A Travellerspoint blog

Benicasim

It´s much more than 'sex, drugs and rock and roll'.

sunny 24 °C

Benicasim.

Most Brits have heard about Benicasim, a small town with a population of 18,098 located in the north of the Valencia Community in Spain, for its two very famous summer music festivals (FIB and Rototom). Actually, if you do a search in Google UK by typing just "Benicasim" you are going to find more results about the music festivals than the location itself. But this traditional holiday centre has much more to offer than 'sex, drugs and rock and roll'.

More specifically Benicasim is located in the province of Castellón, on the "Costa del Azahar" and the nearest city is Castellon de la Plana. The town is well comunicated having direct bus & train services and with the closest international airport 90 kilometres away in the city of Valencia. It has 6 kilometres of sandy beaches with many services including special services for handicapped people (ramps, special access), cleanliness, etc. For all these conditions its five beaches have been awarded with the European Blue flag for Clean Sea.

There is a long sea front with a cycle a path that goes along the main beaches of the town which are Els terrers, Heliopolis or Benicasim beach, Almadrava and Voramar beach. Popular things to do during your stay are a trip to a water park called Aquarama and/or go-karting at BeniKarts. In addition to the various hotels, hostals and resorts in town you can find two big campings with all the services included on the outskirts of the town.

Desert de Les Palmes.

This is a natural reserve located over Benicasim, Cabanes, La Pobla Tornesa, Borriol and Castelló de la Plana.This protected area ranges over 3200 Ha. This could be "the Oasis" of the deserts because as a matter of a fact in general it is very green to be called a desert.

As part of the coastal mountain range, there are many crests and rocky outcrops.The highest peak is named Bartolo Peak and it has 729 metres in height.This reserve has diverse fauna. A famous habitant is the Imperial Owl or Bubo Bubo. Also there are a variety of flora such as bushes, strawberry trees, spring snowflake, heather, pine trees, etc. The most famous routes to go around the desert are: Pico del Bartolo route, where you can find the best views (duration: 2.5 hours, ascent 330 metres) .Montornés castle route, which final point is the most ancient historical site of the whole place (duration: 2 hours, ascent 40 metres). And finally Les santes route, which covers one of the coolest zones in the whole surroundings ( duration: 2 hours, ascent 150 meters).

From Benicasim, you can get there by the local road CS-V-8001, as you leave the town.It´s a good place to go trekking.

Posted by slowwalker 16:40 Archived in Spain Tagged beaches trees birds trekking tourist visit natural_reserve Comments (0)

5 things to do in Madrid

Enjoy art,sightseeing,do sports activities, eat & drink and party!

sunny 22 °C

480474_101..226831037_n.jpeg

Enjoy Art

Madrid definitely have a very interesting cultural offer. Starting with the two main museums of the city: El Prado and Reina Sofia, which are two of the most important museums of the world. At El Prado Museum you can find paintings in permanent exhibition from famous artists such as Goya,Velazquez, El Greco,etc.There is free entrance from Tuesday to Saturday 6:00 to 8:00 pm and on Sundays 05:00 to 8:00pm. At Reina Sofia museum you can enjoy of modern art, painting and sculptures. You can see the famous “Güernica” of Pablo Picasso and other paintings of Dalí and Miró. It also has free entrance Monday toFriday from 7:00pm  to 9:00 pm, Saturdays from 2:30 pm to 9:00pm and some bank holidays. In the same area Paseo del Prado,there is a third museum Thyssen Bornemisza that has good exhibitions of other artists such Gauguin, Vang Gogh, Munch,etc. Three more suggestions to complete your art tour all in the same area, Caixa Forum Foundation where you can find modern photography exhibitions, sculptures, multimedia art,etc and nearby at Atocha Street La Casa Encendida where there is much more of urban art, conferences, and more exhibitions.El Matadero Madrid is a very good place to go and visit, you can find a whole conglomeration of music,art and culture in that place.

