In case you were wondering, we’re back. We flew home a week ago Monday. Our flight was early…7:30 am…which meant getting up before dawn, double checking our packing, checking out of the hotel and catching a cab to the airport.
We flew from Valencia to Paris where we caught the overseas flight back to Houston. As it turned out, our flight to Paris was delayed and we found ourselves running through the Charles de Gaulle Airport fairly certain we would miss our connection. STRESS! Bleh! We worried for naught, though. They held the flight and we made it in plenty of time.
Valencia was a spectacular city. It’s hard to figure out why Rick Steves has not covered it in any of his extensive European travels. The Holy Grail, The City of Arts and Sciences, the museums, the beaches. Those things alone make it a worthy place to visit. Add the Las Fallas Festival and you have the trip of a lifetime.
Prior to departure Cynthia had lost her voice. This was a concern because her Spanish language skills really come in handy and, not only that, she has more fun when she can speak the language. Fortunately she had mostly recovered in time for the trip and it was not an issue.
The festival was really something. Throughout the time we were there we wandered the city to check out the fallas. There were literally hundreds around the city and we only managed to see a small percentage of them.
We also took in the other sites and just enjoyed the festival atmosphere. It was hugely crowded, especially on the last day, but we managed very well. Fireworks started about 8:00 am each day and detonated all over the city all day long and culminated in a spectacular display at 1:30 each morning. Not only that, but individuals had their own fireworks which they set off all over the place. I even had my own “petardos” to splode when the mood struck me.
The noise, the crowds and the scheduled events all combined to make the overall trip an adventure in sleep deprivation. We capitalized on the afternoon siestas and strategically planned our meals to minimize wait times.
My social networking experiment paid off big time. I contacted Manel via Flickr and Twitter and when we got to Valencia we made contact. He came out one day and give us an insider tour of the city for a few hours on the final day of the festival. He couldn’t hang out too long as his family had their own fallas celebration he needed to attend. After our tour he suggested driving us to Peñíscola on our last day to see the Templar Castle.
Manel didn’t speak much English so it was mostly him talking to Cynthia and her translating. I got the gist of most of the conversation. I can understand more than I can speak. There were times though that he was talking tech in Spanish and it was actually me doing the translation from Spanish geek to English geek so Cynthia could understand.
It’s hard to describe the whole experience. To boil it down it was noise, crowds, fires, explosions and really good food and company. As foreigners much was lost on us in regards to the cultural and historical significance of the various events, but it was fantastic to witness none the less.
Photographically, this was my best outing ever. The tripod and the 30mm Sigma f/1.4 lens were of the greatest benefit in the evenings, but the Tamron 17-50mm was the true workhorse overall. The Sony 70-300G came in handy, but ultimately saw little use and the Sony 11-18mm was an excellent wide angle standby. The gallery is up here. If you want context you should view the commentary under the blog topic Las Fallas – Valencia.
My best/favorite picture from the trip has to be this one of La Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias de Valencia:
I doubt it’s something we’d ever do again, but we are sure as heck glad to have done it once. As Cynthia says, it’s a big world and time and money are short. Repeating a trip is never as fun as going on a totally new adventure so we’re in search of the next one.
Thanks to everyone who followed along and made comments via this blog, Flickr, Twitter and even Facebook. It was awesome having an audience to share the experience with.