Valencia Week One.

What a change from the quiet of Viking Sky – rather than the melodies of the Olga the pianist, or harmonies of the Virginia Gentlemen or even the crash of the waves on the bow of the ship, the first few days in Valencia were filled with firecrackers, explosions and fires. Continuously. They take this Las Falles thing VERY seriously.

I guess the best comparison would be to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  It’s a party, it’s religious, it has traditions some of which don’t make sense to those of us who weren’t raised with them. For example, in NOLA, they work hard to catch plastic beads only to  to throw them into recycling bins at the end of the parades…..and here, they build ginormas statutes only to burn them down (with tears in their eyes) at the end of the festival.

After settling in last Saturday, we started exploring our neighborhood and ended up walking all the way into the center of town.

All along the way we kept running into groups of Valencianos parading in traditional dress towards the Plaza of the Virgen.

We had seen the wooden structure for Mary when we ported on Friday but each of the groups we saw were bringing their “La Ofereta” to make her dress.  Each year the dress design is different but it is made of of bouquets of flowers each of the ladies and girls bring.  This proceeding went on for two days.

By the time they were done, on Monday, Mamma had a new dress!  And was surrounded by huge flower arrangements that each group also brought.  The whole square smelled like a florist warehouse.  Or at least one that had firecrackers going off in it…yes even in the midst of this pomp, the kids continued to light fireworks. Wandering around downtown was difficult due to the crowds so we decided after we made it out of the center city and onto the tram home, that we would not attempt to go into town for the BIG show on Monday.

We awoke the next morning to clouds, cold and wind and we ended up staying in most of the day.  We ventured out in the evening to our neighborhood’s Falles to see them set the baby one (the second of the two pictures above) afire at 10. I’ve tried to upload video but apparently our internet just doesn’t have enough umph so here are some screen shots…unfortunately you don’t get the sound-sorry.

It was done in the traditional style, one of the young girls, was given the honor of lighting a string of big firecrackers that eventually reached the statue/cartoon/sculpture and set the kerosene, fireworks, and eventually the sculpture itself afire. Apparently being the Las Falles girl is quite an honor, her mother was crying and eventually the little girl was too.  Of course immediately before and after EVERYBODY (well except Mike and I) were lighting and throwing firecrackers at each other, lighting roman candles while holding them aloft, and setting off bottle rockets – preferably so they went horizontal on the street so you had to jump out of their way. It was madness!  But we did have tasty churros and the seasonal specialty which was made with pumpkins from the stand set up beside “our” Falles. Interestingly, rather than the churros being long strips, they make a spiral one and then cut it.

I can only imagine what it was like downtown at 1:30 am when they set the City’s official Falles afire.  We watched that on TV – think of this whole thing like New Year’s Rocking Eve with Dick Clark.  They had Dick on a building high above the spectacle and he called on various reporters throughout the plaza below and across the city to report.  Each neighborhood lights up the infantil Falles at 10 and then the big one at midnight.  At 1 am the winning Falles is burned followed at 1:30 with the City’s official one.  That’s it burning at the top of this blog post and here it was on Friday when the VaGentlemen posed in front of it.

Just as with the crying girl lighting our neighborhood’s baby Falles, the big one downtown was set ablaze by the Queen of Las Falles who had tears in her eyes the whole time it. Maybe the smoke was causing it but I don’t think so.

All in all an amazing festival.  Everyone should see it once, but like New Year’s Eve in Time Square, I don’t feel the need to do it again! LOL

We laid relatively low on Tuesday and Thursday.  Basically exploring our neighborhood, eating lunch out – dinner in most days since we can’t stay up until 10 pm when the Spaniards have dinner but given we are sleeping in later than either of us would like, we tend to get up, have some yogurt, go exploring for lunch at 2 or so, then make our way back home, have something lighter for dinner at 7 or so and get to bed about when our neighbors are eating dinner.

On Wednesday, we ventured back into the center and went to the incredible Central Market.  It is a beautiful building and we got some tasty morsels too!  Unfortunately, unlike the markets in Florence and Budapest it doesn’t have much in the way of prepared foods (its a true market) so we ended up across the street having a not so great meal.

Yesterday, we were up early and took a “Free Tour” (you pay what you think appropriate at the end of the tour).  It went to most of the places we had visited to date but we got to hear about them and learn all sorts of history and stories.

