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If you’ve got children or grandchildren Monday 12 August is the day to take them to Jumilla, as there is a 2 x 1 offer on fairground rides (it saves you some money too!)  Not only that, but the Cabalgata Infantil del Vino will have lots of entertaining floats for them to watch, starting at 20.30.  As it’s holiday time, you might let them stay to watch the drama between the Moors and Christians being re-enacted on the Paseo at 22.45.  Don’t let them get too close to the sword-play though as they use real swords (we’ve seen the sparks flying!)

If you enjoy witnessing Spanish traditions then Tuesday will be a good day to visit, as there is a procession of all the peñas (local associations) dressed in their traditional costumes and carrying baskets of grapes. They will start parading around town at 20.00, leaving from the Paseo and finishing in the Patio of I.E.S. Arzobispo Lozano. At 21.00 they will offer their grapes to the Niño de las Uvas followed by the grape treading ceremony.

If you are only able to visit Jumilla on one day, and if you enjoy drinking wine, Wednesday 14 August is one of the best days to visit. At 20.30 the Cabalgata Tradicional del Vino will leave the Plaza de Rollo and the colourful floats will slowly wend their way through the streets. I say slowly, because the participants are busy handing out sangria, wine and snacks to all the people eagerly lining the streets.

Thursday is the saint’s day for Jumilla’s patron, Nuestra Señora La Virgen de la Asunción. There will be a special mass for Our Lady at 12.00 in the parish church of Santiago, with the local choir Coral Canticorum, plus a solemn procession in her honour leaving the north door of the church at 20.00.

If like me you enjoy watching horses and carriages, don’t miss the procession at 20.00 on Friday. This will be followed by a free fiesta flamenca on the Paseo at 22.30.

Saturday is the day for the young and young at heart (particularly those with a lot of stamina!). The infamous Gran Cabalgata del Vino attracts thousands of visitors to Jumilla, all aiming to get soaked in red wine. Many people wear white – all the better to show off the wine stains – and they revel in dancing through the streets while wine is poured over them.  Personally I prefer to drink my red wine, but no doubt that is showing my age!

Sunday 18 August will be the last day of this year’s Feria. Mass will be held in Santiago church at 20.00 after which the statue of Our Lady will be carried to the Ermita de San Agustín. This year’s festivities will be finished off in style with a firework display over Jumilla Castle at 24.00. I suspect that after several late nights I will be watching it from our bedroom window!

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Official launch of La Fiesta de la Vendimia, with the Niño de las Uvas

 August is an exhausting month for those of us who live in Jumilla, even if we are only spectating.  We met a couple of people last week who live near Pinoso, who said they were “all fiesta-ed out” after their own fiestas, and we knew exactly what they meant.

The programme for the Feria y Fiestas de Agosto shows 10 days of celebrations: at the time of starting this post we were only into day 7 and I was already flagging a bit and seriously considering having a siesta, which may have been the only sane way to survive all the partying.

Although there are activities throughout the day, most of the main events are held at an hour when many of our compatriots would be considering retiring for the night. Not only that, but you usually have to add at least thirty minutes to the official start time.  The Noche de las Antorchas was held in the castle, and with such an atmospheric setting we weren’t worried about the lateness of the hour.

The night of the torches in Jumilla castle

 We were fortunate to get tickets for the Gran Fiesta de la Exaltacíón del Vino held in the gardens of Salones Pio XII, which kicked off the proceedings for the 40th Fiesta de la Vendimia.  Our first year in Jumilla we had joined the queue outside the Ayuntamiento to buy tickets, but they had sold out before we reached the head of the queue.  The following year we queued outside the Roque Baños centre for several hours and this time we succeeded in getting tickets, presumably because they had limited everyone to a maximum of two tickets.  This year we used our contacts and reserved our two tickets in advance: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know……!!

Apparently there were over 1,000 people at the Gran Exultación, and we soon realised that it was the place to go to and to be seen at.  In our slightly biased view it wasn’t as enjoyable an evening as La Gran Cata, however with all our favourite bodegas being present, allowing us to wander around with wine glass in hand and ask for a taste of their best wines, plus plates of food constantly appearing, it was still a pretty damned good night out.  Being a child at heart, I absolutely loved the firework display at the end!

Entrance of the Christians

The first procession of the August Feria was the Entrada Cristiana on Saturday night, where we saw the first Christians approaching us at about 20.45.  As they were due to start at 20.00, we calculated that they probably left the Plaza del Rollo at 20.30, with the customary half hour delay.  Not that we worried as we were sitting with friends at a table outside Bar California, which was a prime viewing spot, enjoying some Jumilla wine. 

I have to say that I was impressed by the Gran Entrada Mora (the Moors) on Sunday night.  We went to watch the start at a spot conveniently close to Nuestro Bar, where we saw a group of splendidly dressed Moros enjoying tapas and drinks outside, while two of the bands had congregated inside the bar, with only ten minutes to go before the scheduled start time.  We decided to have some of the aptly named delicias de bacalao and a cold drink, as it didn’t looks as if the participants were about to go anywhere soon.  Much to our amazement, the Gran Entrada Mora set off barely ten minutes late. 

Although there are separate processions for the Moors and Christians, it’s all very civilised (apart from the fighting, that is) so lots of Moros appeared in the Cristianos procession and vice versa.  I do think that it is a bit unfair that the Moors have the most sumptous costumes, though the Christians looked impressive too.

Entrance of the Moors

If one fiesta wasn’t enough, we also enjoyed the National Folklore Festival last weekend.  The inaugural event was on Saturday night after the Entrada Cristiana, starting at 22.00.  The Jardín de la Glorieta was packed as we witnessed Los Armaos marching onto the stage for the traditional “el Caracol” before we watched several folk groups playing music, singing and dancing.

Impressive though it was, I think we preferred the more intimate atmosphere on Monday in the barrio of San Antón.  After performing several lively dances, the Grupo de Folklore Caramancho de Badajoz responded to the cries of “Otras” by persuading several onlookers to join in.  Luckily John and I were hiding in the shadows!

The neighbours joined in the dancing

If we had had the stamina there were dozens of events that we could have enjoyed, however we decided to limit ourselves as we were due to go away the following weekend – and we needed to conserve our energy for that.  We still managed to enjoy several folk dancing events, the Artisans´Market, the Solemn Procession in honour of la Patrona, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the Children’s Cabalgata and the finale of the Moros y Cristianos Fiesta.  The dramatic re-enactment of the Ambassadors and Parliament took place on the Paseo.  This event involved lots of fighting and bodies falling to the ground, the clashing of heavy swords with sparks flying and a large horse charging towards the Moros.  Spendid stuff!

Waiting to charge at the Moors

Of course most people associate August in Jumilla with the Fiesta de la Vendimia, and so we had two groups of British visitors on Thursday who wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  We showed them around Jumilla in the morning, stopping only to enjoy the Feria de Día (a glass of wine and special tapa for 2€) in a couple of good bars.  We had also booked a visit to Bodegas Silvano Garcia to keep them occupied in the afternoon. 

 The visitors had opted for the Cabalgata Tradicional (the one that doesn’t involve getting drenched in red wine) so we all met up again at 20.30, having booked a couple of tables across the road from Nuestro Bar.  Everybody ordered drinks and tapas, though once the procession reached us we were being handed tiny plastic glasses of wine and sangria, plus tastings of food, so we weren’t in any danger of becoming thirsty or hungry.

Cabalgata Tradicional - wine anyone?

I nearly forgot to mention the Miniferia del Vino that took place on the first Saturday of the fiestas.  3€ for a wine glass that you can take home, then a stroll through the gardens, where we tasted wine at the many stands representing some of Jumilla’s best bodegas and snacked on cheese, ham, nuts etc.  Not surprisingly we were there - as we have been for the last three years - tasting our favourite wines. 

An honourable mention too for the Ofrenda de Uvas to the Niño de las Uvas, which is one of the most popular processions.  We sat outside the ice-cream parlour enjoying home-made ice-cream (as you do) while watching men, women and children dressed in traditional costumes carrying their baskets of grapes into the Jardín.

Offering of the grapes and first must

 An amazing ten days of celebrations in Jumilla – now we have to catch up the many hours of sleep that we missed!

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There is usually so much happening in Jumilla that we rarely go away for the day.  However our friends Lesley and John had decided to visit Villajoyosa (also known as La Vila Joiosa) for the Moors and Christians fiestas and asked us if we would like to go along.  Living inland we don’t see much of the sea, so we happily accepted their offer.

I think it was more by luck than good planning (sorry John!) that we managed to find a parking spot fairly close to the sea and, as we found out later on, very close to the processional route.  The festivities were due to start at 1815 however, although we didn’t park the car until after that, we saw a whole load of pirates having a drink so knew we hadn’t missed anything. 

Traditionally the assorted pirates, smugglers, fishermen and sailors arrive by boat, however on Wednesday the red flag was flying.  I suspect that in past times this wouldn’t have mattered, but Spain is gradually becoming health and safety conscious, so a group of them gathered at the edge of the sea instead and then ran towards the castle. 

We were slightly disappointed that there wasn’t any hand to hand fighting or swordplay, however there were lots of loud bangs, followed by even more loud bangs, and groups of people in various costumes running backwards and forwards.  Eventually the Christians were evicted from the castle (though we heard a rumour that they were going to re-capture it the following night) and once all the ammunition had been used up by the victorious pirates and smugglers, people started leaving the Playa Centro. 

We assumed that this was the end of the evening’s entertainment so headed back  towards the car.  The two men had decided that they needed a glass of wine until their ears recovered from the onslaught, so we were walking up the road to find a suitable bar when suddenly we heard music playing.  We had somehow stumbled on a large, colourful procession.   We managed to grab a table outside the bar on the corner and settled down with our wine and a plate of nuts to watch the Moors and Christians parade.  We enjoyed the amazing costumes and the music provided by several bands that were marching in the procession.

Four hours later, having had a free night’s entertainment, we headed home.  We had spent eighteen euros between the four of us for several large plates of delicious tapas plus drinks down at the seafront.  At the bar where we watched the procession, a glass of wine cost 1.50€ plus we had free nuts with our drinks.  It was a fantastic and cheap night out for pensioners and other people like us who are on a budget.

I would recommend visiting the town even if there aren’t any fiestas, as it is very picturesque.  Traditionally all the houses facing the sea are painted different colours: this is so that the fishermen can spot their homes when they are out at sea.  We also liked the fact that it wasn’t over-run with tourists and the prices for a bar overlooking the sea, in the middle of a fiesta, were extremely reasonable.  Not only that, but entry to the two chocolate museums is free!

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Nobody warned us that 15 August was a Festivo!

Those of us who live in Spain have learnt, sometimes the hard way, to be wary of Festivos.  They have a habit of sneaking up on us without us noticing.  Back in the UK  things are more structured: we all know when a bank holiday is approaching, so it can’t take anybody by surprise.  The rare extra day’s holiday is always announced well in advance by the press - for example the Royal Wedding at the end of April - so everybody can take advantage of it.  In the UK you don’t have to worry about shops closing either, but things are very different in Spain, as we found out not long after moving here.

Most people are aware that Spain has a generous allocation of national holidays however, in addition to the 11 national days (compared to only 8 in the UK), there is a regional day plus two local days.  These are the sneaky ones that we are all very wary about, especially as the Ayuntamiento can change them from one year to another! 

My friend Lesley told us this morning that she had noticed the 25th July was a red day on her calendar, and wondered if this meant local shops will be closed.  I have reassured her that 25th July is a regional day, but not in Murcia where we live.  If you live in, or are visiting a different region, you might want to check it out now!

During the hot months of July and August, John and I enjoy wandering around the supermarket in the afternoon, escaping from the heat and making the most of the cool interior.  An added bonus is that our Spanish neighbours are either lingering over their lunch or having a siesta, so it’s usually a lot quieter then. 

We had been living in Jumilla for two months when we discovered that Spanish bank holidays are very different. We had heard that August 15 was a holiday however Consum, our nearest supermarket, was open that morning.  We followed our usual routine: lunch at about 2pm, then a stroll along the road with our shopping list, hoping to find a deserted supermarket.  Instead, we found a closed supermarket!  There was a procession that day as part of the Fiesta de la Vendimia, so we assumed that Consum and the other shops nearby had closed early because they were on the route.  No problem, we would just have to walk a bit further to Mercadona.  There we found another closed supermarket!  Hmmm.  Aldi?  We were lucky as Aldi was still open, though we spotted a notice pinned up on the door announcing that they would be closing early, so we managed to buy the few things that we needed. 

The apartment that we have bought is in a different part of town to where we were renting, so Aldi is now conveniently on our doorstep and Mercadona is just a short walk away.  We have got into the habit of checking the noticeboard near the back exit of Mercadona, which shows which days, if any, the store will be closed that month.  We know we are safe for the rest of July!

The good news, if you are caught out by an unexpected festivo in Spain, is that lots of bars and restaurants will be open.  We discovered this on a festivo that fell on a Monday, when we were surprised to see that one of our favourite bars, that normally closed on Mondays, was open that day.  Even better news for us, Bar Paraiso offers its bargain 8€ ménu del día any day that it is open, which includes weekends and festivos, so if  we are taken by surprise again, we know where to go!

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I imagine most people’s reactions to the title of this post will be “I wish!”  How many times have you had a wonderful holiday, used your credit card to its max, then returned home to the worry of paying your credit card bill?  Doesn’t it negate some of the positive effects of your holiday – so why not do things differently this year?

Lock up all your credit cards!

The first step is to plan your holiday well in advance, looking online for information about the area you will be visiting.  I can give you plenty of general tips for saving money in Spain - and most of those will apply to other countries - but even within Spain different regions have different traditions.  Some holiday-makers may return home from Spain raving about the free tapas they had with every drink, but others may say they had to pay for their tapas, albeit they were very cheap, so it helps to know in advance.

Before moving to Spain, we decided to use the train to travel there, partly because it is stress-free compared to flying, and partly because we didn’t have to worry about the weight of our cases!  On checking online we discovered that Renfe have a special discount card for over 60s (la tarjeta dorada), which gives discounts of between 25% and 40%.  At a cost of 5€ for the annual card, we were soon saving money! 

Don't try checking those in for your flight!

We also discovered that Renfe have occasional Estrella offers, so we were able to travel first-class for the same price as normal second-class fares.  Not only did we have more comfortable, spacious seats, but our lunch and drinks were included, so we were actually saving money.  Note however that, if you are a vegetarian or have special dietary needs, you will need to book your meal in advance. 

If you are staying in a hotel, check what is included in the price.  If a buffet breakfast is on offer it may be cost-effective, as a good breakfast will keep you going for hours.  However if breakfast is extra, and especially if it is a continental breakfast, it could be cheaper going to the nearest bar.  This is where prior research is useful: I have to thank fellow travellers who posted on tripadvisor for identifying local bars where we could buy a cheap breakfast and good budget restaurants close to our hotel.

Families may find it cheaper to stay in a self-catering apartment, however be aware that supermarkets on a resort may be surprisingly pricey, and what you don’t want to do is arrive just before it shuts and spend a small fortune trying to stock up for your holiday!  If you have done your advance research, you will know where the nearest large supermarkets are and, more importantly, what is the local market day.  All you need when you arrive are a few basics until you can go shopping in the morning.   Fruit and vegetables will be a lot tastier if you buy them in the local market, as well as cheaper, and you may find good cheeses, cold meats and other local delicacies on offer there.

Explore the local markets

A good option on a hot day is to visit a couple of air-conditioned museums!  Be aware that in Spain many museums are closed on Monday, however if you have checked in advance you will already know that.  You will also know whether museums are free on certain days (in Madrid, for example, many museums are either free or cheaper on Sunday mornings) and whether discounts are given for EU residents and/or pensioners (have your passport with you!) 

If you are going out for the day, budget for a cheap menú del día (in Spain) or look out for le menu or la formule (in France) or similar offers.  If you decide to have just a snack for lunch and eat later on, you will probably end up spending a lot more money, particularly if you become very hungry!  I know – that happened to us in Paris!  

Beware of optional day trips, which may sound tempting but often end up costing you a lot of money.  When we were staying at an apartment-hotel in Marbella, we were told about a day-trip to Gibraltar.  We thought it was a bit expensive for what was basically a coach-trip with nothing extra included, so investigated the alternatives.  We found out that the local bus to La Linea was a lot cheaper, so we took that to save money.  We discovered that it saved time too, as lots of coaches and cars were lined up waiting to cross the border, while we strolled across in seconds!

Don’t stop for food or drinks in the main plazas or squares in any tourist area, or you will be charged tourist prices.  John and I saw a reasonably priced menú in the window of a restaurant on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, and were impressed by the cost in what we expected to be a pricey area.  We then noticed that it didn’t mention any drinks, even though a menú del día usually includes one, so we went inside to check.  The waiter was keen to take us to a table (it was obvious that we were tourists!), however before sitting down we asked whether drinks were included.  They were not.  We then asked to look at the wine list, before beating a hasty retreat!  The food might have been reasonably priced, but the drinks were definitely over-priced. 

