First Night in Barcelona

Breakfast Room in the Barcelona BB

Breakfast Room in the Barcelona BB

Arriving as the sun was bidding a fond farewell to the evening, a short hop into the city on the train from the airport; and then on to the Metro. It was just after 10pm and the city was still bustling and vibrant as we arrived at our accommodation, our home from home for the next three days and nights – The Barcelona BB which came very highly rated on Trip Advisor and truly did not disappoint.

We were greeted by Kiku who showed us around and helped us get our bearings as well as throwing some excellent dinning recommendations our way. A quick freshen up and we ventured to La Rita Restaurant (one of Kiku’s picks) for an excellent three course meal, washed down by a beautiful bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

La Rita Restaurant

Being British the difference in culture hits you straight away, the Spanish love to go out, they love to drink and above all they love their food. Meals are taken later in the evening so considering our arrival time, we were perfectly placed to get straight into the Spanish way of life; only a couple of hours in we were already loving every minute of it!

Sun, Sea, Sand and Live Music – Festival International Benicassim 2012

FIB2012

FIB Lineup 2013

FIB Lineup 2013

Following on from my Last piece about Benicassim, this is an outline of our 2nd visit to the Festival International Benicassim (FIB). The aim is to give a flavour of the festival itself for anyone venturing to FIB for the first time or considering a visit.

The Festival

Sun, Sea, Sand and Live Music is the mantra for FIB and has been since its first ever outing back in 1994. Since then the 4 day musical bonanza has blossomed, surviving financial issues and even a sand storm, bringing the brightest and best to the sun drenched Spanish town.

Benicassim from above early in the morning

Benicassim from above early in the morning

In terms of size FIB can probably be likened to that of the V Festival and takes place over 6 stages varying in size from the huge Maravillas (Marvelous Main Stage) right down to the silent disco; which serves as a lot of fun when you’re exploring the site after a few liveners.

Maravillas Stage

Maravillas Stage

Outside of the main site there is also a stage at Villacamp in addition to gigs and a party around the beach. The seaside town fully embraces the festival as the atmosphere stretches right through the bars, clubs restaurants and of course the beach.

In The Mixer

Benicassim offers the musos out there a real chance to get face to face with the performers rather than watching Subbuteo style from row Z. The beauty of the whole festival is not only the range and mix of performers but also your ability to get up front with many of the acts, feeling the bass drum and energy of the performance.
This is largely down to the majority of the younger contingent staying until the wee small hours and then heading off to the beach to sleep it off during the day. By the time they come round and head back into the festival it’s probably time for the headliners allowing plenty of time and room to soak up a wealth of music from an intimate vantage point (a precious rarity in festivals).

Right in the mix for the vaccines as the sun sets behind the mountains and the fayre in Fib

We’re rght in the mix for the vaccines as the sun sets behind the mountains and the fayre in Fib

In all honesty, if you use your head when the headliners take to the stage, it’s easy enough find a sweet spot between the stage and the bar. Based on this being a four-day event with roughly 10/12 hours of music a night its worth doing your homework on the bands and artists that are playing to find the up and coming jewels.

Perfect Holiday

Totting up the costs of the tickets (£150) Return Flights (£100 give or take) spending money (prob about £500) plus a hotel on top (if you want a bed and air con) this isn’t the cheapest of the festival options out there. The experience and location does however make for the perfect summer holiday; soaking up the sun and cooling off in the pool during the day, then strolling over to the festival and watching top bands and artists all night. Repeating this for four days and nights? worth every penny!

The Benicassim Music Festival – A Guide to the Benicassim Music Festival (FIB) Spain

A Guide to the Benicassim Festival Spain

Main Stage Benicassim

Main Stage Benicassim

This blog is intended as a guide for the frustrated British festival goers out there, those who have been to The Readings, The V’s, the Glasto’s and come back wishing that the festivals they know and love could be served without the huge side order of good old British Weather.
This was a predicament I found myself to face after two sodden back to back festivals prompted the need for an alternative option. A festival with the music I love minus the mud, the rain, the damp depressing gunmetal grey skies and the mud, did I mention the mud?
Well I was in luck, as it turned out there were a wide range of festivals out there for the rain battered tent owners out there: Sziget http://www.sziget.hu/festival_english, Hungary, Sonisphere (Europe Wide) http://www.sonispherefestivals.com, EuroSonic Holland http://www.festival.eurosonic-noorderslag.nl/ etc.

It was following this search that I spoke to a few friends who had visited a festival in a Spanish town called Benicassim. There was nothing but praise for a festival apparently blessed with the great and the good in terms of established and emerging musical talent and also sunshine.

FIB

The name Benicassim meant nothing to me and following a quick Google search (other search engines are available) I found pictures of a sun drenched festival on the eastern coast of Spain between Alicante and Barcelona. The images portrayed a fantastic looking event graced with the acts we all love and I think the decision to give Benicassim more than a passing search on Google was already made.

The next step came over a few beers with my mate Chris (a fellow 30 something and music lover) where we decided to do Benicassim http://www.fiberfib.com 2011. Within a day or two the festival tickets had been booked and we were arranging flights, accommodation and car hire for the two of us and the wives.

Over the weeks and months that followed the line up for the festival started to unravel with The Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Primal Scream, Elbow to name but a few. The musical programme starts on the Thursday and goes right through to the early hours of Monday morning, the first bands are on at half 6 in the evening, the main headliners finish around 2am and the festival finishes at about 6am. In fact we had to catch an early flight on the Monday morning and drove past the festival at 6ish and it was still going on, needless to say that moment depressed the shit out of us.

Tickets for the festival are around the 150 mark which includes 4 days and nights of music and 1 whole week of camping. For a few extra Euros (roughly £75/80) you can camp at the Villa Camp http://www.benifest.co.uk which boasts better facilities and live music.

Sun, Sand And Sound

Sun, Sand And Sound

Travelling to the Festival

Generally people fly to Alicante, Barcelona or Valencia (good luck with the latter as flights sell out fast). There are special buses put on for the festival in all of the above airports with details on the main FIB Website.

Or you can forego the camping and stay at one of the many hotels and apartments in and around the town, you will get anything from 1-5 star, either in town or a few miles away. In 2011 we stayed in an apartment in Oropesa which was absolutely stunning with its own pool. It proved to be a couple of miles away from the festival but there are a boat load of buses and Taxi’s to ferry you around with both running well into the wee small hours.

Festival Time

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Needless to say that the festival is massive and totally consumes the town, the bars and restaurants are buzzing in the day, the beach (also massive) transforms itself into a huge sandy bed for the late, late night revelers and a great place to chill and tan up. The sea also offers a nice cooling off option as its boiling there in the summer (clearly).
Whether you’re going to camp or glamp, one thing is for sure, this is a fantastic way to do a festival, waking up to spend the day in the sunshine and then spend the night listening to top drawer music, repeating for the four days and nights until done.
Needless to say I was hooked after my first FIB experience and after going again in 2012 have just booked tickets for this year (2013).

More To Come

I will follow this blog up with a more in depth look at the festival itself (2012) and will also be previewing the acts booked so far this year. You all know the big names (Killers, Queens of the Stone Age etc) and what they are about so my focus will be on the lesser known acts. Were planning a longer trip this year and will also be travelling around Spain a bit, in addition to reviewing the festival and the bands that play. Bring it On!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All or Nothing – The day we got the better of the Bookies at the Races

The sun setting at Chester Races

The sun setting at Chester Races

The Weekend

On an autumnal Saturday afternoon myself and a group of friends descended on Chester to attend the races set within the beautiful city steeped with history and stunning Victorian/Medieval buildings.
We were in town for the weekend celebrating (or commiserating) the passing of our friend Pete from the world of bachelorhood. Myself, Pete and more than half of the group are from South Wales, we grew up in a relatively poor area, which has provided us with a priceless grounding and an appreciation of the simpler things in life – so although the sums described may be meager to many but to us it was a small fortune.

Jealousy is a great motivator

Upon entering the racecourse, 4 of the boys quickly decided to bet £10 each per race and asked if I wanted in on the action. I pondered (for as long as they would let me) and eventually decided I would be better off gambling alone at a meager £5 per race with the intention of quitting if I could get ahead.

3 races later and the same gang of 4 were collecting their winnings for the 3rd race in a row, the latter of which had seen 2 of the group betting on the same (winning) horse and racking their, now considerable takings, up a notch. In stark contrast I and two of my friends (Leighton and Johnny) had lost on every race betting randomly and alone.
To buck the losing trend the three of us decided to join forces and bet £10 each on one Horse and split the winnings, if there were any, between us. I would like to add that at this stage of proceedings we had been drinking Chester Cider for a few hours and our decision making powers had become far less restricted and risk averse.

Bank Bonus

The three of us gathered by the nearest bookie (Glyn Jones) and beamed at the number 3 horse aptly named Bank Bonus – with starting odds of 6/1 – a win would do us the world of good and result in us breaking even.
The race started and as the pack passed us we delivered the courtesy screams of encouragement as Bank Bonus stormed over the line to redeem our day out and end the losing streak in the blink of an eye.
We gleefully collected the winning sum of £180 and started joking about betting the whole lot on one horse in the final race. In a flash the listings of the Horses for the final race appeared at the bookies stand, at 6/1 in the middle of the names stood the number 5 horse, called All or Nothing. We looked at each other and after some goading from the other groups decided to flip a coin, heads and we would put ten pounds each on, tails and we would pocket our Bank Bonus stake and let 150 ride on All or Nothing.

The coin shattered our drunken nerves by landing on Tails much to the cheers of the group. We couldn’t back out, not now, and sent a volunteer to bet 15 times the size of our most recent stake, which was double the token £5 we promised (ourselves) would be the biggest bet we laid on.

All or Nothing

The butterflies in the pit of my stomach roused as the big screen and tannoy exploded into life – the horses were read out one by one with roars accompanying the names, but none louder than from our section when All or Nothing was called.
Excitement rang around our huddled group as the Horses made their way to the gate and in a flash the race was underway. Our horse lay a strong fourth and as the front 6 broke away All or Nothing cut into the lead and held it right up until the home straight, as two horses flanked and painfully drew level. At that point a little voice inside me shouted ‘Noooooooooooooo’.
As soon as the front three were level, All Or Nothing picked up his head and started to pull his nose in front as the thundering noise of the galloping horses passing us like a whirlwind carried through by the bellowing of the crowd. He was pulling away – he was going to win!
‘And its All or Nothing by a length’ the announcer shouted as our group especially the ‘high rollers club’ Me, Johnny and Leighton bounce up and down with in rapturous celebration. Three of the most useless gamblers in the history of the world, who would never put more than a couple of Pounds on any bet, had somehow managed to will just shy of £1000 at the races.
Being swept up in the emotion and excitement of the sport of kings is something neither of us will forget, not least the look on the bookies face when we waltzed up to collect our £900 worth of winnings then headed into Chester to celebrate into the wee small hours. Of course singing The Small Faces All or Nothing song a few times for good measure did little harm in adding to the festivities.

The magic betting slip

The magic betting slip

I have since invested the winnings in a long sought after I Pad and have been planning for quite some time to set up a blog and here I am. Looking forward to 2013 there is so much to write about and share.
I would like to close in thanking you for taking the time to read my latest blog and I hope you enjoyed.