We also got to see Mary being undressed and dismantled….we had sorta figured she would remain in place through Holy Week but apparently that will bring an entire new set of festivities!

One of the highlights was being introduced to Rosita Amores – or at least the mural commemorating her as Valencia’s favorite entertainer.  Note she is on a Paella Pan (invented in Valencia and according to local lore can only be made here – everything else is just “rice with stuff”). And yes they are real….youtube her if you want to see her (and them) in action.

So….so far so good.  We have settled in, we are looking forward to more exploration of the city next week – tomorrow we are going to hit a few museums since they are free, probably going to the area south of town on Monday or Tuesday to see the village where Paella was created and head to the beach later in the week when the weather is supposed to warm up.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend!

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Made It.

So after an uneventful 3 hour and 20 minute train ride we arrived in Valencia. The picture above was taken from our living room window which we have open as it is cool and comfortable to us-of course the Valencians are bundled up like it is the arctic!

Our Airbnb landlord Jordi and given us directions on how to take the metro to our new home but earlier this week he learned the metro station at the train station was going to be closed from noon until 3 because of Saturday’s mascleta at 2 so he suggested taking a taxi instead.

We walked off the train into a packed station of folks waiting to meet people and all were in a party mood. We finally made it out the door and were greeted by crowds similar to those we experienced yesterday. Of course all the streets were closed so no taxis!

Texted with our landlord and he suggested walking to the next station which is what we did. It was like two salmon (large and pulling luggage) swimming upstream. EVERYBODY in Spain was headed to where we were coming from! Oh, yeah and it started to sprinkle! Got to the other station in about 10 minutes and were able to hail a cab there. Unfortunately our pronunciation of our street made the driver think we were trying to go somewhere else that we couldn’t get to because of the road closures so we thought we were gonna have to get out and take the subway. But I called our landlord and he was able to make the driver understand he could get to our apartment.

7 euros and 10 minutes later we arrived! Jordi showed us around and gave us some restaurant suggestions. “Our” neighborhood is outside the city center but three blocks from a metro station and across the street from a tram stop both of which will get us there in about 10 minutes we are told. It is near the newish convention center so there are some larger restaurants nearby but it’s also residential so stores around too.

We had a tasty lunch (late- 2:30) nearby and watched all the folks getting ready for their Las Fallas Saturday night. We are gonna lay low tonight after our busy and long day. I had the burrata and tomato salad and a dish of Jamon (ham) and potatoes. Both were very tasty!

We did make a grocery run and got some essentials-we I’ll likely have an omelet and salad for supper. Doesn’t that sound Spanish? Interestingly here a red pepper is half the cost of a green pepper-opposite of the US.

Anyway, we are pleased with our place (even though a bit sparse) and hope it will make a good home for us for the next few weeks.

Living Room/Dining Room

View into kitchen from Living Room-gas stove, oven, and DISHWASHER!

View towards laundry balcony (washer and lines to dry)

View from laundry into kitchen-microwaveable the right

Bedroom

Bathroom

I’m not planning on continuing to post everyday but certainly at least once a week and more often as conditions warrant. If in the meantime you have any questions-feel Free to ask via a comment and I promise to answer as quickly as I can.

Adios for now!

Headed to Valencia.

6:45 alarm reminded me of what I like about retir…..ahem, not working. What an awful time to have to get up!

We had our last cruise ship breakfast for awhile then Mike dealt with an accounting issue-jeez, we are in the same cabin, on the same credit card but Viking loaded all the obc to Mike’s account and none to mine. So he had lots of credit and they were getting ready to charge lots to me.

Then an easy leaving of the ship, rolling our bags off was a breeze(though compared to larger ships the color coded bag groups was pretty small and it wouldn’t have been the cluster I’ve seen elsewhere , quick stop at immigration to welcome us to the EU- 180 days starts today….so it appears we have plenty of cushion. Then a $24.61 cab ride to the train station. Arrived about 8:45 for our 9:30 train and now we are onboard headed to Valencia!

Last Night.

It’s 10:07 somewhere off the coast of Spain between Valencia and Barcelona on the last night of our cruise and the puzzle still isn’t done! We have our bags and backpacks packed (there is a little bit of room yet we don’t think we have gotten rid of anything so we are a bit concerned) and unfortunately they still all weigh a ton! But that awful part of the last night in a cruise is done. We aren’t setting our our bags as is usual since we can roll ours and so we are hoping to make an early getaway to catch our train back to Valencia.

