Since I was extremely silent on here for the month of March, I need to explain why!
- The first 3 days of the month were spent in Prague
- Than the beginning of March kicked off the festivities for Las Fallas festival, the main events being from March 14- March 19
- Mallorca road trip March 22- 25
- Barcelona school trip March 25 – 28
Until I knew I was moving to Valencia, I had no idea what Las Fallas was. Although no amount of words and pictures will be enough to justify these 5 days, I will certainly try my best. Starting on the first day of March Mascletás go off in the city center everyday at 2pm, these are day time fireworks that are louder than any noise I have ever heard, but it is beautiful and every day is in a different symphonic order. Plaza del Ayuntamiento is completely filled with people everyday until the Mascletás come to an end on the last day of Las Fallas, March 19. As each day gets closer to the end of the festival more and more people fill the streets surrounding the launch site in Plaza del Ayuntamiento and it actually feels like you are swimming in a sea of people, usually I am not one for huge crowds, but it is amazing seeing the plaza fill up more and more each day with people from all over town, the country and even the world! Than stopping to think, I live here!
Espectáculo de luces
About a week before the kick off date of Las Fallas officially starts, el espectáculo de luces (light show) that happens, every night for 7 days in the district of Ruzafa! I have been to my fair share of raves and Disney world parades, but wow, Disney has nothing on Las Fallas. The light show would start at 8pm and reoccur every 30 minutes until 10pm to the beat of a few different songs, the funniest was “scream and shout” and seeing a little girl on her dad´s shoulders saying “it´s Brittney bitch.” The first days of this were the best because we had free range to move and dance as crazy as we wanted, the last few days of Fallas it got pretty packed, as if there was actaully a live concert happening, nope, just the lights.
It will happen almost over night, you are strolling through any of the 350 neighborhoods in Valencia (Fallas-communities in this case) and bam, there is a huge sculpture in front of your eyes that was not there just a few hours ago. Each Falla-community commisions two fallas-sculptures, a falla and a falla infintal. Each falla is made up of ninots. These are the figurines that all together make up the multi-faceted story of the falla. The bigger the falla, the more money that community has. The most expensive Falla this year was 600,000 Euros (x1.3=USD). The fallas are typically satirical, playing on political figures, movie stars, even Steve Jobs.
The artist and teams who commission these fallas spend about 364 days working on them, the most fascinating part is on the last day of Las Fallas, every single falla (except the one voted best) gets burned to the ground!
The most typical dish to Valencia is the Paella, my favorite being Paella de Marisco (Seafood), the most typical one is made with rabbit and chicken. During Las Fallas, each Falla– community has their own tent to party, dance and make Paella! I ate so much Paella this week, before Fallas even officially started our class was invited to a multicultural desert competition which also came with all the Paella and Sangria you could drink! The following day our falla tent had a Paella competition between the teachers, which obviously also included all the Paella you could eat. It is really neat seeing this dish be prepared because when it is made for the masses they use these huge pan´s over an open fire. It is a science and also an art, things were heating up (quite literally) and the winner went to a FSU favorite, Professor BJ. I was sure to try all of the Paellas, my favorite being the one with snails, shell and all!
One thing that can always make me lose my breath is fire works, in Spanish, Fuegos Artificiales, I have spent countless holidays at the beach, New Years on the bay and 4th of July at Epcot (Disney park) but no fire works show I have ever seen in my life can come close to the fire works I saw in Valencia during Las Fallas, even my friends mom who has seen a lot more years than we have agreed. Every night for 5 nights at the amazing river bed park at 12 (or 1) fire works would go off for 30 minutes, 45 minutes honestly I have no idea, forever! Each night topped the last, with what seemed like cannons of golden glitter exploding in the sky, everyone was going crazy. The entire park was full of people screaming and hollering for these explosions in the sky!
A very important part of Las Fallas is el desfiles, the parades. Whether it is the falleras and falleros or just people dressed up with their fallas tent, people are always going to be marching with the tradational fallas pasodobles. While you can see parades at any given time during this 5 day fiesta, it is important to note 2 imoprtant parades during the week:
Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados This is when Falleras big and small march to the plaza de la virgen (right near where I live) with bouquets of flowers they present to a towering statue of Virgin Mary. The streets are blocked off and it is an obstacle course making it a few plaza´s down town, but so entertaining it´s worth the wait! It is a nice change of pace, the whole week you are bombarded with the smells of fire and smoke but during la ofrenda the plaza is filled with scents of flowers.
Cabalgada del fuego was the craziest parade I saw during the week, or maybe during my life! This parade is a prelude to la crema bringing 300 hell fires out to play. Ladies in firey red costumes, men dressed up as el diablo and fire, fire, fire! The crowd was out of control on Calle Colon but luckily my class mate Alex managed to snap some awesome shots!
In the middle of the city stretching for miles is a park, where a river once was, but has now been converted to an enormous stretch of land where there are different kinds of exercise equipment, play grounds, museums, everything! But during Las Fallas the riverbed turned into a war ground. It was impossible to walk through here at night without a constant suspension of a fire cracker coming down from above. The first night that the boys in my program found the pyroshop we had a battle. Some of us were on a bridge overlooking the river bed and the rest of us were down below. Tossing firecrackers back and forth, drinking and playing with fire… not a safe combo, but no one lost any body parts (from our program) which shocked me a little.
Nit de La Crema
The highly anticipated crema happens on the last night of Fallas, by this time everyone’s bodies are drained from the constant boozing, lack of sleep and infinite walking. Even though we were on day 5 of constant fiesta the fact that is was all coming to an end was quite sad, but the show must go on, and that it did. Nit de la Crema, night of the cremation, is what all the partying leads up too. A spring cleaning some say. I got to see 3 different Fallas burn and it got hot! As each falla goes up in flames fireworks accompany it.
Next, our Falla goes up in flames!
Las Fallas can never be put into a perfect description no matter how many words, photos or videos I use, but I hope this gave yáll an insight on how unique Valencian culture is. Alex Tellez made an awesome Fallas recap video i´ll post on here!