Return To Barcelona

Valencia all wrapped up and tied in a fiery bow we made our way back to Barcelona. We didn’t have much sleep so were pretty tired for the 4 hour train ride. Once we got checked into the hotel our spirits were bolstered by some sunny weather, clean clothes and proper bathroom break so we headed off to the top of Montjuïc to take in the spectacular views of the city.

The best way to get to the top is to take the Teleferic de Montjuïc cable cars which can be picked up after you ride up part of the way on the funicular train. You can also ride the other cable car from the other side of the bay, but we decided to go this way instead. And a good thing to as the main cable cars were not operating due to high winds over the bay.

Cable Car Tower

Unfortunately for us, we didn’t realize the funicular train could be picked up at the same metro stop that brought us most of the way to Montjuïc. We ended up walking that part of the distance in our fruitless search. No big deal, the day was sunny and cool and the walk didn’t hurt.

Teleferic

Once we found the teleferic we took it all the way up to the top and the views were just spectacular!

Barcelona Shipping And Receiving

The Torre Agbar

The best shot of the trip is this one of the Sagrada Familia. I took it with the 70-200mm lens connected to a 2X teleconvrter so I was effectively shooting at 400mm.

Sagrada Familia

After we came back down to the city the full brunt of our exhaustion hit us like a ton of bricks. We found some food and then headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep, our first sleep in some time that would not be punctuated by constant fireworks.

Valencia – The City Of Arts And Sciences

The City Of Arts And Sciences (Valencian: Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Spanish: Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias) is an amazing architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela and it is THE thing to see if you ever get to Valencia Spain.

We took a trek out to the complex on our visit two years ago and I got some pretty good photos so I was keen to give it another whirl with my new gear and my (hopefully) improved photographic skills.

This time I decided to get there before sunset and shoot during what is known as the “golden hour of photography” which is that time between when the sun goes down and it gets fully dark. I think the results are pretty good overall.

This first shot is straight out of the camera with no post processing

City Of Arts And Sciences - No Gimmicks

The reset of these were done using HDR processing where I combined three separate exposures and combined them using tone-mapping software.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 (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.

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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 – 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 3

The sun came out today in all its glory. Yay! We got up and had breakfast and then made our way to Gullivar Park and then on to The City Of Arts And Sciences, the fantastic complex of buildings designed by Santiago Calatrava.

City Of Arts And Sciences

City Of Arts And Sciences

City Of Arts And Sciences

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City Of Arts And Sciences

We spent a good deal of time here, just walking in the abundant sunshine and taking photos.

When we were done we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for lunch. On our way we encountered some of the thousands of people preparing for the Ofrenda, an offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary in the square next to the cathedral.

Here you can see the giant Virgin and the lattice work where the flowers will build her dress.

The Virgin

It’s hard to convey in pictures, but there are thousands of women in traditional garb who will be marching into the square for the next two days. All of them carrying flowers to complete the dress of the Virgin Mary.

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We grabbed some lunch and then took a break back at the hotel room before venturing out again. The festival is in full swing and the Ofrenda has streets blocked all over town as the Falleras and their escorts arrive from all corners to make their offerings.

Falleras

Flower Offering

The Virgin

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

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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 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

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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.

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 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!

La Crema

The main event. Midnight is the time all the fallas are burned.

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We decided the above falla would be the one we watched burn. It was within easy walking distance of the hotel and was facing a wide open area along the dry riverbed so we would not be crammed into a small space by the throngs of onlookers.

We got there an hour before the burning time which was midnight. The crowd was very large and enthusiastic. Once the firemen cleared the electric lights and lowered the fire screens that protected the nearby buildings a series of fireworks detonated and the falla began to burn. At one point the fire was so hot we could feel it on our faces. It’s a wonder the people up close were not injured. I suspect there’s more than few eyebrow-less festival-goers after this.

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It burned to the ground in about 10-15 minutes.

By the time we got back to the hotel there were plumes of black smoke all over the city, billowing into the Firework were going off everywhere. Within a few hours the entire city was covered in a haze of smoke.

The next day, silence….

Ofrenda

The Ofrenda is the flower offering to the Virgin Mary. Two days of parade of traditionally clothed men, women and children marching to the square to bring flowers which are used to create a giant effigy to the Holy Mother.corners of the city and converge on the square so you pretty much can’t go anywhere without running into a procession.

It starts with just the bare structure in the Plaza de la Virgen

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And then, over the course of two days literally THOUSANDS of women dressed in traditional costume make there way to the square to bring flowers that will be used to construct the effigy. The women are escorted by husbands, fathers and children and it seems to go on and on forever down several main streets.

Each group represents a family or a neighborhood and most of the groups have a marching band that accompanies them to the square and back home so there’s lots of music, singing and dancing.

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This goes on from around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and wraps up at midnight and starts all over again the next day.

When we went out this morning the virgin was only half complete but starting to look quite amazing

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They should be finishing up about now.