Tag Archives: paella

Las Fallas, Valencia: Festival of Ninots and Fireworks

2017_032623_2915_626How do putrid gunpowder smell, fire, fumes, noise from almost incessant firecracker blasts, fireworks display, more fire, and crowded streets pedestrianized for the holidays appeal to you? Would you wade thru throngs of frenetic merrymakers as you wander around town for hours on end, until you find yourself trudging along on already wobbly knees yet determined to witness the midnight finale, which is the destruction by fire of beautiful papier mache works of art?

This is exactly what I did at Valencia’s Las Fallas, that time when the town becomes Spain’s biggest street party, and everyone was in deep festive madness. It was March 19, and I was feverish the moment we arrived, never wavering up until the day’s end.

Las Fallas, Valencia: What to See and Do

2017_032612_4942_711The celebration is a four-day long affair that started on the 15th of March, when locals take to the streets to assemble and display their ninots with pride. These are structures made of paper erected to reach a number of stories, and built to look like they are scaling up the skies. There are also minor ninots or the ninot infantile, smaller ones that I observed were burned hours before the finale.

The festival culminates on the 19th of March, when finally, most ninots are burned and subjected to a fiery destruction until only ashes remain, this amidst the cheering of the spectators and participants. The festival coincides with the Feast day of the patron saint of carpenters and builders — Saint Joseph.

What can you expect during Las Fallas?

Impressive Ninot Displays on strategic points of the town

2017_032812_2851_883image image imageimage2017_032820_4844_622imageThe best of Valencia’s sculptors and artists design and create impressive ninots, which were built with popular cartoon characters and nationalities as themes. Some neighborhoods boast of both huge and small ninots, with the latter being burned to ashes hours before the burning of the larger ones, as seen on the picture immediately above.

Everyone participates at the Festival

2017_032807_5624_620This couple is off to join their neighborhood’s street party
imageBefore this smile, the princess sobs as the ninot burns, as if to express grief from its destruction
imageChildren hold hands to form a circle, dancing and chanting in front of the ninot infantile, a small-sized ninot found in many neighborhoods
2017_032700_0211_169Beautiful child princess, together with other children of the neighborhood, look over the burning of the ninot
imageYoung musicians playing a lively piece celebrating the burning
2017_032700_0230_401I wore the white and blue scarf associated with the Las Fallas known as the Pannulo de Hierbas
2017_032812_2832_906Having the time of our lives in Valencia

Impressive Firework Displays

imageAs if the blinding, spellbinding bursts of fire and light created from the burning of the ninots are not enough, Valencia further brightens its night skies by igniting beautiful fireworks, sending them up high to create colorful, dancing incendiary displays. The fireworks are an integral and indispensable part of Las Fallas. One of the best places to witness the fireworks is at the Carrer L’arquebisbe Mayoral.

Bullfight games throughout the festival

imageThe best bullfights events happen at the festival, and so afficionados of the sport can expect a truly exciting spectacle. Bullfighting has been part and parcel of the celebration of the Las Fallas.

Las Fallas / Valencian Food Delicacies

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imageThese are bunuelos, local pastry likened to a donut. Made of pumpkin paste, it is one of the traditional foods at Las Fallas. To make for a truly delicious snack, have a hot choco drink where you can dunk your bunuelos in. Half a dozen sells at 2.50 euros

  • imageAlthough I love senyoret, or the sea food paella, I ordered valenciana instead. The one on the photo is just right for two persons, and approximately costs 29 euros, or 14.50 euros per head. Tastes great! My friend with whom I shared it, however, didn’t want no rabbit meat, and so, I have all of it for myself.
    imageChurros, like bunuelos, are also sold aplenty during las Fallas. Eaten best when dunked in a thick chocolate syrup

    Burning of the Ninots

    The efforts of the artists were hardly futile as the best ninots are identified, and awards and recognitions are handed to the artists and their winning creations. Well, for the rest, the fact that their works of art were chosen to participate and was admired by everyone was still a great recognition. In the end, at the finale, hundreds of huge and minor ninots will be sent burning into flames.
    2017_032610_3700_510This Sino-themed ninot, with all the vital Chinese elements, a towering, colorful papier-mache masterpiece…2017_032610_4149_553…met its fiery fate at around 12 midnight, to the shouts and cheering of spectators. Immediately after the structure was engulfed by strong flames, steady water was doused from the firefighters’ hoses to control the fire.

