Bilbao BBK – the Northern Spain Festival
Bilbao BBK has been with us for twelve years now – that’s quite a feat. A well consolidated festival which manages to compete with some all-powerful musical events in Barcelona and Madrid within a similar timeframe. The reason for its success is simple – its lineup of artists has been steadily growing in prestige and popular appeal. BBK, which is held this year from 6 to 8 July 2017, features some awesome names. The lineup of markedly varied musical styles is headed by Depeche Mode, Phoenix, Fleet Foxes, Die Antwoord, The Killers, Two Door Cinema Club, Justice, The Avalanches and Brian Wilson, among others. If you want to attend the concerts, there are still available some 3-Day Tickets and room in the campsite, should you prefer to steer clear of hotels and instead be more adventurous.
One of the hallmarks of this festival is the grounds it is set in. Monte Kobetas (also known as Kobetamendi), is one of the city’s iconic playgrounds. This elevated, forested area affords spectacular views of Bilbao, apart from acting as one of its lungs and a spot where Bilbaines do sport and go for picnics. However, the precinct is off limits to the general public for the duration of BBK, when it is repurposed solely to music. Access to Kobetamendi is a simple matter; in fact, a couple of free bus lines are laid on for the event by the organisers, facilitating access to the festival precinct for all attendees.
Over and above the musical offerings, BBK provides the perfect excuse for getting to know other places in Bilbao, too. Here are a few proposals for early risers eager to explore the city on foot.
The Best “Pintxos”
It’s a cliché, but it’s actually true – if you visit Bilbao, you simply have to eat pintxos more than once. It is an unwritten norm. And, Bilbao happens to have some of the best bars serving up this culinary speciality. To score a bull’s-eye with your pintxos, the best thing is to head for the city’s historic centre, an area crammed with restaurants of tried and tested quality. Four of them we can highly recommend are Gure Toki,Txiriboga,Motrikes and Askao Berri.
A Touch of Art
As luck would have it, BBK coincides with one of the pictorial exhibition highlights of the year, which is still on in the Guggenheim Bilbao, namely Paris, Fin de Siècle, an exhibition showcasing the work of the most prominent late-19th-century French and European painters. It would be unthinkable not to dive into the museum to see paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec, Signac and Redo, among others, before going up to the Kobetamendi precinct to soak up the festival. Oh, and while you’re about it, make sure you don’t miss the museum’s permanent collection, featuring works by the likes of Robert Motherwell, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, James Rosenquist, Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter.
Power Records – Bilbao’s Temple of Vinyl
When in Bilbao, dropping in on Power Records is almost as important as eating pintxos if you’re a music aficionado.This legendary store has over twenty-five years’ history behind it. Located on Calle Villarías, near the Old Town and the Nervión estuary, this establishment has a mind-blowing selection of vinyls, both second-hand and imported. This is a veritable sanctuary for music lovers hunting for rare records by their favourite groups. Apart from second-hand albums, Power Records is also dedicated to CDs, reissues and the latest releases. So, if that seven-single by Depeche Mode, or a vinyl of “Pet Sounds” by Brian Wilson has been eluding you, you’re probably going to find it here.
Book your Vueling to Bilbao and let yourself be swept away by the music waves of one of the standout festivals in Spain.
Text by Xavi Sánchez Pons
Touring County Wicklow
If you have the chance to go to Dublin, we recommend you set aside a few extra days to go on some outings in its environs, where magnificent scenery and picturesque villages await you. While a few posts ago we recommended taking the DART, the rapid rail transit system which plies the Dublin coast, to visit some of the beautiful villages there, today we propose a getaway to County Wicklow, which lies south of the Irish capital. You may well wonder what is so special about this region that you ought to extend your stay and devote some extra time to it. Well – nature walks, Celtic legends, lakes, waterfalls, mansions, historic heritage and a large dose of magic. How do you feel about that? Well worth it, isn’t it? Here, then, are some pointers to touring the area and a rundown of the venues you shouldn’t miss.
The Garden of Ireland
The splendid Wicklow Mountains National Park is one of the county’s major attractions. Situated just 30 kilometres from Dublin, it contains an area of approximately 20,000 hectares. Known as the “Garden of Ireland” for its size, variety and beautiful plant life, it is the favourite getaway destination for weekend trippers from Dublin, who go there to enjoy its natural surroundings or to do sport, such as trekking, cycling, fishing and white-water rafting.
