April 10th, 2012
When Spanish families go to the beach they tend to take the entire contents of their house with them. Everything except the kitchen sink.
That is because they go there in the comfort of their air conditioned car. But what if you want to see Spain by bus? As i sometimes do.
Well you can take plenty of stuff with you on a Spanish bus. Though taking a fold out dining table for twelve people may be stretching your luck.
Here are the coastlines I have seen by bus.
You don’t need the fingers of both hands to count the number of times I have sat on a beach in Spain in the past ten years. It’s just not my thing. But i do like discovering coastal resorts and, in particular, cities by the sea.
Nerja is no secret. It has been known about by those from northern Europe for decades now. Ever popular, Nerja has done well over the years to retain much of its traditional Spanish charm while attracting tourists who still want access to a serving of fish and chips, curry, goulash or Bratwurst.
A once small and fairly anonymous place, Nerja was famous for its sugar production. It only really developed into an international holiday location in the 1960′s and 1970′s. The speed with which it became so popular took many by surprise and, at one point, locals feared the very essence of Nerja would be lost in the race for the tourist dollar.
Today the height of summer can result in Nerja being very busy but, as with so many Spanish coastal destinations, for the majority of the year it remains an everyday working town around which tourism plays a supporting role. I can totally see the appeal of the place.
Here, as a holidaymaker or resident, you can be as Spanish minded as you like. Or you can get a taste of other countries via the international cuisines on offer at a multitude of restaurants.
The beaches are small but, unlike some further east along this coastline, sandy. And the beaches are safe for children and award winning.
And there is plenty to do in Nerja. Go inland to the famous and impressive caves.
Or take a cooling walk into the Rio Chillar, and chill out.
And i like the variety of shops on offer in Nerja. Something for everyone i believe. It is easily possible to experience Spanish life by sitting in one of the atmospheric cafes, some of which have withstood the march of both time and tourism.
Unlike some of the coastal resorts that are west of Malaga, Nerja has retained a Spanish identity. I hope it stays that way.
I get on the bus next in the direction of Malaga but with every intention of stopping just short of the wonderful city centre. At a stretch of coastline that is a particular favourite of mine. The section between El Palo and Pedregalejo.
Famous for one of the most atmospheric, effectively open air restaurants, El Tintero; there is no shortage of competition for your tastebuds. Walk along this long stretch of esplanade and you will pass countless restaurants, many specialising in locally caught fish. Have some sardines cooked in front of you on the beach.
Or sit back outside one of the comfortable cafes on the seafront. Take your time and watch the world go by.
The sandy beaches and bays are a delight and, once again, safe for children to play on. And you must take a stroll behind the first row on the seafront and see the collection of fisherman cottages that have survived the march of progress. This is how the seafarers used to live and you will see that some houses are so small that those who live there today have to come outside of their tiny living rooms downstairs and ascend outside staircases to reach their bedrooms.
Sunbathing plane spotters are in heaven as you can look up to the blue skies and see the comings and goings from the new look Malaga airport. But the planes are not noisy at this point so your peaceful time reading a book on the beach, or savouring the wonderful food on offer locally, is not disturbed by the sound of jet engines.
It is hard to believe that you are so close to a major city. So close indeed that I have been known to walk into the city from El Palo. In order to walk off lunch.
Malaga is one of those cities that is too often overlooked by holidaymakers, simply because they land there and are then whisked off to locations outside of the city centre.
I think that, just like Barcelona, Alicante, Cadiz and many other coastal Spanish cities; Malaga offers the best of both worlds. The attractions tourists demand from a modern city centre, coupled with some splendid beaches within walking distance, or a short hop on a bus.
There are no shortage of buses going in the direction of my next two destinations. So popular and in demand are they, albeit for very different reasons.
Many a beach dude heads for Tarifa. I confess to sometimes feeling a little old at this thriving destination that is so favoured by the young, fit and athletic. Those who crave sports associated with the sea or the wind. Tarifa long ago became the play thing for the playful.
Although, with my penchant for going to seaside resorts out of high season, you can holiday in Tarifa for much of the year and not feel out of it should you not be riding the waves or the wind.
The old town of Tarifa is charming and the main street of the more modern part of Tarifa, which is full of shops for the sporty, is not tacky. Indeed the prices of clothing apparel for those who, unlike me, undertake more exercise than lifting a glass of wine were amazingly high. How anyone can afford to be so sporty these days is beyond me.
So it is back to one of the nice old bars in the ancient part of Tarifa. After all, I wouldn’t want to sit in one of those bars full of muscle men from all over the world. I would only put them to shame!
The beaches at Tarifa and further west along this coast are a delight.
I pray that places such as Trafalgar and the wonderful Zahara de los Atunes do not fall foul of large hotel developments. For their is no shortage of property to choose from to rent for your holiday along a coastline, so much of which is untouched by the worst of modern development.
That happened at Algeciras long ago. But that was, to some extent, understandable. After all Algeciras has been for so long been the point of arrival and departure for those travelling between Spain and North Africa.
I am that rare beast. I actually do like Algeciras. It’s beaches. The old part of town that so few visitors see. It’s vibrant market. It’s stand out main square. All the things those simply arriving on the bus in order to catch a sailing to Tangier never get to see.
If you can see the benefits of being somewhere that is richer because of its ethnic mix, one that dates back centuries, then you will enjoy all Algeciras has to offer. I loathe it when people look down their noses at a location in Spain without ever having taken time to get to know the place.
Algeciras is inevitably a place awash with transient people. But they are far outnumbered by local residents who love the place. Not least because of its proximity to north Africa and the benefits that can bring.
Algeciras has character and characters. In some ways it is as unlike Spain as is Gibraltar. Ironically it can feel more Moorish than some destinations across the water in Morocco.
Because people do not flock to the beaches here from elsewhere, the locals have the sand all to themselves. True, the views may not be as good as another place I have been to by bus – Cadiz – but the sea is still blue and the beaches sandy. And, like Cadiz, Algeciras has the vibrancy of a city, albeit a small one.
When picking places to visit in Spain by bus, you want to try and keep it simple. Don’t get involved in too many changes, especially if they are not made at a bus station. Remember that there are fewer buses in winter than summer. Get a cheap day return ticket, in advance if possible.
And, crucially, leave the dog at home. Enjoy a day out in Spain and let someone else do the driving.