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On The Way: Crossing Spain with Paulo Coelho Part 2

17 Oct
Galicia

Galicia

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on Busbud.com. To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

Imagine you anticipated going back to the Way of St. James for a year. That’s what happens to most pilgrims. The so-called Camino de Santiago is the trip of a lifetime and the Camino family is most dearly missed. International communities and atheists alike find their way to Spain to partake in the pilgrimage, and an atmosphere of open-mindedness prevails all along the route. Motives for walking it are very diverse and range from the intent to simply spend an active holiday, to a mere fascination with “walking the miles.” Nonetheless, seeing the cathedrals and walking through the historic towns along the way leaves everyone in awe.

Having left off in Logroño in the first instalment of our two-part series on the Way of St. James, we’re taking you to three more must-see cities. We’re starting with Burgos – namely, its cathedral – for which you should plan at least half a day!

Before Burgos

Before Burgos

4. Burgos – Where Mastery Found a Home

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
Paulo Coelho

Imagine the architects of this world would have refrained from following their dreams of building cathedrals, palaces, temples, or other highly complex buildings. Our world would look rather bleak, wouldn’t it? Building a cathedral means having a vision, daringly placing the first stone despite fears of obstacles or failure, and going forth step-by-step. Cathedrals are one example of the great things human beings can achieve once they set their minds to something.

Burgos‘ cathedral, Santa María de Burgos, could also be called the Queen of Spain’s cathedrals, as it’s one of the most beautiful displays of craftsmanship the country has to offer. Gothic in its origins, its side chapels are made up of different architectural styles – ranging from Gothic, to Renaissance, to Baroque. You can easily spend half a day – or longer – wandering around this stunning building and discovering its fascinating details. Don’t miss out on standing in the middle of the main nave and getting dizzy as you look up! Also, their exposition will give you more background information about the cathedral’s history.

Burgos is the historic capital of the Spanish province Castile and León. This region has a rich history and was home to the first Europeans that lived here 800,000 years ago. We highly recommend a visit to the city’s Museum of Human Evolution, covering that part of world history. Another must-see is the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas with tombs of early Spanish royals. To round off your trip, we recommend having its regional specialities, Quéso de Burgos and black sausage, in one of the city’s many tapas bars.

Burgos main square (Plaza Mayor)

Burgos main square (Plaza Mayor)

5. León – City of Kings

“We all live in our own world. But if you look up at the starry sky – you’ll see that all the different worlds up there combine to form constellations, solar systems, galaxies.” 
- Paulo Coelho

León is one of the major cities on the Way of St. James and home to one of Spain’s most important cathedrals, the Catedral Santa Maria de León. Featuring a massive, very impressive rose window and three doorways with beautiful sculptures, it’s considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and the “most French” of all the Spanish cathedrals. Over many centuries, Spanish kings have been ruling this city and been laid to rest at the Romanesque Basilica de San Isidoro, the former most important church in Spain. Its funeral chapel features rare Visigoth capitals, and the painted murals are exceptionally well preserved. Having a look at the coffins from entirely different centuries is highly interesting as well! Other sightseeing spots are León’s historical Parador and Gaudí’s Casa Botines. If you have a few spare hours, do take a trip to Valporquero to visit its magnificent caves.

León is also a foodie city, which means that you’ll get your culinary fill! Add local garlic soup and Cecina to your assortment of tapas.

Cathedral of Santiago

Cathedral of Santiago

6. Santiago de Compostela – Urban and Cultural Beauty

“To die tomorrow was no worse than dying on any other day. Every day was there to be lived or to mark one’s departure from this world.” 
- Paulo Coelho

The most important building in this city is, of course, the cathedral containing the sarcophagus with the remains of Saint James. Though, the entire old part of town is beautiful with a great atmosphere, try out the typical Pulpo ala Gallega in a so-called Pulpería. We recommend the traditional Pulpeira Os Concheiros. Also, as you’re walking through the gates towards the cathedral, you might be surprised to hear bagpipe music. In fact, this region – Galicia – has a strong Celtic heritage and its music is very similar to that of the Irish, Scottish, and Breton.

The Way of St. James is commonly compared to life itself – arriving in Santiago de Compostela feels a little bit like a life cycle coming to an end. It means saying goodbye to a way of life and a pace that has become dear to most. Indeed, the pilgrimage means learning to live in the “now” and making the best out of every situation – something most people try to do in their day-to-day lives.

Would you consider walking across Spain or would you rather take the bus? Let us know in the comment section below!

Q&A with Fiona Flores Watson: On living in Spain and the romantic side of Seville

16 Oct
alc cord trees

Fiona at the Alcazar in Cordoba

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on Busbud.com. To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who have had firsthand experiences wandering the world. Last time, we featured Abigail King from Inside the Travel Lab. Today, we’re happy to feature Fiona Flores Watson from Scribbler in Seville.

