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A Last Glimpse Of 2012's Las Fallas Festival & What It Meant To Us

Spending the Las Fallas festival with Somi and Yeji, our two Korean friends we met at a wine tasting in Porto, meant a whole world of new experiences to us. We learned something about the world and a great deal about our own selves. We even opened a Couchsurfing account because of all the wondrous stories Yeji and Somi told us about their trip!

That's me in the middle, with Yeji and Somi...


Yeji and Somi were so much fun. And they even prepared South Korean dishes for us. Unfortunately we couldn't find the original vegetables they use in Korea, so they had to improvise. However, the end result was sooo delicious.


I still can't believe I caught the flu exactly during the festival, and every night after the sun went down and the air chilled I lost my voice to the point I could only whisper. Which is kind of counterproductive when there are firecrackers and noisy people all around you. I had to communicate through an improvised sign language only my husband could understand and he became by voice. That was so embarrassing...


We held tight to Yeji and Somi, as the streets were cramped, and the fastest way to get from point A to point B were the backstreets. There are so many people in Valencia during Las Fallas that the pedestrian traffic almost comes to a halt. All car traffic in the city center vanishes as the police blocks the streets during the last days of festivities, but even so, with people taking over both sidewalks and roads, the city simply becomes way too crowded. From this point of view, thanks God Las Fallas are only once a year!


What better pastime for the kids than play with firecrackers in the middle of the road can there be? The smaller the child, the less dangerous are the firecrackers parents buy. Bigger kids can play with noisier ones. It is really intriguing to see toddlers that only recently learned to walk, throwing firecrackers. And that makes them so happy! The locals really have a taste for gunpowder from a young age. People coming from other parts of the world are really puzzled by this attitude.


Children are taught from a very young age how to throw firecrackers so they won't get hurt. But this is a fun reserved only for once a year, during the Fallas festival. Otherwise it is illegal to play with firecrackers, except for weddings, anniversaries and other major parties and festivals, but these are usually organized by the pyrotechnic companies.


During the last days of Las Fallas, Valencia literally smells of gunpowder. I don't know if this is wrong, but I kind of like this smell. Because for me it means PARTY and FUN. I know that for people who lived through a war this smell spells danger, but I guess it all comes down to our own personal experiences.


On the last day of the festival, after seeing and especially hearing the big mascleta in front of the Town Hall, the four of us went to see the winning falla. On the way, we stopped to see a smaller mascleta, in one of the neighborhoods. I have no idea what the guy in the picture above wanted to do with the cigarette. Lit up the mascleta before time?


Anyways, as the pyrotechnicians were getting everything ready and the crowds gathered were whistling and encouraging them to start making some noise, this family of falleros came and made the honors.


We were even closer to this mascleta than we were to the one in front of the Town Hall. Because is was a smaller one, we were just across the street from it and I had to cover my ears, that's how loud it was. My husband didn't have this luxury as he was taking the photos. I also covered my head with the scarf, as just minutes before, in front of the Town Hall, a woman standing next to us got hit in the head by one firecracker piece that fell from the sky after exploding and she instantaneously started bleeding.  


One of the most unusual sights during this festival is spotting dozens of people cuing in front of the pyrotechnic shops. It's like firecrackers became all of a sudden vital to our existence.


Many people complain that they can't close an eye during Las Fallas, that's how noisy it is. I don't know if it's because when I was little I used to live next to some railway lines or because I've got used to it or because I have a deep sleep when I'm tired, but I was never bothered by the noisy people throwing firecrackers till 3AM. I actually go to bed after that, and till next morning at 8AM, the streets are pretty quiet, except for the occasional party goer. Probably one good piece of advice for the light sleepers is to book a hotel a bit outside the city center.


One thing I always liked about Las Fallas is that not only the young and the beautiful get to participate in the event. The lady above was probably a fallera her whole life, and you can tell she used to be a beauty not so long ago. Once a fallera always a fallera applies.


And there's never too early to be a fallera either. Nor to have fun while being one. Being a fallera is a journey, not a destination.


The young woman in green is the Fallera Mayor de Valencia, the Queen of this year's festival. She will represent the city in many official events during the months to come. Here she is handing in the prized for the best fallas.


And this other young lady is the Queen of the festivities from Castellon. Though the biggest party goes on in Valencia, Las Fallas are celebrated in other cities of the Valencian Community too, always with a bit of local twist.   


The Statue of the Virgin made out of carnations takes two days to complete and watching the men at work is quite an interesting sight.



For two days in a row, the streets of Valencia are flooded by falleros and falleras taking flower offerings to the Virgin. Her dress is always tailored out of white, pink and red carnations, but the patterns change from one year to another. I get the feeling that lots of hopes, dreams, and wishes are entrusted to these flowers.