337792_101..113099002_o.jpeg

Sightseeing

There are many points of interest to explore in Madrid.The most quick and comfortable way to do it is by going in the Madrid double Decker tourist buses. These buses have different thematic routes such as classical Madrid, Modern Madrid,etc.By doing this, a visitor who doesn´t have much time could have a very good idea of the main spots of the city. For a visitor with plenty of time the best way to do it is walking. Madrid is a very friendly city for pedestrians.It´s a lovely city to walk around. The essence of Madrid is in the down town. Old buildings,narrows streets,monumental squares,etc

There are some monuments that are icons of the city such as La Puerta de Alcala, the most famous of  the all old city gates, The Cibeles Fountain, which is an emblematic symbol of the city. Squares in Madrid are synonym of life, always with many people,street artists, specially in spring and summer, there are various such as Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Plaza España, Plaza Santa Ana, and many others.Madrid have mainly two parks that are “the lungs” of the city, these are Retiro Park and Casa de Campo, in both you can relax and do exercise in order to rest from the metropolitan stress. There is another smaller park, Parque del Oeste where there is located El Templo Debod that is an Egyptian Temple donated from Egypt to Spain in 1968, that´s a very good spot to take pictures of the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, Opera house, and theJardines de Sabatini (Royal Palace backyard) which are other historic places that you cannot miss. Around the Royal Palace you have beautiful Austrias style buildings, as well as the beautiful architecture of the buildings around Gran Vía -Alcala street and close to Plaza Santa Ana in Huertas street, don´t miss El Barrio de las Letras where many of the most famous writers of the Spanish  Golden Centuries (XVI and XVII) Lope de Vega,Quevedo,Góngora used to live. At the north part of the city you have the modern icons such as Real Madrid Football club Stadium “El Bernabeu”, Kio towers and the four sky scrapers called as Madrid Trade Centre.Don´t miss El Rastro public Market every Sunday morning, you can see all kind of antiques and second hand things for sale. In the surrounding streets alongside the market you will also find many stores specialised in trekking, mountain climbing and other adventure sports.And I almost forget Madrid Rio, a beautiful Boulevard in the Manzanares River.

341338_101..371297028_o.jpeg

Do sports activities

Madrid have a big cycle path around the city it is called “Madrid green cycling ring”. With 64 Kms it extends to the city suburbs. Many people use this path to cycle, walk, jog or skate to the Retiro Park where they meet with family and friends. You can also hire a rowing boat on the lake in the park. For winter sports, there is a ski station at Navacerrada just 45 minutes away from the city, of course this is possible only in winter but if not in the city there is a ski track open the whole year inside a shopping centre called Xanadu . For motor sports lovers at the same place there is a go-kartsracetrack. You can also go trekking and mountain biking in the Madrid Mountains (Sierra de Madrid) and do other activities like paintball, quad biking, rock-climbing, horse-riding,etc. To the north west side of Madrid at Sierra de Guadarrama ,1 hour by car there is an awesome spot to climb called “La Pedriza”.

Eat & drink

Spain is one of the countries with more bars & restaurants per habitant in the world. In the streets of it´s capital city there are many restaurants, cafes, bars of all kind. The most famous internationally are the Spanish Tapas you can find in many places where you can taste all the various types from all over Spain. To do a “circuit of Tapas” go to “La Latina” streets Cava alta and Cava baja and the main square. A very traditional food in Madrid is “ Bocadillo de Calamares” (squid sandwich) and the best 2 places to eat it are in one of the corners of the Plaza Mayor and it´s very cheap, no more than 3 €.For those with “deep pockets” very close of the Plaza Mayor in Cuchilleros street is located “El Botin” which is the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guiness Book of World Records, its speciality is “El cochinillo” (baby pork) Madrid's local dish. There are two relatively new important spots in Madrid to eat Tapas, these are “ El mercado de San Miguel” and “El Mercado de San Anton”but unfortunately as these places are so busy it is difficult to find a place to sit, just like in the Asturias bar called “El Tigre” in downtown Madrid between Hortaleza street and Barquillo; in this same area there is a good place to eat tapas and drink good cocktails called “ La Tita Cervera”. Another, not very famous bar where you can enjoy of a fantastic Madrid´s down town views is “Casa Granada” located on the last floor of an old residential building close to the square Tirso de Molina. To taste international food, there are many Indians, Asians and Africans restaurants located around Lavapies square.For more exclusive restaurants and bars go to Barrio de Salamanca and Paseo de la Castellana. There is a good spot at one of the Madrid´s sky scraper, Eurostars hotel Tower. The bar of the hotel (public free access) have a incredible view of the city. Remenber that Madrid local beer brand is Mahou, a little beer is called “cañita” ,mixed with lemon soda is called “clara con limón”and you can also find the famous “Sangria” a mix of wine with fruit. Please don´t miss the places specialised in wines, you can find a very good wine in Madrid, there are normaly called “Vinotecas”, and there is a good one just in front of Plaza Santa Ana.

