Welcome to my Puerto Duquesa blog

I've been visiting Puerto Duquesa three or four times a year for the past 20 years and have seen the area change enormously in that time. Where once there were dirt tracks and open countryside, there are now two lane motorways and apartment complexes. And whilst the area has changed and grown dramatically, it has still retained its small town, or should that be 'small marina' feel, which keeps me, and thousands others, coming back year after year.

Since I am currently in the USA it is a slightly odd time to start a blog about Puerto Duquesa, but the reason for doing so is simple - I may actually have some time to write some stuff! Most of the things I'm going to write about are things I like doing in the area or places I like going. Clearly I am not going to be able to cover everything, but hopefully I can give you a taste of what makes this such a special place and give you some ideas for your next trip.

If you can't immediately find what you are looking for, please scroll down and look in the blog archive (click the triangles to expand the list of articles). You might also want to start with these articles: Puerto Duquesa: the basics, Favourite (best?) restaurants in Puerto Duquesa, Puerto Duquesa beaches and Holiday accommodation in Puerto Duquesa. Want to get to know the area? Try A walking tour of Puerto Duquesa.

I welcome contributions, comments, criticisms and...well...praise.

If you want to link to me or you want me to link to you, that'll work too. If I think you're a good local company and you're prepared to part with a few euros, you might be lucky enough to advertise on the blog (which, fyi, is page rank 3 on Google - just type in puerto duquesa at google.com).

Thanks / Gracias

Chris (chris@cdgsmith.com) (March 2007)


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More Spanish property articles today

Further to my post yesterday about the increasing 'chatter' concerning a property crash in Spain, the Telegraph published an article today as did thisismoney.co.uk.

Amongst all the doom and gloom, I thought the following quote was quite accurate:

"Natalia Aguirre, head analyst at Spanish broker Renta 4, said: 'The real estate bubble has not burst. It is the inflated valuations of some real estate companies that have been pricked."

Interestingly, one source in Sabnillas (just down the road from Puerto Duquesa) told me on the Manilvalife forums that her next door neighbour put his apartment on the market and sold it within a week. This quick sale was put down to the fact that it was sensibly priced. Perhaps the market isn't as bad as the press are trying to make out then.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Puerto Duquesa property - what next?

I've noticed an increasing amount of 'chatter' on the internet recently about the bursting of the property bubble in Spain. Two articles in particular caught my attention. The first is from The Resident and reveals that properties on the Costa del Sol now take on average 35 months to sell (that's nearly 3 years!) and that prices have been falling in recent months. The second is from Bloomberg and discusses the impact on the Spanish stock market of the recent collapse in confidence.

Sellers

The outlook for sellers is pretty grim. Since there are now so many properties on the market - and currently being built - in the Puerto Duquesa area, it has become a typical case of supply exceeding demand. However, if you can afford to hold on to your property in the medium to long term, there is every chance that once the building finally stops, the supply-demand balance will be restored. Moreover, more people in the area should translate into improved infrastructure and an increase in the variety and quality of amenities being offered. There is also no shortage of people wanting to move to Puerto Duquesa and the Costa del Sol.

Buyers

Timing the market is a very dangerous thing to try and do, but now, or in the next year or two, could be an ideal time to pick up a bargain. Distressed sales are the new hot commodity on the Costa del Sol. They typically arise when a buyer has put down a deposit on an off-plan property and (a) hasn't been able to sell it on before completion at a profit (this is known as flipping) and (b) cannot afford to raise the finance to complete. Rather than lose the deposit, the buyer must find someone to buy very quickly, which leads to deep discounting.

Tips

Whether you want to buy a property in Puerto Duquesa now is going to depend on your ability to negotiate a good price and your appetite for risk - maybe the market is nearing the bottom, maybe the downward slide has just started. As with most things in life, it's hard to look into the future, but I would suggest the following common sense tips:

(1) If you are purchasing a property using a mortgage, ensure that you can afford the repayments comfortably if interest rates rise by a couple of per cent. For security, you may wish to chose a fixed rate mortage.

