& much more!
There are many experiences that simply don’t fit into a neat category. So, this section hopefully gives you a better idea of the enormous range of possibilities there are in Spain when traveling with Madrid & Beyond.
Eclectic and varied, here are examples of what we do, other than those you can read about in the other sections of “Special Experiences”. Given several are exclusive and/or quirky, we have provided much more detailed descriptions here:
Private Homes of the Aristocracy
Whether for overnight stays, hosted dinners or special occasions, Madrid & Beyond can arrange access to the some of the most impressive private homes in the country, including palaces, manor houses, castles, villas and Andalucian cortijos, amny of which house magnificent art collections. Unique opportunities to soak up history, tradition with the owners often playing host themselves.
Exclusive Football (Soccer) Experiences with an International Journalist & Commentator
Our soccer insider - he lives in Madrid and has been writing a weekly column on Spanish football for Guardian Unlimited for many seasons. He also writes regularly for the Guardian, World Soccer, FourFourTwo, and the Telegraph. He has worked as a commentator and panelist for Spanish, Asian and US television and has acted as translator for Michael Owen and David Beckham, Sir Alex Ferguson amongst others. He has commentated for La Sexta channel in Spain for La Liga games and is writing a book on “El Clasico” between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Private Entrée to Art Restorers in their Studio in Sevilla
In the old town of Seville, hidden down a small side street, a simple, non-descript door opens to welcome us into a nineteenth century abode filled with artistic treasures. Renowned art restorers, Jesus and Pablo, invite you into their home and studio to share their passion for art and reveal the techniques they use to save age-old art pieces and bring them back to life.
In the privacy of their home, these gentlemen take the time to show us round the numerous pieces that are being restored. Depending on the day, you might find Golden Age paintings, rococo mirrors, ivory crucifixes or Roman pottery over 2000 years old. They will demonstrate how to remove the dirt and grime from an age old canvas, leaving a clean and fresh original image below. Discover how chips, rips and tears can be cured and hidden as if they had never occurred. Watch them piece together ceramic pieces to recreate Roman pottery... and have a go yourself at some art restoration!
Private Spanish Fan Painting Class (customized experience)
The first ever fans were used to help light fires and to waft away pesky insects. It was only around the fifteenth century that fashion and necessity dictated that hand fans should be used as a form of protection from the heat of the day. As the years progressed, the hand fan began to take center stage as an item of fashion, elegance and flirtation. Various styles and designs were created and a whole language was born around the movements of the hand fan. In an artist’s private home, learn to hand paint your own fan(s) using a number of styles and influences. This activity is perfect for art-lovers, families and creative minds. At the end of the class you can take your fans away to be used for the rest of your travels or as an ideal gift to take home.
Behind the scenes access at Royal Equestrian School in Jerez – customized experience
Take your VIP seats in the arena of the Royal Andalucian Academy of Equestrian Art and watch horses and riders perform in the academy’s famous “Dancing Horses” display. This is arguably the finest live dressage performance in the world. After the show, enjoy some insider access and meet our good friend, academy rider and Spanish dressage bronze medalist. Have a chat with him and find out all about the academy, the horses and the lifestyle of a rider. If you’re lucky, you can head backstage to visit the private saddlery and performance stables.
Private Exclusive Visit to Historic Horse Farm with option of dancing horses show
Just 15 minutes outside of Cordoba are the remains of Medina Azahara… the vast, fortified Arab Muslim medieval palace-city and de-facto capital of the Iberian Caliphate for a short-lived period of time in the early 11th century AD. Within walking distance is the cradle of the Andalusian Horse and the breeding ground for the Caliph’s horses… This is no ordinary horse farm… they have been breeding here on and off for over a thousand years. In a magical setting, a truly authentic Andalusian experience is being brought to life again. The visit is not just a stroll around the grounds admiring the views, flowers and the 10th century reservoir in the garden of the main house where incredibly, Manolete practiced a few moves when the farm was owned by a fellow matador. The visit encompasses a live Andalusian horse show… not dissimilar to the dancing horses of the Royal School at Jerez de la Frontera but this is a private show going back to the traditions of the Andalusian countryside… The young couple that are restoring the tradition are doing so in a tasteful and purposeful manner, focusing on the beauty of the horses and the passion of their movements in tandem with the riders. There will be surprises but it’s a joy to be able this unique experience in such a magnificent setting.
