Thursday, 30 October 2014

Fuengirola: Sun, sand and stereotypes on the Costa del Sol

I'm now ashamed to admit I laughed when I discovered we were heading to Fuengirola for my company's annual summer conference. In my vague defence, they've got form with package holiday resorts beloved by Brits: in 2012, we all descended on Benidorm.

My response wasn't merely mirth, though: I was also intrigued. After spending several happy family holidays near San Pedro de Alcántara further along the Costa del Sol, and a more recent trip to Estepona, I was curious to see what this particular resort resort was like. Tacking a weekend break onto the beginning of the conference trip was a quick decision; fellow expat friend Vicki was easily roped in. The choice of accommodation was less straightforward: classy-looking Spanish-run Casa Consistorial, or a high-rise beachside number bound to be brimming with Brits abroad? Although the latter had definite eyes-on-stalks potential,  our curiosity ultimately wasn't quite as morbid as we thought, and we opted for the small four-star hotel.

Just 40 minutes from central Málaga and 30 from the airport on the cercanías commuter train, Fuengirola is a well-connected resort. Swinging into town on a Friday night, we attempted not to let a fellow train passenger's ignorance of the existence of Madrid (yes, really) cloud our judgment about the typical Costa del Sol holidaymaker. A short walk later, we were greeted by a concert in full flow outside our hotel: our visit had coincided with Fuengirola's Noche Viva, an annual summer event which involves live performances and late opening at shops around town. Plaza de los Reyes Católicos was abuzz with locals and a scattering of holidaymakers soaking up the lively atmosphere. We had been expecting sunburnt Brits abroad preparing for a big night out, instead there was a family crowd that looked distinctly Spanish. It was beginning to look like I'd watched far too many episodes of Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, and instead of being faced with fishbowl cocktails and Irish bars, we had a far more Spanish experience in store.

Our abode in Fuengirola: Casa Consistorial

Casa Consistorial is certainly Spanish. This comfortable hotel is in a prime location just five minutes' walk from the beach: close, but far enough away that it feels like a retreat from the seafront strip. Opened in 2013, it's modern yet traditional, with a clear focus on guests' comfort and convenience. Bathrobes, slippers, beach towels and flip-flops for each guest are all welcome touches, but the well-priced mini-bar was what grabbed us. €6 for a decent half bottle of wine? Yes please! The small hotel also boasts a rooftop pool area with a bar serving snacks and drinks to order. Guests were a mixture of Spanish, British and other nationalities: which turned out to be pretty representative of Fuengirola as a whole.

Hitting the seafront on Friday night, we finally knew we were at a seaside resort. Stepping back from the beach, most bars, restaurants and shops were Spanish, but closer to the sea there's a more international feel. The seafront is lined with low-key bars and restaurants, all filled with families: we later learned that most of the nightlife is east of the main beach. On the main part of the Paseo Marítimo you'll find cafes and restaurants serving mostly British, Italian and Spanish food, souvenir shops, ice cream parlours and a few cocktail bars. Competition keeps the prices low: pizzas start at well under €10 and drinks are also reasonably priced. The atmosphere on this part of the strip was very family-friendly, as it is around the 'Calle del Hambre': a tangle of streets one block back from the seafront crammed with every cuisine imaginable. Touts swarm at passers by, diners chomp down their meals in full view. The sounds, smells and sights were too much for me: this touristic intensity was what I had expected of a package holiday resort.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Madrid Monday: Monuments & museums with free entry at certain times

Free entry to monuments and museums in Madrid part 2

The most enticing blog post title ever? If you're still reading, hopefully you'll find this post useful. As I explained in part 1, many museums and monuments in Madrid open for free at certain times. These are either exceptional days during the year, as in part 1; certain days or times every week (notably Sunday), as in part 2; or every day, as in part 3. If you're planning a trip to Madrid, it's helpful to know when these free opening times are so you can save your cents for what really matters: food.

Free entry times vary greatly, so I've categorized into Sundays and Other days, with full details below. If a sight is free on Sunday plus another time of the week, I've listed it under Sunday with the additional free time next to it. Click on the links of the different attractions for opening hours, normal prices and other information.


Many Madrid museums offer free entry on Sunday morning (usually until 2 or 3pm, not noon – fear not, you'll still get your lie in).

Museo de América (Museum of the Americas)
Museo Arqueológico Nacional (National Archaeology Museum) Also free on Saturdays from 2pm.
Museo de Artes Decorativas (Decorative Arts Museum) Also free on Thursday afternoon.
Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Anthropology Museum) Also free on Saturdays from 2pm.
Museo Cerralbo Also free on Thursdays from 5–8pm & Saturdays from 2pm.
Museo Joaquín Sorolla (Museum in the former home of the impressionist painter) Also free on Thursdays from 5–8pm & Saturdays from 2pm.
Museo del Prado From 5–7pm. Also free Mon–Sat 6–8pm & all day on 19 November.
Museo Reina Sofía From 1.30–7pm. Also free on Mon, Weds & Sat from 7–9pm.
Museo del Romanticismo (Romanticism Museum) Also free on Saturdays from 2pm. 
Museo del Traje (Costume Museum)Also free on Saturdays from 2.30pm.

Other times of the week

Note that the Patrimonio Nacional sites (the 2 monasteries and all palaces) are free to EU and Iberoamerican citizens only at these times. See their websites for full details.

Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (Convent of the Barefoot Nuns) Wed & Thu from 3–6pm Oct–Mar, 5–8pm Apr–Sep
Monasterio de la Encarnación Wed & Thu from 3–6pm Oct–Mar, 5–8pm Apr–Sep
Museo Lázaro Galdiano Daily 3.30–4.30pm. Sunday 2–3pm. Closed Tuesday.
Museo Thyssen – Monday from 12–4pm
Palacio Real de Aranjuez(Aranjuez Palace)
Palacio Real de El Pardo(El Pardo Palace)
Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefonso (La Granja de San Ildefonso Palace, near Segovia) Wed & Thu from 3–6pm Oct–Mar, 5–8pm Apr–Sep
Palacio Real de Madrid (Madrid Royal Palace) Mon–Thu from 4–6pm Oct–Mar, 6–8pm Apr–Sep
Palacio Real de Riofrío (Riofrio Palace, near Segovia) Wed & Thu from 3–6pm Oct–Mar, 5–8pm Apr–Sep
Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial(El Escorial Monastery) Wed & Thu from 3–6pm Oct–Mar, 5–8pm Apr–Sep
El Valle de los Caídos(Valley of the Fallen) Wed & Thu from 3–6pm Oct–Mar, 5–8pm Apr–Sep

Monuments marked with a * are in the Comunidad de Madrid rather than the city. 

Read more

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Expat issues: How to get a mobile phone, landline and internet in Spain

How to get a mobile phone, landline and internet in Spain

This month's expat issues is a guest post. Timmer is one half of the duo behind, offering English language coverage of the wine industry of Catalunya with videos, interviews, articles, photo galleries and more!

So you’re moving to Spain, and coming from let’s say the United States or the United Kingdom, and you’re used to telecommunications companies causing grief for you. Those of us from the United States are well aware of having to book off an entire day (or at least half a day) in the hope of having services hooked up, only to be faced with a no show and a cascade of excuses at worst or a late appearance at best.

Getting a mobile phone deal

Before I delve into the morass that is home service, let’s talk about the easy part, which is getting a mobile phone or SIM card for your current phone. You’ve got extensive choices from international monoliths Vodafone, Movistar, and Orange, plus country-specific providers like Yoigo and Ono.

If you only need a Spanish SIM, things are quite simple

You’ve got two options with all providers, 'pay as you go' or contract. In order to qualify for a contract, you’ll have to provide your NIE, passport, a utility bill with your address, and sometimes your rental contract. If you’re looking to get a new contract and a new phone number, and you want a new phone handset, you’ll be stuck with the lower end of the spectrum for deals. In Spain, if you’re transferring an existing contract to a new company, you get all the keys to the kingdom including deals on the brand new iPhone 6. It’s created real cutthroat competition, and a culture of being promised the world to transfer your phone to a new provider if you go into one of the stores to sign up.