(2) Do not rely on holiday rentals as a guaranteed source of income to help pay the mortgage; consider them a luxury. The reality is that unless you have an excellent online presence or unique way of attracting holiday-makers, there are far too many properties for rent and not enough people to fill them.

(3) Do consider buying a property if you want a full or part time home away from home in Puerto Duquesa. Do not consider buying a property solely for investment as there are, at present, better and more secure places to put your money.

You may also find the following article useful: Buying property in Puerto Duquesa.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Puerto de la Duquesa = Port of the Duchess

I've been learning Spanish on and off for years now. Whilst I'm starting to get the correct accent and can conjugate my verbs (well, some of them at least), I find that the main missing ingredient is vocabularly. Which is where Babelfish comes in. It's a free online translation tool which allows you to translate words, sentences or even entire web sites from English to Spanish and vice versa, and it can be particularly useful when you get a letter in Spanish and don't want to pay to have it translated. The technology isn't perfect, but it is getting there, and even if you don't have any business use for it, you can have some fun making up amusing sentences to write on your postcards to send back home!

Try typing Puerto de la Duquesa into the text box, select 'Spanish to English', hit translate and you'll see that it means Port of the Duchess.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Aerial image of Puerto Duquesa

I was browsing the forums at Manilvalife and came across a post about a new web site called flashearth.com. This site allows you to see satellite images from a number of different providers (including Google and Microsoft) without having to download any software. The images load very quickly and you can literally go anywhere in the world. If you type 'la duquesa, spain' in the search box in the bottom right hand corner, you'll be able to see Puerto Duquesa and the rest of the Costa del Sol from the air!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Driving to Puerto Duquesa

Driving to Puerto Duquesa is becoming an increasingly popular option for some people – you just have to look at the number of ‘Brit plate’ cars on the roads – and in the following article I set out some of my experiences of the continent-crossing drive.

Where should I start?

The first thing to consider when you are planning to drive to Puerto Duquesa is whether you are going to get the ferry to Northern Spain (Santandar) and start your journey from there, or start from Calais. I’ve done both and I suppose it depends on how long you’ve got to do the journey, what you want to see and what your budget is. While the crossing to France can be relatively cheap (either via Eurotunnel or ferry), the ferry to Spain (via Brittany Ferries), assuming you want a cabin to sleep in during the 24 hour journey, is going to set you back at least £500. Timing wise, there probably isn’t that much in it, although with the ferry option, you can hit Santandar fresh and drive the length of Spain in a day and a half (maybe even quicker).

What’s the drive like?

The roads are excellent – wide, dual-carriageways with smooth surfaces. And provided you avoid the European holiday rush (at the beginning and end of August), the roads are, for the most part, relatively quiet too.

Since you’ll be driving on the wrong side of the road, and by that I mean the right hand side of the road is a right hand drive car, you need to be prepared for this and take it easy to start with. Most importantly, when changing lanes and manouevering, ensure that you get a good look over your shoulder and check all your blind spots (there will be new ones). Having a passenger is a massive help when it comes to overtaking on single carriageways, but if you don’t have one, be patient and do not take any risks – your aim is to arrive in Puerto Duquesa in one piece without any dents!

The French and the Spanish drive differently from the British. Avoiding any unnecessary stereotypes and generalisations (you’ll come to your own conclusions when you do the trip!), the French don’t tend to be particularly aware of cars behind them and have a habit of pulling out in front of you just as the road opens up and you put your foot down. Not good. The Spanish are, in my experience, slightly more aware, but you should still be cautious and drive defensively. Remember that you are abroad and be polite too…it costs nothing and I think you’ll agree that we want to have a good reputation abroad.

Finally, a couple of pointers: (i) have your car checked over/serviced before you do the drive (especially if you don’t have Europe-wide breakdown cover); (ii) inform your insurance company and make sure you are covered; (iii) make sure that you have the necessary ‘beam benders’ to put on your lights so as to not to startle oncoming traffic; and (iv) always carry with you a good supply of water and food and a (fully charged) mobile phone.

Place to stay

For me, one of the great attractions of driving down to Puerto Duquesa is that you get to spend a couple of nights in places that you wouldn’t otherwise visit. In just two trips, I’ve been to Santandar, Burgos, Madrid, Chinchon, Salamanca and Segovia, to name a few.

