The end of March was a while ago, but I’ve yet to post about my travels since then. This is my attempt to retrace those steps, so I’ll be posting throughout the week in order to catch up.
First things first. The crew I went to Alicante with was solid. Esme, Kelsey, Mary and Kendall were excellent travel buds. Our plans ended up working out great. We had a four day weekend that we wanted to spend on the beach and at Valencia’s Las Fallas festival. The plan was to spend each night in Alicante, but take a bus to Valencia just for the day (10am until 2am or so) for Fallas and return to Alicante to sleep a little, grab our bags and return to Madrid. It sounds a bit backwards to make such a quick trip to Valencia, but it made perfect sense during Fallas. Due to the festival, the city was absolutely packed full of people. It would have been expensive and difficult to find a place (for all five of us) to spend the night in Valencia.
While we were in Alicante, we enjoyed the slower pace of a seaside city. We climbed the mountain to visit Santa Bárbara Castle. I’m still convinced that we climbed the wrong side of the mountain because it took us twice the amount of time that it should have.
We also walked along the waterside. It was so nice to smell the salt in the air and hear the sounds of the waves. I need to live closer to a beach. Algún día.
It was a bit too chilly to actually swim, but the weather was excellent. We spent hours on the beach. Our airbnb had a volleyball that we brought along to play with.
I’ve wanted to attend Fallas since I heard about it (too late) last year. It’s a festival in Valencia that coincides with the celebration of Saint Joseph and welcomes the Spring with a burning of Winter. Literally. Beautiful sculptures are built with wood and put on display for a week until the last night of the festival when they are set on fire and burned completely to ash.
When we arrived, we had the whole day to walk around the city and see each of the monuments that each neighborhood displayed. Some were big and others were small. Some where funny and (many) others were politically motivated. I found a map online that showed the top 10 monuments for this year, so we made sure to see the first place winner (see below). It was huge. Most of the monuments were 3-4 stories tall.
Throughout our journey around the city, we were constantly bombarded with mini explosions from firecrackers. It’s tradition during the week of Fallas for people (children and adults alike) to periodically throw firecrackers on the street. So every three seconds or so, you’re hearing them go off on all sides. The most important thing is to watch out in case a kid throws one close to where you’re walking, so you can jump out of the way in time.
When we had exhausted ourselves of exploring the Fallas monuments and being overwhelmed by the firecrackers, we decided to walk along the former river Turia that has been converted into a beautiful park. Turia was a major flood hazard that was drained and rerouted to prevent future catastrophic floods. Located at the end of the park is Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencias (one of the 12 Treasures of Spain). Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencias is a very modern cultural center that didn’t allow any firecrackers to be thrown in the vicinity. We found some comfy chairs at a café near the water and had a coffee and a snack to rest our feet… and our ears.
After spending time relaxing, we decided to continue our Fallas experience. We had a few hours to kill because the final burnings didn’t start until midnight (with the very last burning at 1:30). We decided to eat Paella (because it’s not every day you’re in Valencia where you can get the best paella in the world). Two friends and I split an enormous serving of the infamous rice dish. It was truly delicious.
Midnight was approaching and we had to find our monument. There isn’t a specific schedule, so you don’t know when each of the monuments will be lit on fire. You just pick one monument to stand in front of and wait. We chose this beautiful Chinese-dragon themed monument. My favorite character is the old man in front with the tray of tea. So cute!
While we waited, there was a crew settling up the fuse that would make the monument burn faster. Notice the string in the photo below. It would be hung throughout the characters in the monument. Don’t worry, there was also a crew of firefighters there to help out.
They lit the fuse just ten minutes after midnight. I think they placed the barrier fences a bit too close to the flames because everyone quickly backed up when they could feel the extreme heat bouncing off of the monument. The crowd felt panicked at first, but it was mostly exciting.
The final burning in the central plaza wasn’t quite as impactful because we were located a lot further away. But the monument was definitely the tallest at maybe 10-12 stories high. Alongside the final burning there was a fireworks show! It lasted probably ten minutes and it was very impressive. I love a good fireworks show.
Afterwards, we made our way to the bus station to catch our bus back to Alicante. We were dead from exhaustion, so we slept the whole way (and even on our walk back to our Alicante airbnb). But it was so worth it. I’d do it again… maybe next year.