Fiona Flores Watson hit the road to Spain 11 years ago and has since been discovering the country, all while documenting her adventures in her blog, Scribbler in Seville. Now, this expat has settled in Spain and works on balancing the task raising her two bilingual children along with her successful freelance career. Lucky for us, Fiona takes some time from her Spain musings to answer our burning questions about the Iberian Peninsula and romantic Seville, the city she now calls home.

me albaicin river Granada

Albaicin, Granada

1. Where are you now and where in Spain are you headed next?
I’ve lived in or near Seville for 11 years, and have no plans to move anywhere else. I’m looking forward to a weekend in Granada, one of my favorite cities, in November – part work, part pleasure. I’m hoping to go on a night visit to the Alhambra, which should be spectacular.

2. You’re a wife, mother, teacher, translator, and journalist who has been published in The Guardian and Condé Nast Traveller. What tips do you have for striking a balance between work and personal life?
Haha, good question! I’m not exactly a poster girl for work-life balance, as my kids are used to me growling at them from my computer when I’m on a deadline. But I try to get as much as possible done (writing, phone calls, meetings) while they’re at school, and then we go to football, dance classes, etc afterwards, while I sneak in time on my iPhone. I also work as a Social Media consultant so Twitter is perfect for when you have a few free minutes. We always go out somewhere at weekends, as if we stay home I’m inevitably glued to my computer or iPhone, and they’re glued to the TV – not a recipe for a fun, healthy childhood!

3. Why do you think Seville is Spain’s most romantic city?
Because of its magical architecture – Moorish palaces and towers, Gothic churches, sweeping contemporary bridges, and its secret corners – squares hidden down narrow windy streets, lined with pretty tiled benches, sweet jasmine and orange trees. As well as my above-mentioned work, I take people on tours of the city. Watching their jaws drop as they’re blown away by its beauty is a reward in itself.

me Giralda (Seville)

Giralda, Seville

4. What’s your favorite destination in Spain and why? Do you have a must-see attraction?That’s a difficult one as it changes after each trip when I fall in love with a new place, but currently it’s Vejer de la Frontera, a pueblo blanco (white hill town) in Cadiz province. It is stunningly picturesque, has fabulous restaurants and excellent small hotels, and is minutes from great beaches. Plus, a good friend of mine does cooking courses there, which are centered around seafood and Sherry – two of my favorite things. Don’t miss the food market, Mercado San Francisco: It’s small but very well-designed and has exquisite tapas (small food dishes) and fresh fish, especially the local atun de almadraba (bluefin tuna).

5. What advice do you have for travelers visiting Spain for the first time?
Try and learn a few words to use, even if it’s only “hola” (hi), “gracias” (thank you), and “buenos dias/tardes” (good morning/afternoon). You should say this when you walk into any bar, shop, or office, or you’ll be seen as rude. And don’t be afraid to sample odd-looking foods you’ve never seen (or even heard of) before – especially fruits, shellfish, and cuts of meat. The variety of produce here is quite incredible, and the quality is usually excellent!

6. Your blog also focuses on Spain’s celebrated culinary culture. Name the ultimate dish you need to try when visiting Spain.
For me it would have to be coquinas – small clams cooked in garlic, parsley, and wine (or, even better, Fino, which is very dry Sherry). Para chuparse los dedos (finger-licking good)!

Fran Hidalgo Carmona

Coquinas

7. At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel information easy to find so that travelers can make better travel decisions. What do you think about this mission and do you think this type of service would benefit the travel community?
I think it’s a fantastic idea – bus is a great way to get around Spain as it’s cheap, there’s an extensive network, and it’s relatively reliable. Since I have small children, we usually drive (much easier with all the clobber), but if I’m on my own I love taking the bus. I can stare out of the window and dream, or catch up on some work.

8. Finally, do you have a memorable bus story to share with our readers?
Years ago when I was travelling in India, I took a bus trip with friends to a mountain pass in Himachal Pradesh, and the bus got snowed in! We had to hike several miles down the road, then the Army met us to give us blankets and hot food, and took us back home. The worst part was we were all wearing shorts as it was summer – the weather was freakish and totally unexpected. That was quite an adventure.

Thanks, Fiona!

You can follow Fiona’s adventures on her blog, as well as on Facebook & Twitter.

Photos by Fiona at Scribbler in Seville & Fran Hidalgo Carmona 

On The Way: Crossing Spain with Paulo Coelho Part 1

9 Oct
The Camino

The Camino’s Roads

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on Busbud.com. To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

Brazil’s Paulo Coelho did it and started writing. Germany’s Hape Kerkeling did it as well and had his coming-out after he wrote a book about his experience that turned into a best-seller. Martin Sheen did it with his son and created The Way – a movie that received great ratings. Clearly, there is something special about Spain‘s Way of St. James. Not only does it lead through mesmerizing landscapes and beautiful cities, but it also seems to lead people to themselves while experiencing the best life has to offer: Amazing red wine, tasty regional dishes, fascinating traditions, and the power to enjoy even the smallest things on a journey like no other.

The Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) is an ancient pilgrim’s route, which is deeply intertwined with Spain’s history. Pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, where Saint James’ remains are said to have been laid to rest, started in the 9th century AD. The Way of St. James then became one of the most important pilgrim’s routes in Europe – so important that it was even guarded by the Orden of the Templars until their fall from grace in 1307. Today, their traces can be found along the way.

