Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category

5 Great Summer Experiences!

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

The history books are strewn with people who have made terrible decisions. Here’s a few examples -

  • Adam and Eve, the first two humans ever, deciding to eat an obviously-delicious forbidden apple. I therefore hold them personally responsible for all the idiocy which follows then!
  • Nero, the insane 1st century Roman Emperor, deciding to burn down his own city while singing happily and playing a fiddle. Not surprisingly he was killed by an angry mob.
  • Napoleon invading Russia in winter.
  • Hitler invading Russia in winter (can anybody spot a theme?).
  • The nine publishing companies who rejected JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book. Oops!

Don’t add your name to the above wall-of-shame! Make a great last-minute decision and join Topdeck for the trip of a lifetime this summer. Half of the fun is deciding where to go, but here are five of our favourite experiences for summer 2013 to inspire you…

Experience the thrill of the ‘Running of the Bulls’

The ‘Running of the Bulls’ in Pamplona is definitely one for the bucket list. Topdeck has lots of superb-value trips to take you to the heart of the action in sunny Spain, including budget trips staying at our gorgeous lakeside campsite with swimming pool from £179 (less than £36 per day!). For something a bit different, our awesome 14 day Spanish Sun & Fiestas trip combines a trip to Pamplona with the quirky ‘Wine Battle’ Festival in Haro, the cultural cities of Bilbao and Madrid, and the beachside paradise of San Sebastian.

We’ve got a great range of Running with the Bulls trips. Check them out here.

Paint The Town Red at La Tomatina

The Spanish tomato-throwing extravaganza may be one of the most eccentric festivals in a country which is renowned for eccentric festivals, but that’s what makes it so much fun! The world’s biggest food fight is a blast, quite literally! To make it even better, all of Topdeck’s La Tomatina trips offer central accommodation in the vibrant beachside city of Valencia – home of paella.

You can check out all of our trips to La Tomatina here.

Live like Marie Antoinette and Spend the Night in a French Chateau

Take a trip off the beaten track through fantastique France and realise why 80% of the French holiday in their own country! This 14 day Explorer trip travels through vibrant cities, gorgeous wineyards (with plenty opportunities to taste!), historic medieval towns, and perhaps best of all – spend the night in an opulent French Chateau in the Loire Valley. Sacré bleu!

We currently have 10% off our Discover France 13th July 2013 departure!

Stay Overnight With The Navajo Tribe in Monument Valley, USA

The breathtaking natural beauty of the USA will blow away the most cynical of travellers. Our 19 day Great Parks of the USA trip will take you back to nature, combining staggeringly beautiful national parks, the Grand Canyon, and an unforgettable overnight stay with the Navajo Native American Tribe in Utah, where you’ll also get a guided jeep tour of Monument Valley. If all the beautiful natural landscapes get too much for you, we’ll also take you to the awesome cities of Reno, Salt Lake City, Jackson, and Sin City itself - Las Vegas!

Take a look at our Greatest Parks of the US here.

Take a Party Bus Down the Las Vegas Strip

Our epic road trip across the USA from New York to Los Angeles (or reverse) is the definitive summer experience for 2013. There are too many highlights to name – Cajun cuisine in Louisiana, a visit to Elvis’s home Graceland, country music in Tennessee, a guided tour of the illuminated Washington D.C monuments, a visit to Death Valley (the hottest place on earth!), and so much more. But in my humble opinion, there is nothing in the world more fun than taking a party bus down the Las Vegas Strip, complete with mp3 dock and state-of-the-art audio equipment … Viva Las Vegas!

Read more about the Vegas Party Bus & the Coast to Coast trip here.

Come and join Topdeck for a fun-filled summer and take the hassle out of travelling. It’s a far better idea than invading Russia this winter!

Spanish Sun & Fiestas: Combining Running of the Bulls, La Batalla del Vino and San Sebastian.

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Most people are familiar with at least a couple of the festivals the Spanish celebrate every year, whether it’s the carnage of Running of the Bulls in Pamplona or the tomato-throwing extravaganza of La Tomatina, the Spanish festivals are famously eccentric.

Only a handful of people are familiar with one of the most peculiar. The tiny town of Haro in the beautiful Rioja region of Northern Spain hosts something completely bizarre on 29th June each year. To mark St Peter’s (San Pedro’s) day, thousands of locals come together to dump bucket-upon-bucket of red wine on each other!

The ‘wine battle’ as it’s known, originates from a dispute between Haro and neighbouring town Miranda De Ebro regarding who owned the mountains between them. Nobody knows who was the first to throw wine at their rival, but now locals from the entire region (along with a handful of tourists) come together in friendship instead of feud to celebrate, drink, dance, and last but not least, soak each other to the bone in red wine! Most of the local’s ‘weapon of choice’ is a bottle of wine, but those going for accuracy carry water pistols while those going for sheer volume carry buckets! When the once-white t-shirts have turned sufficiently pink, the drenched participants gather round bonfires to dry-off while eating tapas and drinking delicious Rioja wine. What could be better?!

One of the best things about the wine battle is that, for now, it remains a local affair. Tourists in Haro are still a novelty who are welcomed into the celebration with open arms. It’s only a matter of time before the festival booms in popularity in the same way as the other aforementioned Spanish festivals, but for now the wine battle is a unique and authentic taste of Spanish culture.

The Spanish reputation for partying late-into-the-night makes it one of the most hedonistic countries in Europe. While most tourists flock to the concrete seaside resorts of the Costa del Sol, the vibrant cities are where the genuine Spanish lust-for-life can be found.

Topdeck’s Spanish Sun and Fiesta trip combines a visit to the wine battle in Faro alongside four incredible cities. Vibrant Bilbao is first up – capital of the Basque region - followed by Madrid, the stunning and historic Spanish capital. A perfect trip is rounded-off with three nights in San Sebastian, a buzzing beachside city and surfer’s paradise, and finally a visit to Pamplona for the fireworks-filled San Fermin festival and the chaotic running of the bulls.

After an incredible twelve days, four cities and two mind-blowing festivals, we say a reluctant and exhausted adios to our amazing Spanish adventure!

New Year’s Eve 2012 - Our top picks!

Friday, December 21st, 2012

You’ve written your resolution and you’re ready to party! New Year’s Eve is guaranteed to be one of, if not the biggest party of the year and most big cities love to put on a show. Whether you are someone who thinks of NYE as just another night, or someone who loves to celebrate the occasion, there’s no doubting that cities can look their magical best when they put their makeup on for the night. At Topdeck, we love celebrating New Year’s Eve. Here’s a run-down of what New Year activities we are going to be a part of this year (in no particular order).

1. Krakow, Poland

After a change from the usual NYE festivities last year, Krakow will once again fill their Market Square with musical performances that will include some of their best local acts. Aside from the NYE performances however, Krakow night life in general is known as some of the best in Europe.

A trip with Topdeck will allow you to experience the Cracovian night life on your first day, with a walking tour of the historic Jewish Kazimierz included in day two. The rest of day is then yours to do as you please, where you can take a walk through the mysterious streets of the Old Town and visit galleries full of exhibitions, cafes, pubs and restaurants. On day three, get ready to party and welcome in the New Year in Market Square!

More information and trip details for New Year’s Eve in Krakow can be found here.

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Being the capital of Netherlands, and one of the most cultural cities in Europe, Amsterdam can be considered as one of the best cities in the world offering amazing museums, delicious food and a world renowned night life. After taking an included orientation tour of the city with Topdeck crew, feel free to explore the town on a Red Light District pub crawl with your new Topdeck buddies! You’ll have time to visit the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum and even the Heineken Experience during your time in Amsterdam. Alternatively, you may just want to sit back and relax in one of the local cafes!

Your New Year’s Eve party is included on this trip and there will be plenty of opportunity to continue the partying in one of the many Amsterdam bars and clubs.

Read more on the New Year’s Eve Amsterdam trip here.

