March 9, 2012

Valencia and Fallas in a Nutshell

"Yo que soy valenciano nativo pero criado fuera [...] y reenganchado en mi ciudad hace 27 años, siempre se la presento a los demás comparándola con Barcelona. Para mi Barcelona es como una Top-Model: espectacular, deslumbrante. Valencia sin embargo es como tu pareja: no llama tanto la atención pero está llena de belleza doméstica, de rincones entrañables, de sitios para sentirte a gusto."—Perroflauteando in comments made here
Amazing light displays like this
are going up tonight in Russafa
So it is now less than a week before the full force of Fallas hits Valencia. As of a couple of days ago, falleros all across town have started marking off their falla territory, lighting up the plaza or street corner where the falla will be on display. The churrerías street stands have been popping up here and there, ready to sell buñuelos to all the wandering visitors. And tonight is the official lighting up of all the fallas' light displays. In short, we are practically in la plantà, and by March 16th it will be Fallas, Fallas.

Hopefully many of you are packing your bags and drafting your itineraries for your visit to Valencia for the festivities. In that spirit, today I offer you a recap of all my entries on Valencia and Fallas, to orient you a bit on what to do while you're here. First, Fallas...


-----------------FALLAS, A RECAP OF POSTS-----------------

On Wednesday I saw the Day 7 mascletà for Fallas 2012, as video recorded from Calle de las Barcas.
The show was a little uneven and unorthodox, but still very entertaining.

Before I start on Valencia, let me fill you in on the remaining two The Spain Scoop entries on Fallas that I mentioned last week. You will recall that the first entry offered a glossary of terms, and the second a schedule of important dates and events. (In the interim, I discovered this wonderful webpage on the language and local vocab of Fallas.) In the third entry for The Scoop, I list some must see fallas:

        Must see fallas:
1) Nou-Campanar – Out of the way, north of the River Turia, but it usually has the biggest budget of all the fallas in the city
2) Sueca – In the Russafa neighborhood
3) Convento-Jerusalén – In the neighborhood just to the west of the North Train Station
4) Ayuntamiento – At the Plaza del Ayuntamiento
5) Na Jordana – At the edges of El Carmen next to the River Turia park 
6) La Mercé – A few blocks away from Valencia's Mercat Central
7) El Pilar – In the neighborhood to the northwest of the North Train Station, not far from the Mercat Central

        Must see light displays*:
1) Sueca
*These are all right next to each other in the Russafa neighborhood, which is why you should go there at night!

Was walking home from watching the Day 7 mascletà
and saw this Fallas-themed advert for Amstel beer...
spoofing Chanel No. 5 ads, it says (transl.):
"There is an aroma that deserves to be elevated to the category
of perfume - No. 5 Masclet, Valencia." Hilarious!
These are by no means exclusive. A couple of years ago, one of my favorite Fallas, the Falla Almirante Cadarso, wasn't among these listed above. So every year you have to be sure to see as many as you can, since you never know which falla will shine the brightest. (For a more narrative account of Fallas, check out entry one and entry two of my recollections of Fallas 2010.) I also suggest some "fallas fuel", typical local foods for you to eat while you're in town and wondering the streets. You might review my post on Valencian rice dishes, and the good and bad paellas, so that you can be a discerning paella gourmand. You'll also be catching the tail end of orange season, so eat as many as you can get, or enjoy agua de Valencia! (For orange Valencianicana, including fallera imagery, check out my guest post, in Spanish, for Chic Soufflé on orange crate label advertisements.) And though it is technically not in season, you can probably find someone sells horchata, Valencia's most famous, local drink.

In the fourth entry for The Scoop, I provided a suggested daily itinerary, along with a special schedule for the final day, March 19th, when all the fallas do their cremà:

        A typical Fallas day itinerary (March 15-18):
• Early morning: Sleep in, if you can. On some days you might hear “la despertà” early in the morning, which is when the casals, in full prank mode, parade around their neighborhood at 8AM or so playing music and throwing “masclets,” hand-fireworks which sound like massive bombs when they go off.
• Around noon: Pick a central neighborhood and go for a stroll to see their fallas in the daytime. (This might be a good time to see the out-of-the-way good fallas, like Campanar or Na Jordana.) You also might get a snack (buñuelos?) so that you can make it to a late lunch.
• 2PM: Be at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento to listen to the daily mascletà
• 2:15-4PM: Lunch
• 4-6PM: Take a siesta, because... why not? You’ll want to be rested to stay out late at night when things really pick up
• 6-8PM (March 17th & 18th): Check out the “ofrenda” processions in or on their way to the Plaza de la Virgen. Listen to the music the bands play, since it’s a classic fallas soundtrack.
• 9PM: Get a sandwich (a “blanc i negre”?) for dinner so that you can be back out on the streets to take in the fallas lit up at night.
• 10-12PM (except “La nit de la cremà): Head over to Russafa to see the most impressive light displays
• 12:30-2AM (depending on the night): Line up somewhere along the River Turia to watch the "castillo" fireworks show
• 2AM onward: Continue strolling through the downtown streets? Things will be pretty active well until 4AM.

