While my first semester in Spain involved a lot of traveling to foreign countries, my second semester has been characterized by travel throughout Spain. My second trip of the semester was to Valencia to see Las Fallas.
Las Fallas is Valencia’s major annual festival, celebrated in honor of San José (Saint Joseph). “Las fallas” are constructions built during the festival, kind of like parade floats except not mobile. Each neighborhood builds one, and awards are given to the best fallas before they’re lit on fire at the end of the festival. Because of our school schedule, we weren’t able to see the fallas-burning at the end of the festival, but we did get to see the fallas, participate in other festival events, and explore Valencia.
Connie and I took a bus (with fantastically comfortable seats) from Madrid to Valencia and then checked into our hotel, which seemed like pure luxury because it was a hotel, not a hostel (though we only paid a bit more than the price of a hostel room). So the trip started off great thanks to our bus seats and hotel room, and it got even better because the weather was gloriously warm. What I now call “gloriously warm” I used to consider cold (the temperature was in the 60s), but it was much warmer than it had been in Madrid for months. You’ve probably noticed that I frequently mention weather in these posts, and I’ve found that weather really does have a big effect on my mood, so hooray for wonderful Valencian weather and finally being able to wear short sleeves!
We picked up our traditional travel food of a baguette and cheese from a grocery store and then headed to a plaza for la mascletà, a daytime fireworks show. By the time we arrived, there were far too many people for us to see much, but we heard the fireworks from a few blocks away and then made our way to the plaza as soon as the show was over to see some of the fallas. People traditionally wear a specific design of checkered scarf during Las Fallas, so we bought scarves to look like true Las Fallas celebrators and walked around the old part of town, seeing fallas every few blocks.
We then followed the major long, narrow park, Jardín del Turia (man, Spain is really good at doing parks), to La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (the City of Arts and Sciences), Valencia’s monumental complex built in the late 90s that contains museums and an opera house and looks amazingly cool and futuristic. As we were walking through it, I really felt like I was on another planet. We visited the science museum, which I loved, as I love most science museums, and this one has a ton of interesting interactive exhibits. We stayed until the museum closed and then waited for the sun to set to get a view of La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias with its lights on (gorgeous!).
DNA model in the science museum.
La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.
The next day, we went to see la mascletà again, this time arriving early enough to be able to see the fireworks. Okay, sorry Valencianos, but, really? Fireworks during the day? That makes very little sense. Since fireworks are intended for dark, this show was really just a bunch of extremely loud noises and crazy amounts of smoke with a huge crowd of people. That’s a really negative description of it, but I still loved getting to see it, though I will say I honestly felt like I was at the bottom of the World Trade Center on 9/11 or something. Kind of frightening, but, hey, whatever floats your boat, Spaniards.
Once we got out of the crowd, we began our walk to the beach. The walk ended up being much longer and less scenic than we had expected, but we finally made it to the ocean! Weirdly, the beach was very industrial and lined with seemingly abandoned, run-down buildings rather than shops and restaurants like I’m used to seeing at beaches, but we eventually found the more populated part of the beach, got lunch at Pans & Co. (one of my favorite restaurants in Spain), and then relaxed on the beach for a bit.
Me on the beach, wearing my Las Fallas scarf.
Daytime fireworks are ridiculous, but, fortunately, Valencianos also like their fireworks at night, so that night we watched another fireworks show. I looove fireworks (at night), so this was great.
Valencianos, take note. This is how you do fireworks.
Our final day in Valencia, we explored a park near our hotel (pretty!), visited the fine arts museum (oh geez, I have most definitely had my fair share of fine arts while living in Europe), and then went to find paella, since it’s a specialty of Valencia. We eventually found a little, inexpensive restaurant that served paella as an appetizer (not exactly authentic we realized when we saw the frozen boxes of paella in their freezer, but still pretty good) and then went to watch a parade of Valencianos of all ages adorably dressed in traditional clothing.
That day was also St. Patrick’s Day, so we went to an Irish pub, ordered Guinness from an Irish bartender, and enjoyed the atmosphere and the Irish music (mostly U2) of course. Definitely the coolest St. Patrick’s Day I’ve ever had, even if I don’t like Guinness. And with that, we returned to Madrid on bus.
St. Patrick’s Day in an Irish pub.
I love being able to become more immersed in Spanish culture by participating in festivals, so going to Valencia for Las Fallas was really cool. Plus, Valencia is a very cute city, and living in landlocked Madrid makes seeing the ocean wonderful, so I had a great time. See more photos here.