Arrival – Barcelona

We made it to Barcelona without a hitch. The only real bump in the road was that we arrived to the hotel around 11:00 am Barcelona time and the room wasn’t ready for us to check in yet. After a long overseas flight it is tough to cool your heals waiting to get into your room. They finally gave it to us around 1:30. We quickly unpacked a few things and took a 2 hour nap.

One we woke up we were pretty hungry so we walked across the street to the El Corte Ingles and bought some groceries.

After we had eaten something we felt much better and rode the metro over to see the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - 1

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - 5

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - 4

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc - HDR

We ran out of steam pretty quick and headed back to the hotel. As we were walking Cynthia suggested we go have a look at Casa Batlo which is not to far away. We walked over and snapped some shots, but I am not overly pleased with what I got so may plan to shoot some more later.

Of course William The Sheep is tagging along for the journey

Time to get some sleep and get ready for tomorrow. Rain is forecast, but we’re prepared!

Barcelona – Day 2

Bar Central @ La Boqueria

As the weather sites have all been saying for the last few weeks, today is a day of heavy rain. I’d hoped the forecast would change as we got closer to arrival, but it did not.

Freshly Made Fried Baby Octopus

Fortunately, we packed foul weather gear and have been moving about. The first stop today was La Boqueria for some breakfast at The Bar Central Cafe and then to have a look around and take some photos.

Cynthia enjoys her Boqueria breakfast

It is a unique market with fresh produce, meat and seafood. Some of the seafood is so fresh it tries to crawl, slither or otherwise wriggle out of the display.

Tomatoes And One Rasberry

Crabby

WALL OF CHEEZE

La Boqueria

Pepper!

Roly Poly

Cthulhu For Dinner

You Buy Me, Me Bite You

Barcelona – Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Since it is raining and we have also mastered the metro, we decided to spend the day at the museum looking at art. Not a bad choice at all. Unfortunately, I find photographs from inside a museum to be kind of boring. I love seeing the art and browsing the gallery and I do take photos, but the results always seem kinda bleh. Here are a few that I like from the day. You’ll note that two of them are not actually pictures of the art, but are of the historic building housing the art. And one is of the intrepid William The Sheep.

William Loves Art

useu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona

From The Floor

From The Floor

Saint Sebastian

Barcelona – Day 3 – Part 1

The sun came out today. After a full day of rain yesterday we were very happy to see it. We got up and headed out for some breakfast and then walked down La Rambla to the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia aka the Barcelona Cathedral to watch the Sardana dances.

Human Statues

La Rambla was bustling early. The crowds were building fast and the human statues were gearing up for a busk-o-rama day.

And the beggars were also taking advantage of the sunshine.

Beggar

Walking through the Barri Gotic on the way to the cathedral we marvelled at the ornamentation on the buildings in the neighborhood

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

Ornamentation in Barri Gotic

During our wandering we stumbled upon the secluded Gothic cloister which encloses the Well of the Geese (Font de les Oques) where 13 white geese are kept, the number explained by the assertion that Eulalia was 13 when she was martyred.

Goose

After communing with the geese for a bit we found our way to the front of the cathedral for the main event. Each Sunday the citizens of Barcelona gather in front of the cathedral for for the Sardana Dances. Some to dance, other just to watch and listen to the cobla.

sardana dances - 4

sardana dances - 3

sardana dances - 2

sardana dances - 1

After this it was back to the hotel to recombobulate and have a snack. The walk back was met by extremely large throngs of people jamming La Rambla

Crowds On La Rambla

Next up, La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona – Day 3 – Part 2

After collecting ourselves back at the hotel room we headed out and braved the metro to go see La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi. Construction began in 1882 and is not expected to be completed until 2026.

The structure is amazing to see in person. I was particularly happy to have my very wide angle Sony 16-35mm lens with me to capture a few images. These are both done using HDR techniques that involve taking 3 separate photos, each with a different exposure setting, and blending the images together to create one high dynamic range image that brings our the detail and evens out the overall exposure.

Sagrada Familia - HDR

La Sagrada Familia - HDR

And later that evening for a night shot

Sagrada Familia - Night Shot 2

Valencia – Day 1

The last day in Barcelona yesterday was good. but the weather was the pits. We saw some sights and enjoyed some good food, but the photo ops were pretty much non-existent. Despite our overall good attitude, we were a little bummed.

Today was the 3 1/2 hour train ride to the city of Valencia for the 2011 Las Fallas festival. We were here two years ago and simply fell in love.

As we left Barcelona the rain was falling in earnest and the weather reports called for rain in Valencia for at least a few days. But as we got close to Valencia the skies began to clear and by the time we got tot he hotel it was downright sunny. Huzzah!

Street

Valencia, even without the festival, is a fantastic and picturesque city. Add to that the fallas and it becomes magical.

Cathedral

Falla

Falla

Sadly, due to all the rain of the last week, many of the fallas have been damaged. The artists are working fast and furious to repair them and seem to be doing a good job. Today is the day they are being officially setup so the ones we are seeing are in various states of completion and repair.

We came back to the hotel room after enjoying a nice lunch at Pappardella, an Italian restaurant we found during our last visit.

We spent almost two hours over a leisurely lunch and a bottle of local Rioja

Wine break. Enjoying a local Valencia blended rioja

Since leaving Barcelona this morning Cynthia has been a little sick. Nothing major, but an upset stomach and some fatigue have taken her a bit off her game. The lunch really helped, but we knew we’d both benefit from a siesta so we went back to the room and sacked out for a few hours. When we got up we headed back out. The evening weather here is pretty perfect. And the city and the fallas are very cool at night.

Falla

Falla

Falla Infantile Procession

Random Band

Lights

Tower

Now were are back in the room and considering our options. There is a huge fireworks display at midnight. If we have the energy we may head out to see that. If not, there’s another one tomorrow night. And the night after that. And the night after that.

It’s good to have options!

Valencia – Late Night

Cynthia and William

Cynthia an I caught our second wind and we ended up going to the midnight fireworks display. It was quite impressive. There were quite a lot of people there to see it and a very large police and fire department presence.

Just In Case

Crowds Waiting For Fireworks

The fireworks display lasted for a full 17 1/2 minutes. We were so close that it seemed as though they were right on top of us.

I shot a video of the whole thing with my Android phone.

Valencia – Day 2

After such a great day yesterday we were a bit disappointed to wake up to rain in Valencia. Not a lot of it, but enough to dampen our spirits somewhat. We grabbed some breakfast here at the hotel and went back to the room. We were still tired from the night before and with the rain we decided to take a nap. That ended up being a great idea because we slept soundly for a few more hours and when we woke up the rain had stopped.

We set out exploring and as it approached 2pm we decided to attend the daily mascleta which is a daytime fireworks display designed for percussive effect rather than visual. Thousands of festival goers jam in to the central square to be as close to the event as possible. When it goes off it is so loud you can’t hear yourself even if you shout. The display goes for a full 5 minutes.

I recorded this on my cell phone. It does not do the event justice, but it gives you an idea

After the mascleta we went back to the room to re-organize and then went to have a late lunch at our favorite restaurant, Pappardella.

After a nice meal and a bottle of wine we took to the streets where we encountered a procession of Falleras apparently leaving some event and going back to their respective neighborhoods. This provide Cynthia and I with a few hours of photographic fun

Cynthia Getting The Shot

Fallera Procession - 1

Fallera Procession - 2

Fallera Procession - 3

Fallera Procession - 4

Fallera Procession - 5

Fallera Procession - 6

Fallera Procession - 7

Fallera Procession - 11

Fallera Procession - 12

Fallera Procession - 14

Fallera Procession - 15

Fallera Procession - 17

Fallera Procession - 19

Fallera Procession - 21

After this we went back to the hotel room once more to get ready for the evening where we planned to go find the legendary light displays of the Ruzafa district.

Lights Of Ruzafa

In Valencia’s Ruzafa district is where you will find the legendary light displays that are set up in celebration of Las Fallas. We missed these on our previous visit to this festival so we made it a point to seek them out this time.

As we wandered the area we encountered some of the largest, most ornate fallas we’d ever seen

Falla

Falla

But what REALLY sets this area apart is the incredibly ornate light diplays

Ruzafa District Light Display

Falla in Ruzafa District

Ruzafa District Light Display

Ruzafa District Light Display

Obviously, these things attract a large crowd so it does get fairly jammed up pretty much as soon as the sun goes down. Still, it was worth a bit of jostling just to see them.

After that we were pretty tuckered out. We’re hitting the sack a bit early in anticipation of sunshine tomorrow.

Valencia – Day 4

Las Fallas Fireworks @ 1 AM

We stayed up late last night to watch the fireworks at 1:00 am. Suffice to say, we were pretty tired by the time we hit the sack.

During Las Fallas there is a tradition called La Despertà where each morning starting at 8:00 am marching bands go down the streets waking everyone up. These bands are followed by men detonating large fireworks that make a lot of noise.

For the most part, we’ve not encountered this experience on our street. Our hotel is a bit out of the way so they don’t tend to make it to where we are. Yes, we do hear the fireworks late into the night and then starting up in the morning. It’s almost midnight as I write this and it sounds like a war zone out there.

But this morning La Despertà found our quiet little corner of the city and let loose with a barrage of fireworks that seemed to go on for about 15 minutes. We didn’t hear any bands playing, but we may have slept through that part. But the explosions could not be ignored. We woke up while it was going on, but we were so tired we fell back to sleep as soon as it was over.

We ended up sleeping in till about 10:30 am. This meant we missed breakfast at the hotel so we set off to a local restaurant.

After breakfast we just wanted to walk around and take in the sites. The first thing we wanted to look at was the progress of the Virgin being built from the carnations brought by the Fallera during the Ofrenda.

The Virgin

Flower Offering

She’s coming along quite nice.

Today was day 2 of the Ofrenda so there would be more processions blocking and clogging the streets. You can’t turn a corner without running into them.