3. Edinburgh, Scotland

Celebrating Hogmanay (The Scot’s word for New Year’s Eve) in Edinburgh is always a great experience as the city has so much to offer. You not only have the beautiful castle perched atop Castle Rock but friendly locals and world renowned night life to keep you entertained throughout your stay. On day two, your Topdeck trip leader will take you on a sightseeing tour of Edinburgh to get you well acquainted with the city. On day three, you will have tickets to join over 100,000 locals and travellers in New Year celebrations at the world famous Edinburgh street party! With a headache no doubt in store for New Year’s Day, you will then take a trip to Looney Dook where you can follow tradition and take a dip in the cold Scottish waters. Don’t forget your fancy dress!

Find out more on the Edinburgh new Year’s trip here.

4. Berlin, Germany

Celebrating the New Year in Berlin is something that over one million visitors choose to do each year – and there’s good reason why. On this trip, you will have an included group dinner to get to know your new Topdeck buddies before getting to know why Berlin night life has such a good reputation. The following day, you can get to know the city with the included walking tour, visiting some of the historic attractions including what’s left of the Berlin Wall. The afternoon is then yours to explore!

The official New Year’s Eve (Silvester) programme begins at 5:30pm in which international music stars and bands perform over various stages.

See more about the Berlin New Year’s Eve trip here.

5. Sydney, Australia

Watching Sydney try and out-do itself every year with New Year’s celebrations and fireworks means that you will always be in for a treat when visiting at this time of the year. On New Year’s Eve, you will have the option to go for an early morning surf at the world renowned Bondi Beach or visit one of the iconic cafes along the strip overlooking the beach. Afterwards, a trip to Sydney’s Rocks area, Circular Quay and the Opera House will ensure you get to see some of Australia’s most beautiful and historic attractions. To get the partying underway, we will then get onto a two storey catamaran and begin the party cruise on Sydney’s Harbour, with amazing views of famous Sydney landmarks. For those wanting to party throughout the night, there will be plenty of options all night long.

More information about our Sydney New Year’s Eve trip can be found here.

6. Prague, Czech Republic

Always a favourite of the Topdeck crew, Prague is a city full of history and a great place to party! A trip to Prague for the New Year will include a group dinner on the first night where you will then be able to experience the infamous nightlife for yourself. The following day, you will be able to explore the city, utilising the city’s trams, having your caricature done by an artist on the Charles Bridge, taking a ride on a river boat, or just relaxing in one of many restaurants or bars.

Once the New Year celebrations begin, the locals usually head towards any location that has a view overlooking the river. These tend to include Charles Bridge, Petrin Hill, Prague Castle or the more lively Old Town Square where the odd firework or two is bound to be lit!

Read more about the Prague New Year’s trip here.

Don’t miss out on celebrating the New Year in style!
See all of Topdeck’s Christmas and New Year trips on our website here.

Brugge Christmas Markets

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Brugge, Christmas and Markets are all amazing things in their own right, so imagine them all in one place!

Beautiful medieval surroundings, handmade Belgian chocolate, mulled wine, delicious food and a joyous Christmas spirit are just some of the things you can expect if visiting at this time of year. At the Brugge Christmas markets, you will find plenty to see and to do. After realising you have just eaten a few kilograms/pounds of Belgian chocolates, you will probably have the energy to get your ice skates on too. Be careful though, this might not be such a good idea after the mulled wine!

On arrival in Brugge, a walking tour will familiarise you with the streets of this fairytale town, then the rest of the day is yours! You could easily spend a whole afternoon in the main square, winding your way through the markets, peering at the gorgeous handmade ornaments while chowing down on a hot tasty bratwurst. If you’re feeling motivated, climb the 366 stairs to the top of the belfry, and gaze down at the shoppers and ice-skaters below, all bathed in the glow of colourful Christmas lights.

If you desire some quiet time, venture away from the square and explore the meandering lanes and alleys of the town. Each twist of the cobbled streets will reveal a new and picturesque sight, whether it be a peaceful canal, an ancient church, a wall displaying thousands of unique beer bottles (yes, really!) or yet another meticulously decorated chocolate shop. If you start to get chilly in the crisp winter’s air, why not duck into a cosy cafe, and warm up with some traditional moules-frites (fries with mussels – though you can swap the mussels for ketchup, mayonnaise or gravy, if you’re so inclined!). Try not to fill up too much as you’ll have a delicious included dinner ahead of you, and the chance to sample the Brugge nightlife with your fellow Topdeck travellers.