Walking the 500-mile-long Way of St. James in its entire length takes at least 30 days and most people walk it two weeks at a time. As most people don’t have 30 days at hand to walk the entire Camino in one shot, they divide the walk into two to three parts. We’ve done the same – read on to discover our two-part series that covers the top six Camino cities you must visit. Here are the first three places you absolutely need to experience!

The Camino

The Camino

1. Pamplona – Taking the First Step

“Any dream is made possible by taking the first step. So whenever you want something, the whole universe will conspire for you to get it. But you have to take the step towards your dream.”
– Paulo Coelho

According to Coelho, any dream is possible by taking the first step. The most famous part of The Way is the so-called Camino Francés, which leads from the French Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port through Puente de la Reina to Santiago. Yet, most people start their journey in Pamplona, as it’s the first major city after the Pyrenees and it’s easily accessible.

Pamplona is the historical capital city of Navarre and home to the San Fermín festival (July 6-14), during which bulls are let free to run through the city. Even though the city is technically part of Navarre, it’s still in the Basque region and has a distinctly Basque flavor and cuisine. The houses are also more rustic than in other parts of Spain. It’s better to not ask too many questions – enjoy the buildings and cuisine; the politics of this region are complicated! As a treat, we recommend eating Cordero al Chilindrón. Restaurant Baserri is one of the famous Pinxto (Basque for tapas) places offering this dish, which is typical of the region and was formerly eaten by Basque shepherds. Music lovers can also check out the Basque folk song Txoria Txoria to get a feel for the region. It truly is no surprise that Paulo Coelho came up with The Alchemist after having completed his pilgrimage through Spain!

One of Pamplona’s outstanding features is the star-shaped, Baroque city walls. In fact, most of the town’s buildings are in the architectural style of this time – even the Gothic cathedral, which was “beautified” with a Baroque facade. Another must-see is the city’s most famous building, the Town Hall.

Bridge of Puente la Reina

Bridge of Puente la Reina

2. Puente la Reina – Art is a Bridge

“I think bridges have a special meaning in our life. I think a book is a bridge. Any type of art is a bridge that allows different cultures to connect. You may not understand your neighbour’s way of seeing life, but you sure understand your neighbour’s joy in painting or dancing.”
- Paulo Coelho

Among the towns on the Way of St. James, Puente la Reina has always had a special status. Two ancient routes – the Camino Navarro and the Camino Aragonés – come together in this town, which is the actual beginning of the Camino Francés. Over centuries, thousands of pilgrims have joined in this city and then left by walking over the bridge. It’s worth taking a day’s break to wander around the lovely streets and visit the Romanesque Iglesia de Santiago el Mayor. Another landmark, that’s not too far from Puente la Reina, is the Templar church of Eunate. It’s located about 2km from the city and said to have special powers.

Because of its many rivers, Navarra is home to many fish dishes. We think that, given you’re about to walk across one of the most famous bridges in Spain, you should try Trucha a la Navarra while in the city!

​Sunrise after Logroño (Nájera)

​Sunrise after Logroño (Nájera)

3. Logroño – Come for the Wine, Stay for the Food

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”
- Paulo Coelho

Naturally, wine is one of the most important ingredients of any pilgrimage through Spain. Being the capital of one of Spain’s most prestigious wine regions, we absolutely need to mention Logroño! Shortly before Logroño, you’ll enter the Spanish province of Rioja – and the name is more than a mere promise. In this region, the Camino leads directly through several vineyards. Yes, you heard right – as you walk, you’ll get to enjoy the sight of vines to your left and right. Naturally, it would be a true sin not to enjoy a glass of red wine in the evening!

In fact, red wine is part of pilgrims’ meals offered all along the route. Besides your three courses, you get to choose between water and wine. So, just in case you’re wondering why everyone in the movie The Way is constantly drinking wine, sipping the red juice is an absolute must while walking through Spain! Logroño offers several wine tasting possibilities – you can even make your own wine for a day! Also, Rioja is famed throughout Spain for having the best chorizo. This means you should absolutely try one of Rioja’s traditional chorizo dishes, Patatas a la Riojana, together with the wine.  Dozens of tapas bars can be found in the Calle Laurel.

As with most Spanish cities, Logroño’s churches are a must-see – particularly the half-Romanesque, half-Gothic Iglesia de San Bartolome and the magnificent cathedral Concatedral de Santa Maria de la Redonda, which has been declared a Spanish heritage site. At Museo de la Rioja, you can learn more about the history of the region – for free.

Your journey comes to a close as you end your day in Logroño – for now. By the time you wave goodbye to your Camino friends as you prepare to take the bus home, you’re definitely going to be anticipating the second part of your journey!

Would you consider walking across Spain or would you rather take the bus? Let us know in the comment section below!

