From Barcelona to Valencia!
What a week!! Sunday night I returned to Barcelona from Sevilla, and Monday afternoon Katie and Andy (two of my closest friends) arrived in Barcelona! We spent Monday through Thursday in Barcelona before heading down to Valencia on Thursday evening to experience the amazing Las Fallas celebration!
It was so great showing Katie and Andy around Barcelona, hitting the main tourist attractions and also some of Kristina’s and my favorite spots! The sun was shining everyday- perfect weather for strolling and wandering; so that’s pretty much what we did when I wasn’t in class! With some sangria, tapas, siestas, and a taste of the nightlife, I think they got a pretty good taste of Barcelona! Olé! Here’s a picture of Kristina, Katie, and me, with the beautiful mountain of Montjuic (which we visited on Thursday) in the background!
Wednesday night, we all went to a Flamenco show with my program! The venue was super small and personal, and it was very entertaining to see some authentic Flamenco. There were a few live musicians, and one singer, and the singing style was so unique and interesting- like very expressive, and sometimes the lady sounded like she was wailing in pain. About halfway through a little girl, I think the daughter of the singer, came out on stage and first sang a song with the band, then danced a solo piece! It was so adorable, and she was so good! Such a cool tradition! Here’s a short video of the dancers!
Drum roll please……….. LAS FALLAS!!!! What an amazing experience! I feel like I can’t fully put it into words, and I’m pretty positive that no description or number of pictures could do it justice, but I’ll give it a whirl! So much to tell!
Well it all started Thursday night. Valencia is like the Spanish capital of paella, and since (I am embarrassed to say) I had yet to try paella, Thursday was the perfect day to do it! Plus, fyi, it is known in Spain that Thursday is the best day of the week to eat paella at a restaurant because it is always the freshest on Thursdays! Having received a recommendation to eat at the hotel restaurant, we tried our first paella there. And WOW…it was amazing! The waiter walks out of the kitchen with an enormous, maybe 1.5ft diameter, steaming paella de verduras (vegetable paella) with peppers, onions, beans, and artichokes. It had the perfect consistency, perfect taste…amazing!
A side note about Las Fallas: it is a big festival celebrated most in Valencia from March 12-19 every year with fireworks, fire crackers, music, all night parties, paella contests, and most importantly, the burning of Las Fallas. The ’fallas’ are float-like sculptures, made out of paper maché on wood, built throughout the entire year by teams of local artists, with each neighborhood sponsoring its own falla. The fallas are all satirical and they represent different things that have happened during the past year. They are displayed all over the city, and on Friday, March 19th, they all go up in flames and are burned to the ground! 2pm each day, there is a little of over five minutes of super loud fire crackers, noise makers and fireworks, called mascletá super loud and super fun!
Thursday night we headed into the city center a little after midnight and the metro ride into the city was packed tight with all sorts of people—families, kids, teenagers, drunken people singing songs—it was great! We arrived just in time for the big fireworks show of the night, and then strolled from street to street, checking out the amazing Fallas on display at just about every intersection and plaza. It was so cool we literally had no sense of direction, but there was so much going on that it was so easy to just stroll from place to place, always seeing something new and exciting. Beer stands, churros stands, music blaring, dancing, lots of firecrackers, you name it!
Since Friday is the last day of Las Fallas, it is of course the biggest day! And there was a ton going on during the day—lots of people, street musicians, paella cooking in the streets (YUM), tons of outdoor markets! Also it was interesting that there were soooo many people, lots of drinking, noise, crowds, and fun, and yet somehow it was all very civil! I don’t think we saw anyone getting out of hand the whole time- everyone was just enjoying themselves—how great! Here are some pics!
But Friday night is what really blew us away! After a siesta and some dinner we returned to the city center nice and early to see the first, smaller ‘fallas infantiles’ being burned at 10pm. They were being set off all over the place, and we caught front row spots for one from start to finish. JAW DROPPING. We crowded around the gated falla as the firemen prepared, draping a long fuse all over it, splashing some gasoline, etc. Then this family arrived, super dressed up in like hoop skirts, Princess Leia hair, and special costumes. We were thinking that this family was either the main sponsor or main builder of this particular falla. Okay, so finally it was time…first--> fireworks! Because we were so close they were right over our heads and so low so there was firework debris raining down on us--> it just added to the excitement of it all! Then they lit the fuse, which had firecracker explosions leading up to the sculpture and then the falla went up in flames! Super opaque red-orange flames with thick black smoke billowing up! We watched it burn in amazement until even the frame burnt to the ground! THEN the dressed up family returned around the statue as the flames grew smaller and they were bawling! We were so confused at first, but then realized that this is what they dedicate all of their time to for an entire year, and this night is the culmination/destruction of all of their hard work! It was just so much more emotional that we were previously aware-even the grown men were crying! And then a bunch of people, who seemed to be everyone from their neighborhood joined hand and circled around the remains of the falla, chanting some sort of kids song in Spanish! We had known what to expect, but this was SO much more than we were expecting! We were speechless! Here are some pictures, but i am going to try and post a video of it soon!
But there’s more, because that was only a small falla, and we also caught the BIGGEST falla from start to finish! After waiting an hour in the super packed crowd, the anticipation was built up! The whole process was just like the small falla, times a million! The fireworks alone were so much more than I’ve ever seen on any 4th of july or new year’s celebration! The sky was completely lit up, flashing red, pink, white, unreal!!! The firecrackers went off, and when this hugeee falla lit up in flames it was just incredible! Huge huge flames with super thick smoke filling the sky, and a sea of red sparks and fireballs hovering over the crowds of people that extended for blocks! It was like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life!
Saturday was our last day, and since Las Fallas was technically over, it was our chance to check out the city without the giant crowds. We hit the beach for a little snooze, the park for a little lunch, and the Cathedral, where we climbed the bell tower for some great views of the city before seeing what is rumored to be the Holy Grail! I actually loved Valencia as a city! It’s really beautiful and white and spacious, with some really quaint narrow streets as well! Maybe my second favorite (after Barcelona, of course)!!!! It was a nice relaxing day, and the perfect way to end our amazing weekend! What a visit!
NEXT UP....Prague, Vienna, and a visit from the fam!! (minus niki and ana!)