Spain has always been famous for its deep passions, glorious cities and of course its wonderful ‘fiestas’ – you could, in fact spend a whole year travelling throughout the country, marking your progress with these colourful local celebrations.
Jerez – Flamenco Festival
You could start your journey through Spain in Jerez, where you can hire a car and travel the short journey from the airport to this fabled Andalucian city. Those who want to start their year with a bang should visit the city’s Flamenco Festival. The hauntingly beautiful music accompanied by the syncopated foot tapping of the dancers is awe-inspiring, and easily beats a night of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. The two week long celebrations last from late February to early March – children (usually) love all the drama of the dancing, and Mum and Dad may well enjoy a schooner of sherry to wash down their ‘tapas.’
Valencia – Las Fallas
People of all ages flock to this very busy festival that celebrates the patron saint of carpentry, St Joseph. For five days in March the city makes way for noise, bonfires and fireworks. Watch out for the enormous figurines that are constructed in the neighbourhoods of the city, only to be ceremonially burned on the 19th of March in the ‘Nit de Foc.’
Children are encouraged to join in the fun and special tableaux are constructed for these younger members of the crowd. The noise of the fireworks and bonfires on the final day is ear-shattering, but at least you’ll feel that you’ve put winter to rest in fiery style.
Madrid – San Isidro
If you want to see the Spaniards dressed up in their regional costumes then you should head to Madrid on the 15th May and join in with the festivities celebrating the capital’s patron saint. This day also marks the start of the bullfighting season, though if that’s not your thing you can attend the festival and just become absorbed in the local music, the organ grinders, the beautiful folk costumes – and introduce your kids to the wonders of the ‘Cocido Madrileno’, a wonderfully tasty stew.
During the last Wednesday of August you will be encouraged to positively wallow in an orgy of tomato throwing at this festival. Your kids will think you’ve gone completely mad, but who cares? This little town is situated close to Valencia, though if you’re intending to stay overnight in Bunol you should try and book in advance because hotels fill up fast. The exciting highlight of the ‘fiesta’ – getting up close and personal with the tomatoes – only lasts from 12.00 to 13.00, and you should take some clean clothes to change into afterwards.
Barcelona – Festes de la Merce
This Catalonian city never seems to need an excuse for a party; it revels in its constantly vibrant atmosphere, and the 22nd September Festival or the ‘Festes de la Merce’ is the city’s major annual celebration. In common with many Spanish public events there is a lot of noise, but you can also go and watch the Parade of the Giants or even take a look at an extraordinary a human pyramid.