Tag Archives: biking


Welcome back to all our readers! Summer in Spain… lovely weather (most of the time), beaches, great food and music, cultural events, festivals, sports… what else can you ask for??!!  This is the perfect season to visit our country, as you can see by looking at the various events, festivals and fiestas coming up in the next three months. Take a look at our summary of the upcoming events taking place in Spain from July to September…

July 2014

July is the perfect month for those interested in music… especially if you’re travelling to the Basque Country. The two most popular annual Jazz festivals in Spain take place during this month in this region. The Vitoria Jazz Festival, which is part of the International Jazz Festival Organization will be held from July 14th to July 19th and for its 38th edition it’ll count with great artists such as the Buena Vista Social Club Orchestra, Paul Anka or Noa. Less than a week later (July 23rd to July 27th), we’ll have the 49th edition of the San Sebastian International Jazz Festival withover 60 performances in different venues, such as the Kursaal Center and its terraces, the Trinidad Square and the Zurriola Beach.

But music is not just Jazz… For the lovers of the independent pop/rock scene there’s another festival which is becoming very popular in the last few years: The BBK Live Festival in Bilbao, which will take place from July 10th to July 12th and will count with international artists, such as Franz Ferdinand, The Black Keys, The Prodigy or MGMT. Apart from the Basque Country, and continuing with the “indie” music, the internationally famous FIB (Benicassim International Festival) will be held in this town of the Comunidad Valenciana from July 17th to July 20th. This music festivals, which has been held from 1995 and has become one of the World references for the international independent scene, will have this year a spectacular line-up (as usually) with artists such as Kasabian, The Libertines, Lily Allen, Manic Street Preachers, Paul Weller or Travis.

San Sebastian Jazz Festival. Source: Heinekenjazzaldia.com
San Sebastian Jazz Festival. Source: Heinekenjazzaldia.com

Early July also hosts one of the most popular festivities in Spain: San Fermin. This festival, taking place in Pamplona from July 6th to July 14th, has become one of the stereotypes of the image of Spain abroad and is now internationally known because of the popular “encierros” (running of the bulls). Even if, traditionally, this festival started as a religious celebration in honor of the saint patron of Navarra, now the religious ceremonies have been left out in the background and people come to the city for the abovementioned “encierros”, the street partying and the bullfights. Here at Madrid & Beyond, we’ve been offering to our clients for years some insiders access activities during this festival, such as watching the running of the bulls from a private balcony or enjoying breakfast and taking part in the traditional dance at one of Pamplona’s most exclusive venues.

San Fermín running of the bulls

For shoppers out there, the start of summer in Spain means the by the sales season (Rebajas) which will be running in most of the shops and shopping malls until the end of August or the end of September (depending on the regions).

 August 2014

If you are planning to enjoy the beaches of Cadiz, south west Spain in early August, then don’t miss the chance to watch the amazing horse races on the beach in San Lucar de Barrameda  from August 7th to 9th. Enjoy the races and the beautiful sunsets in one of Europe’s oldest horse contests (dating back to 1845).

Source: Spain.info
Source: Spain.info

Continuing with more sports, there are 2 other events that will take place in our country during this month. The first is the Spanish Supercup (soccer/football) where the League champion (Atletico de Madrid) will face the King’s Cup champion (Real Madrid) in a rematch of the most important event of last season… the final of the UEFA Champions League. The first match will be held at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on August 20th and the second at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on August 27th. The second big event of the month is the Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain), one of the 3 big cycling competitions of the calendar. This year it will run from August 23rd to September 14th and it will start in Jerez de la Frontera, then continue across Andalusia, Castilla La Mancha, Aragon and finally the North of Spain, until the final arrival in Santiago the Compostela. A great opportunity to watch the best cyclists of the World competing for the last important cycling prize of the year…

Source: Cyclingweekly.co.uk
Source: Cyclingweekly.co.uk

Apart from sports, August is traditionally an important month for festivities in Spain. Although there will be festivals in many villages, towns and cities along our country, we would like to highlight the following: The San Cayetano, San Lorenzo and La Paloma festivals in Madrid. These are three festivals in honor of 3 different saint patrons of the city that take place in some of the most central and traditional neighborhoods in Madrid (Lavapies, La Latina, Cascorro, Las Vistillas). The festivals start at the beginning of the month and finish on August 17th. There will be open-air festivities and street fairs, street decoration contests, shows and concerts and some religious ceremonies. In the North, there are two festivities worth mentioning, the Semana Grande (Grand Week) of San Sebastian (August 9th to 16th) and the Semana Grande of Bilbao (August 16th to 24th). Both of them include cultural and sporting events, bullfights, concerts and performances, popular dances, etc. Last but not least, in Andalusia, we have the Feria de Malaga (August 16th to 23rd) also including many open-air activities in the city and the Malagueta beach, concerts, competitions, bullfights, etc. One of the most popular fairs in Andalusia, after the April Fair of Sevilla.

Feria de Malaga at night. Source: Andalucia-turismo.org
Feria de Malaga at night. Source: Andalucia-turismo.org

Finally, another of the festivals that has become popular worldwide also takes place in August: La Tomatina (Tomato fight). Every year, on the last Wednesday of August, neighbors and tourists gather in the village of Buñol (next to Valencia) and take a free breakfast provided by the town hall before one of the biggest food fights in the World. What started as a tomato fight amongst some local youngsters in 1945 has now become a massive “battle”, very popular outside our borders and attracting a huge number of visitors each year and with more than 100 tons of tomatoes being used as weapons… Crazy!

Source: Spain.info
Source: Spain.info

September 2014

From August 30th until September 14th Spain will host the Basketball World Cup which will take place in different locations, such as Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Sevilla, Granada and Gran Canaria. The main teams in Europe (including Spain, of course) plus Argentina and Brazil will try to overthrow the all-powerful United States this time… will any team be able to get this heroic deed?

From September 19th to 27th the most important annual film festival in Spain takes place in San Sebastian. The San Sebastian International Film Festival, which started on 1953 has become one of the most important and prestigious festivals in the World, together with those in Berlin and Cannes. During these days, actors, directors and other celebrities assisting this glamorous event have the chance to enjoy the charm and atmosphere of this lovely city. Also at the end of the month, the city of Barcelona celebrates its most important festivities: La Mercé Festivals. This festival, which started on 1871, takes place on the week of September 24th and includes street shows and concerts, traditional dances, parades, fireworks, human towers, etc. During this week the streets of the city become even more lively and animated than normal, and that’s quite a statement when speaking about Barcelona!

Human Tower during La Mercé Festival. Source: deviajeporespana.com
Human Tower during La Mercé Festival. Source: deviajeporespana.com

For those interested in Spanish arts and cultural traditions there are two other festivals worth mentioning. The first would be the Flamenco Biennial Festival in Sevilla (September 12th to October 5th). This festival is held every second year since 1980 and combines a competition amongst the best flamenco artists with parallel events such as performances, courses, seminars… which make everything to be centered around flamenco on these days in the Andalusian capital. The second is the Human Towers Competition in Tarragona (September 28th to October 5th). This competition is also held every second year and it’s the biggest competition of its type, gathering all the clubs in Catalonia. Apart from the competition there will be other traditional Catalonian activities set in a festive atmosphere.

Flamenco Biennial Festival in Sevilla. Source: Spain.info
Flamenco Biennial Festival in Sevilla. Source: Spain.info

Well, as you can see, the long summer is season offers all sorts of events and attractions. Apart from those mentioned above, there are many other cultural activities to bear in mind such as: The Veranos de la Villa in Madrid (performing arts activities in open-air venues), Shows and concerts at the Generalife Gardens in Granada, Open-air cinema projections on the Medieval Walls in Avila, Cultural activities at the Alcazar Gardens in Sevilla… and much more! Stay tuned for more interesting posts about Spain!!!






Last month I was lucky enough to go on an “inspection trip” to beautiful Sevilla. It wasn’t the first time I’ve visited this lovely city but this time I got to experience some of the private tours and special experiences which we at Madrid & Beyond arrange for our clients there. I stayed in a couple of hotels where our clients sometimes stay thus experiencing first-hand the facilities and services, and visited several others in the short time available.

