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From Venice To Florence

On Tuesday, May 1 we wrapped up a successful visit to Venice. We woke up, packed our things and checked out of our hotel and caught a water taxi to Venezia Santa Lucia railway station. We were fairly certain we could book a train to Florence without much trouble. We had our rail passes, but no reservations. We secured tickets and were on our way in less than an hour.

It was raining in Venice as we left and, as it turns out, raining in Florence when we arrived. It wasn’t a constant rain, more of an on and off kind of rain.

When we pulled in to the station in Florence it was in “off” mode so we decided to walk to our hotel which was only a 10 minute hike from the station.

Situated a bock from the Duomo, it was easy to find.

When we got to the hotel Cynthia was a a bit discouraged. I booked the hotel based on recommendations from Trip Advisor where everyone was saying how much they enjoyed their stay and how great the owners are and how conveniently located the hotel was to all the major attractions.

When we got to the hotel to check in Cynthia was not happy. The hotel is on the 4th floor of the building and since she hates european elevators she has to walk up the stairs to get to the room.

The hotel itself is nothing special. Very small and basic, but clean.

Cynthia was a bit put off by the fact that our room had 4 single beds in it. Granted, this kind of makes the room look a bit like a dormitory, but it’s not a shared space. We have the room all to ourselves. But this impression combined with the basic nature of the hotel combined with the rain and the fatigue of travel put Cynthia into a bit of a funk.

Personally, I like the room. It’s clean, the staff is personable and it’s a place to lay our heads when we’re not out and about seeing the sites.

I did my best to try and lift Cynthia’s spirits, but it was a struggle. We put on our rain coats and set off to do some exploring.

At this point Cynthia was getting pretty hungry and we stopped at a small cafe to see about getting something to eat for lunch. This was a huge mistake. The place was not very good. And when I say not very good, it sucked. The food was awful and the service was marginal at best.

As you can imagine, Cynthia was beginning to crater under the weight of so much disappointment.

We walked down to scout out the Uffizi and have a look at the Ponte Vecchio. The rain finally cleared off, but it was still overcast and damp. Florence is a dark, gritty city made up of stone buildings and stone streets. In these conditions it can be very gloomy.

Photographically, it was a bit of a bust. The gloom was not very conducive to much shooting. But the sun made a last ditch effort to come out toward the end of the day and this, combined with the rain puddles afforded me a unique photo opportunity

We wrapped up the day with a nice dinner and a bottle of wine at a restaurant near the hotel. This went a long way toward lifting Cynthia’s spirits. We got back to the room and we both slept some of the best sleep we have had the whole trip.

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

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

City Of Arts And Sciences

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.

Ofrenda 1

Ofrenda 2

Ofrenda 3

Ofrenda 4

Ofrenda 5

Ofrenda 7

Ofrenda 8

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

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!