Tag Archives: madrid

spain, landscape

10 Alternative Places to Celebrate Semana Santa in Spain

Easter week– Semana Santa–has finally arrived, meaning days of interminable processions and religious celebrations, particularly in Andalucía.

Unfortunately this also means surging crowds and normally quite a bit of rain. If Semana Santa isn’t your thing, then there is no better time to explore the rest of Spain. A combination of warm weather, fantastic food and hundreds of timeworn traditions make Spain the ideal place for a holiday, and Spring time– from mid March to early mid May– is the perfect time to take advantage.

Here you have 10 wonderful destinations to celebrate Spring and Easter. From rainy Galicia to bone-dry Castilla and Mozarab Andalusia, Spain is calling!

One:  Cuenca, Castilla for architecture

Cuenca is one of those places in Spain where you will feel as if you are wandering around a medieval film setting. It was built by the Moors as a defensive position and today anyone who visits this fortress town will easily be able to see why its architecture adapts to the natural landscape. Cuenca has been named a Historic Walled Town by the UNESCO.

Top Tip: No matter how long you stay in town, you can´t miss a visit to the famous casas colgantes (hanging houses), which are literally suspended over the Júcar river.

Two: La Rioja for food & wine

2255309103 4232fd7d08 b 10 Alternative Places to Celebrate Semana Santa in Spain

Monasterio de Suso, La Rioja (Source)

If you’re a wine lover, you will fall in love with Rioja. In the North East of Spain, very close to the Basque Country, La Rioja offers vineyards, friendly people and of course, mouthwatering gastronomy. Don’t hesitate to try patatas con chorizo, paella riojana or the local codrero (lamb). Remember, here it is all but mandatory to have a glass of red wine with your tapa!

Top tip:  This area has over 500 wineries so wine tasting is a must. In addition, a one-day trip to Logroño, the capital of the region, will be well worth it.

Three: Ribeira Sacra for mountain views

La Ribeira Sacra is found in Southern Galicia, where the river passes through a vast mountain range. It is a natural paradise coupled with stunning architecture– there are 18 monasteries along this route!

Top tip: Take a ride on the Catamaran and follow the river. After that, don’t forget to taste the local wine, Ribeiro, while enjoying the views from the Madrid balconies (views of the canyons from above). For more information about the tours have a look at this site.

Four:  Sierra Nevada for skiing and sunshine

img 0430 copy 10 Alternative Places to Celebrate Semana Santa in Spain

The Sierra Nevada, Andalucía

It’s not just sun, sea and sand in southern Spain. Not too far from Granada in Andalusia, the Sierra Nevada contains the highest point of continental Spain, Mulhacén at 3,478 metres. Semana Santa is the perfect time for combining sun-drenched skiing and trips to beautiful cities like Granada and Córdoba, where you will be able to step back in time into southern Spain’s Moorish past…

Top tip: At this time of the year the ski station gets very busy, so it is recommended to go during the week. To find out more about weather, accommodation and equipment have a look at the official Sierra Nevada site.

Five:  Matalascañas, for quiet beaches

April in Spain is known for its favourable temperatures, and Andalucía’s beaches are perhaps the best example. Matalascañas (Huelva) is one of those beaches where you can easily combine the beach days with little trips to natural paradises like Doñana National Park, a natural reserve that covers 543 km² of which 135 km² are a protected area.

Top tip: Don’t forget to visit the Aldea del Rocío, a little village only 15 minutes from Matalascañas and a perfect destination for camping.

Six: Lagos de Covadonga for breathtaking natural beauty

8595286365 a9394c0566 b 10 Alternative Places to Celebrate Semana Santa in Spain

Lagos de Covagonga, Spain (Source)

Back to the North, the Lagos de Covadonga (Lakes of Covadonga) is a feast for the eyes. These Asturian lakes, called  Enol and Ercina, date back to the ice-age and are both located in the Picos de Europa.

Top tip: Don’t miss a visit to Oviedo city and a tour across the coastline of Costa Verde– you’ll never forget the views!

Seven: El Vale del Jerte for cherry trees

The Jerte Valley is one of the best places to visit during Spring. Here the cherry trees cover the landscapes with white blossom for a ten-day period; it’s undoubtedly one of the best vistas in Spain.

Top tip: Rent a car and follow the route across the sierra to the north of the valley from Cabezuela del Valle to Hervás.

Eight: Santiago de Compostela for The Way of St James

2952535092 c366f6c81f b 10 Alternative Places to Celebrate Semana Santa in Spain

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Source)

Here is where the famous St James pilgrim route ends. Every year, hundreds of peregrines cross different countries to get to the Jubileo in Santiago de Compostela, which has its origin in the shrine of Saint James the Great. Today the city is student-friendly and a very lively destination for tourists. Its cathedral is one of Spain’s most famous.

Top tip: If you decide to spend a few nights in town, make sure you stay in the historic area of Santiago. And, don’t forget an umbrella– it’s very likely that it will rain!

Nine: Parque Nacional de Aigüestortes for the Pyrenees

If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway, there is a place near Lleida (Catalonia) where you can almost hear a pin drop. Here there are crystal clear waters that come from striking waterfalls and an abundance of plants and wildlife.

Top tip: For more information regarding hiking routes have a look at the The Regional Tourist Board of the Diputació de Lleida.

Ten: Madrid for city culture, nightlife and buzzing tapas bars

12290923085 ba548c4bc3 b 10 Alternative Places to Celebrate Semana Santa in Spain

Madrid by night (Source)

Yes, Madrid, the capital of the country, is always a good destination no matter what time of year, though it’s better to avoid in August when the temperatures are very high. If you are looking for cultural events, nightlife and amazing tapas, Madrid won’t disappoint you. Don’t miss an evening in lively La Latina and a picnic at El Retiro, the biggest and greenest area of the city.

Top tip: Stay in the Lavapies barrio to get a feel for Madrid’s quirkier side. Here you will be close to some of the most popular monuments like Museo Reina Sofía (for Contemporary Art) and if you need to take a train to continue your Easter holiday elsewhere in Spain, Atocha Station isn’t too far.

Where are you spending Easter week this year?

Marta Lopez Garcia 150x150 10 Alternative Places to Celebrate Semana Santa in SpainMarta López is a journalist & writer based in North West London. After living in Paris she decided to move to London where she fell in love with the multicultural capital. She loves quality food, Spanish wine and travelling. Marta is currently working on her first novel based on the City of Light. 

Share This:

el clasico, spain, granada

What makes El Clásico so classic…o?

el clasico1 What makes El Clásico so classic...o?

A lone, stray dog trots along an empty pavement. Burger boxes blow undisturbed across the street. Sporadic bursts of chatter can be heard each time a bar door is flung open, before the silence abruptly re-intervenes.

It’s 6pm on a Saturday; ordinarily a time when swarms of late afternoon shoppers and early evening diners clog the pavements here in Spain, but today is the day of El Clásico: Real Madrid vs Barcelona, and the only souls in sight are those rushing to their local, jam-packed watering hole before the unparalleled spectacle begins.

img 2648 What makes El Clásico so classic...o?

Locals transfixed in a local realejo bar

This is akin to tuning in for a royal wedding in the U.K. To miss it would be nonsensical, football fan or not. Ask any Spaniard which football team they support and – more often than not  – you’ll get two answers: that person’s local team and either Real Madrid or Barcelona. The reasoning goes that both teams, while officially participants in La Liga, are actually in a league of their own; no other Spanish team in the top flight even comes close. Thus, one invariably chooses a favourite.

In England, this would be deemed fickle and cowardly regardless of circumstances; people may support one club team or none at all. So coming to terms with this two-timing custom was rather a longwinded process for me after I moved here. ‘What about when these two teams play each other? Who do you support then?’ I used to ask. ‘And how can somebody support a team from a city that has no geographical bearing to their own?’ But then I thought of Man Utd fans, of whom, by my own admission, I am one, but I am from Manchester.

img 2653 What makes El Clásico so classic...o?

Nevertheless, this crucial decision of which team to support – Los Galácticos or La Blaugrana – seems to takes place early on in life, often on concrete schoolyards where rights to the players’ names are squabbled over to no end. All except poor Gareth Bale’s name, that is. ‘Gareth Ba-le no es vale!’ (the derogation of which is still unclear to me) is what the eight year olds I teach are chanting at the moment. The Barcelona fans of the class were particularly unremitting on Monday following their team’s 2-1 victory over Madrid at the weekend. ‘What about Granada? How did they do?’ I quizzed them. ‘No sé’ – I don’t know – they shrugged.

balemadrid What makes El Clásico so classic...o?

Cheer up Bale

But the bitter rivalry goes beyond English Language classrooms. It has done for centuries, despite the first game ever played between the two clubs only taking place in 1902, back when it was just plain Madrid FC – the ‘royal’ prefix was added in 1920.

During Franco’s longstanding dictatorship, a period in which the speaking of Catalan was only permitted in Camp Nou on a match day, Real Madrid became the embodiment of Spain’s Castile region and Franco’s favoured club. Despite this, Barcelona continued to dominate Spanish football throughout the 40s and 50s, winning far more trophies than their Madrileño adversaries. The 60s, however, proved more fruitful for Real Madrid, who became the new unstoppable force. Of the clásicos played during Franco’s rule, Madrid won the most by a narrow thirty-nine to Barca’s thirty-seven. In one match in 1970, Barcelona fans were allegedly so furious with the referee’s performance that they hurled no less than 25,000 seats from the stands on to the pitch. On another occasion, a soldier attempted to arrest one of Barcelona’s groundsmen on suspicion of being a communist (Source).

In recent years though, the most memorable incident has to be the infamous throwing of a pig’s head at an unsuspecting Luis Figo at Camp Nou as he stood by the touchline. It was the first time he had returned to the 98,000 capacity stadium after signing from Barca to Real Madrid in 2000 – an almost unspeakable act. The evening coincided with the first el clásico for English winger Steve McManaman, who had recently signed for Real Madrid from Liverpool.

article 1331124 0c23e028000005dc 283 634x422 What makes El Clásico so classic...o?

“It was like nothing I had ever seen. He was abused from the moment he stepped off the plane to the moment he got back on it again. It wasn’t just the pig’s head; there were bottles, golf balls and missiles thrown at him too. It was impossible to concentrate. Eventually the referee had to order both sets of players off until things calmed down. They didn’t, and it was a terrible game of football.”

“The windows of our team coach would routinely be smashed by bricks on every trip to Barcelona. That was truly frightening. On the short trip from the hotel to Camp Nou we’d all brace ourselves and cower down on the floor as the driver put his foot down and hurtled the bus through the particular street where you knew the missiles would start raining through the windows.” (Source)

Is Steve McManaman exaggerating? Who knows. Sadly, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend a match, but even the hostility exhibited in some of the bars I’ve stood in during one is unsettling enough – especially when you become familiar with the most brutal of Spanish insults.

barcamadrid What makes El Clásico so classic...o?

Either way, it’s fair to say that El Clásico has always been as much a clash of political ideologies as a heated battle for three points between twenty-two ludicrously overpaid sportsmen. Even with the fall of fascism, a deep-seated rivalry still remains between the two clubs, which has only been further intensified following the recent calls for a referendum for Catalan independence. Mostly though, it’s about beating the other team on the day: feeling that sense of unmitigated satisfaction, and delighting in being able to taunt fans of the losing side.

When it comes to El Clásico, there is not a single thing that could possibly be more important. It is the ultimate showdown and the ultimate spectacle of a sport unreservedly adored by so many in Spain.

elclasico What makes El Clásico so classic...o?

Have you ever attended el clásico or simply watched it in Spain? Or another derby match renowned for its hostile atmosphere? Who do you support??

Share This:

erin ridley, la tortuga viajera, spain

A Spanish Inquisition: La Tortuga Viajera

There’s not been a great deal of spanish inquiring going on recently here at SFP. None at all actually, since the first round with Marianne of East Of Malaga, so it’s certainly high time there was another. Step forward Erin, of La Tortuga Viajera, a blogger who has been shouting from Madrid for almost five years now, picking up plenty of well-deserved awards  – easyjet’s blogger of the month among them –  and blogging/featuring for the likes of Lonely Planet and Wild Junket along the way. Erin, or the travelling turtle, as her husband cordially nicknamed her, blogs about travel, food, drink and general advice for expats – particularly those living in Madrid. If there ever was a case of just how excellent living the life of an expat in Spain can be, then this is surely it.

Let’s get started shall we?

erin A Spanish Inquisition: La Tortuga Viajera

Name: Erin from La Tortuga Viajera

From: San Francisco, CA

Occupation: I head up marketing at OleiOlive and am also a freelance writer

Time in Spain: 5 years

 

1. Why did you move to Spain? Why Madrid?

I met my Madrileño husband at a bar while visiting Madrid. The rest is history.

