Thursday, March 08, 2007

Buses in Spain

Apart from the sun, and the music, and the coffee, and the beer, and the cava, and the scenery, and the history, and..and..lots more.. one of the best things about Spain is the buses.

I guess the services are so good because so many people used not to have cars.

In fact lots still don't, and many women still don't drive. Not where I am anyway.

So I can walk down to the main road out of the village and get on a bus to Málaga, every 40 minutes, for 1.85€. And for 40 or 50 minutes depending on traffic, I can gaze out of the window at the Mediterranean as someone else drives me down the coast. This is A Good Thing.

Alsina Graells in Spanish, English, and French.

In bus stations you buy the tickets from a little ticket office. You need to go to the one for the company you are travelling with. (In Málaga this excludes the airport bus which is a Euro fixed fare paid to the driver when you get on the bus, have the exact money ready.)

On busy buses you may find your seat number is included on the ticket. Invariably the Spanish either ignore this or can't read anyway. This then leads to lots of Spanish hollering at each other and trying to sit on each other's laps as the whole bus has to start playing musical chairs.

I watched this performance last week on the bus back from Gibraltar. On the way down from Málaga it had been pretty quiet, but coming back, on the 2.15pm bus - the Spanish had obviously got out of bed - it was pretty busy.

Anyway, when in Spain do as the Spanish do, so I ignored my allocated seat and cleared off to the back of the bus. I would not normally recommend this practice - I add quickly - but I had all my bags with me and wanted the space. Plus I've got long legs, and back ache...well those are my excuses anyway.

This was a good move although by fluke and not as calculated as it appears. Unless there are 52 people or whatever on the bus you are not going to get kicked out of the very last seat on the bus for taking someone else's seat, but I only worked that out afterwards. I was feeling smug. Those of us at the back looked on patronisingly as 20 people in the middle of the bus suddenly all started mass musical chairs just as the bus was due to leave.

A British guy hastily moved back one seat to join me at the back in case he'd committed the unpardonable of sitting in someone's else place, and then it all settled down, and off we went.

So in the back few seats we were two British, one German, one Austrian, and one undefined with curly hair and a flower pot hat. In front were three Spaniards. We happily chatted away mixing the languages, although the British guy decided to go to sleep not long after the Austrian told us he was a beggar..... He loved the Germans and the English, apparently we are generous, but the Spanish are not too keen on funding his lifestyle. He got off en route - presumably to go and find a nice supermarket to sit outside.

Coming out of Torremolinos and into Málaga we hit a delay. At this point the gypsy family in the middle of the bus decided to entertain us. The kids were obviously bored so the (say) 12-year-old girl started beating her younger brother round the head with a water bottle, on the tenuous grounds that he was behaving badly.

"SON OF A WHORE!!" they screamed at each other, while the said mother sat there watching the performance like the rest of us. Then they got bored with the water bottles as weapons and started fighting a bit more seriously with fists. Mother must have said something at this point as younger brother promptly whacked her one round the head. Father sat peaceably next to mother cradling sleeping babe in arms. And then they must have got bored and it fizzled out. Bummer. Not seen such good spontaneous spectator sport since I went to Elland Road and there were more missiles (mostly beer cans) on the pitch than players. And that was some time ago as Kevin Keegan was the main target.

I love buses. Practical details - 10.04€ between Málaga and La Linea (one way). Four buses a day. Clicky linky thingy here, (well it will be when I can work out how to do it...) Autobuses Portillo - autocares buses transporte de pasajeros Costa del Sol Málaga y Algeciras in Spanish and English.

If you want to go to Gib for a day trip and stock up at Morrisons on whatever you like - in my case Ecover toilet cleaner, cornflower, organic tinned tomatoes, vegetarian Cheshire cheese, and Nando's hot peri peri sauces - there are plenty of organised day trips from the Costa.

I used the Lux Mundi trip in Torre del Mar. Incredibly well organised. Buy ticket in advance, get seat allocated, and turn up to find name on seat too. Most impressed. Bargain price too, 12€ return day trip. Leave Torre del Mar bus station at 7am (about the only down side to the trip - especially if you live out of Torre), get down to Gib about 9.30, and then the queue to get over the frontier is all in the lap of the gods. Set off back from Morrison's car park at 4pm as I remember, and get back to Torre around 6.45pm. Recommended. So is Nando's sauce. Lux Mundi tel: (00 34) 952 54 33 34. Trips usually once a month on a Thursday.

I've posted some info about buses between Madrid - Burgos - Santander.

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