10 Tips & Tricks for Bus Travel in Spain

8 Oct
travel by bus to Madrid

Madrid

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on Busbud.com. To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

Traveling within Spain by bus is one of the best ways to discover the unrivalled landscapes the country has to offer – including a few gems you’ll definitely miss with the plane. With more bus paths than train routes, not only is the bus cheaper and greener, but it’s also the chosen mode of transportation among the locals. If you’re currently in the Iberian Peninsula or planning an upcoming trip, here are our 10 tips & tricks for bus travel in Spain.

1. Ride off the beaten path
Travelers with a penchant for wanderlust usually revel in the idea of an offbeat adventure, and choosing the bus will help you get there. Taking the bus in Spain is perfect for visiting more than one city or village off the beaten path because they usually take routes that don’t exist by train. With prime views of the peninsula’s panorama, unearth the many wonders that dot the landscape. If you pass through small towns, you’ll even get the chance to observe how the locals live.

Huesca

Huesca

2. Take advantage of full stops
Another great way to snap Instagram-worthy pictures is by getting off the bus! Not only are these breaks welcome after hours of sitting, they’re ideal for uncovering Spain’s picturesque backdrop. If you’re traveling by day, you’ll begin sightseeing before reaching your destination and you’ll get a view of the scenic bus route on the Spanish countryside – for free.

3. Discover Spain’s regional dishes
Delving into the local fare is a fun way to discover other cultures. Want to begin sampling the region’s food before stepping off the bus? Pick up a slice of Spanish tortilla, croquettes, or empanadas for lunch breaks. These goodies are easy to pack, making them perfect for on-the-go munchies.

4. Dress for both hot and cold temperatures
Depending on where you are going, it can get pretty hot, meaning your bus will most likely have the air-conditioning cranked up. While driving along the coast to and from sunny locations like Cartagena and Murcia will leave you dreaming of sunbathing on the beach, it can get chilly inside the bus, so pack an extra sweater or a small blanket.

Murcia

Murcia

5. Make time for la siesta
When in Spain, do like the Spaniards do…and take a siesta! Typically held in the afternoon after lunch, take the time to adjust to the Spanish style of living before you arrive. It’s even a good excuse to catch up on some much needed sleep during the long trek.

6. Research and book your bus tickets online
Search your departure date & time and book your ticket with Busbud. Once that’s done, simply arrive at the bus terminal and board stress free! This is also the easiest way to ensure you are booking through a safe and reliable bus company – and it’s an eco-friendly alternative to other modes of transportation.

7. Upgrade for luxury
Consider upgrading to first class for ultimate comfort, as Spain has some pretty luxurious coach buses that are at par with some airline cabins. The majority will offer reclining leather seats, extra legroom, WiFi, power outlets, movie screens, air conditioning, as well as onboard snacks and meals.

8. Stay organized
Many buses journey to neighboring countries, and though most Western countries in the European Union do not have border checkpoints, passport checks still happen from time to time. Be sure to keep passports and bus tickets in order and within reach.

Malaga

Malaga

9. Talk the talk
Knowing a few key words and phrases in Spanish and Catalan will come in handy for bus travel in Spain: Bus (autobús), bus station (estación de autobús/estació d’autobús), Where is the bus stop? (¿Dónde está la parada del autobús?/On és la parada de l’autobús?), schedule (horario/horari), arrival (llegada/arribada), departure (salida/sortida), destination (destino/destí), bus driver (conductor de autobús/conductor d’autobús).

10. Chat with your bus driver
If you do speak the language, chat your driver up during breaks. You’ll be amazed at how much they know – and how much they’ve seen. They will even give you tips on which side of the bus you should sit on to get the nicest views…and photos!

Have you taken the bus throughout Spain and have some tips you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to enter our Spain giveaway! Click here to enter.

 

The Ultimate Spain Bus Trip

8 Oct
PLAZA DE ESPAÑA - SEVILLA 4100655A

Seville – © Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on Busbud.com. To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! Besides giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel, we asked travel blogger (and Spain expert) Marie-Eve Vallières to share her insider tips and recommendations. Follow the bus trail on our illustrated map as you read on to discover the Ultimate Spain Bus Trip.

The Ultimate Spain Bus Trip

The Ultimate Spain Bus Trip

The Ultimate Spain Bus Trip

From short distances to bucolic panoramas, Spain is the perfect country for bus travel. Spanish trains aren’t that efficient to begin with – there aren’t nearly as many train stations as there are bus stops and service is infrequent at best, especially when outside major cities like Barcelona and Madrid. Buses are definitely an easier, more effective and cheaper way to visit Spain.

Bus tip: Visitors prone to transportation sickness should come prepared: Spain is a hilly country, and some of its roads are tortuous and winding. Bring plenty of Dramamine and get at the station early to snap a window seat for fresh air!

As far as itineraries go, traveling from either end of the country to the other is the best way to really get a feel of how diverse Spain is – admire the change in flora and landscapes, from the olive trees and desert in the south, to dense pine forests and chilly Atlantic breeze in the north. Espana is an incredibly varied country with a distinct set of influences for each province, making any Spain bus trip an incredibly fulfilling experience.

