We had Thursday and Friday off of school this week, and I went with some other people on my program on a day trip to Valencia for Las Fallas. We met up at the Hard Rock Cafe near the Colon metro, and there were probably 12 or so people from Carlos III. I met (or possibly re-met) two people who also live in Getafe! They were both really cool, I ended up spending the day with them after we split from the larger group. I'm excited to hang out with them and the rest of the Getafe crowd soon :)
So! We got on a bus with a whole gaggle of Americans and other European students and our "guide" (he really just gave us a pamphlet and insurance info) put in a movie. It took over 4 hours to get there, and we ended up watching all of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the better part of Gladiator. I also spent a lot of time looking out my window and admiring the beauty of the countryside. It was a really lovely day to be spending on a bus, but the view made up for it. Rolling hills, greenery, blue skies and sunshine. Perfect day for Valencia!
Valencia is beautiful. We were in the main part of the city, characterized by wide parisian boulevards, palm trees, orange trees, and charming architecture. I would love to go back for a weekend later in the spring - Daniel and Joanna, my traveling companions and new friends, agreed with me wholeheartedly. The festival of Las Fallas really brought the city alive. Allow me to explain Las Fallas: the celebration is of the patron saint of Valencia, and the fallas themselves are like floats, and are worked on all year long before the festival. In every plaza, there was a huge work of art that rivaled (no, beat) the works of Disney and Pixar. Towering animated figures with themes that ranged from folklore to modern politics and art. One that I saw had all of the major Academy Award winners with their little golden oscars. Many others spoke volumes of the current economic crisis in Spain. The big catch? The fallas are not only to look at... they are 100% flammable and set to burn at midnight!
Here is our chain of events (my 2 amigos and I):
* Started with large group, but after a while the 3 of us drifted away to have our own fun.
* Walked around and looked at all the fallas, large and small. Took tons of pictures!
* Bought cream-filled churros dipped in chocolate. Mmmm
* Watched part of the parade (great music and beautiful folkloric dress)
* Ate dinner in a small, authentic cafe: bottle of merlot, salami, bread, and patatas bravas. YUM
* Watched a small falla (kid's falla) burn at 10! Coolest thing ever. The firemen poured alcohol all over the float, then lit fireworks to start the madness. Once it caught, it went down quickly! The kids loved it too :)
* Ducked into a small cerveceria to buy e1,50 Budweiser - cold beer tasted fantastic in the midst of the smoky city
* Daniel and Joanna buy Aqua de Valencia: amazing Valencian orange juice & cava (Spain's own special champagne). I tried some and it was delicious!
* The finale: the burning of the large Fallas! They were seriously as tall as the apartment buildings. The small ones cost 6 thousand euro to build, and the first place large on cost over 1 million euro! It's intense. The fires were really beautiful. We snagged a spot in front of a huge one featuring a viking woman and other characters (one giving the bird, lol) and got munchies to pass the time. Finally, it began: they set off tons of fireworks above the falla to start, and then set off the firecrackers they had tied around the floats which started the fire. The fire was crazy! It smoked a ton and then finally engulfed the whole float. It was incredibly hot and we all moved backward. Good thing too, because as it burned, things like Viking Woman's Arm started to fall off and roll around in their fiery state. It was incredible, I took tons of pictures and video. Daniel has an excellent camera and I can't wait to steal his pictures on Facebook!
* Back to bus for an uncomfortable ride home. Daniel, Joanna and I wearily took the metro then Cercanias Renfe back to Getafe. I am so glad we hung out in Valencia, they are both really friendly and interesting people and the 3 of us had quite the groovy time exploring the city. Valencia bellisima, amistad nueva. Que FANTASTICA!
Viva las Fallas! Viva Valencia! :)