Posts Tagged ‘spain’

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 19!

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

19. Run with the Bulls

Traditional shouts of “Viva San Fermin!” ring out from the city hall balcony followed by a rocket blast, signalling that the incredible nine-day street party known as the festival of San Fermin has officially begun. For the next nine days, there’s nowhere better in the world to be than the small Spanish city of Pamplona!

The festival of San Fermin is best known for the ‘encierro’ – ‘the running of the bulls’. Historically this began as a way to herd from Pamplona’s livestock enclosure to its bullfighting ring. The animals would run as children and adults directed them with shouts and sticks. The practice may date back as far as the 13th century, and people are thought to have joined the herd sometime in the 1800s.

Nowadays, thousands of participants from around the world make the half-mile dash through Pamplona’s narrow streets chased by charging bulls. Every morning at 8am, hordes of daredevils gather in the city centre, most dressed in the traditional all-white outfits with red neckerchiefs. They sing a traditional homage to St. Fermin asking him to guide them through the run. Two small rockets are fired, six bulls are released and the chase is on! Thousands more watch from safe nooks and balconies along the route, and spectators can also follow the events on national TV.

The running of the bulls is an incredible spectacle which comes with obvious dangers. Since officials began keeping records in 1910, 15 people have died in the run, and countless others have been injured. Ernest Hemingway wrote that the most exhilarating feeling a man could experience was being shot at and missed. That is the joy of running with the bulls, and it’s an acquired taste!

Where’s the best place to watch the bull run?

Anywhere around the start (Cuesta de San Domingo) and end (close to the bullring) of the running. To secure a good spot you have to occupy it two or three hours before the run starts. Alternatively, you can buy a ticket for a city centre balcony through your Topdeck Trip Leader.

I’m going to run! Any tips?

  • Don’t run on your first day in Pamplona - watch the first time to get an idea of what to expect, and walk through the course.
  • If you go down, stay down. Cover your face and lie low. You might get a few bruises but it is safer than trying to get up. Onlookers will tap you on the shoulder with a rolled-up newspaper when it is safe to move.
  • Take the corners tight as the bulls are going to go wide.
  • Don’t drink before the event, and be hangover-free.
  • Your biggest fear should not be of the bulls but of other people falling in front of you and tripping you up!

If being chased by horned beasts through the streets doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then no worries! You’ll find there’s so much more to the festival of San Fermin - music, dance, paella, sangria, fireworks, and processions around every corner. The famous Spanish ‘lust for life’ can be almost breathed in the air.

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!

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!

Topdeck Old School Style

Friday, October 7th, 2011

by Kara Segedin

In 1984, Germany was divided between East and West.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun and I Just Called to Say I Love You were two of the best selling singles.

The first Apple computer went on sale.

And my aunty spent five weeks travelling around Europe on a Topdeck trip.

Things were a little different in those days. Men had impressive moustaches, passengers slept, cooked and cleaned on the bus and trips operated on a flexible itinerary.

Let the adventures begin!

Let the adventures begin!

Despite the changes in today’s trips the spirit of the Topdeck adventure remains the same.

As all good kiwis did (and still do) my aunt Maria was busy working at a pub in Paddington, London.

Once she had settled in and saved up a bit of money she decided to take time out and do a tour of Europe.

“After some research I decided that the Topdeck tour called ‘Central Europe 5 Weeks’ was the one for me. “

Maria thought the idea of travelling around on a bus was fun and knew she would meet like minded people on the trip as well.

Back in 1984 the trip cost £497 which included £85 pounds.

“It was a great itinerary and good value for money,” she says.

Early one September morning the group met at the Enterprise in Earls Court to climb aboard the bus that would be their home for the next 5 weeks - called Platt.

Back then Topdeck travelled on double-decker buses. The lower deck was fitted out with tables, seats, a cooker and sink while the ‘top deck’ had bunks and space for luggage.

“Whisper was our driver (named for his soft voice and quiet nature). He was a safe and reliable driver. The tour leader was an experienced and confident guide.”

While on today’s trips expert Topdeck Chefs rustle up tasty local cuisine, in 1984 everyone had to take a turn at cooking and housekeeping.

Maria buy supplies for her turn as trip cook.

Maria buy supplies for her turn as trip cook.

“This meant we had to go shopping in foreign cities and turn out a meal from the bus’s cooker. That was a fun challenge all by itself!”

As with today’s trips the majority of travellers were Aussies and Kiwis, with a couple of South Africans on board as well.

“I enjoyed the team spirit of the trip - it is still one of the best times of my life.”

The trip went through France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands before returning to London.

“The highlight for me was Florence. I adored it, still do.”

Like today’s trips that pass through Germany in September, Maria’s trip visited Beerfest in Munich.

“It was awesome – the biggest event I have ever been to – cannot believe how many people can get drunk in one place at the same time.”

The hyjinx haven't changed, but the facial hair certainly has!

The hyjinx haven't changed, but the facial hair has! Oh, and you could smoke on the bus!

Maria says the bus was a refuge for anyone who was sick or tired or simply too lazy to go anywhere

“We felt safe leaving our belongings on the bus too which was a bonus. No dragging suitcases around Europe, our hotel came with us!”

“I always tell people to go on a Topdeck trip as they are guaranteed to have a good time.”


Follow the next generation of Topdeck travellers as the Tadpoles crew make their way from London to Sydney in true old school style!

An old school brochure from 1984

An old school brochure from 1984

Sex and the City Getaway with the Girls!

Friday, May 28th, 2010
Travel to the setting of this years most anticipated film, SEX AND THE CITY! Get your best friends together and journey to the magical desert landscapes of Morocco as well as stops in Spain and Portugal!
We have 3 different trips on offer so whether it is an 18  or 11 day whirlwind adventure around Morocco, Spain and Portugal or 9 Days of exploring the serene sand dunes and ancient cities of Morocco, we will have something for you!
Starting in Barcelona, soak up the sun and make your way along the Spanish coast! Cross the Strait of Gibralta into Morocco for 4 days of city delights and desert nights. The trip then ventures to stunning Seville, Lisbon, Porto before ending in Madrid!
This trip starts in Barcelona and ends in Lisbon and is a sector of the Iberian Voyager!
This trip starts and finishes in Marrakech, one of the main locations of the SEX AND THE CITY film! Peruse the bustling markets, enjoy a spot of belly dancing before heading into the desert on a Bedouin adventure!
Get 3 friends to book with you on your trip of choice and you can each save 5%! Book online today and you can be jetting off on your very own SEX AND THE CITY adventure soon! Check out SEX AND THE CITY for full details about the trips and how to book!