Had a fun day there in Valencia. In the morning we visited Oceangrafic which is a great aquarium in the cultural and science complex designed by Calatrava. Longtime followers will remember a bridge in Buenos Aires and the new transit station in New York also designed by this Spanish architect. The entrance building below even has a shimmer wall like Raleigh’s Convention Center.

Then we went to the center of the City in time for today’s Mascleta-the shooting of daytime firework and cannons or something that made the loudest sounds I’ve ever heard. Today was the big one. Reminded both of us of Times Square in New Year’s Eve. Between the crowds in the streets and lining the balconies I suspect there had to be 100,000 folks. Frankly I don’t understand the point of fireworks you can’t see but both the Valencian’s loved it.

From what I understand, this was the real start of the party they will be having through Sunday-amazing how having a blog makes whole towns throw festivals to welcome you! Anyway, below are some of Las Fallas we saw-there are hundreds (and most are huge) around the city. And all will be burned on Sunday at midnight!

After the Mascleta, we stopped for a sangria and some olives (never imagined we get that many for 1.5 euros) before heading back to the ship on the last shuttle from town about 4:40.

A quick soak in the spa for me (Mike got to spend more time) and it was off to get my feets massaged. Remember that onboard credit we had to spend? Mike got a haircut, I got my dogs rubbed. Omg. If I could have that happen everyday life would be even better than it already is!

We then put a load of wash in and headed up for final night of cocktails and sushi. So tasty. Then Mike moved the clothes to the dryer while I got us a table in the restaurant. Dinner was fine but nothing worth wasting data on pictures for.

Did see fellow cruisers and crew all day and saying goodbye is hard. Even though you barely have met, connections have been made with some-acquaintances with others. But we have all shared an experience- generally a good one and in then case of almost everyone we would love to sail with them again. In a few cases, we may actually see each other on land-got a lovely invitation to Scotland from a lovely lass and her hubby if 40 years today!

Anyway after lots of hugs, some awkward, most not and “safe travels” we are ready to move on the next step in Mike’s & Clay’s adventure!

Despair.

One of the things I hate about cruising (just about the only one I guess) is that in order to empty the ship and have it ready for those who are going to be sleeping in my bed soon is to start getting you ready to leave well in advance. They gave us luggage tags two days ago, told us about our onboard account status yesterday, tonight was the ” final show”. What I don’t get live entertainment on my last night???? Anyway it all makes sense so that you have time to deal with any baggage or financial issues but it does put a damper on the last few days. This is especially true of this trip since we have a port day tomorrow and then they are throwing us off on Saturday morning.

Anyway, after a late start (I was up until well after 1 ya know) and two lattes and the delicious pistachio sticky bun we started to get ready by packing all our clean clothes this morning and filling up one suitcase. We have tried to load some of the heavier items from the backpacks (electronics mostly) to make them easier to deal with. Since we aren’t going to be flying, we have also expanded the rollaboards so that they hold a bit more…you could almost hear the zippers thanking us!

After lunch of burgers from the grill, we did a load of wash and packed up that stuff too, so hopefully tomorrow when we reboard in Valencia we will do a small load of the clothes we wear and basically have all clean clothes when we arrive at our first AirBnB. While it has a washer, the drying situation is unknown so the less we have to wash the better!

The Virginia Gentlemen (the UVA group) did a final performance this afternoon (standing room only) and frankly blew away all the other performers on board. In addition to being talented, they all seem to be fine guys and as Mike, Scott, Robert and I were once referred to while visiting San Francisco have been a breath of fresh air!

After their show, we went to tea, mostly for a scone! Then because we had leftover onboard credit from our agent, Mike got a haircut! It was the most expensive one he has even had at $39! But it looks great.

We then ate in the buffet since it got late after chatting over cocktails (and crab claws) with folks. We had Prime Rib which was tasty as was some finished to order mushroom risotto.

The final show was an ABBA Tribute.

Big Rock

Too dark to get a picture (damn clouds) so the picture above is from my friend google. But if you change the sunset colors to grays from the surrounding towns, add some clouds covering just the very top, add the sounds of waves and a hundred of your fellow passengers standing on a small deck after drinking too much, you will be able to imagine what passing by the Rock of Gibraltar looks like aboard Viking Sky at a little after midnight.

Here’s hoping that when we pass it again in November it will be in the daylight.

Goodnight!