I’m so excited to tell you about my most recent adventure!
Last weekend, my roommate, Rose, and I headed out to Valencia to enjoy and celebrate the festival of Las Fallas! For those who don’t know, it’s a massive and historic festival filled with politically-charged sculptures made from wood and paper-mâché, parades in traditional medieval gowns and attire, and LOTS of fireworks (actually everywhere) and fires. Each of these fallas (at least one for every community, so 750 sculptures) are set on fire one-by-one on the last evening of the festival until it reaches the crema which is in the center of the city. It is a truly unique and beautiful celebration and if you have the opportunity to see it, you must!
On our first day, we took a bus trip to the Valencia which took almost 7 hours (thanks traffic), checked into the Airbnb and went straight to the beach (of course)! It was a beautiful day and we had lucked out with great weather yet again, so we had a cocktail and ate paella marisco (a Spanish specialty dish with rice, spices and seafood) along the beach. After changing into warmer clothes for the evening, we took a taxi to the center of the city to see some of the fallas. The crowds were insanely large and we had to constantly push through crowds in order to make it to comfortable spots in the mix. People were taking pictures, drinking in the streets, singing, dancing, and just having a great time. We indulged in a few drinks before eventually retiring back to the AirBnb. However, instead of going straight back, we encountered one of the near by community’s parties with a live band, so of course we had to stop and dance with the locals! Afterwards, we were ready for sleep and to start the next day.
The following day we took a bus straight to the center of the city. After wandering around looking at the fallas, we went to see a few of the parades. The first was the parade of all of the communities in the medieval attire. The dresses are so beautiful and cost around 2000-3000 euros (some even had matching shoes with the same fabric) and the men wore espadrilles, shorts and scarves around their heads that made them look like sailors or pirates. Girls and women of all ages would be dressed (even babies) and some even decorated their strollers. In between, we went to see (or better hear) the Mascletá which is a huge and extremely loud fireworks display that takes place at 2 pm everyday. You could hear it from miles away! After that we attended L’Ofrena de flors which was another parade. Women carry bouquets of flowers as an offering to the Virgin Mary at Our Lady of the Forsaken church. The flowers are then taken by people to place them in a huge statue to assemble her cape. This was so unique to me and a really beautiful tradition to witness. After the parade, we went back to the apartment where we could relax and nap before we went for the evening activities. We went an hour and a half early to watch the fireworks show on the bridge so we could have a decent view and unfortunately got trapped in a huge amount of people when we went to leave. We were stuck for a whole hour in one spot! Once we made it out, we had a cocktail to shake off the nerves and then went back to the apartment where we decided to relax instead of being a part of the insanity. The party didn’t stop until 4 am and fireworks are shot off at all hours, so getting any sleep was a blessing!
On the third day, we headed back to the center, but it was so quiet during the whole day due to everyone sleeping after all of the partying. We were able to walk around, take in all of the fallas and truly enjoy ourselves without pushing through all of the crowds. After a few hours, we headed towards the Ciutat de les Arts I les Ciéncies (“the Arts and Science Center”) which was even more beautiful that I had imagined. It is a huge open area with Gaudi-like architecture and pools of water surrounding the buildings and a small park. We had a great time walking around and having a little photo shoot of our own! After some time we eventually headed over to the Calvacada del Foc which was the last parade. It was the complete opposite of the other ones with people dressed in scary costumes running around with squealing fireworks attached to sticks. It was absolutely insane and basically everything your parents told you never to do but very fun to watch! After peaking around a few more of the fallas, we headed back towards our Airbnb after fortunately we made it in perfect timing. As soon as we got in, the crema was starting! All of the fallas are burned starting from the outside of the city and work their way in as firemen become available after putting out the previous falla burning. So, when we arrived back at our place, we were able to watch the one sitting outside of our Airbnb from our porch! They start with a small fireworks display from where the falla is, then a chain of fireworks several feet from the outside that ends at the sculpture and catches the falla on fire. It burned through in about 15minutes and was controlled so well for being in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It was definitely a sight to behold and an unforgettable experience!
After a lunch with Christine and a very long bus ride home, we finally made it back to Madrid. It was a wonderful and unforgettable experience with a new and wonderful friend! I can’t wait for our next trip together in May!
-Stephanie in Spain