Valencia/Las Fallas â€“ Day 2
On my first full day in Valencia, I set out to experience all of the daily Las Fallas events. Most days followed the same schedule, with additional things happening toward the end of the festival. For that reason, I wanted to be sure I saw everything at least once, in case something came up later on in the week that kept me from seeing something. Every morning there was supposed to be a despertÃ (wake up call) at the crack of dawn, in the form of marching bands and firecrackers waking up the whole town. I slept with earplugs in, so I can’t attest to this. However, in Valencia you are essentially living in a constant state of noise throughout the entire festival, at all hours of the day, so I’m not sure I’d even be able to tell that something special was happening. There seemed always to be a band making their way down the street or firecrackers going off just around the corner. Maybe it was just a more organized and concentrated racket of noise in the morning?
At 2pm daily was the mascletÃ , or daytime fireworks. Apparently it is almost unique to Valencia, which doesn’t surprise me ’cause I didn’t even know you could do (or see) daytime fireworks. Naturally, this takes place in the biggest open space in town, the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. The place was MOBBED, but not to the point that everyone was smushed together like sardines. I had plenty of elbow and camera room, but I did have to make my way through the masses to find my spot. And god was it sunny! It felt well into the 80′s, though I don’t think it was quite so hot. I just hadn’t felt heat like that since last summer, and it felt damn good. The fireworks and firecrackers were shot off by the fountain and above the Fallas, and all you could see was the big clouds of smoke they were creating. But above all, it was LOUD. So loud that I was able to hear them the next day a few miles away. It sounded like the town was under attack with guns firing. But after awhile, you just get so used to hearing cracks and booms that you barely bat an eye (or ear?). It becomes normal.
Afterwards, I deemed it time to try Valencia’s famed horchata y fartones. Horchata is a yellowy, creamy drink made from tiger nut apparently. It’s delightful. And you’re meant to dip fartones (long, thin pastries with powdered sugar on top) in them. It was nothing short of downright delicious. I tried them at Santa Catalina, one of the oldest horchaterias in town, surrounded by loads of other tourists doing exactly the same thing. I don’t blame them at all, ’cause the stuff’s so good.
I pretty much spent the afternoon just wandering around. Everywhere I turned, I saw people setting off firecrackers on side streets or in squares. You wouldn’t believe how many kids were playing with them! Somehow seems wrong, coming from a society plagued by so many strict rules. Then just when I think I’m used to all the noise, a firecracker will go off a few feet to the side as I’m walking by and startle me. It’s a little unnerving to think about what would happen if the timing were slightly off – what if I stepped right into an exploding firecracker?! I feel like that had to have happened to some people over the course of the week. I can’t be staring at the ground the whole time while I’m walking around, so I spent three straight days being a wee bit paranoid about it. Thankfully I survived the festival unscathed, but still.
One of the things I was most looking forward to at Las Fallas was seeing the Flower Procession, a seemingly never-ending parade that takes place over the course of two days (from 4pm-1am technically, though I’m pretty sure it lasted longer than that). Falleres from each neighborhood don their party clothes (I mean, native dress) and march in packs all through town, ultimately ending up at the Plaza de la Virgen, where the women pass off the flowers they’ve been carrying for deposit in the massive Virgen statue in the square. Representatives use the flowers to fill in the frame, so that by the end of the two days there is a massive, colorful statue of the Virgen sitting right in front of the church.
I loved seeing each neighborhood progress down the street. They would all have a similar format, with individuals leading the pack carrying poles and special items, followed by families holding hands, couples, women pushing strollers, packs of little girls or boys (usually separate), marching bands. I was so entranced by their amazing costumes! Every outfit looked different, yet so intricate. The preteens looked kind of exasperated to march, while the older folks had big smiles on their faces and the little kids were obedient but looked tired. I don’t know how many neighborhoods are in Valencia, or how many times each marched through town, but the parade went ON and ON and ON and I felt like I was seeing the same people after awhile.
I took a quick break from the procession to meet Natasha at the train station, but she got held up elsewhere and couldn’t meet me. Of course I didn’t know this since I had no phone, but I assumed as much (and was right). I didn’t mind too much, and took the liberty of heading back to the hostel to relax for a bit and, uh, not carry my heavy camera bag for a little while. I also forced myself to answer a bunch of business emails. It was a wee bit depressing to be hanging out in the lounge area working while the bar area was quickly filling up with people getting ready to party. I had no idea what I’d get up to later on that night, but I sure wasn’t going to stay in.
Then, with near-perfect timing, a girl came and sat next to me on the couch and struck up a conversation just as I was finishing up my last email. I met Deidre, an American currently studying abroad in Madrid, and we talked Euro-travel for a good while before deciding to go out for drinks and tapas. Thank God I was eating with someone who spoke fluent Spanish and could identify most foods on offer! People, take note: if you want to make quick friends with me, you’re pretty much guaranteed to if you bring up either a). travel, or b). photography, two topics which I could blab about for hours on end. When I meet people while traveling, it’s pretty much guaranteed to find common ground regarding the former topic
Another topic of discussion we got into was walrus porn – yes, you read right. Deidre highlighted her afternoon spent at the aquarium at La Ciudad de Las Artes y las Ciencias and how she had witnessed some walruses going at it for quite some time. I was planning on going there tomorrow, at least to La Ciudad, but clearly now I had to check out the aquarium (Oceanografico) as well I mean, who doesn’t love watching a good walrus romp? (*cough*)
We watched a bit of the Flower Procession as the flowers were passed off to be added to the Virgen statue, then I caught the fireworks show back near the hostel. Unbeknownst to me, they were being set off really closeby. I just followed the masses of people down the street and before I knew it, I had fireworks practically slapping me in the face. I would gaze up at them and it would feel like they were falling straight at me. They seemed SO CLOSE it was insane. I would even venture to say they rival the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks. Macy’s has a few big displays in a row on the river, so it ends up being one massive fireworks show. The fireworks for Las Fallas were just one display, but there were so many different kinds of fireworks going off within it that you couldn’t look away. It was absolutely amazing. I even have a video to prove it!: