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A visit to Cabo de Gata in Andalusia

11/05/2015

Cabo de Gata

We needed to get a little bit away from everyday life, and therefore decided to take three days off and go to Cabo de Gata, the south-easternmost point on the Iberian peninsula – and one of Spain’s most distinctive and exciting nature reserves.

We therefore booked three nights at the 4star MC San Jose, located near the center of the area’s capital, San José.

Saturday, April 25th

We packed our Helle Hollis rental car in the morning and headed for San José, located 235 km from Málaga airport. The trip from Málaga to around Almuñecar is very beautiful, even if you as we choose to drive along the highway.

From Almuñecar you cross some of the most surreal landscapes I have seen. It is impossible for long periods to spot the ground. The whole landscape is as wrapped in plastic, and when you see it from a distance it looks like a silver sea.

In fact we are speaking of plastic greenhouses. The area between Almuñecar and Murcia is Spain’s vegetable garden, and many crops can be grown here both three and four times a year. Pretty it is not – but very distinctive.  I did not find  any reason to take a photo though.

We had lunch in Castell del Ferro, located in the province of Granada. The town is nothing special, but is like a little oasis in all the plastic landscape. Right down to the sea, with a small beach promenade where there are some small restaurants.
Prices are affordable and the quality is high compared to some of the more touristic cities. We were lucky that on this particular day the yearly tapas competition was held, where the local bars compete to get elected the best tapa. (Small dish or appetizer which throughout the province of Granada, is served for free when you buy a glass of wine or beer). In Málaga province it has become custom to charge for tapas. But here,  the tapa is for free!

Thus refreshed both eyes and palate, we continued towards Almeria (which is also worth a visit –  one can visit an old fortress which is open to the public – free entrance for EU citizens). On this occasion, we continued however without entering Almeria and ended up in San José in the afternoon, where we quickly found our hotel on the right in the second roundabout after entering the little town.
We checked into the MC San Jose at 17:00h. in good time for afternoon tea (merienda) that was included in the room rate. High quality coffee, juice and homemade bakery.

Lobby-SanJose-MC

Hotel San Jose MC Almeria

The hotel’s cosy lobby where the sofa is built like a boat.

After coffee we found our room that was located with a small front yard next to the hotel’s patio. In the patio there is a swimming pool intended for swimming laps and a small outdoor bar. All very cosy, well kept and super clean. Everywhere flowing softly relaxing music ..

Room Hotel SanJoseMC

Our large room with huge bed

Apart from the size of the rooms being unusually large, so the bedding should highlighted. The crispest Egyptian  cotton   with the hotel monogram embroidered.

In the minibar there is free bottled water and throughout the hotel free Wi-Fi, so we could keep up with the news     and social media.

The evening was spent in downtown San José – just a 10 minutes walk from the hotel.

About the town itself it can be said that it is a nice tourist town, very small and easy to get around with a marina and fishing port right in the center of the city, at the end of the main road. A small square where the whole town meet in the evening, and many cosy places where you can enjoy a glass of wine or beer. All within a few minutes walk from the hotel, so you do not have to take the car. We went for a stroll along the port to see the boats.

SAn Jose Port Almeria

 

 

 

 

San Jose Port

Then we dropped by a delicatessen which sells typical products from the area as well as serving wine and tapas.

Tapa Deli San Jose Almeria

The dinner was a pizza at Brigantino. There are two pizza places with the same name in the small town. One on the port, and one in the main street Calle Ronda. They both serve great pizzas, baked in wood-fired stone ovens . Unfortunately the staff  in both places are not very service minded. But never mind! They do have my favourite Sicilian wine Corvo at just 12 € per bottle.

Sunday, April 26th

After a sumptuous breakfast, which of course was also included in the room rate, we decided to make a hike to a nearby fishing village Isleta del Moro – about 10 km – lineal.

map Cabo de Gata

From the hotel we went back towards the entrance of the town (there is just this one entrance). At the last roundabout we went right in the direction of the campsite and Playa Higuera. From here the road goes slightly upwards until the tarmac runs out. From here starts a track which must be followed more or less straight ahead (do not go right to the Playa Higuera) The track narrows after a short time into a path which rises steeply. One can see an old lighthouse on the top of a ridge.