For the night of March 19th, la nit de la cremà, review the fourth post at The Scoop or my earlier Fallas teaser post where I discuss the sequence for burning fallas across town. Pick one of your favorite fallas and go there in the evening (10-12:30PM) to watch them burn. To get into the spirit of it all ahead of time, I recommend you listen to "Paquito el Xocolatero", a classic song played during Valencian festivities.

La ofrenda at the Plaza de la Virgen on March 17th and 18th

Falleros and their friends and families will be practically living at the falla,
cooking meals together such as the Valencian staple, paella valenciana

A lot of effort goes into the fallero/fallera outfits, kids too.
So the desfile (parade) to the Virgin is fun to watch

And there are all the exhibits and museums on Fallas, too:
Museo Fallero [Official museum of the history of this festival]
Museo del Gremio de Artistas fallero [A museum slash workshop dedicated to the artists who create the fallas]
• La Fundación Cajamurcia: "Falles de València en blanc i negre" (Temporary exhibit: until May 4, 2012) [Photo history of past Fallas]
• El Museo de la Ciudad de Valencia: "El traje de valenciana: Evolución" (Temporary exhibit: until April 30, 2012) [Exposición of past fallera outfits]





-----------------VALENCIA, WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO DO IT-----------------

The Valencia regional flag flowing from atop La Lonja

I encourage you to review my four-part series on Valencia, to look for non-Fallas things to do here while you visit:

1) & 2) In the first two entries I provide you a walking tour of the City Center and the usual (and a few less usual) sights to see there. (When you walk by the Mercat Central, look up and you'll see the Market's Parrot, subject of many fanciful local tales.) I wrap it up with a pass through Valencia's most famous neighborhood, El Carmen, and leave you "a la luna de Valencia" just outside one of Valencia's two city gates.

A la luna de Valencia, outside the Torres de Quart gate

3) I suspect a lot of visitors to Valencia miss seeing its many hidden gems and off-the-beaten path beauty, because their guidebooks only "take a glance"at the city or focus on the usual suspects and leave out its many distinctive and colorful neighborhoods. (I wouldn't want to name names, Damian.) So if you like to see something more local, you might review my entry on Valencia's neighborhoods, port, and playas. To make your walk through El Carmen even more of a hunt, I recommend you read up on Valencia's vibrant street-art scene on my post here. (And if you spot and photograph any additions, please feel encouraged to email me them for my "Viewer's Choice" graffiti discoveries.)

While not in your tour guidebook, this picturesque fruit shop
in the Benimaclet neighborhood is famous enough
to appear in an Almodóvar movie.

4) The jewel of Valencia is its Turia Riverbed Park and all the many (dare I say "iconic"?) spectacles. This feature of Valencia, and this blog entry, are far and away my all-time favorites. So please read this (and share it with others)!

The view into the Turia Riverbed Park from the Pont del Mar pedestrian bridge.

I've also written up two different kinds of tours you can take of Valencia's architectural landmarks:

• Read my Cityscape of Valencia's architectural and urban history to discover its medieval, modernist, and present-day building history
The Tower Tour of Valencia: Views from the Torre de Serranos, Torre de Quart, and Miguelete.

For some dining recommendations, you can read this guest post I wrote for The Spain Scoop on 5 great restaurants here. (A close friend and blogger, Chic Soufflé subsequently wrote up this great entry, in Spanish, on a variety of wonderful restaurants in Valencia.) Valencia is also a nice place to fill your shopping bags and empty your wallets. So if you like to shop, review these past posts on good places to boutique shop or typical Valencian things to buy.

Window shopping in Valencia as described by local taste-expert Chic Soufflé
Ceramics and Socarrats – this is _the_ Valencian (esp. Manisses and Paterna) specialty gift to buy

Hopefully you will be able to enjoy Valencia for its local foods and culture, but if you happen to be missing home, you can check out this two part entry on "hechar de menos" spots in the city for Anglo-expats: part 1 and part 2.


-----------------DAY TRIPS AND FIESTAS AROUND VALENCIA-----------------

If you come here in a car, then there are a lot of towns within a 2-hour drive from Valencia that are worth a visit. While there are many, many more, I can specifically recommend the following day trip for which I've written entries:

El Saler & L'Albufera
• Linares de Mora
La Vila Joiosa (guest post for The Spain Scoop)
• Peñíscola (soon to come to The Spain Scoop)
... and many others some of which I will be sure to write about soon, such as... Xátiva, Sagunt, Morella, Chulilla, Albarracín...

Regional festivals:
• Moros y cristianos, Alcoy in April (soon to come)
• La Tomatina, Buñol in August
• Festival de Langostina, Vinarós in August

Linares de Mora

This page is a work in progress. I'll return here from time to time to update it, add more linkbacks to entries on Valencia's many charms, hidden gems, and regional , with the idea that it will serve as a reference linked to from a button on the left column of the blog. So this page is my homage to the city, to its most famous festival, and to its regional splendor. My hope is that, with time, it will help convert its readers to my belief that this is an incredible place, well worth visiting for all tourists who come to Spain!