When trying to find a good place to stay, Alistair Sawday's excellent range of guidebooks have been very useful (especially in France). In Spain, we have relied almost solely on The Paradors. These are government owned hotels which are usually situated in buildings of historical interest (convents, monasteries, churches, etc.). Whilst not the cheapest option, they represent good value for 3-4* style accommodation. Of course, the choice is virtually endless, from camping to 5* hotels, and I’m sure you can find something to suit on the internet.

In terms of pacing yourselves, if you opt to drive through both France and Spain, you should be looking to stop in Southern France on your first night (say Bordeaux), around Madrid on your second night, and in Puerto Duquesa on your final night! If you are just driving through Spain, you should aim to get south of Madrid in your first day in order to arrive in Puerto Duquesa at the end of your second day driving.

Favourite places:

Chinchon

This is a beautiful small town 45km from Madrid. If you stay in the Parador here, you will be right in the heart of the place, next to the main square, which is turned into a bull ring during the summer months. Of particular note is the local liquor, which goes by the name Chinchon, and the excellent steaks you can get in one of the many restaurants surrounding the main square. For more information about Chinchon, click here.

Salamanca

The plaza mayor in Salamanca is truly stunning, especially during the summer months when it is filled with thousands of Spaniards having their paseos, eating tapas or just chatting to their friends. For architect buffs, the cobbled streets and buildings that line them are well worth a few hours of your time. For more information about Salamanca, click here.

Santillana del Mar

In Northern Spain, not that far from Santandar, Santillana del Mar is a beautiful, picturesque little town which is the perfect spot for an overnight before boarding the ferry back to England early the following morning. For more information about Santillana del Mar, click here.

!buen viaje!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Photos of Puerto Duquesa

A couple of visitors to my blog have pointed out that there aren't many photos of Puerto Duquesa on the site. I agree and I'll definitely be adding a load of photos of both Puerto Duquesa and the surrounding area as soon as I can (although my next visit to Puerto Duquesa is not scheduled until the end of September). In the meantime, here's a link to an excellent archive over at Iberian Image. Another way to get good photos of Puerto Duquesa is to go to Google Images and type in 'Puerto Duquesa'. Of course, if you want to email me any photos you have, I'll happily add them to the blog with a credit.

Estepona International Festival, 22nd April

If you fancy a day of live music and entertainment, consider heading to the III Estepona International Festival on 22nd April. There will be music from 36 different countries. It starts at midday and continues until 6pm (although will probably end up running later). For more details, The Resident has the complete schedule.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Actually, it is a plane!

I found the video below on YouTube. It's of a specially equipped plane, which the authorities in Spain use to douse large forest fires, flying over the coast line at Puerto Duquesa and filling its tanks with water. These are really incredible machines as they have the power and manoueverability to literally scoop water up from the sea, fly to the site of the fire and then dump the water. If you see one on your travels, you'll probably also be able to see some smoke somewhere in the distance.

Many years ago I also saw a helicopter hover over the lake at the La Duquesa Golf & Country Club and pick up water. Given the greater quantities of water than these planes can carry, I think the helicopters are now obsolete near the coast.

I should add that, generally speaking, Puerto Duquesa is relatively well protected from forest fires by the golf course and that the authorities in Spain, in the years when there have been fires in the surrounding areas, have dealt with them quickly and efficiently. In fact, on one occasion back in 1991, we were in the marina having dinner at the Macues and all we could hear was sirens and loud explosions (rocks exploding in the heat)...but all worked out just fine.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Holiday accommodation in Puerto Duquesa

Most of the available holiday accommodation in Puerto Duquesa is self-catering. If you want to stay in a hotel, and benefit from its services, there is only one hotel in Puerto Duquesa called La Duquesa Golf Hotel.

La Duquesa Golf Hotel

This is a 4* hotel which has recently undergone a complete refurbishment. It’s located a 10 minute walk from the marina, right on the golf course. I’ve never stayed there myself, but having been in the communal areas, and talking to people who have, it seems like a nice, smart hotel with a good range of services. For keen golfers, it is absolutely ideal as you can literally stroll out of your bedroom onto the 1st tee when the sun comes up!

Self-catering/private rental

The vast majority of people spending time in Puerto Duquesa chose to rent a privately owned apartment, townhouse or villa. These tend to be excellent value, especially if you book directly with the owner.

There are a number of communities to chose from. When working out which is right for you, you need to think about the setting (is it quiet/noisy?) and whether you are going to have a car or not. Whilst most of the communities in the marina will not require a car, if you’re up on the hillside overlooking the golf course, it would be preferable to have one, especially in the summer when what sounds like a nice 10 minute stroll could actually turn into an agonisingly sweaty 20 minute hike under the powerful Spanish sun!

There are a number of useful links to holiday accomodation providers throughout my blog so please click around. You could also try Holiday rentals Puerto Duquesa.

For more useful information about Puerto Duquesa see the Puerto Duquesa: the Basics section.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Cheaper flights to Puerto Duquesa?

Fly Gibraltar was due to launch in April this year offering budget flights to Gibraltar from London Stansted, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham and Dublin. With a total of 28 return flights a week this would have significantly enhanced access to Gibraltar (and Puerto Duquesa) from the UK – currently only BA and Monarch operate from the UK to Gibraltar on a restricted two-a-day schedule from London Gatwick and Luton respectively.

Unfortunately, the launch has not happened and Fly Gibraltar’s web site simply states that ‘an announcement will follow shortly’. Chatter on the internet suggests that the venture will never take off (no pun intended), which would be a great shame. I will update the blog as and when I hear anything on this. In the meantime, if you book as early as possible with BA or Monarch, you can still get good prices. Alternatively, if you don't mind the drive from Malaga, try Avro and/or Flight, two excellent flight search engines.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Laguna Village near Puerto Duquesa

Laguna Village is a recent arrival to the New Golden Mile (just West of Estepona and about a 15 minute drive from Puerto Duquesa). It's a glamourous mix of boutiques, restaurants and a beach club (Puro Beach) set in wonderful gardens with abundant water features.

One visitor to my blog commented that it was a great addition to the area and that Trader Vics was a great place for lunch or dinner. I definitely agree with this and have had a couple of excellent meals at Trader Vics. It is not cheap and you are, to some degree, paying for the setting, but what's wrong with that?!!!

The video below gives you some idea of what it's like, although doesn't really do it justice.

Recommended beaches near Puerto Duquesa

The beaches in Puerto Duquesa are great, but if you're going to be staying in Puerto Duquesa for more than a week or have been down here a number of times before, you may feel like venturing a little further afield. Below are a selection of my favourite beaches...enjoy!

Family friendly

Puerto Duquesa is pretty good when it comes to being family friendly, but the beach at Estepona is also excellent. Not only to do you have a relatively nice, sandy/pebbley beach, but you also have pedaloes for hire (great fun, go for the one with the slide on the front) and all the attractions of the paseo maritimo, which includes childrens play areas. To get there, simply head East out of Puerto Duquesa towards Sabinillas on the main road and continue until you get to the Estepona roundabout. Turn right at the roundabout and follow the road through the town until you get to the paseo maritimo. Park along the road or in the underground car parks.

Peaceful

If you want a large expanse of sand and not many people on it (who doesn't?), then your best bet is to head West out of Puerto Duquesa towards Sotogrande. Along this stretch of coast, the crowds thin out and its easier to find a secluded spot. Some of the beaches require a bit of nouse to get to, but if you don't fancy clambering down cliff sides, just keep going along the main road until you reach the Sotogrande roundabout (where you can either go straight over on a dual carriageway or turn left onto an old single lane road). Turn left and then almost immediately left and drive down the unpaved road to the beach. When parking be careful not to get stuck in the sand - this has happened before and was not funny.

Glam

Being English, I find the idea of being 'glam' at the beach a difficult one to comprehend, but if you have managed to get a half-decent tan (not burn) and like your beach experience with a muscial accompaniment and cocktails, these two options should suit you perfectly:

Puro Beach

Puro Beach started in Palma and opened a Marbella location last year. Despite the fact it's called Puro Beach Marbella, it's actually situated on the New Golden Mile, just East of Estepona in the new Laguna Village complex (visible from the main road). It offers every conceivable luxury including pristine white sunloungers and tented bed areas, massages and spa treatments and cocktails, drinks and food delivered to you. This all comes at a price, but for a one off treat it's got to be worth a go. In the peak summer season, DJs spin house music until the early hours.

Puro Beach is part of the Laguna Village complex - see the Laguna Village near Puerto Duquesa section.

Puerto Banus

The beaches around Puerto Banus offer a similar experience to Puro Beach for less of your hard earned euros. Think beaches crammed with beautiful people (well, mainly), expensive beach bars and the occasional concert or DJ set. You can usually find out about upcoming events by picking up flyers from the designer shops or listening to one of the English radio stations.

If you need a car to get to these beaches, check out the Puerto Duquesa: the Basics section. If you want to go windsurfing or are looking for a more rugged beach experience, you want to head around to the Atlantic Coast and the town of Tarifa - see the Day Trips from Puerto Duquesa section.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Puerto Duquesa in the 80s?!!!

I watched an excellent film called The Business last night. It's set in 1980s Spain (or should that be Spaaaaaiiiiiinnnn!) and charts the story of some big time drug dealers (Charlie and Sammy) and their apprentice (Frankie). The language is dreadful (definitely justifying the 18 rating) and it's not something that the local tourist board would wholeheartedly endorse, but the story is rather good and enjoyably tongue-in-cheek.

More importantly, you'll get to see a good film set on the Costa del Sol, with places like Puerto Banus easily recognisable. The sound track is also mind blowingly good and I'm definitely going to be buying this to accompany me in the hire car as I fly down the N-340...



English radio in Puerto Duquesa

There are a number of radio stations on the Costa del Sol which broadcast in English and are tailored for the expat community. As well as playing music more suited to our British tastes, they are an excellent source of local information and often discuss upcoming events/parties/gatherings/club nights, etc..

Reception can be a little patchy in Puerto Duquesa, so you may not be able to get all the stations below, especially if the weather is overcast or there is rain. In the event that your radio won’t pick them up, then you can always try tuning in online.

Global FM

Global FM has been on the Costa del Sol for a number of years now and is my favourite station. It plays a real mix of music depending on the time of the day – generally it’s 90s/00s chart music in the morning, older stuff during the day, and R&B, hip hop and dance later in the evening. Johnno, Debs and Jimbo recently left the station to setup The Beat Spain (see below), but Global FM still has its fair share of good DJs. Reception is good in Puerto Duquesa, but patchy around Marbella.

Frequency? 96.5 FM
Listen online? Yes

The Beat Spain

Johnno, Debs and Jimbo setup The Beat Spain a year or so ago now. I haven’t listened to it very much, but the music policy is similar to Global FM. Johnno and Debs’ popular breakfast show is now broadcast weekdays on this station and has its share of dedicated fans.

Frequency? 95.5 FM & 92.4 FM
Listen online? Yes

REM FM

REM FM is one for the older expat crowd, playing a mix of older music. Local legend Maurice Bolland is one of the main DJs.

Frequency? ???FM
Listen online? Yes

BFBS Gibraltar

BFBS Gibraltar is the radio station for the Armed Forces in Gibraltar and plays mainstream chart music. If you’re feeling home sick, they have BBC News bulletins and the ‘Top 40’ countdown just like in the UK.

Frequency? 93.5FM & 97.8FM
Listen online? Yes

Central FM

Central FM one of the most popular stations on the coast playing a mix of music and appealing to all generations, but perhaps a slight focus on the older set.

Frequency? 98.6FM & 103.8 FM
Listen online? Yes

Spectrum FM

Spectrum FM is similar to Central FM above.

Frequency? 105.5FM
Listen online? No

Wave 96 FM

Wave 96 FM spins classic anthems from the 70s, 80s and 90s. The perfect accompaniment when driving down the N-340 with the wind in your hair!