For those who don’t know Sevilla, the capital of Andalusia is a captivating and beautiful city. It is well known for being a city of flamenco and bulls, the city of Carmen and Don Juan. Its history and culture give rise to pride, tradition, passion and joy. It’s easy to be seduced by its enchanting neighborhoods, with its twisting narrow streets, stunning patios and squares lined with orange trees. The most important monument in Sevilla is its enormous cathedral, the third largest, and the largest Gothic building in the world, featuring the tomb of Christopher Columbus and its 12th-century bell-tower, La Giralda, originally built by the Moors as a minaret.

The Cathedral and its "Giralda"
The Cathedral and its “Giralda”

The day I arrived, I checked into the 4* Hotel Fontecruz Los Seises, a newly renovated hotel of very special design, construction and history. What was once a sixteenth century palace belonging to the Archbishop is now an elegant and modern hotel that closely maintains its links with its past. Inside one can discover a Roman mosaic, an Arab well and sixteenth century columns amongst other attractions. A great plus in the warmer months is its rooftop offering an expansive terrace, and a small swimming pool and wonderful views of historic Sevilla.

After visiting the hotel, it was out to enjoy a Private Bike Tour of Sevilla. After meeting my English speaking guide, we got on our comfortable bikes and started riding through the historic city center. As my guide told me, there’s no better way to visit Sevilla than by bike. The city is flat, full of cycle lanes and usually very sunny… in fact it’s been recognized as the 4th best city in the world for cycling, according to several researches. I can only agree with it… in three hours and with little effort we visited most of the landmarks of the city, including the Barrio de Santa Cruz (Jewish Quarter), the Sevilla University (former tobacco factory), the incredible Maria Luisa Park and the Plaza de España, the riverside and the Triana neighborhood.

View from the Triana bridge

My second day in Sevilla started with a very special Private Cooking Class. The host for the day picked me up at the hotel and we headed to the Triana Market, where we soaked up the atmosphere and purchased some of the ingredients for the class. After that we headed to our “workplace”, a kitchen located at beautiful penthouse property in the centre of Seville, with large roof terrace. During the preparation of the dishes, I was able to taste some local delicacies together with some drinks. The class was “hands on” and I get involved as much as I could in the preparation of the typical Andalusian dishes. After the class, we enjoyed the fruits of our “hard” labor with a sumptuous meal washed down by some excellent “house” wine…

Kitchen and Terrace

After the class I headed to my next stay over, the impressive Hotel Alfonso XIII, which was designed in 1928 to be one of Europe’s most luxurious hotels. After huge renovation work completed in 2012, the hotel is in mint condition and there is no better time to stay here than now. Named after the king who commissioned it in 1928, Hotel Alfonso XIII was built to provide fitting accommodation for the heads of state and high-ranking guests that attended the 1929 Great Ibero-American Exhibition. Today, this famous hotel continues the tradition of luxury and impeccable service for all its distinguished guests. Located a short walk from the Reales Alcázares and Plaza de España, the hotel is the most distinguished address in Sevilla. For those who like to wallow in its comforts, there are also lush gardens, a lovely typical Sevillian inner courtyard with fountain and an sizeable outdoor pool during the summer.

Alfonso XIII at night

Having been shown the hotel, there was little time to spare before meeting my local guide who took me to a Private Tapas Tour of Sevilla (yes, more food!!!). Tapas is one of Spain’s most famous and enjoyable ways of having a meal. It normally involves visiting a number of bars during the course of an evening, trying local delicacies and sharing each dish with your companions. As my guide says, Sevilla is one of the best cities in Spain for tapas. It is after all, the home of the tapas and has a very large number of bars per inhabitant, offering an amazing range of food. After talking about the food and drinks I would like to try, we head to the first bar, where we tasted some delicious seafood dishes: “tortillitas de camarón” (shrimp omelets)  and “ortiguillas” (battered seaweed) with some beer. Then in the second bar we tried a delicious jamón ibérico and “torreznos” (thick pieces of marinated fried rasher) with some red wine. We finished our tour in a bar where we tried some “secreto ibérico” (pork special cut) and a healthy salad… It was indeed a very food-focused day!