2. What is one of Madrid’s best kept secrets?

These days I’m obsessed with Mercado de la Paz. It’s this traditional neighborhood market filled with some 60 stands – from fruit, to meat, and everything in between — and is completely hidden within a city block. I never stop marvelling at the fact that I have such a spectacular and largely unknown market-wonderland just steps away from my home.

3. How would you describe the culture here? What type of people tend to thrive, and what type don’t do as well?

People here live in the moment – for better and for worse — whether that be an eight-hour lunch, or an unnecessarily slow-moving line. Those who can embrace and appreciate these often-frustrating extremes will thrive.

4. What have been (briefly) the best three experiences you’ve had since moving here?

I’ll go with my wedding, my wedding and my wedding, simply because it’s too hard to pick just three!

5. What has been the worst? And how could it have been avoided?

Leaving my life, friends and career behind in the US and then having to adapt to culture here minus those things. It made it hard for me to feel like I had a sense of identity.

6. How much Spanish could you speak before you moved to Spain? What’s the best way to learn?

I was conversational, but not comfortably fluent. I always say the best way to learn Spanish is to tackle it with as many methods as possible. In the end, classes and conversation are fundamental – one without the other won’t get you to the finish line.

7. Money is a thorny issue for any would-be expat. Do you have any tips on working, saving, banking etc?

No. And if someone has any, let me know.

8. Finally, what’s the best photo you’ve ever taken in Spain? Tell us about it!

I’m going to have to go with this shot taken when I was a shepherd for a day up in Soria. I fell in love with those little lambies (and have refused to eat them since).

ltv e1363295716755 A Spanish Inquisition: La Tortuga Viajera

Share This:

Madrid (in rainy season)

Grey, sunless skies, spewing forth sheets of torrential rain onto its miserable-looking inhabitants- I had hoped for a much brighter first impression of Madrid. This was far from it. Of course I’d known what all but certainly lay in store for me, after consulting my phone for countless weather updates, but I had remained cautiously optimistic up until our arrival. Now, I could see I had been foolish.

As this was my first time in La Capital, my list of things to see and do couldn’t have been longer. Getting through all of it in just two days was out of the question, so after some painful but necessary crossing-out I managed to whittle it down to just four things: seeing the Royal Palace and its gardens; El Bernabeu; El Museo del Prado, and watching the world go by in Madrid’s multicultural zone of Lavapiés.

The latter was to be the first box ticked off the list, owing to our fortune in securing free accommodation for the night via the services of Couch Surfing. Our host lived there. However, after our arrival and a subsequent phone call, it transpired that our host hadn’t realized that there were two of us, despite as much being made absolutely clear in the request sent three days earlier. As a result, we now found ourselves without a roof over our heads on the Friday of Puente weekend, and it was forecast to piss it down all night.

img 4729 Madrid (in rainy season)We nevertheless enjoyed a lunch that we both agreed, despite its shortcomings, had probably been just about the most traditionally Spanish plato of our time here. Paella for starters, pollo asado con patatas bravas for mains and an entire bottle of vino tinto that would make Aldi’s cheapest wine seem like a vintage Don Perignon in comparison.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent aimlessly wandering the enchanting barrio, as planned, where all races and ethnic principles fuse brilliantly into one great big multi-cultural melting pot. I could quite happily have spent the rest of my day there, but that niggling issue of having nowhere to sleep just wouldn’t stop niggling, and the longer we left it the less likely finding somewhere with space for us would be.

So, we begrudgingly headed for the swarming city centre aboard the impressive metro-link system. What followed was possibly the most wretched and unfruitful four hours of any trip ever had by either of us. Not a single hostel we asked at had beds for the night- our worst fears were fast becoming a reality. All we could do was just keep trying, and eventually, a receptionist advised us that if we were to find a room at such short notice, the best place to look was in Lavapiés…

At least I’d now get to spend the rest of my day there, I thought. Back we plodded, desperately hoping the receptionist had been right, and as luck would have it, we finally found a grubby little one-star hostel a couple of km away from the area’s metro link. We were overjoyed. Checked-in and at last feeling able to relax, we set out in search of one of the barrio’s much-hyped curry houses.

