Sunday, 23 March 2014

18 March 2014 – Valencia Fallas

This festival takes place at the same time each year.   This was our first visit, and prompted by the U3A organising a coach trip from Jalon.
We were dropped a good 15 minute walk from the old town, no coaches were allowed into the city itself.   Most of the roads were closed to traffic, and there were dense crowds everywhere.
Each neighbourhood has its own Fallas group who create these large constructions which are paraded around the city, and then burnt.   They are impressive works of art, and large groups of visitors roam the streets admiring them.
We visited the Denia Fallas some years ago, so we knew what to expect.   We were warned that the Valencia one was much larger.  But we were not ready for the great mass of people all over the city.
Our visit was the day before the Fallas are burned.  It was to watch “L’Ofrena de flors”.   Each falla casal parades through the streets with an offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary.  
Each group is dressed in traditional costume, and are led by their own band.   All of the streets in the city centre are closed for the parade, which starts at 3pm and goes on well into the night.

Although there are crowds watching the parade, it is not too difficult to get a good position to watch.   Even near the main square we managed to find a good spot about ten minutes before the parade started.
It is very much a family affair, and most of the children seemed to be very well behaved.   But it was all proving a little too much for this little chap.
The younger children have pride of place at the head of each group.  The little girls look lovely in their smaller versions of the traditional dress.
This little pair looked particularly cute.  They take it all very serious, and there is very little childish playing around.   But this little chap obviously needed a little distraction.
After an hour we had enough of the parade.  We wanted to see the large statute of Our Lady of the Abandoned.   This is where all the flowers are handed over to the team who place them on the large wooden frame.   
We then rambled around the city centre looking at some of the Fallas.   We were impressed that drinks and snacks were normal prices, no more than one euro for a beer.  And away from the main square it was easy to find a pavement cafe to sit and watch the parade go past.
It was just before 2pm when we arrived, and would have until 9pm before the coach left.   We expected it might be difficult to pass seven hours.  But there was so much to see, and it covered such a large area, that we only managed to see a very small part of it all.

As we got further from the city centre the parade still filled the streets, but it seemed to be less organised.  Perhaps we were in a staging area.   Though formed, the parade was not moving.  This group of little girls took the opportunity to sit and have a break.
It must be a very long day, particularly for the young children.   This pair seemed to be experimenting with a tube of lipstick.
Refreshed by a light snack we continued our exploration of the Fallas, and finally found our way back to the main square about 7pm.   We were surprised to find the parade still going strong, almost four hours after it started.   All of the streets were still closed, and it was not even possible to cross the road as there were barriers on each side.
Finally we found a nice bar in the main square and had a pizza and glass of wine.   The crowds seemed to get even bigger as night fell, and there were an endless selection of bands to watch and listen to.   We did enjoy our day, even though it was very tiring.   We were very pleased, and relieved, to find our coach waiting for us when we found our way back to the collection point.

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