"Ortiguillas"  Source: cosasdecome
“Ortiguillas” Source: cosasdecome

On my last day in Sevilla I took the chance to visit a few other hotels in the Andalusian capital, including:

After a hard day visiting hotels and taking notes about the different types of rooms, the common areas and discussing the added values we get for our clients in each of the properties, I headed to Santa Justa train station and board the AVE (high speed train) to Madrid.

What an intense couple of days but I still felt there was so much more to soak up and enjoy about Sevilla. It’s hard to disagree with those who call it Spain’s most beautiful city; and with such wonderful hosts and guides, it’s a winner every time!


My name is Clara, and I’m the Madrid & Beyond “expert” on the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). Before arriving to Madrid & Beyond more than 12 years ago(!) I worked as a guide, leading small groups from the USA on biking and hiking tours all over Spain & Portugal and many of these were along the Camino de Santiago. I hope you enjoy this post on this legendary route, based on its long history and my personal experience…

My bike and me

My bike and me

The Camino de Santiago is a journey through the History, Art, Culture and tradition over 1000 years. I’m sure it will ring a bell for most of you as it has become one of the most popular outdoor experiences in Europe.

Although it was conceived as a religious pilgrimage, nowadays more and more people are attracted to it as the best way to combine great walks along different regions of northern Spain and a superb spiritual and cultural experience.

There are different “Caminos” (Ways) that lead to Santiago de Compostela but the most popular is the “French Way” that begins in the Pyrenees and crosses the north of Spain through Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla, León and Galicia.

Old Map of 1648 which shows the French Way to Santiago de Compostela (Source: todocoleccion.net)
Old Map of 1648 which shows the French Way to Santiago de Compostela (Source: todocoleccion.net)

My first contact with the Camino was around 1994 and I immediately fell in love with it. I discovered a path of History and legend that was an unforgettable personal experience.

 For over 5 years I had the privilege of leading small groups along the Camino de Santiago, sharing this experience and experiencing it for myself through the eyes of many different people. The trip is indeed a very rewarding experience.

The most popular way of doing the Camino is on foot or by bike and although I’m an active cyclist, I must say the Camino is best done on foot in order to interact fully with this experience, it is also more relaxing this way.

Cycling the Camino is also an option, but I personally think it could be sometimes a rather annoying experience especially in high season. We must bear in mind that you will be sharing the path with hundreds of walkers (who have priority) and you may end up getting out of the original way in order to avoid them and have a more comfortable ride.

So, if you are thinking of doing the Camino I strongly recommend walking it.

camino de santiago shot2

When and where should I start my Camino?

The best months will be May, June and September. Summer will be nice in terms of weather, but it gets busier as most Europeans travel during the months of July and August.

The initial starting point depends on how many days you have for the journey. If you plan to walk the Camino from St. Jean Pied de Port, you may have to prepare for at least a month.

Unfortunately nowadays, not many people have this amount of time available to spend on one trip, so you can either start from the beginning and do the whole Camino by shorter stages or begin closer to Santiago to finish in Compostela.

So if you have 10-12 days, you could start in the province of León and walk all the way to Santiago.

Qualifying pilgrims can receive an official “Compostela” (a certificate confirming you have made the trip) bearing their name upon arriving in Santiago.

To qualify for the Compostela, you must walk the last 100km or bicycle the last 200km of one of the recognized Caminos.

To prove that you met the requirements, you must have a Pilgrim’s Credential, which must have been stamped along the way at churches, pilgrim’s refuges, or other way stations, which are sometimes bars or stores in smaller villages.

Source: peregrinoszaragoza.org
Source: peregrinoszaragoza.org

For those who are tempted to discover this fantastic path, I recommend to see “The Way”, a film by Emilio Estevez starring his father Martin Sheen. A wonderful tribute to the Camino de Santiago.