It didn’t take long to find what we were looking for. Suddenly, we found ourselves promenading Madrid’s very own curry mile, along which there were countless Indian Restaurants, each boasting jaw-droppingly good deals; what’s that? Six beers for €5!? And six ‘curry tapas’ for another €5? We’d hit the jackpot. Two hours later, after an exceedingly generous helping of either indulgence, we waddled/staggered back to our musty abode to rest our sleepy heads. There was much to be done the following day!

 Madrid (in rainy season)

Naturally, we overslept, and were awoken by the noise of our door being pounded on rather angrily. The one doing the pounding was the hostel owner, who had made it quite clear the night before, through his eyes-on-the-floor/‘I’ll growl instead of speak’ approach, that hospitality wasn’t really his thing, and he was now discernibly irked. We paid and left, without saying a word. No love lost.

Fortunately, we’d had the foresight to book a bed for the following night in a more centrally located hostel the previous afternoon, and fancied getting there pretty quick. We found our way, checked in again and set about exploring the city for the day, despite the continued downpour.

First up on the agenda was The Royal Palace, which we did eventually see, but not before coming across a most welcome distraction: El Mercado de San Miguel. The food on sale here was amazing. There were enough bocadillos, fresh-fish tapas and paella to keep you nibbling all day long, though watch your spending- we somehow managed to spend €10 just on olives. But by God were they worth it.

img 4736 Madrid (in rainy season)

img 4739 Madrid (in rainy season)

img 4740 Madrid (in rainy season)

After tearing ourselves away we hurried along to the Palace. The rain had waned slightly, but the skies were still a thick canvas of grey. We felt the exterior of the Palace blended in quite nicely. It was big, and worthy of a spot on the to-see list, but not a smudge on the architectural treats of Barcelona, Seville or Granada. Guess we’re pretty spoilt down here.

img 4742 Madrid (in rainy season)

At this point it occurred to us that we were in actual fact only a few minutes’ walking distance from El Templo de Debod- an ancient Egyptian temple donated to the city by its constructors in 1968, after Spain helped save the country’s doomed temples of Abu Simbel following the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam. Three stone-built pylon gateways stand in a line in front of the temple, creating a superb mirror-image with the still water surrounding the monument.

img 4754 Madrid (in rainy season)

img 4756 Madrid (in rainy season)

The day was wearing on and we were forced to concede that it would now be impossible to see both the Prado Museum and The Bernabeu. No contest. Off we went to the stadium of the so-called Galacticos, unaware that there was in fact a game to be played that very night. We arrived and the realization of what may have been about to happen quickly dawned on us.

img 4768 Madrid (in rainy season)“How much?” we inquired.

“€55” replied the cashier.

Ballbags. Not what we had budgeted for, but this was Real Madrid we were talking about. Would I ever have the opportunity to see them play again? Yes, I would, I decided. I know that this blog post would probably have been far more exciting had I let folly prevail over sense, but on this occasion, I kept my moneys in my pocket. I had already bought a ticket to the Granada CF game the next day anyway, so that was enough justification, right? Whatever. We walked briskly away from the stadium before folly mounted a counter-attack.

That night, we signed ourselves up for one of those pub-crawls designed for tourists who want to make friends. The €10 participation fee was a tall order, but we figured it would be worth it. Nope. Not even the slightest bit. Our ‘pub’ crawl started in a cramped, sweaty disco-bar which was playing music of the makes-you-want-to-sew-your-ears-shut variety. We had our ‘free’ listerine-flavoured shot and then faced one of three options; 1) Buy a €6 drink, remain inside and wait for our ears to throw up. 2) Go outside and stand in the pissing rain for an hour while we wait for those who opted for the ‘€20 with free-bar in first bar’ fee to consume as much alcohol as humanly possible, or 3) Fuck off.

img 4772 Madrid (in rainy season)

So off we fucked to an Irish Bar, where we spent the rest of the night berating the ‘Madride Pubcrawl’ and watching some pretty woeful live music. Better than options one and two though, we agreed.

Next day, our bus pulled away from Madrid Station at 11am. The rain had now reached the point of beyond ridiculous. Five hours, that bus journey was supposed to take. A burst riverbank along the motorway ensured that it took just over seven instead. But it wasn’t Madrid’s fault. In truth, one requires a great deal more than just two days in order to explore the city properly so I’ll be back… on a considerably dryer day I hope.

img 4761 Madrid (in rainy season)

img 4773 Madrid (in rainy season)

Share This: