On Friday 18 March I joined a few of my work friends on a trip to Valencia for "the Falles"
. Apart from a nightmare of a bus journey to the airport the trip there was okay and we arrived in good time for "La Nit del Foc" (The night of fire), a firework display the likes of which I could not have imagined before this trip.
But I get ahead of myself! On our way to this awesome display we walked along streets filled with children playing with fireworks, and on almost every other crossroad a Falles
which is an amazingly detailed, beautifully crafted monument made from papier-mâché and cardboard.
When I say children playing with fireworks... I mean children who might just be the plus side of 5 throwing fire crackers and bangers into the streets that are filled with other children (and us). Showing ourselves as tourists we would jump, cringe, or both whilst the locals carried on as if nothing had happened. Older children and adults would set of fireworks that sounded like small bombs... again in streets filled with people! The highlight of this madness was when we spotted children jumping over a "fountain" type firework and Raz managed to capture a photograph of one of the children with his face down in the flow. It appeared that no-one apart from us considered this behaviour anything but normal.
The streets were also filled with stalls selling food and drink... so we made our way towards the city centre and had our first taste (of many!) of paella
, and a beer to wash it down.
The town centre started to empty... and we followed the crowd to the outskirts for the main event of the evening...
Imagine a pyromaniac let loose in a firework factory. There were times when there were so many fireworks in the sky at one time that I experienced a white-out... and I have goosebumps recalling the experience as I type! The displayed probably lasted about 15 minutes, but such was the intensity that it seemed to go on for hours! Just when you might think it was over, you could hear the mortar-launch like sounds as another barrage was launched into the sky. The force of the explosions could easily be felt on the ground and in my chest, with some of the bigger ones producing a shock wave I felt on my face.
It was now about 2 a.m. and we headed back to the hotel. The maniacs in the streets were not so ready for their beds, and the bangers, fire crackers, and small bombs continued all night... making sleep so very difficult!
Saturday was the last day of the two week festival. The main events of the day would be another firework display at 2 p.m. in the town square, and the burning of all the Falles at midnight.
I've never heard of a daytime firework display... but this would be no normal display. The whole city descended on the town centre, and on the stroke of 2 the noise started. There was no "display" apart from copious amounts of smoke... but the noise was something else! It started loud and built from that. The power of the explosions rocked the windows, and some of our visiting party had to block their ears (mentioning no names - they know their shame!)
This lasted a full five minutes with the noise constantly building. There was a rhythm to it all, a kinda of insane musical quality. You could feel the energy of the considerable crowd around us and at the finale they all went mad - cheering and whistling - and I am not sure it was all entirely voluntary.
We had most of the day to kill now before the next instalment of madness, so we headed to a section of the town know for its restaurants where we met the rudest waiter in Spain.
After a very good lunch (despite the waiter) we went to see the "giant flower chick" ("L'Ofrena floral") stopping on the way to soak up the sun in one of the many plazas and have a nice cup of coffee and some of us partook of some churros
. More wandering around around the rather beautiful city following our own Dora
(master of the map and sense of direction!) was a fine way to work off the massive lunch! The madness of the first night continued... but by now we were (mostly) immune and it took the massive bangs of the bomb like fireworks in close proximity to cause a stir among us.
During our travels in the evening we found our favourite Falles (pictures to follow I hope) so we found a nearby restaurant and waited it out in style for the burning. The service here was much better as we made our way through about 6 courses and probably as many bottles of wine!
We found that the burning of our chosen Falles was going to be postponed as the fire-fighters had been called away to another location. It was our first hint that there was at least someone taking the public's safety seriously! We found a cocktail bar and partook of a few Mojitos until just after 1:00 when we headed back to watch the fire. We were amazed to find a spot right near the front! The streets were still full so this should have sent alarm bells ringing, but we'd caught the madness of the event!
About 1:30 the people who had created this magnificent monument doused it in petrol and under the gaze of half a dozen fire-fighters the fireworks were lit which would set the entire thing alight.
The speed at which the whole thing went up took my breath away. The proximity almost took several layers of skin away. It became apparent quite quickly - even in my half intoxicated state - that to stay where I was would end in tears, if not the local morgue! The heat was intense. The air was full of burning embers. It was truly insane.
There was a mass rush backwards and we continued to watch the monument, now little more than the inner wooden structure, burn itself out. The fire-fighters hosed down the nearby trees, buildings, telephone wires, and occasionally the crowd(!) to stop it from all going up in smoke. We were covered in soot and stank of smoke, but were all grinning inanely. The word of the night was "fuego!"
Heading back to the hotel we were all too keyed up to call it a night, so there was another stop in a cocktail bar for more Mojitos.
The constant explosions from the bangers rang out well into the night, continuing even after we called it a night and made it back to the hotel.
Tags: fuego, travel, what happens in vegas
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