219649_101..0_5326467_o.jpeg

Party!

Madrid never sleeps! you can go any time at night on a week end and find rush hour with many people walking in the streets and going from bar to bar (it´s what madrileños called it “ir de marcha”). There is a huge discotheque of 5 floors in town called Capital where there are “isolated environments” where you can dance and listen to different kind and styles of music. Another famous discotheque in town is Pacha. If you want to go to more alternatives,techno and with good Dj´s and rock and roll bars “El bar co” and Moby Dick bar with live music are good places to go. To try “Marcha” way of partying the best areas in Madrid are “La Latina”,”Huertas”, “Plaza Santa Ana” surroundings, and Chueca (the gay area).
If you want to try the “typical Spanish rumba” go to a tablao flamenco where you can enjoy of the famous “bailaoras y bailaores”.

337897_101..441193830_o.jpeg

Posted by slowwalker 08:48 Archived in Spain Tagged places city madrid tourist visit breaks Comments (0)

On top of the world in Nepal

Written by Nicola Reid

sunny 24 °C

“NAMASTE”. This is probably the first and last word that you will hear and use when you visit Nepal. It means “hello”, “goodbye”, “good morning”, “good afternoon” or “good evening”. This greeting is spoken with the hands together as if praying and usually with a huge smile spread across your face! The people of Nepal have stolen my heart during this one month trip to “the roof of the world” or Himalaya, where lies Everest, the worlds highest peak. Nepal is sandwiched in between China and India but clearly marks its independence from India with a 15 minutes time difference and is a place of exile from China for the Tibetan monks. Nepal also lives in the future with its official Bikram calendar, placing them in the year 2065. The official date may well have the Nepalese ahead of us Europeans but in all other aspects Nepal firmly maintains its culture, traditions and customs.

bodhnath-a..mandu-nepal.jpeg

The caste system is now illegal but remains firmly in place as families continue to arrange the marriage of their daughters. After watching Bollywood movies, the young people try to break away from the tradition of going into the family business and marrying young. They are now concerned with completing their studies, going to university and learning languages to avoid unemployment and low wages in traditional activities such as agriculture, textiles and ceramics.

C5650C3F2219AC68170B7B818FAEC5BA.jpeg

Nepal is one of the worlds poorest countries in terms of income despite of the earnings gained from tourism (trekkers to the Annapurna region). That said, the Nepalese are very family and community orientated. It is common for grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren all to live in the same house. Most people wake up at 5am to go to the temple to pray, meditate or practice yoga before having breakfast and going to work. The standard workday is from Sunday to Friday from 10am until 5pm.

selling-sp..-the-market.jpeg

Breakfast, lunch and dinner usually consists of rice or “Daal-bhat”(staple meal of boiled rice, lentils and curried vegetables), which is eaten with the right hand since the left hand is used for cleaning yourself when you go to the toilet! Most of the population is Hindu or Buddhist and believe in reincarnation and karma. The ´sacred´ cows roam the streets and sit themselves in the middle of roads, as taxis swerve to avoid hitting them, which would be penalised with a 20 years prison sentence.

sacred-cows.jpeg

The monkeys (also sacred) are found around the temples, waiting to steal the worshippers offerings of food to their “Gods”. Unfortunately the dogs do not have such an easy life on the streets, looking for food and shelter, as they are believed to be reincarnations of people with a bad karma in a previous life! The women hand-wash their clothes and leave them to dry over the vegetation (no washing machines, tumble dryers or clothes lines!).

handwashin..ing-to-work.jpeg

The women tend to work in the rice paddy fields and the men continue to carry heavy goods on their heads. Bargaining is a common practice and turns the average shopping experience into a fun game!

