Off to Spain I go to See the Running of the Bulls
Review: Air France Business Class, IAD to CDG to BCN
Review: Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
Review: The Gran Hotel La Perla, Pamplona
The San Fermin Festival
The Running of the Bulls
Review: Renfe Alvia Train, Pamplona to Madrid
Review: Gran Melia Fenix, Madrid
So many of you know I’m currently in Spain for a few days. Several months ago, I decided to utilize the July 4 long holiday weekend to see a country in Europe I hadn’t been to before. To be honest, Spain was never on my bucket list, but rather just one of those checklist items “just because.” I was excited, however, that I learned that the San Fermin festival in Pamplona began July 6, and ran through the following week. For those that don’t know, the San Fermin Festival is the “running of the bulls” as us American’s like to call it. This, I had to see.
Luckily, at the time, Air France was running one of their semi-annual mileage ticket sales, whereby they reduce the mileage required to fly to certain destinations. For this time, they had reduced the mileage needed to fly business class between Washington Dulles and pretty much any city in Europe. While the fuel charges are higher than I’d like them to be, with a completely free base-fare, this trip across the pond is hard to beat. Here was my plan:
- 2 nights in Barcelona, at the Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
- 2 nights in Pamplona: The first night at AC Hotel Ciudad Pamplona (a Marriott hotel), the second night at the Gran Hotel La Perla
- 2 nights in Madrid, at the Gran Hotel Melia, an American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts property.
Here’s my reasoning for booking what I did:
- In Barcelona, the Four Points hotel was cheap, ending at about $125 USD a night. I’m an SPG Gold member thanks to my American Express Platinum card, so this nets me extra points, and additional amenities. I checked, and the property costs 7,000 Starpoints a night, a price I did not want to pay since the cash rate would have been cheaper. The hotel is situated downtown, and within easy access to the metro, shopping and dining.
- In Pamplona, I encountered a major issue. Because of the running of the bulls festival, hotels in the area are quadruple what they normally run. Within walking distance of where the bulls actually run, you’ll find most rooms hovering in the thousand plus range. To avoid this price tag, I booked an approximately $100 USD property just within the city limits, the AC Hotel Ciudad. I don’t have Marriott status, but I recently stayed at a Marriott in Seattle, and will again be in Chicago in a few weeks, so raking up some Marriott points isn’t out of the realm of logical-ness. My second night, I wanted to be within viewing distance of the running of the bulls, and as you’ll find out, the only hotel to do this is the Gran Hotel La Perla. I won’t tell you what the rates are for that evening, but let’s just say they are not cheap. The hotel is a 5-star property, with a vast amount of history, including being Ernest Hemingway’s favorite hotel. With that, comes the price tag. However, for a once in a lifetime experience, it’s one of those “worth it moments.” Alternatively, I could have stayed outside the city and public transported in, but reports are that that option is a nightmare. Further, I’d have to rent a balcony in the city, and then have to put up with unknown locals. It seemed better just to go for the private hotel, and have an easier experience.
- In Madrid, I got in on a deal several months ago where Melia Hotels and Resorts were giving away 12,000 points for new accounts. I created an account and instantly had 12,000 points deposited. Lucky for me, this hotel is also an American Express Fine Hotel, and had a decent rate. I booked the rate the first night, and then used my 12,000 points for the second night for a total of $88. Not bad when you consider it includes a $100 food and beverage credit. 🙂
More notes on my trip:
- I planned on putting the majority of my spending on my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. This card gives 2x miles for all purchases, and with the recent sign-up bonus I received, and some additional spending, I have over 60,000 miles for use. This is over $600 in free travel. All of my train tickets, hotel costs and in-hotel expenses will be covered by this point balance, essentially making this trip free with the exception of incidentals.
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