Nothing Has Changed On the Costa Del Sol

From Nerja we have travelled past Malaga into the heart of the tourist Costa del Sol. First stop was the campsite at Cabopino which lies about half way between Fuengirola and Marbella. The campsite was busy with many British long termers who drive straight down to here, book in for 3-4 months and stay here all winter. It also has its fair share of full-time residents living in larger caravans, fifth wheel trailers and rented out chalets (36.4901, -4.7432).

We went around to the campsite bar for what we thought would be a quiet drink. Shortly afterwards the nightly entertainment started – an Elvis tribute act – and the place was bursting at the seams with standing room only available. This is certainly not the type of lifestyle I would like to fall into any time soon!

Views at Cabopino campsite and another overlander parked opposite

The campsite itself was nice, with ancient pine trees providing shade and with nicely planted areas. There was an indoor pool as well as the outdoor pool and during peak periods a program of acivities.

But the site in general lacks some TLC with the toilet and shower blocks in serious need of an upgrade as well as the ned for more modern electric hook up points. For the money this site charges (€19 per night off-season with ACSI is one of the more expensive sites and peak season prices are eye-watering), and with its higher than average occupancy – they really should be reinvesting some of their profits rather than treating it as a cash cow and letting the facilities degenerate.

After a week at Cabopino Camping we decided to move back to Fuengirola in search of some free parking. We know Fuengirola pretty well as we lived in the Mijas Costa area for three years, so we were going towards the feria ground at the Los Boliches end of town where we knew there are many motorhomes park up. On the way we passed the Mosque and found a large area that looked like a disused car park with three other motorhomes parked, just 2 streets back from the beach. So we decided to have a quick look to see what was happening (36.5315, -4.6284).

Driving in over the uneven ground we were more concerned with avoiding the potholes than anything else when I spotted an elderly gentleman emerge from a small shack/tent in the corner waving his arms frantically. We stopped to see what the problem was – “no problem” he said in perfect English, “park anywhere and if you want to move later that’s OK too!”. Apparently Tassimo, as he introduced himself later, lives in his little shack in the corner all year round and appears to be the self appointed guardian of this parking area. His skin is like mahogany and he has a pet podenco called Tassi. He asked where we were from and when we said Ireland he punched the air and shouted “Bobby Sands!!”. Not the first words that come to my mind when I think of home but each to his own.  I offered him €2 and asked if he would keep a watch on the van which he kindly agreed to do. Tassimo has even acquired two Policia Local barriers which he pulls across the entrance to the site at night time to close it off 🙂 .

The recently renovated mosque and minaret next to our parking spot at Fuengirola

We went off for a walk around our old stomping ground to check up on what’s changed – not much as it turns out. The promenade is still wall to wall English cafés offering all day breakfast for €3.95 or four tapas and a beer for €5. Sound like a bargain until you read the tapas menu which includes those old Spanish favourites liver and onions, toad in the hole and coronation chicken! Then we remembered that unless you venture off the beach front , this is the only type of food available for the Brits who love to come to Spain but don’t actually want to experience anything remotely Spanish. Walking along the front we were surrounded by beer bellied, sunburned bodies, football shirts and tats.

Statue of a fisherman hauling nets ashore as a reminder of Fuengirola’s origin as a small fishing village

So we headed a few streets back off the front which has a much nicer feel to it. We used to spend quite a bit of time in the church square – a pleasant area surrounded by Spanish cafés – one of them famed for providing the best churros in the area, so we popped in for a coffee. I also had a wander around my favourite shop in the whole world – the Morocann shop in the church square. I can’t tell you how much I love this shop, the Moroccan lamps, rugs, clothes, jewellery, the smell of burning incense – everything about it.  My dream would be to open a shop at home in NI exactly the same.   Its good to be back (briefly).

Returning to the van Alan muttered something about not having the keys and hoping he hadn’t left them in the ignition – again.  He peeked over the seat and sure enough there they were, still in the on position in the ignition. Now I could have lost the plot like I normally do but what’s the point, the battery’s flat and me having a go wasn’t going to add anything useful, so we agreed to have a cup of tea and phone ADAC tomorrow for yet another jump start.

The old Ayuntamiento building in Fuengirola – now a chic hotel

We noted we had been joined by another motorhome – that’s three of us sitting in a row.  In the other corner is a small caravan with a home-made awning at the side which looks like its been there for years.  We were having a nice cuppa when the owner of said caravan started up his generator which started every dog in the neighbourhood barking. It could be a long night. Thankfully the generator was switched off before 11pm. Hopefully the faithful will make their way quietly to prayers in the morning and we will be spared the call to prayer at 5am.

The next morning we phoned ADAC who assured us they would send a grua (Spanish tow-truck) to us ASAP – ASAP turned out to be three hours later after another two phone calls.  The grua driver was very nice as always and got us started in less than two minutes, had a chat about the van and off he went.  This is the fourth time (I’m losing count) we’ve called ADAC out and I have to day they’ve been amazing.  A straightforward conversation with an English speaking operator and they have someone out, usually within the hour, but sometimes a bit longer.

