Category Archives: Spain

Things to do in Spain; attractions in Spain and the best places to visit in Spain.

Move Over Rio – The Barcelona Carnival is Where You Want to Be!

Barcelona is a fantastic destination for a weekend break or a longer holiday. With the blend of  culture, coast and countryside the cosmopolitan Catalan city is vibrant, colourful, exciting and diverse. Barcelona is a destination suitable for all the family. This diversity and cacophony of sound and colour is a reason why this is such a fantastic party city.

The people of Barcelona love to celebrate their culture. There are a variety of festivals, carnivals and fairs. There are around thirteen major festivals and carnivals in Barcelona throughout the year as well as smaller neighbourhood parties. There is no better time than fiesta time, to really embrace and gain an understanding of the lifestyle in Barcelona.

Barcelona Carnival

Originally banned by Franco until the year 1980, this carnival is the last chance to let your hair down before Lent, taking place during February and March. The La Gran Rua de Carneval is where the carnival comes together and a sea and spectacle of floats, fireworks and fancy dress are in abundance.

Sant Joan

Some of these festivals are around religious holidays, the biggest beingSant Joan. This celebration is marked with thousands of fireworks, pyrotechnics, all washed down with sangria.  The eve of Sant Joan is the biggest party night of Barcelona’s calendar. The day that follows is a public holiday and therefore this is a fantastic chance  for the people of Barcelona to really let their hair down. If you are still celebrating at sunrise then head to the beach to watch the sun come up.

Festa de la Merce

In autumn, in the 24th September, this festival is celebrated by one of the biggest street parties in Europe. This festival sees the re-enactment of many Catalan traditions. There is a programme of concerts across thecity and these events take place either side of the 24th. There is also free entry to museums on the day.

Festa Major de Sants

One of the lesser known celebrations during the last two weeks of August, during the week and weekends, the residents of Sants host a street party for one another. As you wander through the highly decorated streets, you can marvel at the efforts made by Sants residents. Take the chance to sample some  ‘botifarra’ sausage or ‘fideuà’ noodle-based dish, or any of the delicious offerings.

Dancing and drinking a large parts of this festival, particularly the spicy rum ‘cremat’ which is set alight, with music filing the streets of this corner of Barcelona you can enjoy classical music as well as a variety of other live music shows.

Montjuic de Nit

Barcelona is home to city, coast, mountains and beach, it really can offer a fantastic all round experience. During July, there is a free festival on the Montjuic mountain, with its’ idyllic views across Barcelona. During the evening there is a melee of film festivals, one minute film festivals, open air concerts in the Grecian amphitheaters. This is one of the most infrequent festivals, but it really is worth keeping a watch for details of when and if this festival is on.

Sala Montjuic

In warm summer nights, the residents of Barcelona still get to enjoy the views over the city and are invited to picnic on the mountain and listen jazz concerts and enjoy a night of openair cinema. This takes placethroughout the evenings of July and August. There are refreshments
available but packing a picnic yourself can be a wondrous treat.

Formula One Spanish Grand Prix

This race fills the race calendar in May and has been regarded as a festival for its popularity and draw to the region.  The race comes into town and is a hive of activity, a draw of celebrity and a melody of engine noise,happy crowds and celebration.

The Circuit de Catalunya is based twenty kilometers outside Barcelona inMontmelo.It is a popular event and can be one of the more affordable raceson the racing calendar.The three day event, entices  crowds to buy into the story of the season, supporting the teams colours their favourite driver. You don’t necessarily need to know a lot about F1 to enjoy the spectacle of pit crew, paddock, fast cars. There is a natural competition and part atmosphere surrounding these events and therefore this race weekend is a wonderful excuse in itself, or a way to start a week or end a week in Barcelona.

So next time you are taking a trip, consider booking it around the festivals, perfect for a group trip. Festivals can attract more people to a destination and therefore accommodation can book up quickly.  Think about booking early but if there is a large group or you are looking for some alternative accommodation consider booking an apartment, splitting the costs and there can scope for more of you to stay, make more of a holiday and take a look at beach apartments in Barcelona.

La Cabana Restaurant in Benalmadena

La Cabana restaurant is situated on the Prom in Benalmadena. After walking down from Benalmadema railways station through the market and Parque de la Paloma, we were ready for sit down and some food.

We were attracted by the 10 Euro three course set menu at La Cabana, The price also included bread and a drink.

My Scampi starter was beautifully presented.

Our son Gary had the Tuna and Tomato Salad as a starter.

My Pork Chop main course was tasty.

Gary thought that his Calamari was good, but the batter was a bit too thick.

For dessert, I had Ice Cream and Gary had Chocolate Brownie.

I thought that at 10 Euro for a three course set menu including a drink, that La Cabana offered good value for money, in a pleasant location. Our waitress was lovely, very friendly with a constant smile.

Centre Pompildou Malaga Spain

As I ascended towards Gibralfaro Castle in Malaga, I was curious about the coloured glass cube that I could see near the port. The following day, I decided to investigate. It turned out that it was an installation at the Centre Pompidou Malaga.

I found seat in the shade to do some research on the Centre Pompidou Malaga. It opened in 2015 and is the only branch of the Pompldou outside France. I reckoned that it was worth paying the 7 Euro entry fee to see the permanent exhibition, housed in the basement, which focuses on art from 1905 to the present day.

Below is a selection of my favourite pieces.

Stavinsky by Erro (an Icelander based in Paris)

Dora Maar by Antonia Saura

Chapeau a fluers by Pablo Picasso (born in Malaga)

Architecture and Morality by Glenn Brown

I Saw a Woman Crying by Rineke Dijkstra (video of Liverpudlian school kids giving possible reasons for the tears)

The Frame by Frida Kahlo

Self Portrait by Francis Bacon (he looks miserable)

Dimanche by Marc Chagall

El Caballero Espanol by Eduardo Arroyo

Le Mannequin by Alain Sechas

Incubated by Daniel Burden (looking up a the cube from the basement)

Barbed Hula by Sigalit Landau (suffering for art?)

The Girls of My Life by Zush

Femme objet by Peter Klasen

Souvenir de Voyage by Rene Magritte

Formatrice by Victor Brauner

Ghost by Kader Attia (131 foil figures)

Couple by Pablo Picasso

The Irish Jig by Jean Dubuffet

I really enjoyed my visit to the Centre Pompidou Malaga. If you’re into modern art, I recommend that you visit.

Caminos de Exilio Outdoor Photo Exhibition in Malaga, Spain

The Caminos del Exilio (Paths of Exile) outdoor photography exhibition is located in muelleuno shopping centre, close to Centre Pompidou Malaga.

The exhibition was organised by the French Institute of Spain.

The photo above, depicting migrants wrapped in foil, was hauntingly similar to the Ghosts installation by Kader Attica (photo below) on display at the Centre Pompidou Malaga. which I had visited the previous day.

I found the Caminos de Exilio photography exhibition in Malaga very moving. It made me appreciate my comfortable, settled life in the UK all the more.

Visiting Gibralfaro Castle in Malaga

It’s a steep walk up to Gibralfaro Castle in Malaga. I decided to visit one morning when it was forecast to be cooler. The downside to that was that it the weather was windy and cloudy.

There’s a viewing point a few hundred metres below the Castle, which offered great views of Malaga Bullring.

On your right after the viewing platform, you’ll see the Parador de Malaga hotel.

The entrance fee  to Gibralfaro Caste was 2.20 Euro (in April 2017). You need to make sure that you have cash, as the ticket machines don’t accept cards. You can buy a joint admission ticket for Gibralfaro Castle and the nearby Alcazaba for 3.55 Euro. The joint ticket is valid for 24 hours from the time of purchase.

There are 360 degree panoramic views from Gibralfaro Castle.

I advise you to wear shoes with a good grip when visiting Gibralfaro Castle. Both the paths up to, and around the Castle grounds and walls, are uneven and slippery.

Gibralfaro Castle was pretty busy during my visit on a Friday morning. There was a large party of school kids and several coach loads of tourists of various nationalities.

If my time in Malaga were limited, I’d choose to visit the Alcazaba rather than Gibralfaro Castle. This is because it is easier to access the Alcazaba; there is a lift up. Despite the Alcazaba not being in such an elevated position, it still offers great views over Malaga. Plus, the gardens are much prettier at the Alcazaba.

Peter Doig’s studiofilmclub at CAC Malaga

When visiting the Centre for Contemporary Art (CAC) in Malaga, I thought that the artist Peter Doig sounded familiar.

Sure enough, I checked my Instagram stream, and found the Scottish artist Doig’s ”Milky Way’ ,which was one of the pieces in the Now 1 exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

The studiofilmclub exhibition, Doig’s first in Spain, features 166 movie posters.

How many of the films have you seen?

I’m not much of a film buff, so I only reached into the teens out of the 166 films portrayed.

The studiofilmclub exhibition by Peter Doig runs at CAC until 25 June 2017.

Barcelona City Guide: 5 Top Tips You Need to Know

Whether you’re heading off for a romantic break, a reunion with friends, a solo adventure or a family trip, Barcelona won’t disappoint.

With beautiful architecture, amazing restaurants and relaxing parks around practically every corner, there’s so much to do.

Let yourself get too sidetracked by sangria and afternoon siestas, and you’ll end up missing all the city’s wonderful, unique highlights.

To help you tick off your entire sightseeing to-do list, we’re sharing five top tips for making the most of Barcelona. Take a look.

#1: Use the buses to get around

Barcelona is big and the main sights are pretty widespread, so in the middle of the day when the sun is at its most powerful, you don’t want to be walking too much.

There is an underground, but buying a hop-on hop-off bus ticket is by far the best way to get around. The tourist buses will take you to all the major landmarks and tourists hotspots, plus you’ll get a sneak peek at the rest of the stunning city as you go.

#2: Treat yourself to a beach day

There aren’t many cities in the world that also boast a beautiful, sandy coastline, so it’s definitely worth taking a break from Barcelona’s historical landmarks to spend a day at Barceloneta beach. It’s only a short Metro ride away, so it’d be rude not to.

Whether you work on your tan, get your heart racing with water sports or indulge in some seafood tapas, you’re sure to leave feeling completely and utterly relaxed.

#3: Dress for the weather

Do not underestimate how hot and humid Barcelona gets, especially in the middle of summer. To stay comfy, cool and in good spirits throughout the long days and nights, you need to think practically and pack appropriately.

We recommend loose, flowing maxi dresses or lightweight shorts, flat and supportive footwear (definitely no heels, there’s far too many cobbled streets) and some decent sunglasses.

#4: Be safe

You’ll no doubt spend a lot of time getting happily lost in and around Las Ramblas, but it’s important to be careful as you wander about. Although it’s got plenty of fun shops, bars and restaurants, the street is also infamous for pickpockets.

Don’t worry about it too much, though. So long you’re aware of the risks, only carry one day’s worth of money at a time and keep an eye on your bag, you should be able to enjoy yourself without encountering any problems.

#5: Buy tickets online

From museums and art galleries to the many Gaudi landmarks dotted around the place, visiting Barcelona’s biggest tourist attractions can soon start to get pricey.

To keep your budget and sightseeing plan on track, your best bet is buying tickets online before you jet off on holiday. Whatever you do, make sure you check out La Sagrada Familia. The UNESCO World Heritage site is always packed with tourists but the queues are worth it.

Do you have any other top tips for making the most of a city break to Barcelona?

Jia Aili at CAC Malaga

A major exhibition by Chinese artist Jia Aili runs until 18 June 2017 at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CAC) in Malaga.

The paintings portray bleak apocalyptic landscapes.

Several pieces feature rather forlorn solitary figures.

Some of the paintings are enormous.

One of the artist’s aims is for visitors to the exhibition to think about the role played by humans on the planet.

CAC Malaga is located close to Malaga Centro-Alameda railway station and it’s free to enter.

Hidden Spanish Beauty Spots to Head To For a Spring Break

With a number of celebrity deaths and political upheaval, and now the chill of winter creeping upon us, you’re probably dreaming spring.

The nights become lighter, the air is warmer, animals come out of hibernation and flowers and plants begin to bloom. Why not spend some of spring at one Spain’s many hidden gems?

La Graciosa

La Graciosa is an idyllic volcanic island some one mile north of Lanzarote. The ideal is untouched by tourism – there are no hotels, only apartments to rent – and one of few places of the world that is without tarmac roads.

La Graciosa is perfectly tranquil and a million miles away from the Canary Islands party scene. The Jurassic escape offers gorgeous sunshine and a cluster of white-sand beaches, some of which have been dubbed the most beautiful in the Canaries.

The waters of La Graciosa allow you to explore the biggest marine reserve in Europe should you to choose to go on a dive trip.

Cape Finisterre

cape-finisterre

On Spain’s wild western edge is Cape Finisterre which is believed to be the end of the known world in the Roman times. Pilgrims from around the globe flock to Cape Finisterre and are known to burn their clothes and boots at the end of journey, which demonstrates how biblically important the rock-bound peninsula is.

The Baroque cathedral captures the contradicting Spanish characteristics of buoyancy and restrain perfectly. The sunset at Cape Finisterre is a must see and arguably the most popular tourist attraction.

The Camino de Finisterre hike offers stunning views of the peninsula as well as some amazing scenery. The beaches of Cape Finisterre are also beautiful and practically empty, particularly in the spring so it’s possible that you may have the white-sand and azure sea all to yourself.

