On the 23rd March I returned from Valencia where I spent 9 days enjoying the festival of Las Fallas, it was beyond an amazing experience and without a doubt I will be returning to Fallas in coming years!
A little bit of history on Las Fallas:
Fallas (Falles in Valencian) are the statues that are burnt on the last Sunday of the celebration and the word comes from the Latin for ‘torch’. Each area of Valencia has a ‘casal faller’, a group of people that organise the activities for that neighbourhood, each casal faller also builds a falla that is to be burnt. During the time of Fallas, each of the casal fallers have street parties that involve music, food and parties in giant tents.
Here are a few photos of the Fallas that are built around the city:
Las Fallas is said to have started in the middle ages when people burned items they have collected over winter to celebrate the start of spring. It was then joined with the festival of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.
On 30/11/2016, Las Fallas was added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list, allowing us to have an even greater experience! There was a mini burning of a falla scheduled to celebrate the UNESCO naming in November but in true Spanish style, it was cancelled because of the rain!
Although Las Fallas is only a 5 day and night event, it is celebrated for weeks before too! Not only this but the Fallas are designed and constructed over the entire year!
There are many parts to Las Fallas such as;
La Despertà, a musical procession at 8am each morning of the cultural festival designed to wake up the city, following the band is the Casal Faller who throw the firecrackers!
La Mascletà, a firecracker and fireworks show at 2pm every day in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento. So many people pack into the Plaza and the surrounding streets that it’s pretty impossible to get a good view but you can feel the floor shaking with all the explosions and the noise is deafening!
Each casal faller also has their own ‘mini’ mascletàs during the festival too!
L’Ofrena de flors, the offering of flowers in Plaza de Virgen, there is a giant wooden construction built where on the Saturday and Sunday people offer flowers and the dress of the construction is created using the offerings.
La Nit del Foc, is the last fireworks display on the Turia, each night there is a massive firework display which progressively gets bigger over the week (it also gets later into the night) the final night is the night of fire which is the Sunday night.
La Cremà, is final event of fallas, the burning of all the fallas constructions all over the city. La Cremà translates to ‘the burning’ which pretty much describes it perfectly. One falla, the winner is saved every year and is put into the Fallas Museum. The burning begins at 10pm with all of the children’s’ fallas which are usually places next to the larger structures.
Each Falla has a firework display before the burning and then it is set up with a mini mascletà or firecrackers lit from a distance which then ignites the firecrackers inside of the falla and also lights the petrol that has been poured on just before the burning, leading to one huge fire burning.
Usually the Falla in Plaza de Ayuntamiento is the last to be lit, this one is usually made from the old techniques using wood rather than the modern materials.
Each night the casal fallers hold street parties usually private however there is music all over the city and the Valencian people party in the street for the whole night! Some streets, especially in Ruzafa have huge light displays covering the entire street and every night of fallas they play music and have performances with the lights.
I arrived in Valencia at 11pm on 14th after spending an entire day in Rome. From Rome city centre, Sara took me to Termini to get the coach to Ciampino airport, the coach was €5 and took just under an hour, Ciampino is a pretty small airport and I didn’t have any checked luggage so it was a really quick process to get to the gate.
As with any flight in or out of Valencia, we were delayed, only about half an hour but even so we ended up landing early!
Having landed in Valencia at just before 23:00 I only had 25 minutes to get onto the last metro which was a bit of a faff as the ticket machines didn’t take card, so I had to find a cash point in the airport, then it wouldn’t take €20 notes, and then I had to ask pretty much everyone left in the airport for change for my 20! I eventually got a ticket and made it onto the metro with a minute to spare!
Clementine came to meet me at Facultats metro and I don’t think I could have been any happier to be back on Spanish soil. You don’t realise how much you miss a place until your back!
I dropped my bags off at Clementine’s and then we headed out to Big Ben, it was so lovely seeing everyone again but we were all shattered and headed home for the start of my Fallas celebrations the next morning!
Day 1, Wednesday 15th: In Valencia was a pretty packed day. Clementine and I got up early to get into the city centre as we needed to drop our stuff at Kelly’s before going to see the Mascletá in Plaza de Ayuntamiento. Like normal in Valencia, we arrived much later than we wanted and therefore were pretty far away from the Mascletá itself however it’s also all about the noise and we could see the top of the Mascletá and the bangs were still loud enough to hurt!
Afterwards we ate at Ubic Library Café in Ruzafa before exploring the city a little bit.
In the evening, we went to the boy’s flat to predrink before Rumbo. Like every time at Rumbo144, there’s no middle ground between sober and beyond a reasonable drunk which set the bar for the rest of the week!
Day 2, Thursday 16th: We explored the Fallas and the events in the city centre, and then we explored Ruzafa and went out in the Ruzafa street parties at night. The street parties around Valencia and especially in the Ruzafa area during Fallas are incredible and I think I could only describe them as similar to those in Notting Hill Carnival. Stages and tents are set up on many streets and thousands of people head out to party until 4 in the morning. The street party on Calle de Cuba was the biggest in Ruzafa and it was amazing as it took place under the Calle de Cuba street lights.
During Fallas pyrotechnic shops and stalls open up all over the city where you can buy small sparklers and firecrackers for children, up to huge firecrackers that make the loudest bang when you set them off. Obviously living the Fallas experience, we all bought firecrackers, some of us only getting the little ones that you throw on the floor to explode, up to the huge ones that the boys bought!