We turned down a side street and soon discovered a good neighbourhood restaurant, which seemed to be full of locals rather than other tourists, and where the final bill came to less than the food alone in the first restaurant.  Lesson learnt!

Join in the local fiestas for a great and cheap night out.  Many resorts offer free entertainment, but some acts are not much better than a karaoke evening, and most bars will charge you a lot for a couple of drinks – remember the worse the act, the more you are likely to drink!  I hasten to add that we have enjoyed watching some very talented performers while on holiday, but these have been the exception rather than the rule.

Wander into the town centre where the local fiesta is taking place, and you will soon be enjoying a real party atmosphere.  The entertainment will be free, any food and drinks will be either free or far more reasonably priced than back at your hotel or resort, and the whole experience will be one to remember.  No doubt we are prejudiced, but we can highly recommend a visit to Jumilla in August.  As well as the renowned Fiesta de la Vendimia, you can enjoy the National Folklore Festival and the spectacular Moors and Christians parades.

Entrance of the Moros

I suspect that you won’t be brave enough to leave your credit card at home when going on holiday, but I am hoping that with a bit of advanced planning, and by using your common sense while away, you may be able to leave it in the safe until you return home.

If you have any of your own budget holiday tips to share, please send them to me via the comments box below, and maybe we can have an “International Budget Holiday Tips” feature next time!

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Hopefully I whetted your appetites in my previous post, so I thought I would do a quick update today on yesterday’s fiesta fun.

Our friend Jaqui invited a few of us to join her and her daughter Melissa for menú del día in Restaurante Monasterio. For those of you not in the know, the Spanish fixed price menú del día  is a wonderful invention, started in 1965 under the Franco régime to guarantee workers a good cheap meal at lunchtime.   The cost of our lunch was 9€ per head, with so many starters, mains and desserts to choose from that we had to ask our patient waiter to repeat the choices a couple of times.

Waiting for our main courses to arrive

We shared a generous salad to begin with, and then the waiter kindly brought fussy old me a tapa of ensalada marisco as I didn’t like any of the starters.  In my defence, my choice was slightly limited by the fact that I don’t eat any meat! The starters included salmorejo (similar to gazpacho), consomé with pelotas (meatballs) and arroz tres delicias, which looked like vegetable rice however, as I suspected, some ham had been added.  Main courses included sardines, boquerones, chicken, meat kebabs and escalopes – I can’t remember all the choices, just the dishes our group selected.  We begged for a break before we ordered desserts, as by this stage we were all feeling pretty full!  I had a yummy tiramisu (I received some envious looks from my fellow diners) and other homemade desserts included tarta de queso, flan and natillas.  We had a couple of bottles of good Jumilla wine to accompany our meal, and coffee to finish.

John and I were offered a lift home but declined, as we needed to walk off some of our huge lunch. Just to remind you, the menu was 9€ each: amazing value! 

We also walked into town that evening, to meet up with Jaqui and Melissa again, plus other friends.  The meeting point was Bar La Casa, because we knew that Cristina was due to play a starring role in the evening’s events, as she is one of the Reinas for 2011.  When we arrived Cristina was working hard serving us and other customers, dressed in her everyday clothes, but she assured us that she would be changing later on.

Cristina wearing her sash

After some tapas and red wine, and once a totally transformed Cristina had emerged, we all wandered across the road to join in the festivities.  The plaza was already crowded and the atmosphere was buzzing, as families watched their children dancing on the large stage.  In between the dance performances, the Fiesta Reinas were being crowned and presented with bouquets.  We all cheered loudly when Cristina received her award, calling out “Guapa!”  There were also bursts of fireworks in between performances,  as I predicted.  When we left just after midnight it was obvious that many of the revellers would be partying for a long time, however we had two more late nights ahead of us, so decided it would be wise to pace ourselves.

Fireworks for San Fermín

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Most people associate the Fiesta of San Fermín with Pamplona and bull-running in July, however I decided to do a bit of investigation into the connection between bulls and “Saint Firmin” (as he is also known), in the interests of journalistic accuracy.  After my research, I was even more confused than before. 

Apparently San Fermín’s feast day is actually on September 25th and not July 6th.  The connection with bulls seems a bit tenuous too: there is one story that Saint Fermín died being dragged through the streets by bulls, although other sources suggest that it was a different saint.  However he was definitely born in Pamplona, which I am sure is enough of a connection to justify the annual celebrations both there and throughout Spain.

Jumillanos love a good party, so the neighbours in the Barrio of San Fermín will be celebrating their saint’s day (in July) with great enthusiasm over the next few days.  Fortunately there won’t be any bulls in the neighbourhood, so John and I plan to go along tonight with some friends to join in the fiesta fun.

I have to say that I have never been to a bull-fight and I don’t intend going to one.  I just accept that it is one of the few Spanish traditions that I can’t agree with, though I don’t think it is my place to tell them so, especially since hunting was allowed in the UK until recent years.  However I am pleased to report that a growing number of Spaniards are campaigning against all forms of cruelty to animals, and there is now an Antitaurino group here in Jumilla, which my facebook friend Irene from 4 Patas kindly signed me up for!

The programme for this year’s Fiestas de San Fermín includes several processions, a special mass, a Tortilla Española competition, dance displays, children’s games, a concert by a Pop Rock group and, to close the festivities, a concert by the talented Flamenco group Al Golpe. 

During our first couple of years in Jumilla we watched the children playing at bull-fighting during the fiesta, but it doesn’t seem to be on the agenda this year, which we think is a good thing.  Although I must admit that the children were so cute that I couldn’t resist taking a couple of photos.  I hope nobody minds if I post one here: 

Children taking part in the Fiestas de San Fermin

Tonight we are going to watch the Coronation of the Fiesta Queens.  We aren’t sure exactly what is involved, but our lovely friend Cristina from Bar La Casa is one of the Reinas, so we are going along to support her.  There will be a dance display too by the Academia Aurora González, who so impressed us with their performance in Teatro Vico, so we know it will be an enjoyable evening.  We suspect that a few loud fireworks might be lit tonight as well, although nothing has been advertised: after all a fiesta isn’t a fiesta in Spain without one or two deafening blasts!

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 Spain has always been a popular holiday destination, however many tourists don’t get the most out of their stay.  Sure, they return with a suntan (or more likely sunburn!), several pounds heavier weight-wise, several pounds lighter money-wise (having spent far too many euros), some tacky souvenirs and lots of exciting photos of them on the beach, by the pool or in the bar.  Is that what you want? Or do you fancy doing something different this year?

Before you go on holiday, use the internet to research your holiday with a difference.  Staying on the Costa del Sol? Away from the beaches there are some lovely villages to visit on the ruta de los pueblos blancos, or discover the city of Malaga instead of bypassing it in your rush to reach the beach.  Costa Blanca?  There is a lot to see in Alicante (the city, not the airport!) and if you are a wine lover, come and visit Jumilla, known as the city of wine.  A good place to start your research is, and don’t forget to check whether there are going to be any fiestas in the area you are visiting.

Visit Mijas for the day when staying on the Costa del Sol

The first thing you will have to learn when you are on holiday is to get up a bit earlier than usual, so that you can enjoy the whole day, and to leave your hotel/apartment/resort/comfort zone.  You are going out for breakfast, which for Spanish people is best enjoyed in a café or bar between 10 and 12.  They will have had a cup of coffee first thing, but the morning break is a time to meet friends and have a chat over a coffee and tostada or maybe chocolate and churros.  You will definitely need a snack then, because you aren’t going to have lunch until 2pm at the earliest!

Spend your morning walking around the nearest town, visiting museums and churches, strolling through local parks and generally working up a good appetite for lunch.  Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, to slap on the suntan lotion, to bring your camera (this year your friends may find your photos a bit more interesting than usual) and remember to carry a bottle of water. 

Keep your eyes open while you are enjoying your walk because you are looking out for a good menú del día, however be aware that many restaurants won’t advertise them before 1pm.  This is a top money-saving tip in Spain: have your main meal at lunchtime like the Spanish do, though avoid obvious tourist areas to get the best value for your money. Menú del día will usually cost you between 8€ and 12€ for a minimum of 3 courses, bread and a drink.  We know a very good bar in Jumilla where for 8€ we get a shared salad to start with, a basket of bread, a wide choice of starters, mains and desserts, a carafe of red wine with water or refresco plus coffee to finish our meal.  After that, we don’t need much food in the evening!

Drive inland from the Costa Blanca to visit Jumilla castle, a local bodega, and have menú del día

Lunch will be a leisurely affair, which is good news, as you will be indoors during the hottest part of the day.  If you want to go native, observe how Spanish people avoid sitting in the sun.  They love being outdoors during the summer: enjoying a drink, chatting to their friends, promenading along the sea front, but they walk in the shade or sit under a parasol.  Also observe that, even though Spanish chicas will wear miniscule skirts or shorts in town, beach wear is kept strictly for the beach.

After lunch you can stroll back to your hotel or apartment for a siesta if you fancy going really native, or plan ahead for the evening, relax with a good book, and enjoy a cold drink.  In tourist areas there may be shops open in the afternoon, but elsewhere only supermarkets disregard the traditional siesta.

If you haven’t gone out for a menú del día, be prepared to pay more for your evening meal, and also be prepared to wait for it!  We were staying in Barcelona a few years ago, and left our hotel at 8pm to find somewhere to eat.  Nearly every restaurant was shut, and as we were hungry we were becoming a bit anxious.   We popped into a bar that was open,  for a glass of wine and some tapas to calm our nerves.  As we left the bar just after 9pm, we saw that restaurants were beginning to open up again.  Lesson learnt!

Depending on where you are staying, you may be given a free tapa with your drink when you go out in the evening for a glass of wine .  If you had a big lunch, that may be all you need.  If not, look for a bar that is full of local people and you should find the best and cheapest tapas there.

A peaceful square in Valencia

Finally, don’t go to bed too early or you may miss the best part of the day.  On the last night of a holiday in Valencia to enjoy the Las Fallas festival, we were on our way back to our hotel just after midnight, when we decided to stop for a coffee.  Noticing a large marquee in the square behind the bar, we decided to take a quick look and discovered that a band was tuning up inside.  Local people were beginning to go into the marquee and encouraged us to join them, pointing out that there was a bar set up in the corner, which was selling drinks for 1€.

Soon everybody was up dancing to the music, chatting away to us in a mixture of English and Spanish and generally having a good time.  There was a mixture of both young and old, from niños to abuelos, all making a lot of noise (Spanish people tend to be noisy) but nobody appeared to be drunk, even though vast amounts of alcohol were being served at the bar.  When we left at three in the morning the party was still in full swing, however sadly we had a flight to catch!

If you decide to go native in Spain, you are guaranteed to have a great time.  Please tell us all about your experiences and any recommendations in the comments box below.

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Fiesta de la Vendimia, Jumilla.

During August Jumilla has not just one but four fiestas to look forward to.  There is the renowned Fiesta de la Vendimia, the 29th National Folklore Festival, the XXIV Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos and the Fiesta of the Virgen de la Asunción, the patroness of Jumilla. Yes, it’s party time in Jumilla – and the wine is flowing!

On Saturday night, the opening event of the Fiestas de Moros y Cristianos was held at the newly opened “Roque Baños” Cultural Centre.  We sat outside, enjoying a couple of bottles of good Jumilla wine and some tasty tapas with our friends, while watching the proceedings.  Afterwards we listened to a concert by AJAM (Asociación Jumillana Amigos de la Música), playing several Moors and Christians marches as well as a couple of pasodobles.

The next event in the Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos will be on Saturday 7th August: La Noche de las Antorchas.  This is the first time we have been in Jumilla to watch the torchlight procession up to the Castle, so we are looking forward to it.  We are also hoping to get invitations to the concert in the castle after the procession: Musici Mundi by Jésus Parra.

On Sunday 8th August, Jumilla celebrates the Offering of Flowers to the Virgen de la Asunción.  At 20.00 the procession will leave the Jardín del Rollo, going along Calle Canovas del Castillo to the Church of Santiago.

The Fiesta de la Vendimia will kick off on Thursday 12th August, with the Gran Fiesta de Exaltación del Vino at Salones Pio XII.  Last year we queued up outside the Ayuntamiento, hoping to get tickets, but were disappointed.  If we are luckier this year, I will definitely post some photos on here!  The Gran Fiesta includes lots of good wine, local gastronomic delicacies, music and fireworks: all the ingredients of a great party (or gran fiesta!)  Our fingers are definitely crossed.

In my next post I will tell you more about upcoming events in the Fiesta de la Vendimia as well as the National Folklore Festival.  If you want a copy of our “What’s on in Jumilla” newsletter, fill out the form on the Contact page.

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