The annual Fallas Festival in Valencia, Spain draws crowds from around the world to commemorate Saint Joseph. My hotel was on the beach, but all of the festival action was further away in the Old City, so I needed to take the nearby subway uptown.
The subway train arrived and I entered another period in history. Many of the passengers were dressed in historic costume. A small band on board began to play a traditional Spanish tune and we danced and laughed as the train snaked its way through the tunnel.
I exited onto the subway platform. So did the costumed revelers and the band, still playing a Spanish tune. Everyone started singing. After a few minutes, the band and the crowd rode the escalator up to the street, still playing and singing. They marched down the street, going my way toward the bullring.
As we moved through an intersection, another band joined us from a side street. More bands joined in, and soon, hundreds of bands and marchers in traditional costume converged in front of the Plaza de Toros de Valencia bullring. They were gathering for a parade.
No matter how you may feel about bullfighting, it’s very much a part of Spanish tradition. Here, a bull is being selected for the Fallas Festival bullfight in this bullring.
Back outside, massive crowds lined the parade route, and the march north was underway. I pushed through the crowd and wove my way toward the Old City. There were food booths everywhere. In a small tent, prawns cooked in huge paella pans.
Giant effigies made of papier-mâché represented over 200 neighborhoods throughout the city. At the end of the festival, these effigies were burned.
Fireworks, big and small, exploded everywhere. Each night, there was a huge display along a dry riverbed, turned into a park that wraps around the city. Each afternoon, there was another giant display that was more about the explosions than the colors. It was in a small square, so only a portion of the thousands of people there for the festival could actually view this display. But you didn’t really need to see it to enjoy it. The pattern of explosions sounded like giant drums beating out a rhythm. It was so loud, earsplitting actually, that even a couple of blocks away, I had to hold my ears. As I waited for the fireworks extravaganza to begin, a beach ball bounced along the top of the massive crowd.
The Valencia Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Chalice) was packed with tourists. Its spectacular vaulted ceiling inspired me, but the thing that was most interesting was in a little chapel off to the side, the Chapel of the Holy Grail. What? I didn’t know anyone had found the Holy Grail, but there it was, protected in a glass case on an altar.
It was impossible to get away from the crowd, even in the cathedral, and everywhere I went, there was the parade. It wove its way from the bullring all the way up to the Plaza of the Virgin. Men and women dressed in traditional costume marched with bouquets of flowers, some of them enormous, to offer to the Virgin Mary. In the plaza, the flowers were placed in a frame shaped like a dress that would form the figure of the Virgin Mary in flowers.
What a lovely tradition.