    The Las Fallas, undoubtedly, is one of the must-see festivals of Spain. All roads lead to Valencia at this time of the year.

    One word of advice, though; if you’re not used to loud firecrackers, its best to come to Valencia on the first day of the event. This way, you’ll get used to the booming noise by the time Las Fallas culminates on the 19th, and the fireworks are at their strongest and loudest. I must say everything about the Las Fallas is spectacular (do watch the fireworks video below), and strongly recommend that everybody attends the event next year.

Suffice it to say that it was total excitement throughout the last day of the fiesta. By the time we boarded the bus en route back to Madrid, I was dog-tired, but happy nonetheless to have gone thru the experience, and confirm what every one else is saying about it, that Las Fallas is Spain’s best of the best.

Valencia Spain – Charming Spanish City of New and Old


imageBefore our trip to Valencia Spain, I decided to check out the city on a few vlogs on Youtube and travel sites as well. It looks pretty amazing. And everyone who’s written about the place only has raves about it. When I was finally there, I didn’t realize that it was THAT amazing. My advise to people is — get ready to be immersed in modern art and culture and explore the dizzying yet charming Old Town.

You’ll enjoy your Valencian vacation to no end – this I assure — if only because the place boasts of a plethora of wonderful Valencia Spain attractions, all of which are certainly worth seeing.

The third-largest Spanish city, Valencia is not only awesome and breathtaking, but mesmerizing as well. I reserve the last description for the City of Arts and Sciences complex. I was practically spellbound as I stepped into it, with its many lights still lit when the morning is just about to break. If you’re coming from Madrid, the complex must be the first site you will see as you enter the city. It is only 3 to 4 hours from Madrid, (depending on your chosen mode of transportation)  but once you’re there, you feel that you are a world away, especially if you are in the science complex.

imageValencia is recognized as the heart of the autonomous region this part of the country, not only in a historical sense, but in terms of economy as well. And even if it’s divided into the modern complex and Old Town, the two totally compliment each other, and in fact, forms a fusion that makes the city stand out from the rest of Spain.

Breathtaking — that’s what it is after emerging from the centuries of occupation of three major groups – Romans, Moors, and Catholics. Such are strong influences that contributed to what the city has become today – a modern metropolis that embraces its glorious past.

Suffice it to say that the city is all about dream holidays, rich Spanish culture and tradition, avant-garde art, modernism, warm beaches, and of course, paella, the delicious sticky rice-dish. Only a select Spanish city can promise immense vacation pleasure and enjoyment – and one of them is Valencia.

What to see in Valencia Spain

I. City of Arts and Sciences

imageModern design, symmetry and strength are the obvious qualities that the edifices and structures at the arts and science complex want to convey

1. Prince Philip Science Museum

It looks odd, like a giant exoskeleton of some prehistoric animal. Yet inside, the Museu de les Ciencies Principe Felipe amazes, as it is home to a number of permanent expositions and events that delve in modern science and technology.
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2. Hemispheric Planetarium

This ultra-modern science facility assures visitors the surreal experience of what’s it like to be in outer space. The planetarium  employs equipment and gadgets like laser and IMAX that enhance the lights, sounds, and images of shows and displays. In effect, it affords every visitor a fantastic, out-of-this-world sensation.

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3. The Agora

One can see how the edifice of the Agora takes on the shape of an upright purple-colored mullusk shell. A creation of Santiago Calatrava, it is located near the Oceanographic and asserts a stunning presence at the Sciences complex.
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4. Assut de l’Or Bridge

Puente de l’Assut de l’or, the Dam of the Gold, is an impressive cable bridge by engineer Santiago Calatrava.  Affectionately called the Serreria Bridge by its builder, locals on the other hand love to call it El Jamonero, the ham cutter.
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5. Oceanographic Park

A gargantuan aquarium complex that features thousands of water species, the water park is also where dolphin shows are enjoyed by visitors. Design is done by famous architect Felix Candela.

II. Old Town

imageMuseo de la Almoina

This section of the city is aptly named, as evidenced by the archaeological remains at the museum at the Plaza de la Almoina. There is also the Serranos tower, was once part of a wall that surrounded Valencia. For me, the Old Town is  charming, with its narrow, rather convoluted roads that lead to precious sites such as the town’s famous markets, crowded squares, centuries-old cathedrals, and inviting cafes. The Old Town is the perfect next destination to cool the excitement down after that exhilarating tour of the City of arts and sciences.

1. Plaza de Toros de Valencia

The bullring is a staple feature in Valencia postcards, as the famous stadium is one of the city’s iconic symbols. Built in the mid-19th century, it stands right in the midst of the city, near the city hall and the North Station. Bullfighting events are still being held there, especially during the Fallas fiesta. The latter is a traditional festival that occurs in March, where there is a grand parade of puppets or gigantes. The festivity ends with the burning of the gigantes except the one chosen as the best of the lot.

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2. Les Torres dels Serrans

My fear of heights didn’t stop me from climbing up the Les Torres dels Serrans, or Los Torres of Serrano. It is one of the 12 gates that guard the city during the late 14th century. Legend has it that the name was derived from a famous family the lived near the place.image

3. Catedral de Santa Maria de Valencia

My visit includes attending the midday Sunday mass at Catedral de Sta Maria de Valencia, a spectacular Roman Catholic church — inside and out. It was built in the 13th century as a replacement to an ancient temple. The religious edifice speaks of Roman and Gothic elements in its design. image

4. Turia Fountain

Wandering to the Plaza de la Virgin near the Cathedral, you will certainly not miss the Fuente del Turia, which displays a huge statue that represents the god Neptuno. The flowing water is supposed to depict the Turia River
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5. Lonja

Another Goth-inspired edifice masterpiece from the 15th century is the Lonja, one of the city’s important landmarks. Another popular Valencian monument-landmark, the Central Merkat, is just across the street.
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6. La Playa

The urban beaches are but some of the reasons why tourists troop to the city during summertime. Here I took fancy of the dolphin statues on display at the Las Arenas Beach (Playa de las Arenas de Valencia).

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7. Estacion de Nord train station

The North Station, or Estacion del Norte in Spanish, was constructed way back in 1917 by the Railways of the North of Spain, a top train station maker in the city during those times. The North Station boasts of a premier train railway system, seeing a steady traffic of commuters day in and day out.

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Tasting Valencia’s Paella

It was a busy day — the exploration of the Sciences complex , the midday mass at the Catedral de Sta Maria de Valencia, and stroll along the Old town got me really starving. Come 2PM, we finally decided to try one of those Old town restaurants that serves the Spanish dish that the region boasts about – the paella. We found one right within La Plaza Mercado (Plaça Merkat) — Restaurante La Cava. imageThis Mediterranean restaurant along Calle San Fernando is just one of the many at Market plaza, and I thought we made the right choice as the food joint serves really delicious paella.

imageGazpacho con croutons – cold soup to start the meal

imageEnjoying a taste of Valencia food means having a plateful of sumptuous paella for lunch 

imageThe lamb dish (cordero) perfectly complements my Valenciana

imageI realized that a flan is a flan, whether you’re in Madrid, Barcelona, Manila or Valencia. It’s the perfect postre to have – para siempre!

Hotels in Valencia Spain

One of the modern medium rise Valencia Spain hotels, it is just a few-minute walk from the City of Arts and Sciences — we even passed by it as we proceeded to the Valencia beach. It is a little over a kilometer away from station Ayora and around 3.7 kilometers from the Central Market. All available rooms are furnished to the delight of guests, and feature vital amenities like Wi-Fi and satellite TV. The luxurious suites boast of a private balcony or terrace for some spectacular views.

Where located: Av. de França 33 València

imageFor guests who want to be booked at a convenient hotel Valencia room that’s a stone throw away from the City of Arts and Sciences complex, the best option is the Tryp, considered by many as one of the finest Valencia Spain hotels. Common feedback are  its large, spacious, and clean rooms and suites as well as quick and efficient services. Guests choose this hotel if only because it offers rooms with spectacular views of the city.

Its location is at Carrer del Pintor Maella 35

Traveling to Valencia Spain?

imageHow to reach by bus:

Auto buses are perhaps the cheapest means of going to Valencia or any other Spanish city and town, for that matter.  The first departure of buses from Madrid is as early as 8:00 in the morning. On the average, it will take you 4 1/2 hours to as long as 7 hours to complete your journey to Valencia via bus. ALSA bus company offers regular bus services to the city – just click on the its link here and enter the necessary information. You may also purchase bus tickets at the ALSA Plaza Eliptica station.

How to reach by train:

If you take the high-speed train by AVE at Atocha Renfe station, you now have a direct connection between Madrid and Valencia. Travel time is much less compared to bus — around 1.5 hours. There are a sufficient number of train trips daily, from 1 to 3 scheduled trips to Valencia every hour — the maximum frequency is usually during the day’s peak hours (late afternoons).