The motive of this 3 week (August 2008) trip to Nepal was to participate in a solidarity camp with the Spanish NGO, Setem. I travelled with a group of 8 Spanish volunteers to work with locally based NGOs, ´Mahaguthi´ in Kathmandu and ´Children of Nepal´ in Pokhara.

setem-madr..-in-pokhara.jpeg

We all lived with local Nepalese families and worked 6 days a week. At Mahaguthi, 5 volunteers and I, helped to develop the Marketing strategy for 2009, to design 4 Christmas greeting cards to be sold to Spanish companies, took photos of the products, translated and edited documents for the website and visited local Fair Trade producers of ceramics, textiles (clothes and toys), silver, jewellery, musical instruments (singing bowls) and paper (greeting cards, photo albums and frames, notebooks and bookmarkers).

fair-trade..s-to-export.jpeg

We also had the opportunity to visit one of the first Ashrams in Nepal, opened by Gandhi and one of the many orphanages (Bal Griha“Life Improvement Children Home” run by Jeewan Utthan), which receives funds from Mahaguthi.

All the people we met were very friendly, positive, open and proud. They always welcomed us with the national drink, chiya (bolied tea leaves, milk and sugar together) and were happy to share information about their daily lives and prospects for the future. They were curious to know where we were from, why we were there, what we thought of Nepal and how their country is portrayed internationally. The Nepalese are eager to please and leave you with a positive image of their country and encourage you to return again soon!

local-men-..-the-square.jpeg

The people want the country to open its borders and to advance but they are concerned by what the “Western” style of life will bring and change. Fortunately enough, there is not a single McDonalds in Nepal and the international brands, such as Coca-Cola is imported to be consumed by the visiting tourists! Eventually Nepal will have to look for help from its neighbouring countries, if it wants to escape the energy crisis and save its people from living below the poverty line.

Recently the Maoists entered into power and an agreement has been reached with India to exploit Nepal´s major energy source, water. I just hope that this will not come at the cost of the environment and local communities! Maybe now, the Maoists will tackle the daily problems, such as traffic, pollution and rubbish so that the population does not have to spend so many hours a day stuck in traffic jams and breathing in the car fumes

rubbish-in-the-streets.jpeg

Another major issue is the cost of petrol at more than 1 euro/litre, when the daily wages of a Nepalese is only 2 euros and its scarcity, which causes kilometric queues and people to miss going to work! We will just have to see what happens in time and believe that the presence of the UN, NGOs, international community and the present government will be able to support this transition.

This has been my first trip to Asia and I am sure that I will return again soon! Nepal has had a huge impact on my life! Arriving in Madrid, I feel spiritual, happy, positive, motivated and extremely grateful for my circumstances and ready to make some changes in my life style. I will most certainly think more carefully before I purchase and I will be buying more Fair Trade goods. I have also realised that if necessary I can live without meat, I have a keen interest to find out more about Buddhism and perhaps meditation or yoga will help to battle the daily “stress” we confront in the “West”. I highly recommend a visit to Nepal, I think it offers a little something to everyone and it is always a pleasure to find a country that maintains its culture but is so welcoming to its visitors! “NAMASTE”.

Nicola Reid.

my-friend-..n-kathmandu.jpeg

Websites of interest:

www.setem.org

www.mahaguthi.org

http://www.children-nepal.net/

www.jeewanutthan.org

www.thehimalayantimes.com/

www.lonelyplanet.com/worldguide/destinations/asia/nepal/

www.nepalhomepage.com/

http://www.welcomenepal.com/

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

Posted by slowwalker 09:39 Archived in Nepal Tagged mountains fair nepal kathmandu pokhara trade Comments (0)

Southampton, UK Part IV

My fourth week

overcast 15 °C

On Friday on my way home from work, I was very lucky to see the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship departing from the docks, so taking advantage of this opportunity I took some pictures. That evening after we (my girlfriend, her parents and I) ate at the hotel restaurant, we met a couple of friends who had come down from London to visit us, we walked all the way down to the restaurant area. We finally got to the Piano Bar close to the “Mint Casino”, where the atmosphere was very good and we stayed there for a while until we decided to go to The Grapes, which is a very traditional and famous pub in Southampton. It was a wonderful night as I got spend it with my girlfriend, her parents and my friends.

