There´s not a whole lot of shade if you fish my river at this time of year so if you are going to do anything more than a few hours you might want to plan for a pit stop to grab a bit of shade and maybe a cold drink.

On the A357 which runs along the Guadalhorce river valley you can choose from a couple of places. One of these is the Cepsa service station and the other, right on the opposite side of the road, is the Cafetería E.S. Europa. This leaves you with a decision to make: Cepsa or Europa?

Personally, I am a Europa man. You can grab a drink there and a tapa or sit down and have a proper meal. There is a kids ball park thing if you have little ones. But there´s a little more to it than that. Europa, for reasons I can´t really explain, is just my kind of place. There are no frills. Whatever you need you can get there. If your car is low on juice you can fill it up. There are a few parking bays which provide some shade for your car if you want to pop inside for a while. The grub is good. The people are nice. The lady behind the counter is easy on the eye and she has a nice smile.

It was hot on the river on Saturday. A time arrives here in the afternoon when everything slows right down and you just know that this is the time to drop in to Europa. It was pretty quiet in there – just one guy at the bar. Not much else was happening. Europa´s caged African Grey was sleeping.

The man at the bar was about the imbibe the mother of all gin and tonics. The lady there poured it out in the customary way into a glass the size of a bucket. First they put in the ice then in goes the gin, usually the person pouring takes cues from the punter on the other side of the counter. A little nod is all that is needed to say “enough now.” But the man at the counter didn´t seem to be in the nodding mood. When the gin was dispensed there was not a whole lot of room left for the tonic. His car keys were up on the bar and I presume that as soon as he had guzzled down his G&T and refilled the car they would both be on their way – the car´s tank full of diesel and his own full of ethanol.

The lady who served me a coke and a tapa of ensaladilla rusa was a lady I don´t remember from before.  The coke, the tapas, the G&T were all served in Europa-size portions. In many places now they give you a small bottle of coke which just does´t go far enough – not if you have a river thirst. In Europa you get a can and a wide glass to pour it into. Inside the glass were a couple of ice cubes, either of which, might have sunk the Titanic.

It didn´t take long for me to polish off my tapa and empty the can of coke. When it was time to ask for the bill the lady who had served me was off round the corner attending to customers at the tables outside. But, in her place, the lady who I remember from previous visits appeared and so I settled up with her. Two euros seventy.

Her smile was still there. Perhaps she recognised me – a scruffy “guiri” who turns up the odd day in the heat of the afternoon. She was looking well and I noticed yesterday that she is a few months pregnant.

Well, what do you expect? I´m not the only one who thinks she has a nice smile!

Here is one option.

Here is one option…..

This would be my choice.

And here is another

They should really pay me for all this free advertising!

How many service stations have their own parrot?