Las Medulas

las-medulas

Las Medulas also boasts historical Roman importance and is UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Once the Roman Empire’s most important gold mine, many Roman settlements and fascinating ancient inscriptions have since been uncovered on this amazing landscape which sits on the border between Galicia and Castilla y Leon.

Hiking Las Medulas is a tough ask but certainly rewarding, encompassed by oak and chestnut trees set against red rock, the views are breath-taking.

Binatur at Las Medulas is a great place for the family with a wide range of activities on offer, trek the mountain or horseback, explore the waters kayaking, and or even go climbing.

If Las Medulas sounds like the ideal resort for you, be sure to download the Owners Direct app and see if they have any local rentals available.

Almeria

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One thing for sure is that Spain is home to many beautiful nature reserves and El Parque Natural del Cabo de Gata-Nijar, Almería is one of them. It’s a world apart from the usual Mediterranean seaside resorts and you definitely won’t regret visiting.
Almeria has been used as the set for various Hollywood films and the city is certainly not bereft of scenery.

The Iron Structure of the Cable Inglés makings for a picture perfect photo, with Almeria offering stunning views all around.

Bask in the sunshine as you explore the nature reserve and get up close and person with some mesmerising plants and wildlife.

Guide to Galicia, Spain

Galicia, one of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, sits above Portugal at the most North Western point of the Iberian Peninsula looking out proudly into the Atlantic, and so it should.

Perhaps one of the lesser known regions by tourists, within Spain and those in the know, Galicia is famed for its beautiful countryside, sublime seafood as well as its kind and trustworthy people. Being so close to Portugal it is understandable that the local language is actually galego, a curious mix between Portuguese and Spanish that leans more towards the Portuguese end of the spectrum. Even more curious is their Celtic heritage, the origin of which is thought to be the settlers that came over from the British Isles and Ireland centuries ago and manifests itself through architecture, music and even the football team Celta Vigo.

The Galicians have much to offer to anyone lucky enough to visit their homeland and this guide will attempt to set out a few of the best things to do when visiting.

Pulpo a la Gallega and the Galician cuisine

pulpo

Galician cuisine without doubt must be a first for anyone visiting the area. As well as being able to find some of the best food and wine in Europe travellers will be happy to know that this privilege will not cost them an arm and a leg as it is very economical indeed. The region is most famous for it’s Pulpo a la Gallega a simple dish of fresh Octopus, grilled or fried, chopped roughly and served with Paprika and potato. This accompanied by a glass of the regions Albariño, a fantastically unique dry white, and a lung-full of fresh sea air, is enough to keep anyone coming back.

The main components of the Galician diet come from the sea, such as Mariscada, a selection of seafood and empanadas, tuna-filled Cornish-pasty-esque pastries, but there is also a wide variety of hearty stews and soups. You would struggle to find a bad place to eat. Going on from there, as always, in order to find the bests places to eat, ask the locals where their favourite place is.

Camino de Santiago/St. James Trail

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The annual pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, undertaken by those of the Christian faith an otherwise is a fantastic way to enjoy some of the breath-taking Galician countryside and beyond. The most popular route known as the Camino Frances begins in St Jean Pied de Port, France, however there are many other, shorter routes if you prefer. Traveling by foot over days or weeks accompanied by thousands of other walkers gives you the chance to experience the best food, b&bs, views and company that Europe has to offer. You can find out more information here.

Traveling so far by foot however does have its disadvantages and to avoid carrying all your money with you consider sending some electronically via somewhere like Foreign Exchange for when you arrive to Santiago.

Cathedral of Santiago

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Upon arrival to Santiago one place that cannot be missed is the stunning architecture and history of the Cathedral of Santiago. The Cathedral is nothing short of overwhelming and boasts many artefacts and Saints trinkets. Entrance is free but I would suggest spending a little bit and going on the rooftop tour.

Playa de Catedrales

beach

Situated on the Northern coast line close to the border of the neighbouring region of Asturias, Playa de Catedrales, or Beach of the Cathedrals, boasts spectacular rock formations that are best enjoyed early at low tide. Somewhat isolated from the main tourist hotspots and cities, this fantastic beach would be an excellent calling point for a group travelling from the Basque country to Galicia.

Roman Walls of Lugo

Galicia has deep roots in Roman history and this would be a fantastic place to visit for anyone interested in the era. Amongst many others sites and ruins, the UNESCO World Heritage listed Walls of Lugo have been described at the ‘finest example of late Roman fortifications in Western Europe’. Like the Catherdral of Santiago, there is no admission fee (thank you, Gobierno de España!) and the day can be spent following the perfectly preserved walls around the entire city of Lugo.