Granada

Granada

Granada

The perfect Spanish city for budget travel! Granada is a university town and therefore has an energetic, dynamic vibe with inexpensive accommodation options. Granada is one culture-charged city, thanks to the presence of Jewish, Moorish and Catholic influences – each shaping the city in its own way. Head to the lively Albayzin neighborhood after nightfall to catch a flamenco show, one of the most Andalusian things to do in Granada. When in Rome, right?

But perhaps the most important Granada insider tip for cash-strapped travelers is that tapas are entirely free of charge – you read that right! Order a drink in any bar (I recommend the two local specialities, the Alhambra beer or the tinto de verano) and you will be served a choice of tapas with every order. ¡Salud!

Top sights: The Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens, the historic souk, the Mirador de San Nicolas for a gorgeous view over the city and Alhambra, the remarkable Albayzin Jewish Quarter, and for a taste of the gypsy life, the Sacromonte grottos.

Potential day trip: Seville

Insider tip: Granada is one of the top cities in Spain for tasting the legendary Jamón serrano – a cornerstone of Spanish gastronomy. Restaurants and bars proudly hang hams (sometimes as many as 100!) on the ceiling for about six months to let them cure. It’s quite a sight to say the least!

Bus tip: Make sure to get a window seat to admire the drastic change in landscapes when entering the almost desertic-looking vermillion plains of Andalusia.

Madrid

Madrid

Madrid

The Spanish capital doesn’t disappoint. Its world-class museums and its animated nightlife will appeal to night owls and culture seekers alike, or, alternatively, visitors can catch the Real Madrid fever and discover the influence of monarchy on Madrid’s history.

Madrid may be the seat of government and royalty but it isn’t set in its old ways for such; it’s an innovative, bustling city with a strong creative hub. In fact, rumor has it that Madrid has the largest number of bars per capita of any European city – which would make sense, since Madrileños like to party, often until six or seven in the morning.

Top sights: The illustrious Prado museum, the regal Palacio de Cibeles, la Puerta del Sol, the lively Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel for local delicacies, Palacio Real, and of course, and the various Real Madrid activities.

Potential day trip: Toledo

Insider tip: You can’t visit Madrid without eating pimientos de Padrón (small green chilies fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt) or finger-licking good chocolate con churros (piping hot churros with hot chocolate).

Bus tip: Madrid, being both the political and geographical center of Spain, is connected to every province in the country and boasts two major bus terminals. It is therefore not a bad idea to be based in Madrid and take a bunch of side trips to other parts of the country.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

Self-dubbed the foodie city of Spain, San Sebastian is a strong contingent in the Spanish tapas game thanks to their unique Basque background. The tapas – most commonly called pinchos by locals – are identified with color-coded toothpicks and offered in self-service; customers pay according to the quantity of toothpicks in their plate after their meal.

But in addition to delicious seafood-based dishes, San Sebastian boasts one of the best in-city beaches in Europe – where else on the continent can you sunbathe, surf and swim literally right next to major historical buildings and churches? The hike up Monte Igueldo offers splendid views of the city, the ocean and the mountainous countryside.

Top sights: Hiking the Monte Igueldo, the Miramar palace, live the beach life at Playa de Onderreta, surf & kayak, and hike to statue of Christ.

Potential day trips: Bilbao or Pamplona

Insider tip: San Sebastian is home to impressively designed cathedrals and churches, including the iconic Catedral del Buen Pastor. An architecture-focused walking tour is pretty much mandatory in this city.

Bus tip: If you are traveling to the world-famous bull ride in Pamplona via San Sebastian, make sure to book far in advance – seats sell out real quick!

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona, the Spanish party capital! The massive capital of Catalonia never sleeps, and neither do its visitors – between the world-class attractions to visit in the daytime and the countless tapas bars to experience at night. Needless to say, one does not come to Barcelona to catch up on their beauty sleep.

One of the most popular things to do in the city is obviously to tour the Gaudi buildings, especially since the Sagrada Familia’s interior has been completed. Make sure to take an elevator ride to the top of the spire and admire the dizzying view!

Top sights: Tour the famous Gaudi buildings, the beach, medieval Barri Gotic, the locals-approved tapas bar of Eixample, Plaça de Catalunya, and La Boqueria market.

Potential day trip: Zaragoza

Insider tip: Hop on the cable-car up to Montjuïc for unparalleled views of the beaches, the city (including the Sagrada Familia) and, of course, the Mediterranean sea.

Bus tip: If you are traveling to small villages in Costa Brava or even to France, make sure to get a seat on the right-hand side of the bus to get a good ocean view during your ride.

Valencia

Valencia

Valencia

A trip to Spain should never overlook a stop in the birthplace of paella, the country’s national dish! The capital of the old Valencia Kingdom, and Spain’s third largest city, is home to the world-famous Fallas Festival in March, during which the city is almost literally set on fire (or at least, the papier mâché models created for the festival).

Valencia Cathedral (home to the Holy Grail, the chalice Jesus is believed to have used at the Last Supper) is definitely a must-do even for non-religious travelers.  And despite having some of the world’s best colonial architecture, what really causes visitors’ jaws to drop in Valencia is the otherworldly, uber-modern buildings in the City of Arts and Science (which encompasses several museums and even an aquarium).

