Valencia is on the list of the big three in my opinion. Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. If you go to Spain for more than a week and don't see at least two of these places you are really fucking up. I knew I had to go and check it out but due to how somewhat far it was from Madrid there was no rush... That is until a friend of mine came over one day and changed everything.
It was a typical weekend where I had people come over to relax, drink some beers, listen to some music, and just talk. My friend Jerry and I were chatting when he casually brought up that his girl friend told him about this festival that was coming up called Las Fallas.
He told me it was essentially a festival where the people of Valencia spend the whole year creating these elaborate art structures based on famous characters, political parties, etc. These structures could be any where from an average persons height to being absolutely humungous. For a week they celebrate this holiday with the last day being the unveiling of the structures and then after that........ they burn it. All of them. That's right, they light all these structures on fire in the middle of the streets and then have a huge fireworks display go off to signify the end of the festival.
Now I don't know about you, but I love fire. I always have. I use to have a small pyro obsession in high school that thankfully was just faze. But there is something so beautiful about the thought that these people were spending all year creating these objects just to watch it burn in the end that hypnotized me and you know the little boy in me was like, "YES. WATCH THEM BURN!!!"
In any case I was definitely intrigued and part of my mission of traveling throughout Spain is to try and integrate and be more apart of the Spanish culture. Spain has so many holidays, celebrations, and traditions that you really miss out on the country you are in when you don't go and participate. I knew by the end of my conversation with Jerry that I had to go, I had to be at this festival.
A Brief History Of Las Fallas: Fallas is a tradition celebration to commemorate Saint Joseph the husband of Mary in the Christian bible.
Alicia and I went only on the last day of the festival which was a friday due to the fact that we really couldn't afford to take time off of work to see more of it. This is ok though seeing as most of the festival celebration you'd want to see at this festival happen on the last day any ways.
So throughout the day during the festival they have different activities going on throughout town. One of them is called La Mascleta. We tried to get there before it started but unfortunately our train took a little longer than expected. We get off the train and there are just loud exploding firework noises going off non-stop. La Mascleta is known as the concert of gunpowder and I think that is a very accurate description of it. In the middle of the day it's just loud noises that go on for about an hour which leads up to the ending of it which is called Terremoto which is the loudest conclusion to the celebration. It felt like what I assumed a war zone would be like in the middle of war but instead of destruction and despair there was happiness and celebration. It is quiet difficult to get around in a new town and communicate with someone when you have to scream at them for them to hear you. It was a lot of fun when you get use to it especially since most people didn't seem to phased by it.
Las Fallas is like Mardi Gras on crack. (The whole city looking like a party part not the boobs, New Orleans still wins that)
This is a Falla. They range from different shapes and sizes and are scattered all around Valencia. Fallas are usually created by congregation of people year round where they pick a theme and get to work so they can display it for this very day.
Really love the movie references in this one.
The first large statue we saw. The details were simply incredible.
Valencia was packed with people from all around the world trying to get in on the action.
Corrida de Toros. A place to watch typical bull fights.
Amazing looking tree we past on the way to searching for our hostel.
"We are not weird for being different" "Mom, look! What a weird family!"
It was difficult not to get caught up is the festivities and the partying as soon as we got there. You got off the train and it was like a whole new world. But we knew we had to do the responsible thing first and get to our hostel so we could drop our stuff off.
Our hostel had a cool looking swing!
It was chilly at first but with all the alcohol in peoples systems no one seem to mind.
This was a mojito stand they had on the street. 5 euros for a large cup with mostly alcohol but slightly frozen making it super delicious and gets you drunk pretty fast. Two cups deep we were feeling really great throughout this fest.
This majestic beast is the subject of the main and final burning of the festival. Pictures don't really do it justice about how huge the the creation was.
These guys are all over Spain and they are creepy. Someone inside just sits there until you or an unsuspecting person walks by and then they move and make weird noises. All in hopes that you spare them a little coin. No thanks, I'd rather give money to the statue men.
Yes Dad, they even made The Enterprise.
Oh hey that's me!
So you know when you're on the boardwalk or at a fair and some parents decided it was a good idea to give their children those little popers that make a bang noise when you throw them on the ground? Imagine 24 hours of that except instead of it just being the popers it's actually fireworks. Total disregard to our precious ears, fireworks are going off and flying everywhere throughout the festival all day. At any given time your ears will take a beating but hey, it's part of the celebration!
That's not even a lot.
This guy had certainly an interesting spin on those frozen statue guys you see everywhere.
Surprising decent pizza for it being in Spain. Partying all day into the night we definitely needed a break to soak up some alcohol if we wanted to keep going.
So there are two main burnings that you are suppose to see. The big lion statue and one other and then spread out throughout the city you could stumble upon the mini burnings of all the statues I previously showed you. We asked one of the people working at our hostel to point us in the direction of the other burning since that went on at 11 and the main burning wasn't until 12. Well he circled it on our map and said, "it was cool" but that was it. Didn't tell us much about what to expect. Let me tell you, the words "cool" doesn't even come close to the jaw dropping, heart racing, beautiful, amazingness of what we saw.
Just wow. We did not expect to run into this amazingly humungous lit up arch way in the middle of Valencia. It seem to come out of left field. We stood there in awe staring at its beauty as music and festivities paraded around us. This is what we came for and we didn't even know it. It was so cool, bigger and more incredible than any art installation I've ever seen at a music festival I've been to.
I guess this is a good time to mention that.. she said yes! No, don't worry Mom and Dad, I haven't asked a girl I met a couple months ago to marry me but I did ask her to be my girl friend and she said yes and it was pretty wonderful :)
The best part, you could walk into it.
And inside was the other statue that was going to be burned.
What you don't realize until you start walking inside that it is somewhat of an optical illusion. It looks like one large connected object from afar but as you get close it's a bunch of lit up archways that follow one another.
Also lined with beautiful lit up art designs to its left and to its right.
And at its end was the statues that were to be burned.
The closer it got to the burning the more packed and tighter it got. The archway and the statue are in the middle of a street in between rows of buildings so it was easy to get really stuck somewhere once it started filing in. Alicia and I both get uncomfortable being surrounded by a lot of people so we took to the back once the burning began.
It's hard to make out the burning of things from a far but you can look at some glorious pictures I took of the fire.
You should also know that during these fires around town there are no safety barricades or anything around them so it was everyones duty to be very careful once the burning began.
After that burning we journey back to the giant lion statue to watch some fireworks before the final burning.
The fireworks were the longest and simply put the best fireworks display I've ever got to witness. An hour of non stop explosions in the sky that were simply memorizing. Definitely put the township of Livingston, NJ's 4th of July fireworks display I use to go to every year to shame.
My camera has a fireworks setting on it that turned out some interesting photos.
The burning of the final statue, The Lion, was the only statue they didn't allow anyone to get close to as they burned it. So we were barricaded by a side street watching it go down. I was only able to get some photos of it.
It definitely felt like some building was being demolished.
This is pretty much what the statues looked like once the burning had finished.
So the first day ended and it was a rollercoaster of culture and fun times and as we get back to our hostel very late at night (or very early in the morning!) It starts to down pour. Hard. The winds are so heavy that it literally slammed all the windows in our room wide open. We were lucky, some force allowed us a free pass of no rain yesterday so we could enjoy the festival and now everything was being dumped out today. Like many multiple day trips we've went on in the past I had created a schedule for things to do but this was definitely changed a lot due to weather conditions. Alicia and I's goal were one of two things:
1. Don't get wet
2. Don't get stuck inside
Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
So I knew pretty early on that Valencia was a place that I needed to visit. Las Fallas was the perfect excuse to get there but now that we were going to spend four days there in total and only one of them being the festival, we had to figure out what we were actually going to do. While typically googling 'Things to do in Valencia' City of Arts and Science was either number or close to the top. Now if you know me, you know that I love science. I mean, it just fascinates me on some level that is hard to explain which is funny when you go and look back at my science grades in high school (please don't).
The City of Arts and Science is comprised of three futuristic type buildings that are next to each other:
1. L'hemisferic - A gigantic IMAX sphere
2. L'oceanografic - a gigantic aquarium
3. Museo de la Ciencias - a gigantic science museum
Three things that are awesome in their own right all nicely put in one place for you to explore one at a time or all together. Between how much time we wanted to just explore each section and be conscious that the rain might pick up harder at a later point in the day we decided it would be best to not try and do all three places in one sitting.
Palua de les Arts Reina Sofia: This was a gigantic opera house that sat on the opposite side of the highway from the City Of Arts and Science. Magnificent to look at.
The building on the left is the Science Museum and the building on the right is the giant IMAX.
The first building we checked out was the science museum.
As demonstrated by Alicia this was a cool interactive exhibit which showed how force of motion and gravitation changed direction of the spinning wheel as you spun in the opposite of the wheel in your chair. Kind of hard to explain but you get the point.
As you can tell I didn't take a lot of pictures in the Science Museum because to be honest it was extremely underwhelming. The museum seemed confused at what it wanted to be at all times. Is it for kids? Is it for adults? Is it for both? Who knows? It has strange exhibits like learning about comfortability with shoes and beds (because you know, what 8 year old wouldn't want to learn about different soles of your shoes and how they effect your every day life) as well as the different types of wood trees produce and what they look like from the inside. This is not to say that we didn't have a good time, I think we spent at least 3 hours in this multi-floor building. But for every one thing we enjoyed I'd say there was about 4 things we could have done without. Definitely a one time thing that does not bare a repeat.
Next up was the gigantic IMAX. Now from the outside you can make a pretty good guess that it's a large circular screen that you walk in and sit down to. Well that is half correct. It is a large circular screen but the building itself is just for show as everything takes place underground this building. It has four theaters showing different types of showings all about 20 minutes long (Underwater, Space, Micro-organism, etc.) some of which were strictly for kids. We opted for the space one (obviously). What was nice about this is that it came with its own headphones that you could set the language to (unlike the Amsterdam one which we watched in another language).