It's always a delightful sight to spot people dressed in traditional costumes carrying a piece of modern technology, like an ultra modern cell phone or a DSLR.


 Somi and Yeji greatly enjoyed the buñuelos and churros


While I would like to say that all street food is fresh and yummy during Las Fallas, the sad truth is that some stalls just don't get the recipe right, or they make them too oily. There's no way to tell, just by trial and error, but this year was almost the end of pumpkin buñuelos for me. After two failed attempts, luckily we gave them one last try and fortunately our two friends from Korea got to taste some very tasty buñuelos. Unfortunately, what the Internet says, that you have to look for the food stall where the locals are cuing, doesn't apply here, because there are so many people that all stalls have a cue.  


On the 19th of March after sunset, there is an one hour fire parade. Pretty interesting, but the crowds on the side of the road are tremendous.


And just as they start burning the fallas, a huge crowd gathers to see the one in front of the City Hall burning. There's a big plaza there, and lots of people can fit in, crowded like sardines in a can, some say even 1 million people. We were late and didn't fit in anymore, as we previously saw another falla burning. But could hear the fireworks and firecrackers show just before the bonfire, and we even spotted a fraction of it.

First the sky went like this from the fireworks...


Then the sky went like this from the firecrackers...



And eventually everything went dark and the fire began.


And just because I couldn't leave this photo out, this must be the best. Las fallas. T-shirt. ever.



***THE END***

26 comments:

  1. Your photographs really are brilliant. It's a great way to see the world for someone who doesn't travel that often (but wants to!!)

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    1. Thanks, love! I think what's more important is to make the most of our time when traveling. You know, quality over quantity ;)

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  2. . . brilliant photo reporting of a brilliant festival - loved it!

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  3. I just love the costumes they wear and the eleborate hair does. There is no other festival like this.Wonderful photos too.

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    1. Las Fallas is indeed a special festival and the traditional costumes are incredible. I just wish there was a place where I could try them on or rent one for the day. But the fabrics are just super expensive and there are no prêt-à-porter shops.

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  4. The fireworks are almost as much as New Year's! Maybe even more? This is such an amazing festival and I don't see any boring part about it. I wish I could experience this! Great job with the photos!

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    1. Oh, there isn't anything boring about Las Fallas, just pure fun! The best fireworks in the city are however in July, when there is a 1 hour firework show and other shorter shows by the sea.

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  5. What wonderful pictures! I felt as though I were there myself.

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    1. Thanks, you should definitely come visit in person.

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  6. Haha such a crazy festival. Love that there is so much freedom with the firecrackers during the festival and that everyone can join in. Guess that is what makes it so amazing because while it is crazy, it is also done in a really sensible way!

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    1. Yeah, next morning after the bonfire everything was quiet. I think the fun part is that people trow firecrackers only during the festival days.

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  7. I hear that Valencia is very nice - would love to see it!

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    1. Valencia is like Barcelona's little sis. It's no as crowded but it has plenty to offer.

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  8. What a fun and colorful festival. Nice to have friends like Somi and Yeji to enjoy it with. Enjoyed seeing YOU, too.

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    1. Thanks Cathy, it was fun having friends over to share the festivities with.

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  9. A friend of mine is from Valencia and go back home just to take part to this Festival! I'm waiting for her telling me about! Your pics are so great that I've already have an idea of what happened! I loved the ones ot the kids playing!

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    1. There are also many locals who leave town during Las Fallas because it can get extremely noisy and crowded, so your friend mush love this festival if she came all the way back just to see the festivities. Is she a fallera?

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  10. A lot of children get hurt from firecrackers and lose fingers because of it. I always worry when I see kids lighting them.

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    1. Well, while I definitely don't deny that accidents do happen sometimes, the truth is that the very little ones use firecrackers that wouldn't even hurt a fly. Once the kids are a bit older and they can understand 'human language' :) they are taught how to throw firecrackers without hurting themselves. Education, education, education. It's like with protected sex and other stuff ;)

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  11. I'll bet the statue is gorgeous.

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    1. Must have been. We never got to see it finished as the day after the bonfire, when we had it planned to go see it, it rained cats and dogs.

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  12. Beautiful photos- especially the close up of the women's intricate hair designs. I always enjoy learning about different festivals around the world. Thanks for posting.

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    1. Thanks, Mary! I always loved the fallera hair and I really appreciate through how many pains they go to keep it in perfect shape throughout the festivities. A visit to the hairdresser is a few hundred euro, so God knows how they sleep (or not) trying not to mess up with it.

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  13. Nice collection of photos. Las Fallas Festival rocks!

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  14. A great read, Laura. You have captured so many lovely faces, costumes and stories. Specially love the constructing of the Statue of the Virgin. Must be amazing to see. Such wonderful Spanish style.

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