The next day in the morning, we took the ferry to Cowes on the Isle of Wight and we spent the whole day there. Despite of the fog in the morning the weather improved during the rest of the day and we enjoyed of a pleasant temperature. We arrived at West Cowes and then took a bus to Newport, which is the capital of the Isle. There, we bought a full day ticket to use the bus service. We went to Ventnor and then onto Shanklin, where we got off the bus. We went for a coffee, walked around the old part of the town before heading to the beach area. There are many beautiful and big houses around that area where you can also find hotels and B&B. There is also a lift that takes you from the cliff top down to the beach, which I would normally call “visual contamination”, however the landscape was very beautiful. We walked from Shanklin to Sandown the seaside promenade. It was very curious to see the little and colour full “beach kiosks” where some people have all their beach kit (surf boards, sun umbrellas, etc) and even a small kitchen inside. We got to Sandown and the first thing that we saw was a bizarre 1980’s style Pier with many neon lights advertisements. There, we got in the bus to Ryde where we went for walk around the town. From Ryde’s Pier you can take a Ferry to Portsmouth, actually the people can see Portsmouth from the Pier. After I bought some souvenirs, we took our last bus to Newport and then to West Cowes where we got in the next ferry to Southampton. We arrived at Southampton Town Quay Marina around 9 pm and then watched the Rugby World Cup Semi-final game England versus France at the hotel’s bar; it was a very exciting game with a great atmosphere because England won.

Sunday was our last day together with my girlfriend’s parents. They were very kind to drive us around the New Forest area. We went to Beaulieu, Brockenhurst and before we went to Lymington we stopped many times to take pictures of the wonderful views, it’s amazing to find donkeys, horses, ponies and cows in the middle of the road. We arrived in Lymington at midday, where the weather was better than the day before and we took a walk around the marina and enjoyed looking at the variety of the yachts and boats. When we finished there the car was waiting for us to take our last trip of the day to Winchester “The King Alfred City”. It only took us 25 minutes to get to the city and the first place we visited was the Cathedral were many Kings and British personalities are buried. More recently it has become famous as they have used the cathedral to record films such as The Da Vinci Code, The Golden Age and Elizabeth. By visiting this city and its historic places I have learnt more and had a better idea about the history of what it is now the Great Britain; King Alfred statue, The Wolvesey Castle, The Winchester College, The Pilgrim’s Hall , Jane Austen’s House and the City Mill. It is amazing how we managed to fit so much in to one day. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time see the famous King’s Arthur Round Table but instead we enjoyed a tasty and very English Roast dinner in a local pub.

On Monday evening, after I went to the office and worked on the Barcelona proposal, we had a wonderful dinner with all the members of the Powerwaves team in an Indian restaurant called “Tiffin Club”. The food was very good and it was not so spicy. In this restaurant I felt like I was at home because it is not a very big place and it has such a warm atmosphere and much more when the chef came out from the kitchen and asked us personally if we enjoyed our meal.

Tuesday was the beginning of my farewell. In the morning my girlfriend flew back to Madrid, so I helped her with the suitcase and waited for the taxi to the airport. When the taxi arrived I kissed her and said “See you in 2 days darling “. I got to the office around 11:00 and finally received all the information I was waiting for to complete the Barcelona proposal, so I almost finished it in the rest of the day at the office. When I arrived to my room I started packing my suitcase and thinking in going back home.

After a rainy night, the sunshine appeared to give me a beautiful good bye on my last day in the city. I am trying to hold onto to every single detail of the city in my head but it is easier to do with the help of my camera. I managed to take a picture to two squirrels that were standing up eating a nut. It could so

unds silly, but having on my way to the office, beautiful parks full of squirrels with a marvellous autumn views or getting a ferry from a Pier to go to the other side of the bay where the office(the place people go to work everyday!) is located in a charming Marina is everything but common for me. Because of the Sunny day today, on the ferry I took my last pictures on my way to the office. Today at the office after I finish this report I going to finish and give all final details of the Barcelona proposal to all my colleagues, I hope it will help somehow. This evening, we are going to have my farewell dinner in a restaurant on the Isle of Wight. I am sure is going to be a lovely trip with many pictures to take, let’s see if I am lucky enough to see the famous Needles before I fly back to Madrid.

