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!