Trip Start Feb 27, 2008
31Trip End May 28, 2008
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We arrived in Valencia at mid day with no reservations. The old town is surrounded by a dried-up river bed that has been converted into a large park. We stayed for 3 days in Valencia and never did leave old town. There is plenty to do in the center of the city.
We realized almost as we were on the way there that Valencia was preparing for it's biggest annual party "Las Fallas" this is like Carnival to Rio or Paddy's day to Ireland. All of the neighborhoods in the city decorate their streets with lights and build giant floats that symbolize an iconic moment from the previous year. For 5 days (March 14-19) they stay up all night and drink and party and light fireworks and have a good time. At the end of a parade, they light all of the floats on fire and watch the airbrushed plywood and paper mache burn to cinders. This is symbolic of leaving the old year behind and starting over again. Even though we weren't there for the official festival, there were still Pre-fallas activities going on and we got enough of the experience without paying the primo hotel prices
In the afternoon we strolled through the streets and enjoyed the decorations. We also toured the Cathedral in the city center. This cathedral is awesome by itself, a mixture of Gothic and Neo-classical architecture. It also has paintings by Goya, one of the larges gold processionals in the world and, is also the keeper of the Holy Grail that is recognized by the Vatican as the cup that Christ drank from at the last supper. Whether or not it actually IS the Holy Grail doesn't matter, it still brings in 1,000s of visitors a year.
I stayed up late that night working on my blog, I was terribly behind and had to work for hours to catch up. It seems a little daunting trying to keep up with everything we're doing but I'm determined to do it, even if I fall behind.
Day 12 - Fireworks and Bullfighting
We slept in a bit and enjoyed every minute of it. We wandered down to the center of town and had lunch while we waited for the big activity of the day. Fireworks! Every day in the week leading up to Las Fallas, a different pyrotechnician is featured in the city square. At 2 o'clock they have a fireworks display and it's like nothing I've ever seen before. Chinese fireworks are all about the looks, flashes of color and showers of sparks. These fireworks are primarily Loud bangs and whistles, set off in a particular order to make audible art. There are some sparks and things that shoot off in the air but there's definitely more focus on how it sounds rather than how it looks. After the fireworks show we walked down and bought tickets to see a bullfight. Another Spanish tradition and a popular event during Las Fallas, there is a fight every evening during the festival
A bull fight works like this....
The bull is introduced into the ring and "tested". The matadors assistants wave capes around and aggravate the bull while the matador watches it's strength and speed. Round 1 begins when two men on horseback enter the ring and stab the bull in the neck to weaken it's neck muscles
After this, round two: three men run past the bull and stick decorated barbs into the bulls shoulders to lower it's head and loosen it's neck muscles further. This may or may not protect the matador from a surprise upward thrust, a goring waiting to happen.
Round three: The matador brings out his red cape (muleta) and begins the fight. This is the most important and dangerous part of the process. The matador taunts the bull with the cape, getting it to charge very close to him. For years I thought it was the color of the cape that aggravated the bull, but that is not true. Bulls are color blind. The cape is traditionally colored red so that it doesn't get visibly stained with blood during the fight
Day 13 - Travel
Today was filled with sitting, and waiting. We caught the train from Valencia to Barcelona in the morning. Three hours on the train passed easily, in the early afternoon we arrived in Barcelona and to the underground to the bus line. The bus to the Gerona airport took another hour. We arrived at the airport a full 6 hours before our flight so we sat in some very uncomfortable seats and read to pass the time. When we arrived in dublin we rode the airbus to where our hostel was and checked in. I was so tired from doing nothing that I couldn't even go out that night. It's amazing how sitting around all day can make you tired.