Tim likes to travel. Follow his adventures as he explores the world.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Valencia, Spain: Las Fallas 2015

Synopsis: Since I only have one year in Spain, I want to go and experience as many of the local customs, traditions, and of course, celebrations, that I can. Valencia is a short 4-5 hour drive from where I live, so my buddy, Greg, and I are gonna road trip it there, and partake in the last days of the Las Fallas celebration (official website in Spanish). We found a sweet deal on AirBnB and this will be our first time using the website to find a place to stay. 

Las Fallas 2015 Valencia, Spain
Las Fallas 2015 Valencia, Spain

Trip Overview:
Day 1: Head into Pamplona to pick up Greg early in the morning, and then directly to the highway. Hit some rainy weather driving, but clears up before we get there. Get to Valencia rather quickly but met with ridiculous traffic, due to the downtown area being blocked off and police redirecting traffic. It's madness looking for parking, but we find parking in some back alley outside the center. Hop in a cab (10€) to the city center. Meet with the owner of the apartment for Airbnb and drop off our stuff. Head straight to the mascletá at the town hall at 14:00 and "it's like a war zone" -Greg, with all the fireworks in such a tight area. 

We leave the town hall square to walk around the city and check out all the ninots, the giant statues made out of wood and foam that have some form of political or social commentary, numbering almost 400 for this festival. At 15:30 the ofrenda floral, a parade that goes around the city where men, women, and children in their traditional dress, plus traditional music from marching bands play, as they march to give their flowers to be used in the construction of a giant statue of the virgin (I'm assuming Mary), which is right by our apartment. Stop for lunch at El Gallo de Oro and it's pretty good. Continue walking around and looking at ninots. Head back to the apartment to drop off some souvenirs and make our plans for the evening. We can very clearly (almost too well) hear and see the parade from our balcony!


Head back out to walk around and see some more ninots. The parade continues all around the city until about 23:30. Walk around the city and join up with people from the parade, assuming that because there are so many, that they are going to an after party of some sort. Turns out they are headed home and no buses can get in the city so they are all waking to the bus stops outside the center. Head back into the city passing more of the paraders leaving the city.


It starts to rain. We see online that there are many meet up groups in Valencia, so we go to Cafe Berlin to meet up with locals who want to speak English, but because of Las Fallas, no one shows up and we end up chatting in Spanish to some locals, while enjoying an Agua de Valencia. Hungry, we head out for some street food, delicious ribs and croquettes.


The rain is coming down very hard now and we are getting soaked. But that doesn't stop us from walking around more, admiring and taking photos of ninots in the rain. We head to another bar to meet up with some couch surfers, but end up not hanging out with them. Instead, we head off to see the Nit del Foc (Valenciano for "night of fire") fireworks show at 1:30. The show is decent but the finale is quite epic. As we leave the show, it's still raining and there are people everywhere, including young children and old folks. All the street food vendors and restaurants are open but bars and clubs are closed. We try to go into one of the many tents setup around town that are playing music and serving food and drinks, but we are turned away because we are not socios (members) of their super cool and elite group. We decide to call it a night and head back home.

Thoughts: As usual, Africans selling clothes and merchandise, and gypsies/Pakistanis selling cell phone service, rosemary, and beer and chips, plus working all the street market setup selling food, candy, and souvenirs. Hear random fireworks in the distance, and sometimes right next to you, throughout the day and night, and early morning. It's not just kids lighting fireworks but adults too, if not more. Apartment is right in the center, great location. Men, women, little girls and boys dressed in traditional dress all over the city. Much like Zaragoza, the street art is amazing, but even more so here and with much more quantity. The larger ninots you can pay to get a closer look and better photos. We are going to try to see as many ninots mayores (the largest ninots) as we can, that are spread all around the city, which is way bigger than it seems on a map.

The ninots were amazing and well constructed
The ninots were amazing and well constructed



So many people
So many people


The mascletá on the first day



The main show that everyone came to see, and there's a ninot in the background
The main show that everyone came to see, and there's a ninot in the background

With a fallera in her traditional dress
With a fallera in her traditional dress


Never in America! I love the lack of censorship here, and this was a mild one
Never in America! I love the lack of censorship here, and this was a mild one


That's a lot of paella
That's a lot of paella


Of course #theonlyblackguy is dressed like this. Wait til you see the black woman! :-P
Of course #theonlyblackguy is dressed like this. Wait til you see the only black woman! :-P


Took over 50,000 flowers to make that statue
Took over 50,000 flowers to make that statue


Some neighborhoods let you know exactly who they were
Some neighborhoods let you know exactly who they were


Really cool street art and a ninot in the distance
Really cool street art and a ninot in the distance


Two Valencianos from the parade wanted me to take a pic with them
Two Valencianos from the parade wanted me to take a pic with them


Some good eatin'
Some good eatin'


Little girls with their mom lighting petardos (fireworks) at darn near midnight
Little girls with their mom lighting petardos (fireworks) at darn near midnight

#theonlyblackwoman stereotype is hilarious. Pancakes anyone?
#theonlyblackwoman stereotype is hilarious. Pancakes anyone?


This neighborhood literally had 20 different dishes cooking, tempting all the passers-by (or passer-byers?)
This neighborhood literally had 20 different dishes cooking, tempting all the passers-by (or passer-byers?)


