Experience VS Luxury

Tourism is in constant evolution. The further my grandmother had travelled at the age of 30 was the capital city of the county, some 50 km away and she did it by stagecoach!

Early tourists were happy to spend a few days out of work or in the nearest seaside resort. After a few generations this has totally change. Technological development, competition and economic growth have made possible for most people to travel. Having a holiday break anywhere in Europe has become the usual thing and flying overseas is happening more and more often.

That being said, the latest generation of tourists (relatively young, cosmopolitan, always connected) is looking for authentic experiences in the destinations they visit.

The experience is valued over luxury. In the words of the Branding Department of Hilton Worldwide: “They look informal, walking around the hotel in swimwear. They do not want four people around them, waiting for their handkerchief to fall to pick it up for them. But when they want a service they want a perfect one”.

Some examples of these experiences are: sleeping in a former prison, a medieval fortress, a cave or even underwater; eating the local specialties or drinking crafterd beer and home made wines; and being dressed up in the traditional costumes joining the locals in their festivals and celebrations.

Are you part of the new generation? Do you prefer experience or luxury?

In case you are interested, here you have a few agencies and resorts devoted to this kind of tourism:

http://www.unusualhotelsoftheworld.com/

http://www.authenticspain.es/

http://www.poseidonresorts.com/

What is a “PEÑA”?

Have you ever been to any popular Spanish Fiesta? Are you planning to visit a town in Spain for its summer festivals? Or is it that you’re just curious and want to know what that “peña” word means?

In short, the dictionary defines it as “a group of friends“. That is one of the meanings of the word peña and indeed peñas are (or at least used to be) composed just of groups of friends but they have evolved towards today’s “Cultural and recreational associations”.

Some 50 to 60 years ago a few peñas (groups of friends) begun organising events for the youth in several cities and villages across Spain, because back then most of the Festivals were purely religious and they lacked activities to entertain them.

The fact is that peñas (the current cultural associations) vary in size from just a dozen members upto hundreds. Some are dedicated to sports (football, cycling, etc.), some prefer to focus on traditions (bullfighting, folk music, etc.).  What originally were a few mates playing their own guitars, cooking lunch and sharing time during the festivals, nowadays have become organisations that prepare concerts, put up a bars and festival tents, provide catering meals, give away discounts, drinks, and much more.

Do join a peña if you are in a Festival in Spain!!

You will then become part of the celebrations!

This is the arrival of the peñas to the Bullring in Pamplona

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What happens when a Valencian is given a piece of art? Fire!!

Did you know there is an area in Spain that every year sets on fire dozens of pieces of art?

Watch this video and see it for yourself!

Don’t worry! These pieces of art (so-called “fallas“) are made on purpose to be devoured by the flames.

The tradition dates back to the pagan traditions that connected fires with the celebration of the equinox (the moment of the year when the night and day hours are the same and that marks the beginning of the Spring). Later on this celebration got mixed with the burning of the winter lamps by the carpenters of the city around that time of the year. At some point someone thought funny to build up a human like statue with those planks of wood, adding some rugs and putting some elements to make it look like someone in town.

In the last century the materials used have evolved to lighter cardboard and cork based ones, very detailed and painted on. It takes almost a whole year to make some of the statues and they reach up to 30 metres high (that is a 9 floors building!).

Once finished they are “planted” in squares all over the city by the crafters and associations that built them and are on display for 5 days. Then they are set on fire on March 19th, day of Saint Joseph.

These parties are a mixture of fireworks, devotion, satiric art, explosions and fire.

See what happens when people is asked to sing about Fallas:

Do you want to know more?

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/03/las-fallas-festival-of-fire-celebrated.html

http://www.enforex.com/culture/fallas.html

http://www.visitvalencia.com/en/whats-on-offer-valencia/festivities/the-fallas

“CHUPINAZOS”!

Have you ever heard about them? The “chupinazos” (or txupinazos, cohetassos, etc.) are the pyrotechnic rockets launched as a sign to begin the parties in many cities, towns and villages in Spain. With the passing of the years the term “chupinazo” has moved to name the whole opening ceremony. In most cases during this ceremony takes place water and wine throwing, a gathering in the main squares and the reading of a short speech given by a representative from the city just before throwing the rocket and officialy starting the parties.

It is believed the “chupinazos” origin from Spain’s most famous one: for San Fermin in Pamplona. Until 1901 the begining of the parties was marked ringing all the bells in the city, but since that year a group of anonymous workers from the pyrotechnic factories started to throw rockets as well. A fewyears later this was made official. In 1931 Juan Echepare Aramendía (an important businessman from the city) turned it into a ceremony and ever since its importance grew as to influence all the neighbouring cities and spread this tradition all over the country.

If you are keen on visiting any Spanish “Fiestas” please do attend their “chupinazo”. There is nothing so authentic in Spain as bathing with wine while cheering, dancing and celebrating!

Love & tragedy

You may wonder how is it possible that a love story with a tragic end became a celebration. Just think for a moment that a whole city dresses up in medieval costumes and builds up tents (jaimas) and market posts everywhere. Why? Because Teruel (in the region of Aragon) becomes  a full scale scenario for the story/legend of the Lovers of Teruel (who you may consider are the Spanish Romeo and Juliet).

What is the story about? Very briefly: Diego (poor fella) falls in love with Isabel (only daughter of a rich nobleman). When Diego pretends to marry Isabel, her father tells diego he has to make a fortune. But where? Fighting the moors! He is given 5 years to return or Isabel will be betrothed to someone else. But calendars and travelling did not work very well those days, so when Diego returned just one day after those 5 years he found Isabel had just married another nobleman. He then asked her for a kiss but she refused him, causing him to die of love (a heart attack we would call it nowadays). During Diego’s burial Isabel approached his corpse and kissed him, just before falling dead in his arms (another heart attack!).

The story tells us that they were both buried together inside the church of St Peter in Teruel and a Mausoleum in their honour has been built nearby (the fact is that two mummies where found in 1555 with a document describing this story!!).

If you would like to know more, here you will find more information:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lori-needleman/spain-teruel-city-of-love_b_1680157.html

http://www.turismo.teruel.es/?nav=amantes_ciudad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovers_of_Teruel

Once upon a time…

COHETE

Once upon a time in a far far away land… Actually it is not that far, just around the corner! Here in Southern Europe, yes here! In Spain to be more precise! I never knew how to begin a story so here I am, trying to explain why I am typing right now… So, why did I decide to start writing a blog? Even more importantly, why did I name it “de fiestas”? Let me think about it…

Undeniably there is always a part of truth in any stereotype, and the close ties between Spanish people and fiestas are not an exemption. The fact is that there are so many different celebrations that I thought it could be great to write about them. You will surely be surprised seeing how many “Fiestas” are held during the year in any Spanish town: some being curious, some being odd, some being interesting but all being fun.

Let me tell you just a bit about them and you will definitely want to come along.