10 top tips for Gibraltar Music Festival 2016

So you’re going to the best European festival of the year? Great choice! Gibraltar Music Festival is in its 6th year, the very first festival in 2012 had Jessie J as headliner, and it was such a success that the festival has grown beyond expectations. Last year was the first 2 day event – with huge acts such as Paloma Faith and the Kings of Leon rocking the Rock. This year -2016- the first names have already been announced with more to come very soon, but we’re already looking forward to seeing the Stereophonics and Jess Glynne, along with many more artists.

Not been before? Well, from a seasoned GMF-er, here are my 10 top tips to get the most from the festival.

1.Book early. Yes, it’s an obvious one but tickets for this event sell out FAST. If you want a particular ticket; general, VIP, one day or both – then get in there and book now. KiDS UNDER 12 GO FREE!

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2. Think about travelling there. Last year GMF laid on a special pick up service for those coming from one of the resorts on the nearby Spanish coast – read the guide to Travelling to the Festival and save yourself a headache. Don’t even think about parking in Gibraltar.

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3. Sort your hotel out sooner rather than later. Places to stay on the Rock are limited, and La Linea fills up fast, so get booking too.

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4. Factor up. It’s HOT there, and September is usually warm and sunny. Long days watching bands require SPF in high doses, so bring the factor 50 and layer it on. Lip salve with a high SPF factor too.

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5. Wear a hat! It’s no fun squinting at a stage, so bring a hat and plonk it on your head, you’ll be glad. Like me, you might look silly, but at least in one way, you’ll be cool 🙂

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6. Be shady. Sunglasses, of course, are a must.

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7. Be prompt.  Get there early – queuing for entry whilst your favourite band are up first is disastrous, as happened with us last year, my 16 year old sulked all day after she missed Union J.

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8. Sit it out. Bring a blanket for later on if you want, BUT, sit on the fringes of the festival. Don’t spread it out in the middle of the ground in front of the stage or you’ll get walked on or danced on.

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9. Er, loo roll. There won’t be any as the day goes on,  baby wipes in a travel pack are your best friend.

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10. Beer o Clock? Don’t drink like a loon. The heat and the long hours require plenty of water along with your beer intake. Remember to snack too – there are loads of great value food stalls on site. Just load up your wristband and there’s no fumbling for cash either.

Lastly, have a brilliant festival! See you there, and say hello, I’ll be the one in the silly hat 🙂

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Spanish Road Trips: Happy in Valladolid

Lovely though it is on our mountain way up in the Alpujarra, sometimes we need to come down and go exploring, and see more of Spain! Usually its a quick weekend in a nearby city to soak up some carbon monoxide and culture, or if I stamp my feet I can wangle a relaxing coastal chill-out; the pebbles of the nearby Costa AlmerĂ­a or Costa Tropical rounding off my laptop shoulders and returning my smile.

No 1 Son was over from wet Wales for Easter, and because he turned 21 recently, and also happens to also be the No 1 UD ALMERĂŤA fan, we opted for the next available away match as a getaway destination. Having browsed the fixtures, that turned out to be Valladolid. Unfolding the map and hopping into the car, we discovered one sure thing. It’s a blooming long way!

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About Valladolid

Valladolid is the de facto capital of the Spanish region, Castile and Leon. It supposedly had at one time the highest number of Franco’s supporters living there, but I may need citation on that! However, don’t allow that fact to put you off – or perhaps turn you on…as you’ll see, we encountered some fabulous folk.

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With a population of half a million, first impressions are of an northern industrial town (indulge me, going all Billy Bragg there 🙂). Rows upon rows of dingy rust coloured high rise flats, it looks a bit depressing after the calm, flat and green La Mancha landscape we were lulled by, on the way ooop north. But then again, it was raining, hard. It would all look better in the sunshine.

I’m not going to go all Wiki on you, but you can read more of the facts here if you wish. However, the strong links to the Catholic Monarchs, Columbus and Cervantes are of more than passing interest.

Heading past the stern exterior, we drove on without a problem – a well-signed one way system that’s easy to navigate –  straight into the centre, following the rail line, and into the Old Town, where we had booked some accommodation (see below). Brimming with history and superb renaissance architecture, we perked up, even if the weather did not. But I’m Irish, and sure what harm is a soft day? 🙂

Sightseeing

You’ll love Valladolid for sightseeing. Be prepared to walk and crane your neck a lot. Top of our list – and possibly yours –  will be Casa de Cervantes (where Quixote lived) Christopher Columbus Casa/Museo, the Cathedral, the National Sculpture Museum and although we didn’t go in, there’s an interesting looking Oriental Museum too. The Plaza Mayor is a great meet-me-if-we-get-lost spot, and looks amazing at night with all of the buildings around the square, illuminated.

 

Casa de Cervantes is FREE on Sundays. It has as a fantastic book collection of editions of THAT book from all over the world. The rooms are restored as per in Cervantes’ time. The Columbus museum is modern and interactive, and more about the discovery of the Indies than the man, not hugely interesting if you don’t speak at least a little Spanish.

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The parks, open spaces and many-spired skyline and bustling streets of city life in Valladolid are as interesting as the guidebook sights.

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Best Bars

Head for the Plaza Mayor and you’ll probably find it difficult to get round all the bars there, as they’re numerous. Prices are more than reasonable, so although you may pay for tapas, it’s no more expensive for a round than it is with free food back here in Granada, the beer is cheaper and we drank Estrella Galicia which seemed to be served everywhere.

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To watch a match, head to the Be Bop Bar (Plaza de Martí y Monsó) where the glamorous owner will chat you up and keep the party stoked. We were there to watch El Clasico (between Real Madrid and Barcelona) so it was a busy and fun night!

Afterwards, you’ll have no trouble finding a Gin Joint and someone to sing you a song…

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Shopping

The pedestrianised streets are a pleasure to shop in, where you can buy a purple Valladolid home shirt, or explore the boutiques nested between the usual big-name brands. For inclement weather – which I suspect is a lot of the time – there’s a large shopping centre just outside Valladolid, the Rio Centre.

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Food

Meaty! It’s all sausage and a bit of a meat-feast in Valladolid. Los Zagales de AbadĂ­a was recommended to us, as both a bar and for it’s award-winning tapas. It’s certainly different! We found it a little overpriced, slightly pretentious and not particularly tasty, though the presentation was phenomenal. It’s all smoke and mirrors. For example, a well known chocolate Spanish cake bar was replicated as a rolled up fried bread slice with Morcilla and cream cheese sandwiched in the centre. I’m still nauseous at the thought!! It has, however, won many national awards, so perhaps I am just a foodie-heathen. Have a look if you’re in town. Anyway, the sizzling lamb chops were delicious…

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You may wish to browse the Trip Advisor list of Top 10 best restaurants in Valladolid.

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Folk

I can’t emphasise this LOUDLY enough. The words solicitous and friendly were perhaps invented just for the happy people of Valladolid. They are so NICE. Shops, bars, on the street for directions, they’re a matey, polite bunch. The girl at the take-away artisan croquetas shop on Plaza Espana almost came home with us to cook them, she was so helpful – and they were delicious. The main tourist office has super friendly Sonja, who wants to chat and take you all over town. Smashing place to visit – with welcoming and warm, sociable people. Even at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla, where as away fans we are used to being segregated, we were all sitting together. It says something about the friendly atmosphere of Valladolid.

Where we stayed

We booked La Pintada, a second floor spacious apartment in an old walk up, right in the centre of things on Calle Nogal. Sleeps 4, fully furnished, centrally heated, spotless, quiet, everything perfect *apart from the communal WiFi, so be prepared for that*.

Urbano –  the owner –  has an office on the same street, is super-friendly, will mark everywhere of interest on a map for you, and is well worth calling if you want a home-from-home with a lot of space in the city centre.

We paid €200 for 2 nights.

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Where you might stay

Let’s look at prices for a weekend in May, one night for 2 people.

Booking.com

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Annual FerĂ­as and Fairs

Here’s a list of 2016 dates for the annual Valladolid shindigs and fiestas.

 

Bring home…

Ribera de Duero wine, quality Sheep cheese, chocolates and elaborate little cakes.

Would we return?

Yes – we would. Valladolid – despite the long drive for us – is one of those easy to explore, friendly small-enough-but-interesting cities to return to. You won’t feel swamped or lost, and you’ll love exploring it and getting to know it a little more each time you go.

And the footie? Meh. We drew…but remember –  UD AlmerĂ­a, nunca se rinde!