Of course, you can’t leave without sampling a traditional Belgian waffle (or three). They’ll make for a decadent lunch, especially when washed down with some of the best (and richest!) hot chocolate you’ll ever taste. You should grab a kilo or two of handmade praline chocolates for the road – after all, when will you be back in beautiful Brugge?

After your weekend of exploring, and all that heavenly food, you’ll be ready to settle in for a nap on your way back to London on board the Topdeck coach!

Interested in experiencing the Brugge Christmas Markets for yourself this year? Book now and receive 10% off for our 15th December departure. There is limited availability so get in quick!

Pamplona, Spain: Fiesta de San Fermin

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Festivals are all about celebrating and living life to the full. They mark the change of seasons, religious occasions, royal coronations, harvests and birthdays. But then again, sometimes they’re just an excuse for a good old-fashioned knees-up.

It's Fiesta Time!

It's Fiesta Time!

Europe’s festival circuit is one of the oldest, most famous and most diverse in the world. It includes food fights, lighting fires, running from animals, toasting with copious amounts of beer and celebrating the arts.

For visitors, festivals offer an invaluable opportunity to get up-close and personal with local cultures and share in a memorable travel experience by taking part in age old traditions.

The Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain (famous, or infamous, for Running of the Bulls) includes traditions that date back to 75BC.

Celebrations begin at midday on July 6 with a speech from the town’s mayor. After the speech, the mayor lets off a rocket signally the start of the festival.

For nine days, Pamplona is transformed into a loud, raucous non-stop street party with daily firework displays, bull runs (encierro) and the ever controversial bullfights.

Early Birds

If you’re looking to participate in one of the 8am bull runs, or just watch from the sidelines, you’re in for an early morning.

Spectators start claiming the best viewing spots from 5am and from 7am loud brass bands make their way through the crowd to make sure everyone stays awake!

Official San Fermin Uniform

Official San Fermin Uniform

What to Wear

One of the first things you’ll notice at the festival are the striking red scarves worn during the celebration in combination with white trousers and shirts. The scarves are worn in remembrance of Saint Fermin, the town’s first bishop, who became a martyr after he was beheaded in France.

So make sure you bring along a seat of white clothes (they wont stay white for long) or you can buy the complete outfit for €20-€50 once you get to the festival.

Closing Ceremony

Timing your trip to coincide with the festival’s Closing Ceremony you’re in for a treat!

After 204 hours of non-stop fiesta, the day begins with the daily bull-run at 8am followed by the usual parades and festivities in the lead up to final act - some of the finest evening street fiestas and fireworks you’ll ever witness!

Young & Old Celebrate San Fermin

Young & Old Celebrate Fiesta de San Fermin

Things officially wrap up at midnight on July 14, with party-goers each carrying a single candle and singing “Pobre de Mí, Pobre de Mí, que se han acabado las fiestas, de San Fermín” (“poor me, poor me, for the fiesta of San Fermín has come to a close”), but celebrations last well into the wee-small hours.

What next? Now it’s time for the locals to start counting down to next year’s festival!

Thinking of heading to Pamplona? Topdeck has several seats available on its 4 day trip leaving July 12.

Royal Ascot: A Day at the Races

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

It’s as English as tea and scones, red telephone boxes, cricket, roast beef and local pubs.

Enjoy a traditional English day at the races and be part of the pageantry, fashion and fun of Royal Ascot with Topdeck.

Experience all the Race Day action at Royal Ascot

Experience all the Race Day action at Royal Ascot

If you’re after an excuse to throw on a glamorous outfit, buy a fascinator and sup bubbly while fluttering away a few quid on the gee-gees there’s no better time than this!

Royal Ascot is a national institution and the centrepiece of the British social and racing calendar. Each year, in the third week of June over 300,000 people make the journey to Berkshire for Royal Ascot week.

This year Topdeck is heading to two of Ascot’s most popular race days - the Coronation Stakes and the King Edward VII Stakes on Friday and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes on Saturday.

We arrive in Berkshire mid-morning with enough time for a stroll though the small Ascot Village stopping for a beverage in one of the local pubs and a wander through the shops. All the while there is a buzz of excitement for the day’s events.

We tuck into Topdeck’s picnic lunch served with bubbly to toast the day ahead before it is time for the real entertainment to begin.  We head in with the other race goers to see what the race ground is all about.

Cheers! Bubbly all round at Royal Ascot!

Cheers! Bubbly all round at Royal Ascot!

Whether you have Silver Ring or Grandstand tickets you’ll be able to place bets, get a great view of the races and grab some drinks and snacks throughout the day.

If we are lucky, on our way we may catch a glimpse of the Queen and the Royal Procession as they arrive at the Parade Ring around 2pm.

Race goers with Grandstand tickets get to experience the action at the height of racing glamour.  You get access to over 1000 seats, big screen TVs, a military band performing in the Parade Ring before the Royal Procession and a traditional sing-along around the Bandstand after racing (free song books provided).

While the Silver Ring provides a less formal atmosphere you can be sure you won’t miss out on any of the action with great views, over 2000 seats, big screen TVs, live entertainment and bars.

Aside from the horses, a major draw card to Ascot is the incredible fashion on display.

It's all about the frocks, and the head-wear, at Royal Ascot

It's all about the frocks, and the hats, at Royal Ascot

This year Ascot has tightened the dress code for those in the Grandstand, but there is not better excuse to dress up for the day!

For ladies attending the Grandstand a hat, headpiece or fascinator must be worn at all times, dresses and tops must have straps, midriffs must be covered and shorts are not allowed. Boys have a rather straightforward dress code - a suit, shirt and tie.

Over in the more casual Silver Ring race goers are simply asked to wear smart clothes.

Once the day’s racing is over you can compare your wins (hopefully not too many loses) with other passengers as we head back to city in the early evening. If the excitement of the day just isn’t enough, you can join us for a post-race day drink in London at our Ascot after party.

Join Topdeck for a day at the races with Royal Ascot Silver Ring and Grandstand tickets. Includes: Return coach transport from central London; picnic style buffet lunch; plenty of bubbly; post race day party in London; services of a Topdeck Trip Leader

Netherlands: Queen’s Day, Amsterdam

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Every year on April 30 a strange phenomenon takes hold of the Dutch people.

Souce: Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board

Souce: Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board

The symptoms of Oranjegekte (Orange craze) or Oranjekoorts (Orange fever) are the wearing orange clothing, caps and scarves, dying hair orange and decorating of houses and entire streets with orange, orange and more orange while letting their hair down for a day of pure mad fun!

The people of the Netherlands pull out all the stops as they throw a party of epic proportions to celebrate the official birthday of their much loved monarch Queen Beatrix.

The festivities begin on April 29 with Queen’s Night Koninginnenacht and go through until the evening of the next day Queen’s Day Koninginnedag.

Souce: Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board

Souce: Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board

It’s a day of live music, beer tents and street parties – kind of like Oktoberfest crossed with a massive street carnival – as Amsterdam’s famous canals fill with boats, and the streets are lined with people.

The main stages for entertainment in some of the city’s main squares Rembrandtplein, Nieuwmarkt and Museumplein, but parties and music can be found throughout the city.  All the clubs in Amsterdam organise special events and some of the best are outside and free for everyone.

Aside from the party, the whole country holds a 24-hour free market vrijmarkt where anyone can sell anything they like without a permit or paying tax. It’s the perfect chance to pick up knickknacks and the required orange outfit so you can party with the locals in style until the wee small hours.

If an all-day party in one of the world’s most exciting cities sounds like you, why not go with Topdeck?

Source: Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board

Source: Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board

We arrive in town the day before the festivities and kick things off with a walking tour which includes the infamous Red Light District.

You won’t miss out on any of the Queen’s Day action as we’re staying right in the heart of Amsterdam!

If you’re after a change of pace there are plenty of slightly more cultured activities on offer from Anne Frank House to the Van Gogh Museum (remember to book your tickets in advance!) or you could always chill out in one of the city’s many coffee shops.

Before leaving, we’ll take you on a visit to a traditional Dutch farm where you can see how cheese and clogs are made.

With 24 hour celebrations and a vibrant atmosphere Queen’s Day is definitely a memorable time to visit Amsterdam!


  • Orange is the colour of the day as the Queen’s royal line goes back to William of Orange.
  • Queen Beatrix’s real birthday is January 31 (It’s too cold at that time for outdoor celebrations.)
  • April 30 was the birthday of Beatrix’s mother and predecessor, Juliana.
  • About 800.000 people come to Amsterdam for Queen’s Day
Topdeck’s 4 day trip to Queen’s Amsterdam leaves London on Sunday, 28 April 2013.

Dublin, Ireland: St Patrick’s Day Festival

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Topdeck’s Festival Manager Heather joins the locals for the ‘craic’ as she celebrates St Patrick’s Day in Dublin.


“Craic” or “crack” is a term for fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.

Every year on March 17 millions of people around the world head to their nearest pub to celebrate all that is Irish for St Patrick’s Day.

Ireland’s patron saint, St Patrick was famous for a number of remarkable feats including driving the snakes out of Ireland and teaching the Irish about Christianity. The national holiday marks the date of his death.

Last year I got the chance to make the day just that little bit more special with a trip to the Emerald Isles!

With as many green clothes as I could squeeze in my suitcase, I made my way to Dublin along with visitors from all over the world to join the locals in the traditional celebrations.

After checking into our hostel in the central city, we spent the rest of the evening soaking up the atmosphere and getting into the St Paddy’s spirit!

I was simply spoilt for choice when it came to entertainment! Over four days, Dublin plays host to more than 4000 world class performers including concerts, parades, street theatre and marching bands.

Our first morning in the city began with a walking tour of the must see sights such as Trinity College, the buzzing Temple Bar district, Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral.

Of course, no trip to Dublin is complete without a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. And there’s no better time to stop by than on the eve of the big day!

After learning about each step of the Guinness brewing process we were all pretty thirsty. Thankfully the tour ends in the Gravity bar, famous for its 360° panoramic view of the city, it’s the perfect place to take in the scenery while you Sláinte (cheers) and enjoy your complimentary stout.

In a rather festive mood, we spent the rest of our afternoon finding suitably green clothing and accessories from local stores in preparation for tomorrow’s big day.

On the 17th, we joined the masses of tourists and locals on the streets for the all-day celebrations before heading off to the Topdeck after party which lasted until the wee small hours!

Dublin is such a cosmopolitan and diverse city so it was a St Patrick’s Day to remember! The atmosphere over the four days was full of the expected Irish ‘Craic’ with plenty of singing, dancing and nightlife on offer making sure I had a holiday to remember with the biggest celebration on the Irish calendar.

For the ultimate St Patrick’s Day visit Dublin with one of Topdeck’s various festival options.

Spain: Getting Fiery at Las Fallas

Friday, January 13th, 2012

By Brett Edmonds

Topdeck’s Head of Design Brett feels the heat at the Las Fallas Festival, Spain!

Close your eyes. Now think back to your favourite camp-fire memory. Can you hear the sound of the fire crackling against the cool night breeze? Can you smell the rich, smoky scent of burning embers? Can you feel the heat of the flames as they wash over you? Can you visualise the piercing glow of the red hot wood burning at the base of the fire?

Now picture that camp-fire on a scale similar to a two-story building and you’re getting warm.

Multiply that two-story camp-fire 50 times and you’re getting warmer.

Dot those camp-fires throughout a small Spanish city and you’re getting warmer still.

Add a festival atmosphere in the mix and you’ve escalated to hot.

Stretch this over 4 days at the Las Fallas festival and you’re officially scorching.

The Spanish know how to host a world class festival and Las Fallas is no different.  In fact, the only difference is that it has yet to be discovered by the hordes of tourists that dominate many other Spanish festivals such as Running of the Bulls and La Tomatina.

Las Fallas is a festival that will truly ignite all five senses (six if you include your imagination).

Each year thousands of people descend on the city of Valencia to experience a festival steeped in tradition and imagination. Daily firecracker fights (mascletà), multi-coloured street parades, massive bonfires, sumptuous Spanish tapas, enchanting Flamenco music and fun-loving locals are all combined to make a truly incredible festival that is bound to leave a lasting mark on anyone game enough to visit it.

Be prepared to be swept up by the crowds of Spanish cheering and chanting in the streets, honouring the patron saint of carpenters, St Joseph.

A feast for the senses, this festival will really conjure your inner child with its towering, overly flamboyant effigies of politicians and celebrities dotted throughout the city in its many plazas.

The effigies are put on display for days leading up to the big finale, ‘the night of fire’, where at the stroke of midnight they are torched and burnt down to the ground in front of thousands of wide-eyed onlookers. This is where your inner cave man (or woman) will really come alive as you are mesmerised by the fiercely hot fire, raging only within a couple of metres from you - the heat snapping at you and the sound of the crowd moving through you like a freight train.

Las Fallas is a festival that really must be experienced by anyone looking for the magic of a European festival, but without the swarm of tourists over crowding the quaint little towns and cities that many of these festivals are set in.

Join Topdeck at Las Fallas from 17-20 March 2012! For more of Brett’s photos from the festival check out our album here!

Catching the Christmas Spirit in Bruges!

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

For her first wintry northern Christmas, Kara travelled to the magical Brugge Christmas Markets for some festive cheer!

If like me you are more accustomed to a warm and sunny Southern Hemisphere festive season complete with beachfront BBQs and long sunny days the thought of a wintery white Christmas is a magical and romantic prospect.

And you certainly can’t get a better northern Noel than with a visit to one of Europe’s Christmas Markets.

In this case, the Brugge (or Bruges) Christmas Market!

Brugge: A Fairytale Town

Brugge: A Fairytale Town

For anyone who has seen, and loved, the movie ‘In Bruges’ (Colin Farrell anyone?), the city holds a certain quirky appeal.

It’s hard to describe Brugge without using a lot of cheesy and romantic words… it’s a beautiful, breathtaking, peaceful and magical, fairy-tale town.

All these description are true – even more so at Christmas time!

With so many ornate buildings, stalls, shops and decorations it was hard to know where to turn next so my friends Kath and Becca and I needed a plan.

Our mission: to soak up as much of the Christmas Spirit as possible!

First we stopped for a look in a Christmas decoration shop. Thousands of handcrafted fairies, elves, Santas and nativity decorations hung throughout the store. The ornaments were pretty, but a bit pricey, but hey, it’s free to look!

So shiny & sparkly!

So shiny & sparkly!

Next we sampled the local mulled wine and made our way through the first of two market squares. A warm beverage is pretty much a requirement to keep warm and feel cheery at Christmas time!

The old town is fairly compact and it doesn’t take long to cover the main area on foot and even if you get a little lost down one of the town’s many walkways you’ll soon get back on track.

The main market is found in the centre of the square in front of the Church of Our Lady. There an ice-rink is surrounded by stalls selling food, produce and Christmas-themed goodies.

My total lack of coordination meant skating was off the cards, so we tucked into some tasty banana fritters instead, followed by a round of Belgian hot chips!

Far too full to climb!

Far too full to climb!

Suitably stuffed from our Belgian delights, we were far too full to climb the famous church tower so spent more time sightseeing and shopping.

My shopping basket was full of mouth-watering Belgian chocolates, locally made honey, delicate ornaments and a mini wooden tree complete with decorations.

You’d have to be a pretty big Grinch not to get caught up in the Christmas Spirit of this town. From the giant Christmas trees in town squares and fairy-lights hanging over the canal to the smell of festive delicacies.

A full on day of shopping, eating and walking really takes it out of you so by early evening we were exhausted.

Christmas cheer is everywhere in Brugge

Christmas cheer is everywhere in Brugge

What a better way to finish the day than with a special Belgian coffee – essentially a shot of coffee with a shot of a local liqueur topped with sweet cream. They also offer a rather tasty alcoholic hot chocolate! Nom!

So wrap up warm, don your best carol singing voice and head to the Brugge for the Christmas Markets!

If you fancy a stroll around Brugge with a hot bevvie in hand, why not join Topdeck’s overnight trip to the Brugge Christmas Markets!

Magical Brugge

Magical Brugge