It couldn’t be a better goodbye!

So long charming Southampton! So long tiny Hythe!

In Spanish: hasta siempre Southampton!

Posted by slowwalker 14:30 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged events Comments (0)

Southampton, UK Part III

My Third week

rain 10 °C

On Saturday, Sam his girlfriend and some other friends picked me up at the hotel and we went to a traditional English pub to watch England play against Australia in the Rugby World Cup. The atmosphere was excellent and it was very funny to see how Sam is a passionate fan of Rugby, fortunately England won the game. After the game, just the men and one of the girls with her boyfriend, continued with the victory celebration in a cocktail bar. The day would not have been perfect without having a dinner in the best Indian restaurant of all Southampton called “Kutis”. The food was excellent and it had a very particular Indian decoration with a dominated color: Purple.

Sunday was a city tour day. I went to the tourism office to collect some tourist information about the city and the surroundings areas. I started walking around the old city walls and historic sites until I got to the Ocean Marina, which is a very nice residential area close to the Southampton aviation hall and the cinemas. As soon as I realized that it was a cinema, I bought a ticket for the next movie session. In my opinion the price was more expensive that what I normally pay in Madrid (half of the price) but al least the English movie that I watched was very good, so it was worth the money.

Back at the office on Monday, Amy my “buddy” took me to a very curious but at the same time creative event at Hampshire Four Seasons hotel; a very luxury 5 stars hotel located in beautiful area close to a town called Hook. The event was a team building activity for a group of 17 people from the company “lastminute.com” . The team building was divided in two activities and groups. One was about a dog training and weasel competition. A very typical countryman from York was the trainer of 4 dogs and 1 tiny little puppy. He was in charge of teaching each member of the group how to train the dogs by giving them some instructions so they were able as a team to control the dogs. At the same time the other group was doing a different activity, which consisted in a farm lady with a lot of animals such as ducks, geese and two shepherd dogs. This lady was in charge of making the group work as a team in order to take the ducks and geese to their respective farmyard with the unconditional help of the shepherd dogs, who normally do the same with sheep. My duties were to deliver the coats to the members of the team as well as giving them the health application forms and carrying all the necessary material (coats, beverages, and pens).

Tuesday and Wednesday were office days and I was working on contacting the Spanish suppliers for the activities we want to include in the Spain event proposal. The main activities are going to be a driving experience that could be either a powerful car racing demonstration with professional drivers and pits stop simulation activities or a 4 by 4 circuit and a regatta competition. The cities we are thinking in are: Barcelona, Madrid and Majorca island.

On Thursday, I finally received the phone call of one of the people who works in the Catalonian circuit and for the driving activity in Barcelona and she gave me more details about how we could organize the event. She is going to send the whole program with prices next week. The same day I was going to receive a very special visit from my girlfriend, who is English but she is living with me in Madrid, so on this occasion she was a visitor in her own country. I met her at the hotel. She was very tired because the airplane did not land in Bournemouth because of the fog and so it finally had to land in Bristol, so she took 3 hours to get to Southampton. We had lunch in a very traditional English pub located in the city centre just on the way to the pier. We then took the ferry to Hythe and when we got to the office and I introduced her to all the office staff. After I finished work, we walked around the casino and restaurant areas, drunk a beer in a Pub and went to do some window shopping at the biggest shopping centre of the city called West Quay.

A family weekend was about to start on Friday. My girlfriend’s parents came down to visit us from Shrewsbury. The arrived at lunchtime and we had a wonderful Roast dinner meal in Hythe’s Pub called Lord Nelson. Tonight we are expecting to have dinner at the hotel and go out with them and with a couple, who are coming from London to meet us.

This is it from foggy Southampton!!

Posted by slowwalker 14:26 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged events Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 7) Page [1] 2 »