The standout feature of this nature reserve are the Wicklow Mountains, which traverse it from north to south. The highest peak is Lugnaquilla, which rises to 925 metres, followed by Mullaghcleevaun at 847 metres and Kippure at 757 metres. Other landmarks include the river Slaney, which runs through the mountain range for a distance of 72 kilometres, and lakes like Lough Tay – also known as Guinness – as a stretch of its shoreline forms part of an estate belonging to the family that make the popular beverage.
The best way to enjoy this lovely park is to venture along the roads that cross it as they will lead you to the multi-faceted slopes carved out by nature here. It is a veritable gift on the eyes and one of the best ways to discover the Irish countryside.
One of the highlights of touring this area is discovering some of its historical vestiges – like Glendalough, a monastic settlement located in the Wicklow Mountains. Founded in the 6th century by St Kevin, and built mainly in the 8th and 9th centuries, it has endured until the present despite assaults by the Vikings and having been sacked by the English. As its name indicates, Glendalough – meaning “Valley of Two Lakes” in Gaelic – is a historical complex located in a valley with two lakes. The area around the Upper Lake features most of the surviving buildings, while the Lower Lake area has fewer remains. They are, however, older and are all related in some way to the life of St Kevin. The way the stone constructions – often in a state of ruin – are set in the natural surroundings is really stunning and makes an excursion to the site well worth your while.
Other interesting sights in County Wicklow are some of the stately mansions, such as Avondale House, the birthplace and home of Charles Stewart Parnell, and Powerscourt House with its magnificent gardens, completed between 1858 and 1875, which are among the finest gardens in Ireland.
Be amazed by the magic of this marvellous Irish county located less than hour from Dublin – book your Vueling now!
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Images by Claire Gribbinmore info
Winter Holiday at the Foot of Mont Blanc
Chamonix, the rakish star of the French Alps, is the perfect spot for a winter getaway where you can get the most out of the snow in every possible way and with splendid views of the highest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc. Situated just 16 kilometres from Switzerland and 11 kilometres from Italy, this destination draws snow sport devotees from everywhere, as well as those eager to go on outings in the superb natural surroundings, relax in a spa and even do a spot of shopping in the town of Chamonix.
The Best Black Pistes in France
Snow sport enthusiasts will find a veritable paradise in Chamonix as they ski against the spectacular backdrops, either of Mont Blanc or the valley where Chamonix is located. The 115 kilometres of ski runs – 12 for beginners, 26 blue, 20 red and 12 black – are a delight for any skiing or snowboarding devotee. While it is acclaimed for its large number of pistes with a high difficulty rating, suitable only for the most intrepid skiers, it also has areas where young children or learners can enjoy snow sports.
The Aiguille du Midi, at an altitude of 3,842 metres, is the objective of choice for those less fearful of heights, as well as others seeking out the most precipitous down slopes which only specialists can handle safely. It is well worth going up in the cable car and overcoming one’s fear of heights, if only for the superb panoramic views of the French, Italian and Swiss Alps to be had from here. The Brévent-Flégère pistes are more accessible and also afford magnificent views of Mont Blanc.
Those less inclined to do sport can rest assured that you don’t need to ski in order to enjoy the views, which can be reached by going up the comfortable cable cars. Mont Blanc, at a stunning altitude of 4,810 metres and famed for being the cradle of mountaineering, is the main focus of attention for visitors to the area. As mentioned earlier, both Aiguille du Midi and the peak of Le Brévent are perfect vantage points for viewing the scenery. Other panoramas worth considering here are provided by the glaciers. A standout example is Mer de Glace, located on the north face of Mont Blanc, which is 7 kilometres long by 200 metres deep, making it the longest glacier in France.
De Luxe Après Ski
Unlike other Alpine ski resorts, which feature only a few villages with limited aprés ski facilities, after a long, hard day of skiing or scoping the area in search of sensations, Chamonix boasts a whole town full of amenities for rounding off your day. You can go shopping, have a drink while listening to live music, or replenish your strength by trying some culinary classics of the region of Savoy, like raclette or fondue. What more could you want?
Book your Vueling to Geneva, which lies just 88 kilometres from Chamonix, and indulge in a surfeit of snow at the foot of the highest peak in Europe.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Images by Christian Bertrammore info