Posts Tagged ‘festivals’

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!

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 6!

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

6. Drink a stein of beer at Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, is the biggest and best beer festival on the planet! You’ll never forget sinking a litre of frothy Bavarian beer in a huge tent packed with thousands of thirsty companions. Locals and visitors sing side by side, ‘Oompah’ bands play and everybody clinks steins in a mass public cry of “Prost!”

Until you visit the Oktoberfest, it’s difficult to comprehend the scale. The numbers? 16 days, 6.5 million visitors, 6.9 million litres of beer, 500,000 chickens… it’s absolutely massive!

Known by the locals as Wies’n, Oktoberfest began in Munich in 1810. Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria married Princess Therese and invited locals to celebrate with a horse race in a field outside the city, and from these humble beginnings the modern festival evolved.

It originally started in October, but in later years the beginning was brought forward to September. Today it boasts 14 large beer tents, smaller tents which also serve schnapps and wine, and a huge fairground complete with rollercoasters.

Only local beers are represented, including Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Augustiner and Hofbräu. The tents (more accurately giant wooden halls) all serve hearty food to soak up the beer; think roasted pork knuckles, rotisserie chickens, pretzels, sauerkraut and sausages, while the atmosphere is helped along by house bands who kick off the drinking songs.

All locals and many visitors wear traditional (and seriously cool) Bavarian dress; lederhosen for men (leather trousers) and dirndls for women (cleavage-enhancing dresses). The crowd is an international affair, although locals take the Oktoberfest very seriously and try to attend as many days as possible.

With beers served from as early as 9am it’s no wonder that things get misplaced! Common lost property items include wallets, keys, ID cards and eyeglasses (whose owners were presumably blind drunk)…

In recent years, kindly souls have handed in a lost electric wheelchair, a copy of Playboy signed by one of the centrefolds and even false teeth!

Charles Reinbold, who oversees lost property at Oktoberfest, has seen plenty of the latter. He told German newspaper Der Spiegel in 2012 “I think the adhesive has improved for false teeth. The year I started we had five or six sets of false teeth in, and a pensioner walked in and tried them all on. Unfortunately, his weren’t among them.”

Musical instruments are frequently found at the start of the Oktoberfest when the Bavarian marching bands stage their ceremonial processions and then flock to the beer tents. “They get drunk and when they get home that night they say where the hell’s my trumpet?” Herr Reinbold added sagely.

As all Bavarian men know, too many litres of strong Oktoberfest beer can seriously affect your trumpeting performance!

But pace yourself properly and you’re in for the time of your life. There’s little wonder the Oktoberfest is so adored, it’s a knees-up like no other in a marvellous city. If you ever get the opportunity to attend this amazing festival, make sure you take it. Prost!

Topdeck Top Tip: There are so many for Oktoberfest! Here’s a couple:

  • You must have a seat at a table to get served
  • Always tip your waitress, or else she won’t come back and serve you again
  • Text your mates, don’t call! The tents are far too loud for a phone conversation
  • If you’re not a big drinker, try a “Radler” – half beer, half lemonade

Official highlights of Oktoberfest 2011 from the Munich city website:

A selection of Oktoberfest galleries from the official site:

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!

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.

The Madness of The Edinburgh Festival with Diane Spencer

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

by Kara Segedin

Which festival combines a grand military showcase with music, theatre, fireworks, comedy and the bizarre? None other than the Edinburgh Festival!

Made up of 12 different festivals including the Military Tattoo, International Festival and Fringe, Edinburgh is world’s largest cultural event.

During festivities the city’s main street, the Royal Mile, becomes a Mecca for performers as every bar, restaurant and available space is transformed into a venue for arts of all kinds.

On the back of a 4 star review at last year’s Fringe, British (and one time Kiwi) comedian Diane Spencer will be entertaining the crowds with her latest hilarious (and sometimes shocking) offering - All-pervading Madness.

Topdeck sat down with Di to chat about her experiences in Edinburgh…

How many times have you performed at Fringe?

This is my third annual visit in a row - third time’s a charm they say too. This year better pull something special out!

What makes the Edinburgh Festival so unique?

It’s the largest arts festival in the world, in the hilliest place in the world, which means that you get a fair amount of walking in. Though I wonder how disabled access friendly it is. There are lots of steps and I’ve seen some muscular dudes in wheelchairs pushing the “long way” round up slopes.

Anyway (totally distracted) - the city of Edinburgh is also beautiful, historic - there’s the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and because this festival operates at many tiers, you can usually find something to meet your budget. You can splash out and go see loads of famous comedians in big beautiful venues or you can plunder through the free Fringe programme. It’s really unique because it’s so large, there’s something for everyone.

Best Edinburgh Fest experience?

That day I got my first four star review. My Mum sent me the text all in capitals with the word “FANTASTIC!” She was really proud, I was so chuffed. It was lovely - because that’s like an end of year exam, or a job appraisal. You’ve been working so hard all year and then you get examined!

Worst Edinburgh Fest experience?

A couple of boys stole my phone and purse from my bag when I was onstage. It was such a violating feeling. Then to have to go to the police station, cancel all my cards, and it was raining of course. You just have to keep an eye on things.

What have been some of your festival highlights?

I’ve seen so many brilliant performances from a variety of sources - some in the theatre, but once, I was walking up the Royal Mile, it was oddly a quiet time of night, and suddenly the sky exploded in fireworks and I sort of just fell in love with the feeling and stood there on the street just being the happiest person on the planet.

Who are you most looking forward to seeing perform?

I enjoy Asher Treleaven, an Aussie Comic. Also like vintage diva Lili La Scala. The Boy with Tape on his Face has a new show too, and he’s a Kiwi. I’ll definitely catch Carey Marx’s new show - I’ve sort of made it a tradition to see his show each year. Oo, and Nick Helm, he’s always good fun.

Where do you go to get a bite to eat?

For the ultimate steak, but obviously at a price, you have to go to the Scotsman Hotel brasserie. Proper HUGE bit of

cow. In terms of amazing coffee - the Wellington Coffee house on George Street. They also do really nice warm scones with jam and clotted cream.

What are your must-see sights in Edinburgh?

Just by walking around this beautiful city you come across really interesting and wonderful items. I did take a trip into the Edinburgh Dungeons one year - that was gruesome but fun.

Why should people come and see you?

Because I am hilariously funny, silly, rude, naughty and funny AGAIN. Also this year I won an award, the Chortle Best Newcomer 2011, and then this show, which I’m performing at Edinburgh now, was nominated for “Best Comedy (Emerging)” at the Adelaide Fringe Awards. So I’m funny now!

Tell us a joke….

I’ll have to invoice you for that if I do.

If you’d like to get in on the Edinburgh action join us on our Tattoo & Festival trip departing 26 August and get 20% off!

Diane Spencer: All-pervading Madness

Venue: Gilded Balloon

Dates: 3-28 Aug (no show on the 16th)

Time: 5.45pm

Running with (or away from) the bulls!

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Topdeck’s travel blogger, Liana Szwajlyk, relives her first-ever (and only!) Pamplona experience.

Singing erupts from a sea of white and red. Viva San Fermin!! It’s 8.00am. The first rocket focuses my attention, a second signals the bulls are on their way. The sea is now moving. Slow at first but running, turning, now faster as the hooves descend.

“Why am I here?” This was the thought going through my mind as I prepared for the enierro, the famous Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. The night before, I’d been cruising Pamplona’s bars, fuelled with Sangria induced bravado. “I’m a pretty fast runner” I thought. I could outrun a bull or two. “What the hell, I’ll give it a go.”

A few sleepless hours later, there I was standing – knees shaking – on Santo Domingo Road for what could have very well been the last day of my life. Waiting impatiently with a few hundred adrenaline seekers, my stomach churns and I now realise what actual fear feels like.

8.00 am: The sharp shot of the first cannon sounds. Some run already. Having absorbed the advice of every ‘expert’ I’ve talked to, I hold firm - until the second cannon. The crowd’s nervous tension is released as they take off.

People are yelling and hollering; it seems I’m one of them. As I start into a full-out sprint, I have a horrifying realisation: I can run only as fast as the people in front of me. At this moment, self-preservation takes over, and I switch from a running-in-sheer-terror tactic to a run-push, run-push strategy – focussing on nothing but the next step in front of me.

The roar of the crowd grows louder and the ground shakes as the bulls hurtle along the course. They’re coming. People manically scramble to save their skins. As I look to my left I realise I’m now running with the bulls, rather than away from them…

The next five minutes are a blur until the third rocket sounds.

The enceirro is over!

Happy to be alive and happy to be alive…did I say that twice?

As the bulls continued course (and are way out of sight), I decide that I’ve had enough adventure for one day and leave to share my war stories over many more glasses….well perhaps jugs, of Sangria!

Relief and celebration!!

Check out Topdeck’s 4 Day Pamplona Hotel trip and 7 Day Picador package.

9-day trip visiting La Tomatina in Spain - 20% off!

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

You ever heard of La Tomatina, the mad tomato-throwing festival in Valencia? Well now you can go and experience it for yourself if you hop on Topdecks 9-day Decker La Tomatina 2009 trip departing 19 August. Even better: you can save 20% if you use promo code TDLATOM09 when booking online!

Trip starts in Madrid and finishes in Valencia.
Extras: you will be travelling around in a modern double-decker which will also serve as your moving “hotel”… We hope you like tomatoes! :P

Las Fallas offer - save £10!

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Always wanted to experience a true European festival in the heart of Europe? Savings on the Las Fallas Festival are now available from Topdeck Travel so make the most of this offer and recieve £10 off using our Las Fallas discount code when booking a 4 day Las Fallas package online. See the sights of Valencia and experience the fantastic party atmosphere of Las Fallas - a spectacular display of fire in the Spanish town of Valencia will blow you away!