Hike San Jose Almeria
Clearly marked path.

Although we didn’t need to go all the way up to the lighthouse, it serves as an excellent marker. It is not possible to go wrong. As long as the path is followed and as long as it goes steeply uphill. This bit is the only place during the whole trip which can be challenging. But the underfoot is quite stable, so it is just a matter of finding a pace that fits your fitness.

San Jose Almeria

View San Jose

Once reached the top you are rewarded with the most stunning views back towards San José, Higuera beach and of the Mediterranean.
Now follow the coastline in a northerly direction (to the left when you stand looking out over the water). On the way we passed one small bay after another, all a little unique painting in themselves. I choose to let the photos speak for themselves. Besides the breath-taking views, we enjoyed on this trip the flora, which at this time of year is quite rich. A month or two further down the line, flowers will be scare as Cabo de Gata is one of Spain’s driest spots.

Flowers spring Andalusia

Flowers desert spring almeria

Flowers-spring

We followed the path along the water for about 6-7 kilometres, past an old fortress which at that date held a small market, where refreshments could be enjoyed.

Fort Isleta del Moro

Fort Almeria

Lunch

Then we followed the asphalted road inland for about 1 km until we came to Isleta del Moro where we had a delicious lunch of mussels of various kinds and a wonderful tomato salad made of Raf tomatoes. Raf tomatoes taste like tomatoes should taste – like tomato!

Fresh shellfish

Mussels

The restaurant is situated only 5 meters from the water’s edge in the small fishing village where the boats are still pulled up on shore every night. And just as well, as this afternoon, a storm broke out, with gusts of more than 100km per hour. The small tent where we lunched was rattling so wildly that it was at times difficult to hold a conversation.

Spanish Lunch

Isleta de Mora aerial photo

Isleta del Moro (old aerial photo)

After lunch we agreed therefore that we had walked enough and took with a local taxi (Vincente) back to San José and the hotel – again in time for afternoon tea.

In the evening we had dinner at the hotel. Three amazing delicious dishes for just 20 €. The hotel was also hosting a glass of local wine which was served in the hotel’s charming and cosy bodega. A pity that we were the only guests in the bodega that night. The restaurant had three tables occupied, so there was plenty of time to chat with the friendly service.

Bodega Hotel San Jose MC

The cosy bodega in the hotel basement

We asked among other things if they knew what the initials MC stands for. They muttered something about Maria Carmen, the first name of the owner’s grandmother, but without being really convincing. I checked the web page of the hotel and found out that it stands for Monte y Cala (Mountain and Bay) – and nothing could be more indicative of San Jose as mountain and bay. It offers plenty of both.

Monte y Cala

Monday, April 27th

We made full use of our Helle Hollis rental car that day by driving up and down the coast visiting other small coves and fishing villages. Particular attention should be given to  Agua Amarga (bitter water) which is a very nice, albeit sleepy bathing and fishing village.

If you are for total peace and quiet, then I recommend visiting Cala del Plomo (the led bay). There is no asphalted access road. Follow a dirt road of about 6 km. The bumpy ride is worthwhile when you come to a totally human deserted bay framed by the most beautiful rock formations.

Before we headed back to San José and the hotel’s afternoon tea, we just had enough time to see the lighthouse at Cabo de Gata. You can drive right up to the lighthouse, which offers the most amazing views.

Only complaint that day was that we neither saw seals nor dolphins. According to the signs it should be possible to see both species in the crystal clear waters which also are protected natural area.

From the experience that day again I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Cabo de Gata

Cabo de Gata

Cabo de Gata

Cabo de Gata Almeria

 

Tuesday, April 28th

Went back to Malaga – with a single stop in Almuñecar which we last time visited 25 years ago. A breath-taking development has taken place – in great contrast to our previous days in Cabo de Gata, where life goes quietly, and where man still has not conquered nature – thanks to the whole area being designated a natural park.

If you have been inspired to taking a trip to Cabo de Gata, remember that you have free mileage when you rent your car with Helle Hollis.

If you would like to know more about the trip to Cabo de Gata, then you are welcome to write to hhfrom@hellehollis.com

Facts:
Malaga – San Jose:  235 km.
Hotel MC San Jose: 3 nights with breakfast € 204 through www.booking.com
Or directly from www.hotelesmcsanjose.com
Taxi Vicente 608056255 – took 15 € for the trip from Isleta del Moro to San Jose

The car  you rent from www.hellehollis.com or call +34 952245544

Hans Hugo From, Director
Helle Hollis Car Rental

Hans og Ingelise Cabo de Gata

 

New UK driver’s license requirement will not affect your car hire in Málaga

30/04/2015 | 1 comment

UK drivers license

As of the 8th of June DVLA will abolish the paper counterpart of the photo card licence. The paper counterpart includes details of endorsements or penalty points.

The new procedure from the 8th will imply that the driver should ask online on the DVLA site the day before his departure to get a summary of his driver’s record and will be given a code.  This code is only valid for 72 hours and should be given to the car hire company in case they would like to check the drivers driving record.

“At Helle Hollis we want to make it easy and simple for our clients and we will not require the client to present the drivers record to rent a car.”
“We only require that the driver presents a valid driver’s licence,” adds Hans Hugo From, the Managing Director at Helle Hollis car rental.

“Neither do we want to make any business out of this e.g. charging more in excess deposit or excess waiver in cases where a driver has any penalty points, “informs Hans Hugo.

“The news in the UK press infers that this change will cause chaos at the car hire companies in e.g. Spain and we would therefore like to assure car hire clients, that at Helle Hollis we only require a valid driver’s licence,” ends Hans Hugo

For more official information click here to the  DVLA site.

The beautiful courtyards in Córdoba

27/04/2015

Courtyards cordoba

During May the Courtyard Festival takes place in Córdoba from the 4th of May till the 17th of May.  There is free entrance to all courtyards which are called “Patios” in Spanish.

If you are you in Málaga during this time, we recommend you make this trip to Córdoba where you will experience incredibly beautiful courtyards overflowing with flowers and plants.  You can easily get back and forth in a day from Málaga, if you do not want to stay overnight.

Click on the link to see a map of Córdoba, and where you can see the courtyards.  The gardens are open from 11-14hrs and from 18-22hrs each day.

If you plan to visit Córdoba during a weekend, then kindly notice that you need to book a ticket for the courtyards on the following link. Click here.

You select a date, time and the area where you wish to see the courtyards.  You can then visit all the courtyards that are in your selected zone.  Print the ticket and present it when you arrive to the courtyard.  Remember that the entrance is free.
This reservation system is only valid for the following weekends: 8th-10th of May and 15th- 17th of May in order to avoid long queues for entering the courtyards.

You can always get more information at the tourist office in Córdoba – click here.

Visit the Orchid Park – Botanical garden in Estepona

24/04/2015

Orchid Park Estepona

An exciting new botanical garden specialized in orchids has just been inaugurated in Estepona.  The botanical park Orchidarium is located on the outskirts of Estepona town at “Calle Salvador Dali number 22,” and is clearly visible with three distinctive glass domes where one of them is 30 meters high.

The Orchid building is divided into two parts of 1000 m2 and 15,000 m2 separated by a bamboo forest.

Orchid Park Estepona

Inside the glass building there is a waterfall and on the 12 meter high wall there are growing orchids in different heights. There are over 1600 different orchid varieties and 8000 other plant varieties. For instance you will find the flower “Ylan Ylan” (Cananga odarata) used in the perfume industry in famous perfume brands like Dior or Channel.  Or you can see vanilla plant which is a climbing growing orchid plant.

Admission is free and the opening hours are from Tuesday to Sunday from 11-14h & 18-21h. On Fridays and Saturdays the botanical garden is open till 23h.  It is closed on Mondays.
There are parking spaces near by the garden.

Photos: estepona.es/turismo

Tips for Seville April Fair

16/04/2015

Seville fair in April

On the 21st of April at 00.00 hours, the Seville April Fair, also called in Spanish “Feria de Abril” will be officially inaugurated when several thousand lights will be switched on the gateway to the fairground.

The Seville April fair lasts to the 26th of April so you have a whole week to visit it in.

Here are some tips if you are planning to visit the fair.

Where does the fair take place in Seville?
The fair is held in the area called the “Los Remedios” and is divided into a part with small tents (also called casetas in Spanish) and another part with fairground attractions.

Can I visit all the tents? A majority of the tents are private and one cannot enter them without being invited or that you are a member of the association hiring the tent. But there are 16 big public tents which everyone can go into.  At the entrance to the fairground you can get a map and situate yourself where to go, or you can just go with the flow and the beat of the music, an experience in itself, and just walk around the big fairground.

In the streets and in the tents there are people dancing sevillanas and if you don´t have to drive, then try also the typical drink “rebujitos” which is sherry mixed with lemon water or 7-Up.

When is the best time to visit the fair?
We recommend that you arrive around 13:30h where you can see horse carriages, sevillana dancing and the beautiful flamenco dresses the women are dressed in. From 20:00h in the evening there are no longer horse carriages in the streets and the fairground is taken over with young people for partying. If you are a late night rather than early morning person then you should come later in the evening.

Wear good footwear
Comfortable shoes are a must during the visit, and please be aware that they will get very dirty. The streets of the fairground are covered with yellow sand. The same sand sort is also used in the bullring, and makes the shoes quite dirty and dusty.

Parking the car
We recommend you park the car away from the fairground site and use public transport to get there. During the fair week extra buses are running around the clock so you can easily get back and forth from the fairground.

Arrange a specific meeting point
There are over 1000 tents and 15 streets on the fairground so there is plenty to look at and also easy to get away from each other.  Arrange a specific meeting point so you can always meet up at it should you get lost.

Enjoy the party, the music and the atmosphere on the fairground and get yourself a real Spanish holiday experience.

Speed cameras will now be visible in Spain

5/04/2015

Speed camera in spain

There are over 800 speed cameras set up on the Spanish roads, so make sure always to respect the speed limit to avoid being fined on your holidays.

Until now many speed cameras have been hidden, which has resulted in that many have got an unpleasant surprise in the form of a fine after finishing their holidays.

The Directorate General of Traffic (DGT) is now moving around on the speed cameras, so the majority will be placed on the roads where most accidents happen and they become visible for the driver.

The location of the cameras can be seen on DGTS website. Click here.

Or you can see the location of the speed cameras in Malaga by clicking here.

Another change which is affecting many drivers is that the DGT has changed the  ”margins of error” for when a speeding ticket is issued.

Where previously it was possible to exceed the speed limit by 12-15 km/h, now it is only 7 km/h at speeds below 100km/h.  At speeds above 100 km/h the limit is set at 7% excess before a fine is issued.

Here are some examples:

Speed limit 50km/h           – speed camera will fine at 58km/h
Speed limit 80 km/h         – speed camera will fine at 88km/h
Speed limit 100km/h     – speed camera will fine at 109 km/h
Speed limit 120 km/h     – speed camera will fine at 131 km/h

We would like to draw your attention to two stretches where the speed cameras often fine many clients.

One stretch is west of Malaga on the A-7 Faro de Calaburras, Mijas Costa.  On the road from km 205.2 to km 200.1 the maximum speed is 80km/h.  The speed cameras will be calculating an average speed over this stretch and if exceeded a fine will be issued.  This applies the direction Fuengirola towards Marbella and vice versa.

The other stretch is east of Malaga on A-7 at the tunnel of Torrox from km 287.6 to km 288.7. Here the speed limit is set at 100 km/h.

Once again we ask you to respect the speed limits and your holidays will not be ruined with a speeding fine that easily could have been avoided.

Helle Hollis will be testing driverless cars in Málaga

1/04/2015

Driverless car

Today, the 1st of April, Helle Hollis has been selected as Málaga’s first car rental company to the test drive of driverless cars.

