Bob and Margaret Dewhurst. Valencia – 9 to 21 March 2016
This was our first trip to Valencia designed and beautifully project managed by Valeria (VMT stands for ‘Valeria Melo Thorne Tours’ now as well as ‘Valeria Mean Time’!). We eventually stayed with our lovely and generous hosts, Chris and Valeria, for twelve nights (they deserve a medal). I say ‘eventually’ because we had planned a trip inland but this fell through at the last minute.
All this before the crowds arrived to see and take part in the famous Las Fallas. Despite reading about the Festival beforehand and hearing of it from the Valeria and Chris, nothing could have prepared us for the scale and delights of the Festival.
Starting at the Museum of the Ninots and working through the ‘fires’(sculptures to be burned) as they were built in the days leading up to the four/five day Las Fallas extravaganza proper, we got some impression of how much effort and passion the Valencian people put into this annual affair.
There must have been over 25 major constructions some 20m high around the city together with the associated ‘infantil’ versions for children. In all, a few hundred must have adorned the city and surroundings. The messages they carried (either in signs attached to the individual ninots or intrinsically in the figures) were varied: political, satirical, comic and sentimental, erotic and sexual. It has to be said that a certain lady politician came in for more than her fair share of stick in the political references (and even I recognized her from Valencian TV!).
Over the four/ five days of the Festival proper, there were daily mascletas (very noisy firecrackers being set off in their hundreds and sonic blasts at 2pm each day).
There were parades of beautifully dressed women carrying flowers, men and families and night time firework displays too.
And who could forget those lights – the length of some of the big streets and about 60m high!
After judging of the ninots by public vote (which we all contributed to) and the winning ninot and infantil had been selected for saving from the ‘crema’ (the actual flames of the fires themselves), the huge constructions were burned all on St Joseph’s day (19 March) late at night. We joined the fire in the central square (Ayuntamiento) where there must have been half a million people. Interestingly, crowd control, if there was any, was very light on the tiller and still all went smoothly.
Away from all this, we were glad of the peace and quiet afforded by Windependent for our siestas and even the odd evening – the Marina Real Juan Carlos 1st being one of the very few quiet spots in the area over these days.
Neither of us had ever stayed on a boat before and, to be honest, we were not quite sure what to expect. The movement of the water seemed to help ne sleep and in some ways I likened the experience to living in a large but friendly sea monster with strange habits: odd creaks and noises being its hallmark.
Chris and Valeria were generous, easy-going and wonderful hosts throughout our stay and we had a great time. We seemed to laugh a lot too: words like ‘duck’ and ‘plasterer’ instantly dissolving into laughter by the end of our stay.
We enjoyed some excellent food too: Casa Montana, Casa Carmela and Habituel being particularly memorable. Having eaten Valeria & Chris out of house and ‘boat’, we left for home though our return was delayed by an unscheduled overnight stay in Dusseldorf airport (with a nice, varied bunch of fellow travellers) and our possessions arrived some 36 hours later.
We now need a holiday after all this excitement but a very big THANK YOU goes to Chris and Valeria for a truly memorable experience.