Random Fallera Procession

Cynthia wanted to go to the Torres De Quart to honor the tradition we have of releasing a feather from her dear depated bird, Mr. Zippers. A tradition we started several trips ago. I was not in any condition to climb the structure, so Cynthia climbed up on her own and let the feather go.

Torres De Quart

We had a good time continuing to explore the city and then we went back (yet again) to our favorite little lunch spot La Pappardelli. We again had some local Valencian wine recommended by our waitress.

Today's lunch wine

Since we ate here regularly on our last trip and we’ve been regulars again on this trip the staff treat us very well. One of the waitresses even said they think of us as family. That was very kind. They always give me a complimentary grappa at the end of the meal which I find to be very cool and a nice finish to the meal.

Grappa!

After lunch we did some more exploring.

Art Covered In Old Shoes

After which we headed back to the hotel to rest a bit before my big project.

I wanted to go back to the City Of Arts And Sciences to take some photos. But I was very particular in wanting to go just before sunset to take advantage of the “golden hour” which is that time just after the sun goes down and before it actually gets dark.

We’ve just returned from that excursion and I think I got some VERY nice pics which I will be posting before too long.

Tomorrow is La Crema and The Nic De Foc (Night Of Fire) so it’s going to be a long and exciting day!

Valencia – Day 5

Cynthia and Manel

Today is the last day of Las Fallas. Early we met up with our friend Manel who lives here in Valencia. We headed over to Horchateria Santa Catalina for some buñuelos and coffee. We ended up visiting for quite awhile before he had to get back home to his family.

Being the last day of Las Fallas and a Saturday and (apparently) a full moon it was pretty crazy. The crowds are huuuuuge and the streets are packed. We went for a walk but it was a bit overwhelming so we decided to head back to the hotel rooms to rest up for the big finish, the Nit De Foc (Night Of Fire) which includes the fire parade and the citywide burning of the Fallas all over the city which doesn’t happen until midnight.

Valencia – Nic De Foc (Night Of Fire)

This is what it has all been building up to. The final night of Las Fallas. The first event we wanted to see was the Cabalgata del Fuego (Fire Parade). It’s hard to explain, but basically the Falleras parade by followed by guys dressed in devil suits shooting spark everywhere. It is chaotic and exciting and just a little scary, especially when the fire shoots up your pant leg or falls on your head. Hopefully these photos can convey some of the madness.

Nit De Foc - 7

Nit De Foc - 8

Nit De Foc - 13

Nit De Foc - 15

Nit De Foc - 20

Nit De Foc - 5

Fire Parade Video

I managed to convince Cynthia to video the fire parade using my Flip Mino HD. The results are pretty good, considering that when the fire devils came up she was screaming just a little. And by “little” I mean a lot! The beginning of the video is pretty tame, but it gets REALLY good about the 15:30 mark

fireparade2011 from baldheretic on Vimeo.

Valencia – Nic De Foc – Crema

All those falls so beautiful, so incredible, so expensive to build. Tonight they burn. The Crema is the big finish to the event that is Las Fallas.

We set out around 10:30 to stake out a falla to watch burn. You have to get there early as the crowds form up pretty thick by the time they start to ignite these things.

We had originally thought we’d go to a falla near the dry river bed, but it was not that interesting of a falla and I thought it might be more interesting to see one burn in the city center. We ended up at this one.

crema1

The crowds were already pretty big and lively, but we felt this would be manageable. According to the program, the fallas burn at midnight. As it turns out, the burning of the fallas DOES begin at midnight, but not all falls are burned at the start. They seem to go in waves. The first thing that has to happen is that group of Valencia firemen have to be present to hose things down and ensure nothing goes horribly wrong. Some of the fallas are over 6-10 stories tall and most are wedged in between buildings.

But there are only so many firemen so they make the rounds. There’s no pre-published schedule, the falla burns when it burns.

Sadly, for us we ended up waiting till almost 2:00 am for our falla to burn. The crowds got thicker an thicker and more and more intoxicated. We were jostled, squished and basically trapped till it was over.

At long last, the firemen did arrive and and started hosing things down and without much warning things just started exploding. The falla caught fire pretty quick and was fully engaged in a matter of minutes.

Now look at that top picture. You can see many people crowded in close. I’m not sure what these people are thinking because when a falla burns it puts off a LOT of heat. Sure enough, at one point the crowd up front surged backward and the crowd behind us barely gave ground so the entire crowd became a little more densely packed for the duration of the burn.

It’s a good thing they did move back because not only would they have been flame broiled, but the arm of the woman in the falla pretty much fell in a flaming heap at one point, right where some people were standing before the surge.

crema2

The Pinocchio character in the falla was the very last to go. His continued presence in the below series of photos strikes me as particularly odd and humorous.

Here is the burning from pretty much the beginning to right before the firemen pushed the Pinocchio character into the smoldering heap.

crema3

crema4

crema5

crema6

crema8

crema9

When the falla had mostly burned the crowd began to relax and start to thin out which made it possible for us to finally move again. And we used this movement to find our way back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

On our way back to the hotel there were smoldering heaps that were once majestic fallas everywhere you looked.

Aftermath

Tomorrow we make our way back to Barcelona on just a few hours of sleep.