Valencia and Las Fallas

Posted on March 16, 2010

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In Spain, every big city and town, and most small ones too, have a week’s festival. Some of the most famous are San Fermina (the running of the bulls in Pamplona), Semana Santa (Holy week) in Sevilla and Tomatina (the street party where everyone throws tomatoes at each other). I came to Valencia for Las Fallas with my boyfriend and a friend to experience one of these fiestas.

Me being me, I managed to book the wrong weekend – the first weekend of the festival, not the last where they burn all the paper mache statues that have been decorating the streets for the week of the festival. Now, I am actually pleased I made the mistake as there were hoards of people arriving on the day we left, making it difficult and painful to get around. There are numerous statues around the town and market stalls everywhere – mainly selling Spain’s favourite food: Churros (fried dough similar to a doughnut).

Valencia is the pyro technic capital of the world and after a weekend there, my eardrums know it! As if to prove a point, everyone was throwing firecrackers through the day and night. During Las Fallas, in fact from 1st – 19th March, at 2pm (yes, well before it gets dark) there is a huge fireworks display in the main square. The main seems to be to make as much noise as possible and I felt just like I was in the middle of a war zone.

The old city is beautiful and everything you want, small cobbled streets, a gorgeous old cathedral with far too many steps but a wonderful view when you get to the top, sunny plazas lines with cafes, and much more. It is so easy to while a day away wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere of the town. My favourite was Plaza de la Virgen, with no cars and stunning old buildings, it is the prefect place to sit and have Valencia’s freshly squeezed orange juice. If it’s later in the day, try the Agua de Valencia – orange juice but with the additions of vodka, gin and cava to make their version of a bucks fizz.

A must see for foodies is the modernist central market which is art deco style and one of the largest food markets I know. It is next to La Lonja, an amazingly well-preserved XII gothic building.

To the north and east of the city there is a park, Jardines del Turia, which has been made out of an old riverbed. It gives a welcome peace from the hustle of the town (elaborated because of the festival of course). South east of this park is a complex called Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencas, which is mande up of several buildings mainly designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava and include an  Hemisferic (Imax cinema), a science museum, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (which reminds me of Sydney Opera House) and an Oceanografic (aquariam which is pretty good but not the best I have seen).

Sunday lunchtimes/afternoons are best spent mixing with the locals in La Malvarrosa district (on the beachfront). There are plenty of good restaurants and it’s easy to see the popular places with good food. Here you have to try a traditional Valencian paella. All this can be worked off with a walk along the beach.

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Details

Stay: We stayed at Blue moon apartments which were central, clean, spacious and cheap at 80eur/night for a two bedroom. It is well worth staying in the old town. A taxi to the beach costs around 10euros.

Eat:

La Sucursal: Calle de Guillem de Castro, 118, +34 96 374 66 65. Wonderful for a romantic or upmarket dinner

El Enopata: Plaza del Arzobispo 5,+ 34 96 325 91 50. Close to the Cathedral and old town. Pricey if you ask for wine by the glass (although the wines are formidable) but very good prices on wines by the bottle.

ARC (arrop): Calle Almirante 14, +34 963 925 566. Apparently ‘mid blowing’. It closes on Sun

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