Top sights: City of Arts and Science, Barri del Carme, Valencia Cathedral, Silk Exchange, and central market.

Potential day trips: Murcia or Alicante

Insider tip: Be wary of where you choose to eat your paella; being a popular dish, most touristy areas will serve the microwaved kind. Pick a restaurant that either doesn’t advertise its paella or that only serves it at lunch. Locals go to the Saler beach area.

Bus tip: With Valencia being so close to the beach, a seat on the left-hand side of the bus will guarantee unobstructed views of the ocean when coming in from Barcelona.


Meet Marie-Eve Vallières, our Spain Travel Expert. After having spent years living in Europe as an expat and blogging about it for both A Montrealer Abroad and Eurotrip Tips, she shares her ultimate tips and recommendations on Spain, a country she’s visited countless times. Don’t forget to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all things travel.

Don’t forget to enter our Spain giveaway! Click here to enter.

Opening image courtesy of Tourspain
Illustration by: Caroline Lavergne

 

Spain in October: What to see and do

1 Oct
Seville

Seville

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on Busbud.com. To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

Wondering if October is an ideal time to visit Spain? If popular attractions that aren’t swarming with tourists and cheap prices that appear just as summer ends are your thing, then yes! Need more convincing? In some places further south, unfathomable hot temperatures have cooled down, so you can still enjoy the beach. If you’re a fan of autumn, not to worry – head north for crisper, sweater weather. So, if you’re thinking of spending fall in Spain, we’ve compiled a list of must-do activities and events during the month of October.

1. Grape Stomping
Now that summer has come to a close, it’s wine season. Did you know that squishing grapes with your feet dates back to the Roman era? Its traditional roots are still etched in Spaniards, who partake in the event year after year – even if wine is now mass-produced. Occurring in mid-October in vineyards across the country after the grapes have been harvested, Wine Tourism Spain organizes a grape stomping event followed by a wine tasting. So kick off your shoes and get stomping – the reward, after all, is a glass of wine!

2. Rose of Saffron Festival
During the final weekend of October, Spain’s town of Consuegra in Castilla-La Mancha is immersed in fields of purple amid a backdrop of windmills. Lose yourself at the sight of farmers gathering saffron while plenty of activities and competitions occur around the harvesting. Don’t forget to purchase your own bag of saffron from local harvesters or head to a nearby restaurant to enjoy paella, which, of course, is known for featuring the spice as it gives it its unique color. This year’s Rose of Saffron Festival happens between October 24th and 26th.

3. Madrid’s World Press Photo Exhibition
This yearly fall exhibition is scheduled to take place until October 12th in the country’s capital. Featuring powerful, award-winning photographs from around the globe, Madrid’s edition of this photojournalism exhibition is housed in the Circulo de Bellas Artes.

4. Film Festivals
October is film festival month in Spain. From the Marbella Film Festival, to the Valladolid International Film Festival, Barcelona’s International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the Horror and Fantasy Film Festival in San Sebastian, the options are endless!

5. Bienal de Flamenco
One of the quintessential events to partake in when visiting Spain, Flamenco is a big deal – so much so that it deserves its own festival. Seville’s Bienal de Flamenco dates back to the eighties and occurs in various theatres throughout the city. From dancers, to vocalists, to musicians, the list of performances is sure to please all lovers of the craft.

6. Barcelona Jazz Festival
Music lovers will rejoice as they immerse themselves in the sounds of jazz at Barcelona’s annual Jazz Festival. Performances from a host of musical acts will take place in venues all over the city starting October 17th. Be sure to keep an eye out for the line-up and get your tickets in advance before they sell out!

7. San Lucas Festival
This festival takes place in Jaen – the world’s biggest olive growing capital – between October 11th and 19th in honour of the patron Saint, San Lucas. The festivities include a street fair, fireworks, sports, bullfighting, and plenty of other cultural events and fun activities for the entire family.

Are you headed to Spain this October? Let us know which events you’re most excited about!

6 Events to Attend in Europe This August

1 Aug
Edinburgh International Festival 2014, Delusion11eif2014 - Photo credit, Wonge Bergmann

Edinburgh International Festival

August is the time of year where most of Europe is on holiday. While city dwellers head to the coast in search of a sunny beach, these festivals keep cities alive during summer months by drawing in both locals and tourists alike. If you’re headed to Europe – or are already there – here are six events to attend during the month of August.

1. The International Beer Festival in Berlin, Germany
Held between August 1st and 3rd on Karl-Marx-Allee, Berlin’s International Beer Festival doubles as a folk festival with various musical acts taking one of the many stages. Also known as “Beer Mile” (it spans 2 kilometers!), the event gets over one million visitors per year. This festival will satisfy beer aficionados, as it features both local and international craft beers and microbrews. This year, you’ll be able to sample a variety of 2,000 brews from 86 countries.

2. La Tomatina in Buñol, Spain
Be ready to get messy and paint the town red at La Tomatina! This traditional event takes place in Valencia’s Buñol on the last Wednesday of August each year and draws crowds from all over the world. The tradition caught on in the mid-forties after a local food fight erupted and has since stuck. The premise is simple: People gather the streets, wait until the first canon is fired at around 10am, and start throwing tomatoes! The second canon signals the end of the tomato fight. If you’re ambitious, take a shot at trying to climb the wooden pole to get to the ham (another tradition).