Day 3, Friday 17th: Livvie and Yasmin arrived in Valencia for Fallas from Granada and Mallorca so we showed them the Fallas and the events in the city centre and then took them for a picnic in the Turia before heading to the City of Arts and Sciences. After we went to La Malvarossa, the beach to see the Malvarossa light show before heading back to the city centre to the street parties in Ruzafa.
Day 4, Saturday 18th: Saturday was the day before the main event of Fallas so obviously the city was absolutely packed! There was a parade of all of the casal fallers and the falleras, which meant all of the roads were closed off to the pedestrians, instead there was one way path systems and huge metal bridges that had been constructed over the roads to allow people to pass. However, the sheer number of people meant that it was as packed as a mosh pit and moving 200m took up to half an hour. As we were all hungover, tired and hungry it wasn’t the best of things to be doing but once we had eventually crossed the road and were able to find a little bit of food we were able to explore El Carmen a little bit and the Fallas that had been constructed there. The aim of the day was to find the Donald Trump falla in El Carmen, but El Carmen is a fairly confusing area and we didn’t really stand a chance. Instead we found a Falla that was constructed similar to how the old ones used to be constructed and we also stumbled upon an Aladdin falla that was huge!
Every year the fallas are constructed around a similar theme, which meant this year there were many that had Donald Trump incorporated in one way or another. In the Aladdin Falla, they depicted Theresa May steering a sinking boat to represent Brexit, whilst Donald Trump watched on and monkeys covered in the British flag raised their middle fingers to the rest of Europe! It was interesting to see how the Valencian casal fallers used modern day events and politics alongside beautifully created structures!
During the evening, we went to see the main firework display along the river Turía, however, again, we left too late and the streets were packed so we ended up with a lovely view of a block of flats and the edges of the fireworks coming round the side!
India and Emily had also come from Alicante for Fallas so we took them to the light shows and street parties in Ruzafa.
Day 5, Sunday 19th: FINAL DAY OF FALLAS!!!!! I honestly think we were all dying by this point but it was the biggest day by far so we all had to at least pretend to have the energy to survive the day and night!
We were woken up by a series of mini mascletás all over Ruzafa which shook the building and made sure we were all fully awake! We then went for lunch in Ruzafa, we went to Copenhagen, a vegetarian restaurant. Throughout the day there were many mascletás and firework displays which all led up to the Crema in the evening. At 10pm the children’s fallas were burnt, it was interesting to see how the fire of the fallas were started and luckily Kelly’s flat overlooked one of the fallas in Ruzafa. They attach a line of firecrackers and mascletá from a nearby object (i.e. a lamppost or sign) and then wrap it around the falla. They also make holes in the falla and pour petrol in as well as all over the structure. Just before they set them alight they have a firework display from the falla and then the main fallera from the casal faller sets the line of mascletás alight which in turn makes the falla go up!
We then went to see the main Falla in Ruzafa burn and then returned to Kelly’s flat to watch the one directly outside of her balcony, although the health and safety in Valencia is pretty far down on their priorities list, they do have firemen at every burning.
In true Valencian spirit (void of any health and safety…) we all piled onto Kelly’s balconies to watch the falla burn. The fireworks hardly went any higher than the floor above us and once the falla had started to burn, the heat and the smoke were a little bit overwhelming! But it was an amazing opportunity to have a front row seat for the burning!
We thought that the street parties would again happen on the Sunday night, but because Sunday is only for La Cremá, we decided to go to La3 for the night!
Day 6, Monday 20th: I woke up pretty early in the morning to take Livvie to the train station so she could catch her Blablacar back to Granada but after that Kelly, Clementine and I were broken by Fallas, a week of festival type days had taken their toll and we all barely moved from the sofa! Kelly started work again the next day so Clementine and I had to move out which took a lot more energy than it probably should have!
Once I had finally got myself over to the boys flat, we went out to Pintas & Tapas as we’d all reached the stage of alcohol being the only thing that could make us feel any better! However, we barely lasted a couple of hours before we all were back in the flat!
Day 7, Tuesday 21st: Post fallas, we all needed a little bit of fresh air and a detox and a little bit of time at the beach seemed to be the best idea (despite the clouds…), so we headed for a picnic and relaxation on the beach and a somewhat naïve idea that we would go swimming, obviously it didn’t happen and we spent the day wrapped up on the beach!
In the evening we went to dinner at a tapas restaurant along Blasco Ibanez before heading for yet another drink at Underground in Plaza del Cedro.
Day 8, Wednesday 22nd: Living in Perugia means that there isn’t a suitable clothes shop within an hour bus ride so on Wednesday we took the opportunity to go shopping in Valencia city centre. I did want to go Bonaire but I didn’t have the energy to go that far!
We then went to La Piazza, an Italian restaurant near to Plaza de Ayuntamiento as Marcel and I were leaving the next day.
In the evening we had predrinks at the boys again before we headed to Rumbo144. And again, like every time, we all got ridiculously drunk (rumbo-drunk)… its got to be something within those walls!
It was lovely to have a final night out with everyone before heading back to little (tiny) Perugia!
Day 9, Thursday 23rd: During the day, I packed and we all went for lunch along Blasco before I took the metro to the airport. My flight from Valencia to Rome was in the evening and I caught the flight with a girl who I’d met here in Perugia who had also returned to Valencia for Las Fallas as she is a fallera. It was really nice to have someone to chat to on the journey back, although we were both so tired from Fallas!
The journey back to Perugia was plain sailing although it was ridiculously long!!!! Having taken 2 metros, 2 coaches, a plane and a taxi and I beyond grateful to arrive back in Perugia 9 hours later!
All in all, I will be returning to Valencia for Fallas next year as it was an incredible experience that I’d love to do again and again!
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