An Insiders Experience of the Catalonian “Human Towers”
Come and see the Castellers training and practising and we assure you will experience a wide range of emotions that will leave no-one indifferent. It is an extraordinary activity performed by normal people and, through Madrid & Beyond, we offer an insight into the tradition of Castellers that so few travellers to Spain will ever get the opportunity to witness. A great shame because this is something very special and it’s a privilege to see the Castellers in action.
You will visit the Barcelona Castellers club, and in their modest surroundings, receive great warmth and hospitality, as the hierarchy of the club welcome you, shows a film in English on the tradition of Castellers, answers questions before you see it for yourself on one of the club’s evening training sessions. It gives the Castellers huge pride to introduce you to Barcelona’s great casteller tradition. A tradition that, very much alive and well, is being passed on to future generations.
The hospitality extends to the kitchen which is happy to prepare typical and authentic local dishes washed down by local produce!
For those who are interested, and decide to include this fantastic experience in their trip to Barcelona, we recommend that you keep it a secret from your fellow travellers if possible. The surprise factor makes it an even more enjoyable evening for everyone concerned.
For more information about Castellers, you can see spectacular photos and footage on the internet, but here is a short written summary:
The Catalan tradition of Castellers goes back two centuries. The word Castellers comes from the word Castel (castles) which has become the name for the human towers formed as part of the Castellers performance. The ‘acrobats’ that take part are not professionals, but rather normal people of all ages and from all walks of life that form a group known as a colle. There have been castells in Barcelona since the 19th century, and these days the city’s most important Castel events are held during festas, or festivals such as Santa Eulalia in February, or Barcelona’s festa major, la Merece, in September.
Each Castel is made up of three parts: the pinya (pine cone), which forms the base, the tronc (trunk) which is built on top of the pinya and finally the pom de dalt, the upper part of the castel, which is made up of the youngest castellers. Castells are measured by the number of storeys that the tronc has and the number of people that make up that storey. The Castellers of Barcelona is one of Catalonias most important colles, or associations. To the sound of the gralla (a type of wind instrument) and with the support of the pinya, the multitudinous base formed by people to support the castell, they can be found forming their castells all around the city. The feeling of looking up and seeing a child, the anxaneta, as he clambers up to the top of the castell is an experience difficult to explain to anyone that has never witnessed it. The magic, all the hidden effort and the teamwork that are required to reach this crowning moment, represent the essence of a people that love and care for their cultural traditions and wish to share them with the world.
Come and see the Castellers of Barcelona for yourself as they prepare for the annual festivals and witness a cultural tradition in Catalonia that is unique in the world. For its values of collaboration, teamwork, effort, goal oriented achievement and solidarity, UNESCO has recently declared Castells as a part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Insiders Fashion & Shopping Experiences
Shopping in Barcelona, or Madrid? Where does one start?! As with London and Paris, the sheer number and diversity of stores is staggering but finding what you seek can take hours and going it alone means you’ll miss out on so many places that would have fascinated and charmed you. It also means you’ll miss out on expert shopping guides, who seem to know every nook and cranny of the city, from the not-to-be-missed curio shops in the old quarters to art galleries and antique stores nestled away in beautiful side streets, stunning jewellers, Spanish designer stores, the most fashionable shoe shops and so on. The smiles and courtesy bestowed on our shopping hostesses by owners are extended to you and rather than an arduous venture into the mass of stores, let yourself be swept off your feet as you are led to places that most appeal to you. Tours totally tailored to your preferences so whatever your tastes or budget, our hostesses have the insider knowledge and contacts to make it a day to remember.