Some of the ninots had elaborate lighting as well
Some of the ninots had elaborate lighting as well


Hollywoooood, Hollywood swingin'
Hollywoooood, Hollywood swingin'


Agua de Valenciano is cava with orange juice from the world famous Valencia oranges
Agua de Valenciano is cava with orange juice from the world famous Valencia oranges


Hiding from the rain
Hiding from the rain

Nit del Foc firework celebration despite the rain
Nit del Foc firework celebration despite the rain



Day 2: Sleep in a bit, and then after a hearty omelet and coconut oil coffee, we head back out for some more ninot hunting. First we start with the mascletá again and its twice as many people here in the city, obviously for the last day, and easily more people than there were in Madrid for New Year's. The firework show is actually the best I've heard (the best I've seen was in Dubai). You can feel the large explosions like it is an earthquake. As we leave, we see a bunch of street sweepers lined up ready to clean up.

We go to check out more ninots and we can hear more mini mascletás throughout the city. Walk through some Roman ruins near the library, and then decide to go for a long walk to check out two ninots mayores a bit farther off the beaten path, only to find that one of them has been blown down by the strong winds today. Walk back to the house and relax before heading out again to see the Cabalgata del Fuego (Parade of Fire).

We head out and meet up with Hanna, a Dutch couchsurfer, at the cabalgata. We sit around and talk for awhile and realize that the parade still hasn't started, much to the chagrin of the hundreds of people lining the street, only to find out it has been cancelled. I had posted a picture the day before on my Instagram and my Norwegian buddy Erik, that I met in Belgium, happened to see it and also be in Valencia for Las Fallas. Along with his two friends, Aksel and Mikkel, we decide to go see two more ninots mayores, and meet another couchsurfer, Rodolfo from Huesca, and then grab some food. We happen upon, and enjoy, the Gran Parada Mora, another parade happening during Las Fallas. The Norwegians head back to their house, since they have already eaten. After dinner, we walk by several of the ninots infantiles burning and enjoy a few before heading to the first cremá at midnight.


We meet the Norwegians at the town hall square and head to watch the first ninot mayor burn. There is a brief fireworks show, followed by the actual burning of the ninot, now a falla. The fire is so hot and powerful that the people closest, push the crowd backwards, trying to escape the heat. We planned to see three fallas, but in typical Spanish fashion, the first one started 20 minutes late, so we decide not to go to the second falla and skip to the grand finale at the town hall. It is an amazing show with so many people watching. From about 350m we can still feel the heat. 


We head to a bar first to relax and chat, before going to a club, Bolseria, and dance and hang out until it closes. So many people are still out and partying. We walk Hanna part of the way to the train station and head back to the apartment. Greg and Rodolfo practice some martial arts for awhile and then we head back out for a early morning snack before calling it a night. Since the final celebration ended, we haven't heard any more fireworks.



Thoughts: After complaining for a whole day yesterday, why don't they have an official map for Las Fallas, turns out they do have an app, complete with a map and everything I'd been looking for. Would have been a lot more useful yesterday, though. One thing I like about Spain is the blend of Roman, Moorish, and European architecture and culture, in one area. A very windy day. Have to see the ninots from 360° to benefit from everything the artist intended. We saw 9 of 12 of the ninots mayores. Ninots are not shy about sexuality, life and death, and political topics.


Roman columns with some American enhancements
Roman columns with some American enhancements

The Star Wars fans were not forgotten
The Star Wars fans were not forgotten

In the old castles you can still see the cannoball damage from previous wars
In the old castles you can still see the cannoball damage from previous wars


One of the large and very intricate ninots mayores
One of the large and very intricate ninots mayores


The wind was so strong it knocked this ninot to the ground
The wind was so strong it knocked this ninot to the ground


Fireworks show preceding the cremá de fallas
Fireworks show preceding the cremá de fallas


Classic photobomb
Classic photobomb



One of 11 fallas burning in the city at midnight(ish)


Ayuntamiento (town hall) Cremá de Falla


Day 3: Wake up to some incessant church bells, wind, and rain. Duck into a cafe until the weather improves and then cab (5,55€) to the car to drop off our stuff. Head over to the City of Arts and Sciences. The winds are gale force today! Walk inside El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe and check out the free exhibits. Grab a coffee before walking around the complex a bit. 

Heading back to Pamplona, we stop in Zaragoza for dinner. I've been here before so I play tour guide for Greg. It's still raining.

Thoughts: I definitely need to come back to Valencia. There is so much that I didn't get to see, do, and learn about the city, but it's ok because I came just to do Las Fallas. Hopefully the weather will be nicer.

Before and after Las Fallas
Before and after Las Fallas

Handstand in front of El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain
Handstand in front of El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain


We are just all over the place
We are just all over the place


Great view of the City of Arts and Sciences
Great view of the City of Arts and Sciences


Final Thoughts: What a great trip! The apartment was amazing and I will definitely use AirBnB again. According to my iPhone pedometer, we walked 45 kilometers these last three days. Greg and I got along really well and I can see us enjoying more trips in the future (no homo, haha). The Spanish should contract "partying" out to other countries during celebrations, because they know how to party!



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Location: Valencia, Valencia, Spain

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