We’d been standing at the entrance to the car park waiting for the grua for two and a half hours not registering that the sun was beating down, so we both have some pretty red shoulders to mark us out even more as “tourists”.  Can’t believe I lived here for 3 years without once getting sunburn and first day in Fuengirola I get roasted!

The following day we drove back to the far side of Malaga to Rincón de la Victoria to meet an old friend who worked with us when we lived here.  Finding somewhere to park was easier than we thought and we were able to find a road with some very wide lay-bys.  We left the van and walked into the town – Rincón is not your typical tourist holiday spot, its a Spanish working town with a few hotels.  The visitors who do come during the holiday period are generally Spanish.

We met our friend Amanda who we haven’t seen for almost six years so there were lots of hugs and kisses floating around.  Amanda invited us back to her house for some lunch.  We sat outside on the terrace and ate and drank for most of the afternoon.  It was great to catch up with an old friend and remember the good times we had together.  Talking to her made me realise that being friends with someone doesn’t mean you have to be with them 24/7,  strong friendship transcends the test of time – whenever we meet we are able to pick up exactly where we left off and say goodbye until next time.  Thank you Amanda for a lovely afternoon.

Driving back we agreed to spend one more night in Fuengirola to watch Ireland v Wales in the Six Nations rugby.  We returned to “Tassimo’s Place” and he was busy sweeping the tarmac entrance to the car parking area! After parking up we settled in the first English cafe we came across, had a toastie and chips and watched Ireland get beat.  The not so perfect end to the perfect day.

On Saturday we decided it was time to move on and head a few miles down the road to La Cala de Mijas for another favourite of mine – prawns pil pil at a certain little restaurant in the main square.

Arriving at the market place on the edge of La Cala we were greeted by the sight of approx 40/45 motorhomes parked up in the back corner.  The parking space in La Cala is relatively new and they have some rules which we had heard were being enforced quite strictly by the Policia Local.

The line of motorhomes at La Cala de Mijas

The maximum stay is two nights, motorhome owners need to register their vehicle at the Policia Local station in La Cala and there are supposedly a maximum of 30 spaces available per night.  The office is only open Monday to Friday 0900 – 1400 so if you arrive after 1400 on Friday you can park all weekend and then get a ticket for another two nights on Monday – which was our plan (36.5048, -4.685).

We parked up alongside the others anyway and hoped for the best.  The services are at the far side of the car park and are a bit primitive – the water comes from a foot shower and the grey waste point is accessed by lifting a manhole cover close to the foot shower (take a long screwdriver to help lift the cover).  The black waste is situated over near the wooden toilet block and again is accessed by lifting a manhole cover – since the black waste is a bit of a trek from the watertap it’s a good idea to fill a bucket of water and take it with you to the black waste area to rinse out your cassette.

Michelle having a pracice drive in Kelpie at La Cala feria ground – not let loose on the roads yet!

On my 50th birthday Alan and I went to a little restaurant in La Cala  where I had the most amazing prawns pil pil I have ever tasted.  I’ve been waiting three years for a return visit, so on Saturday night we headed over.  Everything was exactly the same, the waiter, the owner, the menu and surprisingly the prices.  I ordered a double portion of prawns pil pil and they arrived in a steel skillet with bread and the usual garlic, parsley, chilli and tomato sludge in the bottom.  They were definitely worth the wait, the prawns were as soft as butter and the sauce was to die for.  If you’re in La Cala this dish is a must have.

Gambas Pil Pil mmmmm! Break bread and dip in 🙂

We had no sight of the Polica Local over the weekend and the car park was pretty full by Sunday night.  We made our way over to the police station on Monday morning with our documents (passports, vehicle registration and insurance) – the police station is located opposite Biddy Mulligans pub and the office is on the first floor.  The police officer was extremely pleasant, took our details and issued us with a numbered ticket to place on the dashboard.  The ticket noted out arrival date/time and expected departure date/time two days later.  We duly placed our ticket on the dashboard and noticed that we seemed to be the only van with a ticket on display – it seems everyone else was just winging it and staying as long as they could get away with.

Seems like we are not the only motorhome needing a grua!

Our ticket expired on Wednesday but I could see other vans who had already been parked for over a week as they had been here when we came from Fuengirola to use the services. They weren’t for moving so, as the weather was turning a bit dodgy, we decided to chance our arm and stay on for another couple of days before heading up into the mountains to Ronda. I am glad we did as the weather turned out to be perfect for ducks! In fact we even had a couple who came around to visit us regularly!

Our regular duck visitors


Rough weather in La Cala de Mijas

Needless to say, no-one came around to check up, so we stayed until Sunday when the weather had improved. This also allowed us to catch the final weekend of Six Nations rugby, when Ireland faced England in Dublin. No better place to watch the game than the largest Irish bar in La Cala, Biddy Mulligans. Over a few pints of Guinness for Alan and a few Tinto Veranos for me, the atmosphere built up and as a  huge rugby fan, Alan was delighted when Ireland overcame their old enemy.  “Sometimes it is nice to win, and sometimes it is even nicer to stop others winning” he grinned.

And so it ends for another year