Frequency? 96.0FM
Listen online? Yes

Golf courses near Puerto Duquesa

While the La Duquesa Golf & Country Club offers an excellent golf course, there are plenty of other courses along the coast which are worth playing.

Listed below are my three favorite golf courses near Puerto Duquesa:

Montenmedio

Montenmedio is about an hour and a half drive from Puerto Duquesa. The club’s web site contains detailed directions, but essentially you take the main road (N-340) heading West and continue until you get to a gated entrance with a small sign to Montenmedio (sorry I can’t be more specific!). It’s a beautiful drive and you’ll go past Tarifa and the stunning Atlantic Coast beaches (see Day Trips from Puerto Duquesa). How about combining morning golf and a late swim in the sea before heading home? Tiring, but exhilarating.

The course itself is described concisely on the Montenmedio web site: “Ringed by majestic trees, Montemedio’s 18 hole par 72 course is 5,930 meters long, covering gently rolling terrain. The unbeatable quality of its tees and greens blend in perfectly with their natural surroundings, guaranteeing excellent play.”

Green fees vary according to the season, but you’re looking at about 100 euros per person based on two sharing a buggy. Thankfully for lazy players like me, you are allowed to drive right up to your ball, which makes things a little more manageable.

The club house is a beautiful building and worth wandering round. Lunch and dinner are served daily and the food is very good. You can also stay overnight if you don’t fancy driving both ways in a day.

Alcaidesa

A little nearer Puerto Duquesa – only a 15 minute drive heading West – Alcaidesa is perched on the cliff tops overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean sea. For views and setting alone, it wins hands down. The English version of the Alcaidesa web site gives an excellent overview of the course and some photos highlighting the magnificent views.

Green fees are roughly the same as Duquesa and, again, vary according to the season. The club house serves a range of snacks which are passable although nothing special.

Estepona

This course, a 15 minute drive East from Puerto Duquesa, is a great option for the novice player who doesn’t want to feel pressured, which can easily happen when playing one of the better known, busier courses. Green fees are very reasonable and, depending on the season, you can usually drive right up to your ball in the buggy. The only thing to note is that the course does have a number of power lines across it – if this sort of thing puts you off, then it’s probably not the course for you. Full details are available on the Estepona Golf web site.

If you need to hire a car to get to any of these beautiful golf courses, please see the Puerto Duquesa: Basics section.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Markets near Puerto Duquesa

Street markets are an institution in much of Europe, and Spain is no exception. Listed below are a few of my favourites which are no more than a 30 minute drive from Puerto Duquesa. If you need to hire a car, see the Puerto Duquesa:Basics section.

Monday

Marbella: this market is located next to the Football Stadium in Marbella and sells fresh vegetables and fruits, clothing, souvenirs, household goods and much more. Probably not the best option for a first visit, but good for the seasoned market go-er who wants to pick up some bargains.

Wednesday

Estepona: similar to the market in Marbella, this is a general market selling everything but (or sometimes even including) the kitchen sink. Again, more suitable to locals/seasoned market go-ers.

Saturday

Nueva Andalucia/Puerto Banus: as far as I’m concerned this is the DADDY! A huge range of stalls – from typical touristy gifts to antique wardrobes – with a buzzy atmosphere. You probably won’t find a true bargain here, given its proximity to Puerto Banus, but the quality of the merchandise tends to be a bit better as a result. There are also plenty of cafes, bar and restaurants where you can grab a drink or snack when the heat gets too much.

My ideal Saturday would include the market followed by a relaxed lunch in Puerto Banus watching the world go by.

Sunday

On Sunday you have a choice between the arts and craft stalls in Sotogrande (upmarket), the touristy stalls in Estepona marina and the flea market in Sabinillas. All are worth a visit, but I’d probably recommend Estepona for the first time visitor

Warning

Despite the fact that Spain is on the whole very safe, pickpockets thrive at street markets (especially in the summer when they get very crowded). Leave you valuables at home, carry a limited amount of cash and never put anything in your back pocket or out of site. Although not the height of fashion (*shudders*), a bum bag is a good option if you want to keep everything safe and away from wandering hands.