those pubs were handy to visit on occasion to watch live footy on TV when we were struggling with poor wifi at our accomodation.

Over the 3 month period December to March we spent a month in Nerja, a week or two or more in Calahonda, Belamadena, La Cala and Malaga and we also visited Marbella and Seville for a few days and we enjoyed them all. We were pleasantly surprised to find some good walking, albeit mostly urban walking but with lengthy boardwalks and promenades. For example, we could walk from Cala to Torremelinos in one direction and to Fuengerola in the other direction, a distance of around 20km and most days we would walk from 5 to 10 miles or more.

Everywhere , without exception , we could find inexpensive tapas restaurants in areas where we heard relatively few British voices and the  efficient and cheap train and bus services meant that we could have regular days out at little cost.

Malaga became a favourite and we visited several times and stayed over on occasion including a pre-Christmas get together with brother Mike and sister-in-law Lynn. We loved the architecture, the bars and restaurants and the atmosphere , especially at Christmas was lovely.

Here’s a few photos from our time on the Costa Del Sol

Benalmadena

 

Benalmadena – we were surprised how much we liked this place but we found a couple of really nice bars and restaurants

 

A pleasant harbour with lots of bars , restaurants and shopping

 

 

Benalmadena Pueblo

 

 

Benalmadena Pueblo

 

 

 

A surprising find near Benalmadena Pueblo

 

 

Playa de Calahonda/La Cala

This stretch of cost is between Fuengirola and Marbella. We liked it a lot staying in the timeshare resorts of Macdonalds Dona Lola and Los Mimosas

La Cala is a small quiet resort with just enough shops, supermarkets and bars restaurants. For us, this boardwalk is its best feature providing a lovely coastal walk of several miles.

 

The watchtower at La Cala. One of many on this coast of Spain
For our first visit to La Cala, we stayed in a very pleasant timeshare at Las Mimosas Beach Club – a ground floor unit with garden area.

 

The Dona Lola Club Timeshare at Calahonda is 5* with well fitted out apartments, nice pool, restaurant bar -and Happy Hour !

 

Lovely sunsets here…

 

Marbella – a day out from Calahonda

 

We enjoyed a day trip to Marbella on January 17th 2017, our first visit in years. Beautiful weather combined with no crowds made for a nice day out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a super promenade stretching for miles although we didn’t have time to walk much of it on this visit. We plan to re-visit for a few days in February 2018.

 

 

 

Malaga

We visited Malaga a few times twixt December and March 2017  and the city has become one of our favourites. A pre Christmas visit when we met up with my brother Mike and sister-in-law Lynn was especially nice but we find the place great whenever we visit. Its a decent size city with a nice historic centre packed with tapas bars and restaurants. There’s some very good shopping with a trip to our favourite store El Corte Ingles compulsory on every visit!

Malaga Cathedral

 

 

La Calle Larios – Malaga’s main shopping area

 

Casa Lola – one of our favourite Malaga restaurants

 

 

Mike & Lynn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nerja

Nerja seems to be the “go to” resort for many holiday makers visiting Spain including several of our friends who visit regularly. We had never visited and so we decided to round off this trip with a months stay in an apartment just above Burriana Beach. The apartment was in a very good spot only minutes from the beach and its bars and restaurants and a similar distance from decent supermarkets. Nerja centre was 10/15 minutes walk.

We chose our apartment well, very spacious and well kitted out for self catering. Wifi was good and Sky Sports for live footy was a bonus.

We enjoyed mostly decent sunny weather except for a few stormy days but February  is out of season and  many of the bars and restaurants were still closed. Nevertheless we found sufficient eateries to keep us happy  and were lucky to visit at the time of the annual February Carnival, an excuse for the locals to dress up and have a big drink! We were surprised to find many more expat Brits, French and Americans (and beggars) here than we had  in the other parts of Costa Del Sol although its certainly more authentically Spanish with much fewer ex-pat bars and cafes further down the coast. It’s certainly true to say that this is a very attractive town with nice beaches with some nice walking with one of the very pretty white villages, Frigiliana, only 6 kilometers away. The Balcon de Europa area of the town centre shown in the first few photos below is especially nice and a great place to sit and people watch in the February sun albeit this particular area was plagued with beggars at the time of our visit.

We enjoyed our stay in Nerja although we didn’t feel the love sufficiently to want to return in a hurry.

 

The Town

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoying a drink at one of the 3 Sevillan restaurants in Nerja

 

Ooh boquerones – we love boquerones! And Rioja!

 

Another Sevillano – the generous free tapas in these bars meant no dinner was  required on a few occasions – although it did mean consuming a fair amount of wine…..

 

The Beaches

Really nice beaches here – especially off season – and perhaps more especially in wild weather !

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carnival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Weekend in Seville

One of the great things about staying on the Costa del Sol is the easy access to Malaga with its great transport links to the rest of the country. You can seemingly get anywhere by bus, train or plane and we took the opportunity to make a short trip by train to Seville. Sorting out train tickets was a doddle and we booked a decent hotel in the city centre, Las Casa de Los Mercaderes. The journey itself was very pleasant with comfortable seats and we got to see  some lovely scenery we would never have seen had we travelled by car. We stayed only for 2 nights/3 days and unfortunately Ann wasn’t very well on one of the days . So time was very limited but  we saw enough of the place , including a few hours in the Cathedral and Alcazar , to decide that we would return and rent an apartment for a much longer stint in 2018. Here are some photos….

 

Malaga’s main train station is Maria Zambrano.Conveniently , the main bus station is next door – good to know as taxis aren’t particularly cheap here

 

 

 

 

The journey from Malaga to Seville inevitably takes you through some urban and industrial areas but its mostly a very pleasant view of rural/agricultural landscapes with vines and olive plantations and the like. At one point the train passes over a viaduct through a gorge with views of the scariest ever walkway on the gorge wall.Unfortunately the train travels at a speed which made it difficult to get decent photos.We will try to visit this when next in the area although there is no way  my vertigo will allow me to walk the walkways seen in the photo below this one…

 

Spot the walkway – and the walkers.

 

Mile after mile after mile of olive trees and vines

 

Seville

 

 

 

 

Spot the painter

 

 

Madrid

Following our time on the Costa Del Sol we ended up with a couple of days in Malaga where we met up with friends Brian and Carl and then flew to Madrid for a couple of nights before our flight back to Turkey.

Madrid was very much a flying visit and the weather was grey and drizzly  but nevertheless we enjoyed our couple of days which included a visit to the Bernabeu Stadium to watch Real Madrid v Las Palmas which ended up 3-3 with Bale sent 0ff – a great night out.  We also walked a lot and got to visit the Royal Palace and  other attractions and found some excellent tapas bars close to our digs. A culinary highlight , whilst not  fine dining , was the Mercado de San Miguel, a covered market full of top quality tapas bars selling all kinds of tapas and drinks.Very lively at any time ( we went more than once in 2 days)  and a great place to wander around grazing and trying different things.Here are some snaps….

 

 

 

Plaza Mayor in the rain
Plaza del Sol – finally some sun – a lively square is great for people watching with lots of street entertainers to amuse you

 

 

Street sellers keeping an eye open with their gear sat on sheets with draw strings attached ready to do a runner when the police turn up..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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