BURN, BABY, BURN!

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

Mascletás

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Las Fallas official start of day 1

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

525313_10151539914862692_1629235700_nAbout 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.

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Having way to much fun during intermission, because you can´t just see it once!

Having way to much fun during intermission, because you can´t just see it once!

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Fallas

Notice this is much higher than the apartment building behind it

Fire spinning Falla! Notice this is much higher than the apartment building behind it

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.

One cute dragon ninot that makes up another enourmous Falla

One cute dragon ninot that makes up another enormous Falla

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 falla right outside of our study center .. appropriate

The falla right outside of our study center .. appropriate

Falla infintal These are much smaller and get erected first and burned first

Falla infintal
These are much smaller and get erected first and burned first

A ninot that is just a piece of one huge falla

A ninot that is just a piece of one huge falla

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It´s Jack!

Paella

foto de mi amiga Alex Tellez

foto de mi amiga Alex Tellez

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!

Fuegos Artificiales

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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!

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Desfiles

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Fitting right in

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:

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The start of the virgin

The start of the virgin

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.

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Fallera picking flowers for la ofrenda

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The Virgin composed of flowers

The Virgin composed of flowers

483781_10151594595295439_1843818022_nCabalgada 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!

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The battlefield

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

Nit de La Crema 2013 View of the city from the top found this photo online

Nit de La Crema 2013
View of the city from the top
found this photo online

The trojan horse falla gets lit

The trojan horse falla gets lit

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.

Fallera very sad it´s over

Fallera very sad it´s over

Falla infintal are the first to go

Falla infintal are the first to go

Next, our Falla goes up in flames!

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Tent hopping and ran into this!

Tent hopping and ran into this!

Ciao bella

Ciao bella

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!

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Spontaneity in Segorbe -January 12, 2013

Our plan was to bathe in the hot springs of Montanejos, but like most things, it did not go as planned. Saturday morning rolled around and to my surprise a good number of us were up and ready to take on a new part of Spain, it was not even 9:30am which is a time of day rarely seen in the study center (unless you are going to class, but this was a Saturday). The adventure began as soon as we walked out side of the study center, since we are on Spanish time here, naturally we were late. So we hailed a cab to take us 1/2 a mile to the bus station to make our 10 o’clock Montanejos bus! 9:55 we arrive, on time! We searched for our bus, and to our dismay the bus to Montanejos came everyday besides Saturday. Plan B, their was no Plan B. W were already at the bus station so we had one other option, Segorbe. This is a small medieval town located in the region of Valencia and province of Castellon. So we got on the bus and into the mountains we went!

The town was beautiful, their were mountains as far as the eye could see and the sun rays were beaming strong as ever!

We made our way to the highest point of the town, and hung out for a while at the remains of an ancient medieval castle located on the hill of ‘la estrella’

The view of the town of Segorbe from the top of La Estrella hill

It was quite evidant to all of the locals that we did not belong in Segorbe, we were defenitly the youngest people in town.

We than made our way to the square of agua limpia where you could see people filling their water jugs with the clean spring water. Segorbe is a town that is heavily devoted to it’s agriculture. On our ‘hike’ we stumbled into some gardens, the hard work was evident in the development and structure of these gardens.

Mountain side garden in Segorbe

Natasha and I flying high in Segorbe
(photo by Mili)

We explored the entire city in a little under 6 hours, if you are around the region of Valencia during Segorbe’s famous ‘Entrada de toros y caballos‘ which takes place in early September, this would be the time to check out the town. Thousands of tourist come to Segorbe to see the horses lead the bulls in the street. From the looks of the town, I feel that this is their main event of the year, a festival not to miss!

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The essence of pleasure is spontaneity.”  -Germaine Greer

DAY 1 (recap) let the new year begin!

I love to write, but I have never had a blog. After reading a few school mates blogs I realized… why not? Si o no? SI! So here it goes… I have been keeping a journal of my time in Espana but now this will go beyond that so my friends and family on the other side of the pond can keep up with me… because it is a little difficult to find time in between school and a 6 hour time difference to skype.

After spending my summer in Vail,Colorado my return back to Tallahassee was not pleasant. I missed waking up to breathe taking scenery and having endless amounts of new territory to explore, so August 20 when I arrived back in Tallahassee, known to most of us as “Tallanasty” I knew my time back would be temporary. Rather than taking a semester off and putting my self behind in school I came across my University’s study abroad program. Since I am an international Affairs major, this sounded perfect! My major would allow me to go to Valencia, Spain or Florence,Italy; it didn’t take me long to pick Spain. Being half Puerto Rican and Half Spanish, my great-grandfather was from the region of Gailica, it seemed perfect to go back to my “roots.”

And finally the day came December 30, my best friend, who is studying in Bilbao, and I set off for a trek across the sea and landed in Valencia, Spain on New Years Eve, a night were people tend to party… so I’ve heard 😉 My program started Jan 3, so we had a few days before hand to explore the city. First stop, bed! After coming off of a full day of flying with no sleep because I was to hopped up on excitement to rest, we knew we needed to nap before the New Years eve festivities began. We slept the day away and woke up at 11 pm! We quickly got ready and hailed a cap to the “city center” were most of Valencia would be drinking champagne and eating the traditional 12 grapes for good luck!

The sun begins to peek out over the port in Valencia
photo by Abby

Yellow and pink encompass the first skies of 2013!
Photo by Abby

Well our cab driver wasn’t the wisest of them all and dropped us off near (what I would later find out) Plaza de la Virgen. The streets were empty, so we tried to hurry to the city center to ring in the new year, that didn’t happen.  The clock struck 12 and we were in the middle of Plaza de la Virgen, which is A OK with me! Long story short we met a great group of Germans and danced all night than proceed to watch the first day of 2013 come to light over the calm waters of the Mediterranean.