Map:

Museo del Jamón: Indulge in Some Fine Ham, Bocadillos and Much More

Perhaps  you just flew into Madrid for the first time, and so you’re an absolute newbie in the city. More often than not, you are at a lost on which Madrid restaurant to go to have your first Spanish “comida.” In which case, I would recommend Museo del jamón. I suggest you try out one of the most frequented branches along Calle Mayor, at Puerta del Sol. (There are two Museos in the area, the other one is in Carretera de Jeronimo.) Here is where I had my first dinner in Madrid, and a taste of the savory Jamón Iberico, that much-talked-about premier ham product made from an olive-fed, black Iberian pig.

Popular for the numerous ham ( Are they even edible?) that hover above the sides of the restaurant as they hang from its ceiling, the Museo is a hands-down choice of many first-time diners in Madrid. And rightly so, since the restaurant offers not just high grade jamón, but a wide variety of fresh and full-flavored meat and sea food dishes as well.

It’s clear that the restaurant is a hot spot when it comes to anything that’s cured ham. It manages to be steps ahead of its competitors, which is why it is touted as a major player of the jamon industry of Madrid. Needless to say, when one experiences his first taste of the Spanish ham, it’s likely that it is thru Museo del jamón.

At Museo in Calle Alcala, you may opt to enjoy a sit-down dinner at its comidor on the second floor, where order is served within minutes (at least in my case); or have a quick sandwich and beer (or refresco) fix at the bar. If you choose the latter, you might be required (especially during meal hours) to display some jostling moves to be able to give your order and land a bit of dining space at the bar.

Popular dishes at Museo del Jamón (ones that I’ve tasted so far):

imageThe mixed carne dish is simply meat overload.  Allow your palate to revel in the richness and mouth-watering taste of  pork and beef fillet, bacon, and sausages – cooked either grilled or friedimage Probably one of the best frituras de pescados in town. Sea foods tend to be greasy when fried, and this one at Museo is no exception. But regardless, our plate ended up clean. The taste was just spot on that we thought it’s such a waste if any was left uneaten imageChistorra resembles the chorizo, only it is smaller, more like bite-size that you can just pop into your mouth to relish. I love that it is a bit sour and spicy, and served in heaping quantity. It jives well with any bread, albeit the baguette is a fine match. Chistorra comes drenched in a thick, reddish liquid which I mistaken as oil, but was told it was apple cider

1-euro Bocadillos, copa y bebida con aperitivo at Museo del Jamón

Now for those who love bocadillos but can only spend so much, there’s no other place to enjoy them but at Museo del Jamón. The restaurant offers six varieties of these sandwiches – jamon, queso, lacon, chorizo, salami, and salchichon – for an incredibly low price of 1 euro per piece. Tasty meat choices as liberal fillings to fresh, crunchy bread – who could resist such an offer? Many other items are available for 1 euro at the bar, like a bottle of Pepsi or 7-up or a copa of cervesa (which costs less, at 90 cents). What’s more – an order of any of these drinks comes with aperitivo, the Spanish term for aparitivo or light snack. Order a refresco or cervesa at the bar and it is served along with an aperitivo in the form of small sandwiches, empanadita, chips, or a few slices of jamon.

image The plain bocadillo de queso is the quintessential sandwich for days I want to go meat-less – that sadly becomes not so if my order of refresco comes with this aperitivo
imageBocadillo de salami is perfect for those who love spicy and salty meat. If only for the rich taste, it makes me wonder why the sandwich only costs a euro. Again, my refresco was served without any appetizer
imageSalami bocadillo and la copa de cerveza is an affordable food combo that seems meant to satiate a hungry soul. My beer comes with a mini jamon sandwich
imageBocadillo de Chorizo is another favorite. In fact, I took a few bite before I realized that I have yet to take a photo for my blog. Chips, this time, was served as an aperitivo

imageBocadillo de Lacon, made from the hindlimbs of pigs, is like spiced ham and saltier compared to the traditional cured ham. Its largely meaty and tasteful qualities make it my top favorite among all six sandwiches

imageBocadillo de Salchichon. The Museo at Carretera de Jeronimo has available dining counters set against the glass windows on its sides, affording full view of the busy streets outside

image Notice the slot machine near the bar, a common fixture found inside many food establishments in the city

image Display counter of various cured ham products for take-away
image Museo del Jamon along Calle Mayor