The most obvious draw for Valencia regional tourism are its many beautiful beaches,
but here below you'll also find that many of its towns are also worth a visit.


-----------------VALENCIA, FURTHER RESOURCES-----------------

There are a lot of great online resources for visitors looking to learn about Valencia and its local expat community. Here I'm going to add, for your reference, some other sites about the city that I have discovered over the years and which I think offer a nice orientation to Valencia:

• Hola Valencia Blog – Dormant, but still excellent blog on Valencia
• DolceCity Valencia [Spanish language] – A great blog on restaurants and shops around the city
• InVLC Magazine – Bimonthly magazine targeted to expat community in Valencia
• Valencia Connect – Bimonthly magazine targeted to expat community in Valencia
• 24/7 Valencia – Monthly magazine targeted to expat community in Valencia
• Agenda Urbana [Spanish Language] – Great source for all events and happenings in Valencia
• La Valencia desaparecida [Spanish Language] – A really fun blog project, posting then and now photos of places around town
• Valencia City Guide – Website in the format of a standard city tourism guide (has nice walking itineraries)
• Valencia Travel Guide – Website in the format of a standard city tourism guide (the "Valencia recipes" section impressed me despite a few possible minor discrepancies)
• Vivir Valencia [Spanish Language] – A mix between a city visitor's guide and a source for events and happenings in Valencia
• Love Valencia [Spanish Language] – A mix between a city visitor's guide and a great source for events and happenings in Valencia
Guía de arquitectura de Valencia [Spanish Language] – Comprehensive list of buildings/sights with descriptions of their architectural features and histories.
Benimaclet Entra [Spanish Language] – Neighborhood community website which lists the latests events and happenings in Benimaclet

-- Please email or tweet me, or comment below if you recommend any others. --
--- Thank you! ---

8 comments:

Tumbit - Mr Grumpy said...

Mr C will be poised, taking notes I shouldn't wonder.

Sorokin said...

Never been to Valencia in Fallas, but I have been in the Alicante's "fogueres" on June 23 and in Elche's "la nit del Albá" on August 15. I have to avoid that I don't like the terrible noise of the fireworks, firecrackers, etc... Even if the show is bright, I feel a lot of discomfort with these BBOOUM, BBOUMMM, RATTLE, RATTLE, BBOUUUMM going on all the time. :-/

Sorokin said...

Sorry, when I say "avoid" I meant "confess". It is the problem of speaking in French all of the time ("avouer" in French: to admit, to confess)

Lauren of Spanish Sabores said...

Wow! This is fantastic. I'll be in the US this year but I'm dying to make it to Las Fallas next year. Your site will be all I need!

An Expat in Spain said...

Mr. Grumpy, I wonder if Damian is still reading here or not. He did write "End" on his last tweet to me.

Sorokin, I'm in no position to criticize for language confusion. If you don't like boom, boom, boom, then this might not be the festival for you. My wife and I have an agreement that we do Fallas every other year as a compromise. Since she too can tire of all the pum, pum, pum. Many locals say after 20 years of it, it is hard to be excited... but then the falleros do it every year and don't tire of it. Different strokes for different folks.

Thanks Lauren! I really tried to bring it all together here so that it can be exactly that, a guide for people like you who hope to visit in the future. Have fun in the States... but definitely try and make it here next year. And tweet me when you do visit so that we can get horxata and dodge petardos together then.

Anonymous said...

Interesting entry

about must see fallas, i would say there are som must see and other that are conveniently located to be seen.
must sees 2012 imo:

1-Ayuntamiento
2-Nou campanar
3-Convento
4-Cadarso-Altea
5-Pilar
6-Sueca-Azorín

special section fallas that are close to one of the above
1-Cuba-Azorín (so close to Sueca you must visit both and the lights, of course)
2-Antiga Campanar (close to nou campanar, i like the artist with a different style of painting fallas)
3-Merced (so close to ayuntamiento, you can't leave this apart, but it's one of the worst in special section)
4-Na Jordana (in the edge of the center, i would visit for the infantile falla)
5-Exposición-Masco (not far from the place of the fireworks)
6-Regne Valencia (not far form Caraso-Altea, nice infantile falla)

Special section fallas far from everywhere, visit if you are near for some reason, they are not going to win
1-Archiduque carlos-Chiva
2-Malvarrosa

victor from www.fotosfallas.com

An Expat in Spain said...

Victor, thanks for the recommendations. (And to all others, please add your opinions about must-see fallas not listed here or in the entry!)

I forgot about Cadarso-Altea, so I'm glad you mentioned it. And I agree with you about La Merced... locals always describe it as a must-see, but normally I'm a bit disappointed by it.

I like your website and photos!

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