If you’re new to Spain, the best idea is to get a pay as you go SIM card, especially if you’re only here temporarily. You can get 2 GB data plans and plus 60 minutes of calling for around 20 euros a month. With Yoigo, who I went with almost three years ago, I had 1 GB for 10 euros a month, and calls were a flat 15 cents per call, no matter the length of the call. It worked great with my iPhone 4, and gave me mobile service all over Spain. All the major companies offer similar deals and it’s best to shop around, as all of them change their offers from time to time. (Side note from Kate: I’m on Vodafone’s pay as you go ‘Yuser’ tariff, which costs me €10 a month for 20 messages, 20 minutes of calls and 600MB of data). You definitely need a data allowance: Spanish social lives are conducted almost exclusively through WhatsApp due to the small number of free SMS given with different deals.

All you need to get a SIM card is photo ID such as a passport or driver’s licence. You can get them at stores belonging to your chosen network, The Phone House shops and the electronics department of El Corte Inglés. Once you’re set up, you can top up your 'saldo' (credit) via internet, SMS, at the supermarket or at a cashpoint (if you have a Spanish bank card). In Catalunya, you can also top up at the huge network of Tabacs stores.

Landlines and internet

Hello? Customer service?

Now then, what about landlines and home internet? To get these installed, you need a NIE, rental contract, and a note from your mother in order to sign up. The process is painful. You can register online, by phone or in store if you choose a company like Movistar, Orange or Vodafone. There are often introductory offers and deals which include a mobile phone, so have a look around. You’ll be forced to sign up for a contract, anywhere from one year to two years depending on the deals on offer. As Movistar, through their Telefónica arm, still control phone lines in Spain, a technician comes out to check your lines and do 'the install', which amounts to popping a box in with your new phone number at the street box.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Madrid Monday: Tapapiés Tapas & Music Festival in Lavapiés

Every October, there's a buzz in the barrio of Lavapiés: the annual Tapapiés festival comes to town. Tapapiés Ruta Multicultural de la Tapa y la Música, to give it its full title, is one of several tapas rutas organized throughout the year in different neighbourhoods around Madrid. Now in its fourth year, Tapapiés has proven one of the most popular.

Not traditionally known for its tapas, Lavapiés plays on its multicultural connections during the ten days of Tapapiés (16–26 October in 2014). Madrid's tapas routes generally work like this: bars in a certain neighbourhood offer a speciality tapa at a knockdown price during the week or so that the event lasts. This is usually combined with a drinks offer, so for example, you could get a botellín of beer and a tapa for €2 or €3. Tapapiés is friendly on the wallet at €1 a tapa and €1 a beer.  And you won't be short of choice either, with 73 participating venues around the barrio. In addition to offering cheap tapas for ten days, there's also a programme of free musical performances around the neighbourhood, with several acts appearing on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

In order to experience Tapapiés, download the map of venues and hit the hood. It's fun to get a group of friends together on a tapas crawl through the area, stopping at bars and restaurants as diverse as Senagalese spot Africa Fusion, Canarian bar Perro Malo and Spanish classic Peñalaire. Each venue's details are listed on the Tapapiés website, and details of their speciality tapa are included. In such a diverse barrio as Lavapiés, you're going to get more for your money than the usual calamares and patatas bravas, let me tell you. Vegetarians may want to plan ahead and see which venues offer meat-free tapas.

As well as sampling tapas from around the barrio, customers also have the chance to vote for their favourite experience on the Tapapiés website. With a lively atmosphere and cheap food and drink, Tapapiés is well worth a visit – and you never know, you may even find a new favourite bar to return to during the rest of the year.

If you aren't around for Tapapiés, you'll probably have to wait until next year to get your tapas festival fix: other Madrid rutas include the city-wide Gastro Festival in FebruaryDe Tapas por La Latina in September, Devora Tapas Salamanca Retiro in early October. But festival or not, there's always plenty of tapas to be found in Madrid, especially in the hotspots of La Latina and Calle Ponzano.

Have you been to Tapapiés or another tapas 'ruta'? What's your favourite area for tapas in Madrid?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Shopping is GREAT Britain event at El Corte Inglés (& other UK home comforts)

Britain is GREAT: A celebration of British culture & shopping at El Corte Inglés

From the retail giants of the Inditex group to the barrio stores, Spain is definitely not a country short of shopping opportunities. However, as an expat, there's nothing like a bit of retail therapy from your own country. 

When you move abroad after your first flush of youth (ahem), your tastes are largely set. So if you're a Twinings rather than a Tetley girl or guy, you may struggle to get your fix. And it's not just that good old British stereotype of tea – away from the costas, all manner of British goods can be hard to track down (and often come with a premium price tag).

That's all set to change temporarily, thanks to the Shopping is GREAT Britain festival at El Corte Inglés which starts on 17 October and runs for 3 weeks. With the aim of promoting British food, fashion and culture, there will be a bigger focus on British brands than usual, with more than 600 products from the British Isles on offer in 35 selected stores. The clothing brands to be featured are largely high-end (not sure how many average expats can stretch to Vivienne Westwood or Victoria Beckham Denim), but the food focus looks more accessible, with free tastings available in the pop-up areas in store.

The flagship branches of El Corte Inglés participating in Shopping is Great Britain are the Castellana store in Madrid and the Diagonal branch in Barcelona, plus Bilbao, Marbella and Valencia stores.

In addition to showcasing and selling British goods, the festival also offers a chance to meet British authors, with in-store storytelling sessions for kids and a book signing by Chris Stewart (author of Driving over Lemons) in the Marbella store on 18 October. Shopping is GREAT Britain also links to international festivals taking place around the country, including a British BAFTA Shorts event at the Conde Duque Cultural Centre in Madrid on 20 October, education fairs in Barcelona and Madrid, and the Bizkaia International Music Experience in Bilbao, which features several British bands. 

UK stores that ship to Spain

If your British retail cravings can't be satisfied in a mere 3 weeks, why not check out the online offers at some of these UK stores?


Monday, 13 October 2014

Madrid's gourmet markets: Style over substance?

Once upon a time, you’d go to a market to pick up your daily groceries. Fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, maybe some herbs and spices. Standard stuff. A few years ago, this time-honoured tradition started to change in Madrid. In 2009 when I first lived in the city, the wrought-iron and glass Mercado de San Miguel reopened as a gourmet market. After closing down due to low profits, this market next to Plaza Mayor was relaunched with a new focus. Sure, you can still buy fruit and veg there: there’s one lone, overpriced stall of glossy Granny Smiths and bold yellow bananas. The rest of the market is given over to tapas stalls and drinks bars, with a seating area in the centre so that visitors can tuck in at a table. When it opened, my friends and I thought it was a great idea, and enjoyed many a Friday night glass of wine to wash down a couple of inexpensive tapas. But as time has gone by, this creative idea to regenerate a city market has proven so popular with tourists that the Mercado de San Miguel is often overcrowded. And that’s before we mention the invasion of non-Spanish brands like Heineken and the peddling of flamenco tablao tickets.

However, El Mercado de San Miguel is no longer the only gourmet market in Madrid. Other failing mercados around the city have seen the success of their central counterpart and tried to replicate its formula. A couple of years ago, the much more sizeable Mercado de San Antón in Chueca reopened as a four-storey food lover’s paradise, complete with basement supermarket, ground floor market, first floor tapas stalls and bars and a rooftop restaurant and bar. As it’s much more spacious than El Mercado de San Miguel, it manages to feel a little less like a tourist haven, no doubt aided by its location slightly out of visitors’ usual radius. The fact that there are a few food stalls characteristic of mercados de toda la vida as you enter also helps: there’s a fishmonger, a couple of butchers, a baker and fruit and veg stalls. I’m not sure how many locals pop in for their weekly shop though: produce tends to be high-end and pricier than your average food market, but still, it’s good to see that groceries are more than a token offering. There’s a slight corporate air about the place, however: tapas stalls are organized by country or region, with Greek and Japanese offerings as well as stalls serving food from the Canary Islands and more typical Spanish fare.

Upstairs, the Cocina de San Antón restaurant is run by the Cinco Jotas chain, but they’ve managed to inject personality into the place, with a quirkily-written menu of reputedly market-fresh dishes, including the option to buy meat in the market below and have it cooked for you (more expensive than just going à la carte, surely?). This gimmick aside, there’s a good range of decently-priced food, including several vegetarian and pescetarian options (such as a vegetable taco with smoked tofu and quinoa), all served in a bright, modern setting. Unconventionally, the ‘outdoor’ area has a roof, but given that one ‘wall’ is open it manages to be deemed exterior and therefore serves as the restaurant’s smoking section. There’s also an open-air bar where you can enjoy a (pricey) cocktail or a glass of wine. It gets quite lively on weekend nights.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Visiting Salvador Dalí's house in Cadaqués, Catalonia

You may not be able to name any of Salvador Dalí’s works, but you’d certainly recognize his moustache. The late Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) was an acclaimed Spanish artist, a key player in the surrealist movement and famous bon viveur. Although Dalí also resided in Madrid and Paris, he’s most commonly associated with Catalonia’s Costa Brava, where he lived for most of his life.

Born in the inland town of Figueres, Dalí spent most of his life in northern Catalonia, notably 50 years in the hamlet of Portlligat close to the beautiful seaside town of Cadaqués. Today Portlligat is a tiny cluster of whitewashed buildings and beach bars huddled around a bay, but the focal point isn’t the pebble beach or the captivating vistas: it’s Dalí’s former home. At first glance, the complex of buildings is nothing remarkable: surprising when you consider Dalí was renowned for his eccentric, flamboyant style. On closer inspection, however, the exterior reveals a few characteristic touches, such as a turret topped with an egg and garnished with pitch-forks poking out at jaunty angles.

Open to the public, the Casa-Museu Salvador Dalí requires prior booking (tickets cost €11 and are available via the Dalí Foundation’s website). Entry is in reduced groups at an allocated time, which means that a wander around the artist’s home is a relaxed, crowd-free experience. Accompanied by a guide who gave a brief overview of each section of the house and answered any questions, we were largely free to explore the intimate space were Dalí and his wife Gala lived from 1930 until Gala’s death in 1982. A slightly rambling complex, the rooms were small and private, a blend of classic Spanish villa and Dalí’s quirky charm. Where else but in Salvador Dalí’s abode would you be greeted by a bear serving as an umbrella stand and a lip-shaped floral sofa in the entrance hall?

Dali's library

When Dalí arrived in Portlligat, he took up residence in a fisherman’s hut, gradually constructing a more permanent home over the years. The subsequent structure has been well-maintained since Dalí’s death, and retains many of Salvador and Gala’s belongings. The visit takes in the ground floor reception rooms, including a library and dining room, before moving up to Dalí’s studio, where we learned that he painted while seated, and moved his canvases up and down by means of a pulley system. This laid-back attitude continued in the bedroom, where Dalí had strategically positioned a mirror so that he could take in the views of Portlligat’s bay without needing to stir from his canopied bed.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Madrid Monday: Monuments & museums with free entry on 12 October, 6 December & 18 May

Free admission to monuments and museums in Madrid part 1

If you know anything about Madrid beyond the fact that it's the capital of Spain and has a rather famous football team, you may know that it's home to three major art galleries. What you may not know is that in addition to the big three (the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza), Madrid also has myriad monuments, museums and galleries covering almost every era or theme imaginable. Whether fine art, firemen or fancy dress are your thing, this city's probably got it covered.

So Madrid may be culturally rich, but do you have to be rich to check all these places out? With a bit of careful planning, you don't actually have to spend a cent. While some sights are always free, many more offer free admission at certain times and on particular days. The main days are 12 October (Spanish National Day), 6 December (Spanish Constitution Day) and 18 May (International Museum Day).

If you're in another Spanish town or city, check with the tourist office for details of free admission on these dates. All Patrimonio Nacional sites are free to visit on 12 October and 18 May, and many state-run museums don't charge on any of these three dates.

The Palace at Aranjuez: Free entry on 12 October & 18 May

How to use these lists

The lists below shows which monuments in and around Madrid offer free entry on each these days. Some are generous and welcome you in gratis on all three days, others skip 6 December. If it's listed under 12 October, it's also free on 18 May. Complicated? Welcome to Spain!

This is part 1 of a series: part 2 covers monuments and museums that are free at certain times every week, and part 3 focuses on sights that always offer free entry. I haven't included the latter in this list: I've gone for the places you'd usually have to pay to see or which have very restricted free admission times. Monuments marked with a * are in the Comunidad de Madrid rather than the city. Click the links below to visit the official websites, which show addresses and opening hours.

Free entry on 12 October

Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (Convent of the Barefoot Nuns)
Monasterio de la Encarnación
Museo de América (Museum of the Americas)
Museo Arqueológico Nacional (National Archaeology Museum) Also free 16 November
Museo de Artes Decorativas (Decorative Arts Museum)
Museo del Traje (Costume Museum)
Palacio Real de Aranjuez(Aranjuez Palace)
Palacio Real de El Pardo(El Pardo Palace)
Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefonso (La Granja de San Ildefonso Palace, near Segovia)
Palacio Real de Riofrío (Riofrio Palace, near Segovia)
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (San Fernando Fine Arts Museum)
Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial* (El Escorial Monastery)
El Valle de los Caídos* (Valley of the Fallen)
Note that the Royal Palace in Madrid is closed on 12 October.

Free entry on 6 December

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Visiting Spain in Autumn: Where to go, what to do

Spain in Autumn 

It's undeniably Autumn (or fall, if you're from across the pond). The leaves have started to turn, there's a chill in the air in the mornings and evenings. Most commonly associated with sun and sand beach holidays, Spain isn't just a summer holiday destination: with such a diverse landscape and many more hours of sunshine than the UK, it's worth visiting in every season.

Where to go in autumn

Now the bulk of the tourists have packed their suitcases and headed home, Autumn can actually be a good time to hit the coast. Prices drop in September and October, and while the weather isn't guaranteed to provide suntanning opportunities, it's still likely to be bright and warm. Hedge your bets weather-wise by opting for a city with a beach, like Barcelona, Málaga or Valencia: that way there'll still be plenty to do if the sun doesn't shine.

Let's face it, the Valencian coast is beautiful year-round

As Autumn rolls on, it's a good time to head inland and visit cities that are just too damn hot in summer, such as Madrid, Seville and Córdoba. If you aren't looking for a city break, the colder weather is ideal for cosying up in Spain's heartland of the Comunidad de Madrid, Castilla la Mancha and Castilla-León. Towns (and yes, small cities) like CuencaLeón, Salamanca and Segovia are easily walkable, with cute cascos antiguos (old quarters), enough beautiful buildings and monuments to keep you entertained – but not so many as to put under pressure to frantically sight-see. Even better, the cuisine in these regions seems designed with Autumn in mind: Castille specializes in hearty fare such as Segovia's suckling pig (cochinillo asado), roast lamb and Burgos's famous morcilla (blood sausage).

Autumn fiestas

September is pretty big on the Spanish festival calendar, with the Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe, the Feria de Pedro Romero in Ronda, the grape harvests in La Rioja and La Mercè in Barcelona. The biggest harvest celebration is the San Mateo fiestas in Logroño which run for the last two weeks in September, peaking on the penultimate weekend. Expect lively street celebrations, grape-crushing the old-fashioned way (ie with your feet), bull fights and revelry aplenty. There's also revelry at the same time in Barcelona: the city's biggest festa La Mercè sees the centre fill with castellers (acrobats who build a human pyramid in a matter of minutes), parades, correfocs (fire runs) and even more atmosphere than usual.

Zaragoza's Fiestas del Pilar

If you're interested in Spanish fiestas, you'll want to make sure 4–13 October is in your diary: that's when the Aragonese city of Zaragoza celebrates its Fiestas del Pilar. A lively city year-round thanks to a big student population, Zaragoza is easily accessible thanks to its airport, plus its bus and train links (including an AVE connection to Madrid and Barcelona). Every year, the good folk of Zaragoza get together to celebrate their patron saint, Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar, said pillar being a column upon which the Virgin Mary is reputed to have appeared, located in the central Basilica of the same name). But this isn't a staid religious affair (we are in Spain after all): during the lead up to the main day, 12 October, Zaragoza is alive with concerts, cultural events, groups dancing jotas (the traditional Aragonese dance)  and as you may expect, mucha fiesta. Concerts are held in the Plaza del Pilar itself, but much of the partying goes on just out of town at the recinto ferial, where you'll find a fairground and plenty of marquees with music, both live and recorded. The final weekend of the festivities is particularly fun, culminating in a mass offering of flowers to the Virgin on 12 October.

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