The screen was so massive I couldn't get the whole thing on camera.
The projector was awesome looking. The 20 minute IMAX movie was great, I got lost in the wonders of space like I've done many times before at an IMAX and I'd guess I'll do many times again.
While looking up things to in Valencia I had stumbled upon a bar named Hawaika which is a Hawaiian themed bar and it did not disappoint.
There is a live parrot that just chilling in the window that you can see from the outside.
The bar offered unique concoctions of alcoholic tropical drinks, some that would come out smoking!
.. and for the lazy (like myself) we were given gigantic straws to drink from
Girls bathroom door.
Guys bathroom door. (Looks like Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite!)
This was pretty much it for our second day. This whole trip was about moving our schedule around and changing things because of the weather and the rain did not help us out at all during our second day. So instead, we walked around and saw parts of Valencia when we could and then called it an early night so that we could wake up early and do more the next day.
We didn't wake up to a nicer looking Valencia but at least day 3 had way less rain than it did the previous day making going out a little more accessible than before.
We started our day getting lunch at an indoor open market, something that Spain is well known for. Walking around and being able to pick and choose different things to eat or to shop for is wonderful especially since you know what is being presented to you is fresh.
This market was huge with aisles and aisles of options
Valencia had some awesome street art to offer and I'm sure if we spent more time in the city I'd find even more. this reminds me a lot of something Banksy would create.
After our nice lunch we decided to return to the City of Arts and Sciences to do part 3 of grouping: The giant aquarium.
This was probably the largest aquarium I've been to so far. Long corridors to explore and multiple floors to visit which caused us to spend multiple hours discovering everything.
Quit clownin' around!
A huge eel came up just to say hello to all of us passing by, it was pretty hilarious as he stayed by the glass staring at all of us.
Then there was this dude. Just chillin.. casually..
Oh hello there!
The layout of the aquarium was quiet nice to, each section felt like it had its own look and feel to it.
You can't tell by the picture, but these special jellyfish were changing to all these beautiful colors, it was quiet amazing.
The seals were loving the kids as you can see
There was this really cool part that I've never seen before at an aquarium. It was a small tunnel that you crawl into that lead you into a small dome where you can be intimately surrounded by fish all around you. I'm pretty sure it was for kids more than adults but I snuck myself in any way :D It was really awesome.
When we got out of the aquarium we were teased with an hour with nice warm sun and we took advantage of it by going for a nice walk. We stumbled upon this park that was really nice with tons of flowers but hidden in the park was..... THE COOLEST JUNGLE GYM.....EVER!!!
It was a life sized human being jungle gym. Literally the coolest kids playground I've ever seen and it took all my energy to not run over and play on it like I was five.. and I really regret not doing so.
Torres de Cuart
Two towers that play a predominant part of Valencia is Torres de Cuart and Torres de Serrano. Our original goal was to go inside the tower and to the top but unfortunately (due to what I believe is the weather)
Institut Valencia d'Art Modern
A lot could be said about this museum of modern art. Mostly, it wasn't that great. It had its moments of awesome art work but most of the museum was filled with art that was either trying to hard to be different or... hating America. Yes, towards the end of this museum featured on the walls and as physical exhibits there was a lot of hatred to America which was very shocking to say the least. This was the first time being abroad and getting this weird feeling of not being wanted. Maybe that was part of the point of the art but it left us uncomfortable and confused as it didn't really fit in with the rest of the museum and to me was the lowest point of this trip.
Still not quiet sure what was going on in this room. Maybe they were trying to signal Superman.
Museo de Prehistoria de Valencia
I, unfortunately, couldn't get any really good pictures of the club we went to for the night but it was right by the City of Arts and Sciences next to the water. It was a really nice place to hold a club because it felt remotely away from the main city. It was to the side of a road by a highway with a nice view of the water and city of Valencia. The club had two rooms with two vastly different types of music, one being electronic and the other being reggaeton. This was one of the better club Alicia and I went to and we had a really good time here.
The last day and we had at least 6 or 7 hours to kill before we could leave.
Torres de Serranos
One of Valenica's most iconic and best conserved monuments in the city. It was built in the 14th century as the main entrance to the city and was made for defensive purposes. The monument really gives you a little taste of what old Valencia use to be like.
With it being Sunday and such an ugly day outside there really wasn't a lot to do because almost nothing was open. It started raining heavily in a little bit after we checked out the towers and we got trapped in a Starbucks. We finally decided to change our tickets to an earlier time to leave.
As soon as we started to head back to Madrid the skies cleared up and the sun started to shine.
Las Fallas was an incredible time in my life, the opportunity to experience another cultures festival celebration was something I'll never forget. I can't help but feeling that Valencia itself let me wanting more though. You can tell how amazing and fun the city can be when it's sunny out but it's not quiet the city to visit when you can't go to the beach and it's raining all week. I enjoyed Valencia but it wasn't my favorite, I think going back when it's warmer will change my opinion. Overall positive experience and I think if I'm here next year I'll be going back to celebrate Las Fallas again.