Helle Hollis will receive three prototypes of the driverless model during the month of July, and customers who would be interested to test drive these models during their holidays, should forward an email to bookings.

The driverless car model has already been approved in California, Florida and Nevada, and the EU is already in an advanced process to approve driverless cars in Europe. Helle Hollis is proud to have been selected as the first test car hire company.  The selection process has been long, and we have just today, the 1st of April, received confirmation that we as a car hire business on the Costa del Sol have been the chosen company.

There is predicted a large market for driverless cars in the car rental business so you can finally get a 100% stress-free driving experience during your holidays. With the driverless car you can enjoy the views during your mountain drive to the white villages and one should no longer worry about the sharp needle turns. It will become much easier to park and drive around in big cities such as Málaga, Seville and Granada and you will of course not receive any speeding ticket during your holidays.

All in all, a completely stress-free form of car hire which goes hand in hand with Helle Hollis slogan: stress-free car rental.

 

HAPPY APRIL FOOLS! ….  :)

How to book a ticket for the “Caminito del Rey” – the royal walkway in El Chorro, Malaga

2/03/2015

Bridge Caminito del Rey

This is how you book a ticket for the “Caminito del Rey” – try the exciting walk on the royal pathway, if you do not suffer from vertigo.  The Caminito del Rey was opened to the public on the 28th of March 2015.

Procedure to book your ticket for Caminito Del Rey – Malaga

You must book the ticket on the official website  

You can reserve a maximum of five tickets at a time and only two months in advance. Every half an hour a group of 50 persons will be sent off on the trail.

The ticket is personal and non-transferable.  Upon start and end of the hike you must present a passport or other identification along with the ticket.  The same also applies to children who also must show the name of the accompanying adult.  For safety reasons, children must be over 8 years of age to walk the hike.

You must arrive 30 minutes before the booked admission time in order to be organized into groups.

The hike “Caminito del Rey”
The hike is from point A to B as it is linear.  It is important that you have arranged beforehand with transportation to get you back to your starting point.  There are buses that runs from El Chorro and from Ardales (each starting/ending point) and costs 1,55 euros for a ticket. The first bus leaves at 12:30h and the last one 20:30h. The buses runs each half an hour. Please check upon arrival for the exact timetable.  Here you can see the timetable in Spanish .
You can also walk part of the hike and return to the same starting point.

You can begin the hike from Ardales (Guadalhorce water dam) and the walk will go downhill or you can start the hike from El Chorro train station (Álora) and go uphill.

If you start at the Guadalhorce water dam (Ardales) from the restaurant Kiosko, then you should first go 2.7 km to the control centre which is next to the hydroelectric power plant.  This will take approximately 50 minutes.  From there the official Caminito del Rey starts and it will take approximately 4 hours to reach El Chorro train station.

If you start at El Chorro train station (Álora), then you will head on for 2.1 km, passing a campsite and an iron bridge before the Caminito del Rey starts.  The hike goes up hill all the time and will take approximately 5 hours to complete. The entire route is 7.7 km of which 4.8 km is on pathways carved into the mountainside.

Caminito Del Rey

Rules to be observed during the Caminito del Rey hike
Due to the severity, the heights on the route and the narrow path, there are many rules to be respected to make it a safe hike for all visitors.

It is compulsory to wear a safety helmet which will be distributed at the entrance to the pathway, as there may be risk of small stones falling from the mountain.

When you walk on the path, always keep to the right.

If you cross with another visitor you must show consideration so the one walking next to the abyss is not getting into danger.

You are not allowed to make stops along the route to avoid the formation of queues.

You are not allowed to take photos with a tripod or other equipment that may be an obstacle on the path.

Children must be over 8 years and may not be carried by an adult.

You are not allowed to carry a big hiking backpack during the hike.

There is no possibility to buy food along the path and as the hike requires some physical effort, it is recommended to bring water, muesli bar, chocolate, and fruit in a small backpack.

You are not allowed to take a picnic break along the path as there is no dedicated area for this. Therefore, it is recommended that you have a sandwich to eat before or after the hike is completed.

Prepare your hike in advance with a cap, sunscreen and footwear suitable for this walk.

You must use a rain cover if it should start to rain.  It is forbidden to use an umbrella.

If there are strong winds the path will be closed.

There are no toilet facilities on the path.

Smoking is not allowed.

Pets are not allowed.

You are not allowed to shout or listen to loud music on the hike.

If you suffer from vertigo, have a heart disease or other illness that may be an obstacles to complete the trip, you should of course not walk the path.

If you are into mountain climbing, and want to climb under the Caminito del Rey, then it is possible to do so.  You will have to register with the control centre and present a civil liability insurance that covers mountain climbing.  Furthermore, you are not allowed to use the iron structure from the Caminito del Rey for the climbing.

Valle del Hoyo Caminito del Rey

Practical information:
Opening hours
Winter period (01/11 -31/03) from 10-14 pm.
Summer Period (01/04-31/10) from 10-17 pm.

It is closed on Mondays.
It is free to visit the Caminito del Rey the first six months.    Click here to read our other blog article about the royal walkway in Málaga.

Photos: Diputación de Málaga

Pompidou Centre opens in Málaga

2/03/2015

Pompidou Malaga

The French Pompidou Centre in Paris opens its first branch up in Europe.  You will find the Pompidou Centre Málaga in the characteristic “glass cube” which is located at Muelle Uno near the waterfront.

The art centre opens to the public on the 28th of March and will have a permanent exhibition of the collections of the Pompidou Centre in Paris and a temporary exhibition with works from Joan Miró.  This temporary exhibition can be seen from May until September month.

In the permanent exhibition you will find more than 80 works, among others, from Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon, Max Ernst and Rene Magritte.

The admission price is 9 euros for the permanent and temporary exhibition and every Sunday afternoon after 4 pm the admission is free until closing time.  The Pompidou centre Málaga  is closed on Tuesdays.

The normal opening hours are from 9:30 am – 8:00 pm. During summer season from the 15th of June until the 15th of September the opening hours are from 11:00am – 10:00pm.

How to get there?
Head for Málaga city and enter along the Avda. de Andalucía. Continue to Paseo Parque and in the roundabout turn right onto Paseo de la Farola.  There is a large public car park under the Pompidou centre at the corner of Paseo de la Farola.  That is, on the waterfront of Muelle Uno.

As the Pompidou Centre Málaga is centrally located in Málaga city, it is a great chance to also go shopping and to have something to eat at one of the many restaurants at Muelle Uno waterfront after a visit at the art center Pompidou.

The official website is not launched but we will you inform when it is ready.

The Russian Museum opens in Málaga

21/02/2015

Tabacalera Malaga

Málaga is becoming more and more known as a culture city with exciting art museums. We already have the Picasso, CAC and Carmen Thyssen Museum.
During March month another art museum will be inaugurated, which is called “Collections from the Russian Museum“.

The Russian Museum in St. Petersburg has one of the largest collections of Russian art.  It is the first time that a bigger collection of its artworks are permanently exhibited in Europe.

The permanent exhibition is called “Russian art in the period XV-XX” and contains amongst other icon paintings from the XV period.  From the avant-garde art period there will be shown paintings from Kandinsky and Chagall. This exhibition can be seen until November 2015. The temporary exhibition is called “Russian art on Diaghilev’s time” can be seen until September. Diaghilev was the founder of the Russian ballet and arranged also art exhibitions.

The Russian Museum is located in the old renovating Tobacco factory in Málaga, also called “Tabacalera”. It is next door to the Automobile museum “Museo Automovilistico” so why not visit both museums on the same day.

The address is Av. Sor Teresa Prat, 29003 Malaga and it takes only 10min. by car from Málaga airport.  The admission price is 8 euros for both the permanent and temporary exhibition and there will be free admission every Sunday afternoon from 4pm until closing time.

The opening date for the museum is set for Wednesday the 25th of March 2015.

Click here to see the Russian Museum website in Malaga.