La Tomatina - © Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)

La Tomatina – © Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)

3. The Edinburgh Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland
Head to the Scottish capital to enjoy a display of art and culture at one of the largest festivals in Europe. Created in 1947 after the Second World War, its mission has always been to provide a platform for human growth through art. An umbrella term for the many events that makeup The Edinburgh Festival, it spans over three weeks and includes everything from performances, to music & comedy shows, and art exhibitions.

4. The International Street Art Festival in Waterford City, Ireland
From August 1st to the 3rd, this medieval city’s free, urban International Street Art Festival encompasses all the best in street music, theatre, and art. Also called “Spraoi,” the three-day event marks the beginning of the August Bank Holiday for UK residents. The festival focuses on both Irish and international art and exhibitions range from installations, to music, workshops, and more. Be sure not to miss the festival parade!

5. Amsterdam Gay Pride in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Held during the first few days of August, Amsterdam Gay Pride is it one of the largest pride celebrations in the world. It’s also one of the busiest weekends in Amsterdam during summer as thousands of people from across the globe gather to celebrate the festivities. The event hosts a number of parties, concerts, activities, and more, including the famous canal parade on the first Saturday of August.

Rock en Seine - © Victor Picon

Rock en Seine – © Victor Picon

6. Rock en Seine near Paris, France
From August 22nd to the 24th, Parisians and Europeans will head to the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud just west of Paris to enjoy their favorite bands perform at Rock en Seine. Hailed as one of the largest music festivals in France, it comprises four open-air stages, along with a campsite for those who wish to stay the weekend. This year’s line-up includes Lana Del Rey, Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, and Blondie, along with many other coveted acts.

Are you headed to Europe this August? Let us know in the comments below!

Images courtesy of Tourspain, Victor Picon, and Wonge Bergmann

La Tournée des Entrepreneurs – Promoting Entrepreneurship In Quebec

30 Jul

La Tournee des entrepreneurs group photo Charlevoix 2014

This past weekend, Busbud CEO LP Maurice embarked on the first of three roadtrips across the province of Quebec as part of La Tournée des entrepreneurs.

Watch the video recap of the weekend in Baie-St-Paul, Charlevoix.

 

Connecting with local entrepreneurs

The tour brought together entrepreneurs from different regions of the province in order to learn, share experiences and inspire. Topics discussed included prototyping, how to sell online, fundraising, web analytics, innovative business models and social entrepreneurship.

Montreal entrepreneurs participating at this first event: Caithrin Rintoul (Provender), Sophie Boulanger (BonLook), Christine Renaud (E-180), Francis Gosselin (f&co), Raff Paquin (AlveoLabs and formerly Frank & Oak) and Fabrice Vil (Pour 3 Points).

Next stops, Gaspé and Rouyn-Noranda!

tournee-des-entrepreneurs-bbq-charlevoix

tournee-des-entrepreneurs-cercle-de-discussion-charlevoix

10 Tips & Tricks for Bus Travel in the UK

8 Jul
travel by bus to London

London

Traveling within the UK by bus is one of the best ways to discover the unrivalled scenic gems its regions have to offer – something you’ll definitely miss with the plane. With more bus paths than train routes, not only is the bus a cheaper, greener, and more flexible alternative, but it’s also the chosen mode of transportation among the locals. From Scotland’s diverse countrysides, to England’s bustling city centers, if you’re currently in Europe or planning an upcoming trip, here are our 10 tips & tricks for bus travel in the UK.

1. Opt for the scenic route
Travelers with a penchant for wanderlust usually revel in the idea of an offbeat adventure, and choosing the bus will help you get there. Riding a bus – or a coach – in the UK is perfect for visiting more than one city or village off the beaten path because they usually take routes that don’t exist by train. These journeys boast an array of mountainous panoramas, unspoiled countrysides, and historic architecture, making it easy to unearth the many wonders that dot the UK’s landscape. If you pass through small towns, you’ll even get the chance to observe how the locals live.

2. Take advantage of full stops
Another great way to snap Instagram-worthy pictures is by getting off the bus! Not only are these breaks welcome during longer trips, they’re ideal for uncovering the territory’s picturesque backdrop. If you’re traveling by day, you’ll begin sightseeing before reaching your destination – for free.

Oxford

Oxford

3. Discover tasty snacks
Delving into the local fare is a fun way to discover other cultures. Want to begin sampling the region’s food before stepping off the bus? Pick up a Cornish Pasty or a Bedfordshire Clanger for lunch breaks. These traditional goodies are easy to pack, making them perfect for on-the-go munchies.

4. Dress for appropriate temperatures
We all know the UK has a reputation for its unpredictable weather, so ensure you dress wisely. Since it tends to be generally colder than other parts of Europe, be sure to pack a good pair of walking boots for treks (bonus if they’re waterproof), a wool sweater if you’re visiting in winter, and a sturdy umbrella.

5. Pack your music
What’s better than admiring the scene to the sound of a personal soundtrack? Create a vacation playlist for your UK adventure by adding tunes like “London Calling” by The Clash or some classics from The Beatles to your repertoire.

Liverpool

Liverpool

6. Familiarize yourself with the terminology
Knowing a few of the UK’s key terms will come in handy for bus travel: Bus (coach or sleeper coach), bus station (coach station), bus driver (coach driver), line (queue), highway (motorway).

7. Research and book your bus tickets online
Search your departure date & time and book your ticket with Busbud. Once that’s done, simply arrive at the bus terminal and board stress free! This is also the easiest way to ensure you are booking through a safe and reliable bus company – and it’s an eco-friendly alternative to other modes of transportation.

8. Choose luxury
Most coach buses in UK are already equipped with a high level of coziness, but you should also consider upgrading to first class for ultimate comfort. The UK has some pretty luxurious coach buses that are at par with some airline cabins. The majority will offer reclining leather seats, WiFi, power outlets, movie screens, sleeper kits, air conditioning, as well as onboard snacks and meals.

Plymouth

Plymouth

9. Organization is key
Many buses journey to neighboring countries, and though most Western countries in the European Union do not have border checkpoints, passport checks still happen from time to time. Be sure to keep passports and bus tickets in order and within reach.

10. Make friends with your bus driver
If you do speak the language, chat your driver up during breaks. You’ll be amazed at how much they know – and how much they’ve seen. They will even give you tips on which side of the bus you should sit on to get the nicest views…and photos!

Visit Busbud to learn more about National Express and iDBUS’ schedules and ticketsHave you taken the bus throughout the UK and have some tips you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

 

10 Tips & Tricks for Bus Travel in Peru

26 Jun
travel by bus to Cusco

Cusco

Traveling within Peru by bus is one of the best ways to discover the unrivalled landscapes the country has to offer – something you’ll definitely miss with the plane. Brimming with a myriad of scenic gems, Peru’s buses pass through many regional sites that will awaken your inner wanderlust. If you’re currently in South America or planning an upcoming trip, here are our 10 tips & tricks for bus travel in Peru.

1. Get ready for high altitudes
Wondering why bus travel in Peru is longer than your usual trek? High altitudes are to blame, and they can reach 5000 meters above sea level. If you aren’t used to traveling on these routes, you may start to feel tired and dizzy thanks to the low air pressure up there.

2. But know how to curb its effects
The best way to deal with high altitudes is to be sure you stay hydrated, pack altitude sickness pills, and avoid overexerting yourself.

Lima

Lima

3. Discover Peruvian snacks at bus terminals

Delving into the local fare is a fun way to discover other cultures. Want to begin sampling the region’s food before stepping off the bus? Mouth-watering snacks you’ll come across at Peru’s terminals include juanes, tamales, and humitas, which are all neatly wrapped up in traditional leaves. These goodies are easy to pack, making them perfect for on-the-go munchies.

4. Don’t forget to layer
It can get chilly depending where you are, so bring an extra sweater. From the Andes, to the Peruvian Amazon, traveling through many geographical regions means experiencing different temperatures!

5. Admire the scenery
If you’re traveling by day, you’ll begin sightseeing before reaching your destination. With prime views of the Peruvian panorama, unearth the many coastlines, canyons, mountains, and active volcanoes that dot the landscape – for free. If you pass through small towns, you’ll even get the chance to observe how the locals live.

Arequipa

Arequipa

6. Take advantage of full stops
Another great way to snap Instagram-worthy pictures is by getting off the bus! Not only are these breaks welcome after hours of sitting, they’re the best way to get a sense of Peru’s picturesque backdrop. These are also popular locations to buy souvenirs as local crafts people set up shop here – no need to worry about buying gifts during your stay.

7. Research and book your bus tickets online
Search your departure date & time and book your ticket with Busbud. Once that’s done, simply arrive at the bus terminal and board stress free! This is also the easiest way to ensure you are booking through a safe and reliable bus company – and it’s an eco-friendly alternative to other modes of transportation.

8. Opt for luxury
Consider upgrading to first class for ultimate comfort during long day trips or an overnighter. Peru has some pretty luxurious coach buses that are at par with some airline cabins. They offer reclining leather seats, WiFi, power outlets, movie screens, air conditioning, and a hostess that serves onboard snacks and meals.

Puno

Puno

9. Learn the lingo 
Knowing a few key words and phrases in Spanish will come in handy for bus travel in Peru: Bus (autobús), bus station (estación de autobús), Where is the bus stop? (¿Dónde está la parada del autobús?), schedule (horario), arrival (llegada), departure (salida), destination (destino), bus driver (conductor de autobús).

10. Talk to your bus driver
If you do speak the language, chat your driver up during breaks. You’ll be amazed at how much they know – and how much they’ve seen. They will even give you tips on which side of the bus you should sit on to get the nicest views…and photos!

Visit Busbud to learn more about Turismo Civa’s schedules and ticketsHave you taken the bus throughout Peru and have some tips you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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