Saturday, March 21, 2009
Las Fallas, Day 1 - The Fallas and Night of Fire
From there we headed out into the streets and marveled at the amazing light displays down every street and at the fallas (or floats), which were strategically positioned at major intersections across the city. "Hey, whatever happened to la crisis?!?!" We were told that there were over 700 in all across Valencia, some very small and some over 5 stories high. Vincent casually mentioned that he had a cousin who had worked on some of the fallas and took us to see him. We were astonished to walk down one of the prettiest lit-up streets, Sueca, to find a spectacular falla and Vincent's cousin grinning proudly underneath. Vincent's cousin was Juanjo Garcia, one of the Falla Mayores - the master artist/builder of the fallas. Turns out his FULL TIME JOB was to design and supervise the construction of these incredible pieces of art. He gave us a detailed tour of this particular falla (he designed 9 across the city) and told us how it was constructed. Each falla is designed in a satirical, cartoonish manner and often mock or highlight various ills of our society. As Juanjo described, tomorrow night's burning of these Fallas represents an act of cleansing or purifying these ills. It was fascinating to learn about these amazing creations and see them "up close and personal". Then we were off to a local Spanish restaurant to meet Vincent's other cousins, who actually turned out to be very close childhood friends. Having dinner reservations in advance was critical, as Valencia tripled in size to over 3 million people. We met Paco, Rafa, David and their families for a boisterous, fun and filling traditional spanish meal. All the better, because we were struggling to stay up until 2 am for the Nit de Foc (night of fire) fireworks show, and this dinner certainly woke us up. We also got a great chance to speak Spanish with the locals and even Suzanne was talking like she knew what she was saying! Before we knew it, it was already 1 am and we had to quickly scramble to get over to the fireworks show in time. The Nit de Foc was truly a spectacle. Kind of makes our 4th of July shows look like watered-down kids sparklers. The only way I can describe it was the biggest finale times 5 that seemed to run for half an hour nonstop. The explosions were bigger and the colors were brighter and it was visually stunning to watch. I think we are now forever doomed as any firework shows in the future will pale by comparison and our kids will ultimately tire of us saying: "you think this is cool, let me tell you about the firework show we saw in Valencia way back in '09..." But then things got really interesting. As soon as the fireworks ended, people ran out into the street from down in the river bed/park. We stood there and watched, somewhat confused until we realized that the park was filled with teenagers armed with "borrachos" a special explosive that lets of flares of sparks and flies like an angry bee in a completely random pattern before exploding with a huge bang. If one of these is behind you while you are running, people say it will follow your backdraft and you will be the unlucky recipient of one of these explosions. Scott and I were like little kids, venturing out towards the river bank as the polvos were being launched all around us. We couldn't believe that this was legal and wasn't being broken up by the police. It was a crazy battleground out there and when one of the polvos got a little too close for comfort, we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel.