Many years ago, I looked into flights to Valencia with a plan to visit during the Las Fallas festival weekend, as it turned out my ideals were scuppered by super high prices of flights and accommodation. At the time I was travelling a fair bit in between work and this was right up my street, I felt I had missed out a little and vowed that one day I would return. That vow got lost in a maze of other crazy plans and ideas, however life likes to throw in a bit of luck at times and as it turns out we just happened across the festival accidentally on our return trip through Spain.
We had only driven into Gandia to find some wifi, Jess’s phone (our only working phone left) had decided not to work; she had work to do as well, so a trip to a library for some wifi was needed. We pulled into Gandia as it was a big-ish town on the way to a crag we were trying to climb at. As soon as we parked up we could hear loud bangs and crashes, kids were throwing bangers on the floor and fireworks were being set off in any area, irrelevant of size. WTF, was the first thought, then as we closed on the town, we saw a huge Pinocchio statue, and the streets were rammed! Everywhere we looked for free wifi was closed, the town was full of people and getting around was a pain. Jess was super stressed, and all the huddle and bustle was not helping.
We eventually found a library, although we only had a short time, as this was Fallas weekend, so it was shutting early and shutting for good until Tuesday! On the bright side of things, we had only popped into town for wifi and had stumbled upon the Fallas festival celebrations, which was great news! I was happy to walk around town, jess less so, as she was in a right grump! Taking in all the colourful statues and watching a wierd banging thing in the street, it was like fireworks, only at street level and no lights, just lots of smoke and banging, not sure why or what, but it was interesting!
That afternoon and the next day we partied like crazy…only joking, we drove to a town on the outskirts near a climbing location (this after all is still a climbing trip). That night we were woken by a brass band, who were literally playing right outside our door. We knew we were climbing the next day, and needed a little sleep. The Fallas is famous for being loud and most don’t get much sleep throughout the weekend. We had to move, and once we did sleep came all to naturally!
The next day we eventually got to the crag, after a huge detour, we managed to get one climb in before the heavens opened and soaked the place! Great! A couple of hours driving, all for one climb! That afternoon we returned to Gandia and we parked up in the lorry park by the commercial estate. That night we had planned to drive into Valencia and seek out the festivities there, however, we stayed to try and sort out the phone problem!
The next day we partied like crazy… oh, hang on, no we didn’t! Instead we sat in a decathlon car park, jacking the free wifi, as jess continued to try and sort out her phone problem. Luckily it worked, the phone came alive! Hallelujah! Finally we set off for Valencia a whole day late!
We parked way out of town, a good call by the seems of things, as cars were parked everywhere! As soon as we started our walk into the city, we came across similar scenes to Gandia as families and kids were setting of bangs and fireworks left right and centre. The closer to the centre and the busier it got! At one stage we had walked through a host of stores to a large statue at the end. It was manic, shuffling a cm a minute, the crowds all jostling with each other to either take photos or just to walk on past. It was crazy!
Some of the statues in the city were larger than those we saw in Gandia, but not by much, and the standard of the statues was equally amazing. We found others that were a little less busy, but it was still stifling, the amount of people wedged into the small streets, it definitely had the feeling of a Spanish festival. We headed towards the light show, unsure what it was going to be like. We again, had to worm our way through crowds to find a spot to see it all! After standing in someone’s sick for a while we moved to a cleaner piece of tarmac, and waited for the light show. As it turned out, it was pretty cool, it reminded me of a dodgy Muse concert with doilies! All good fun though!
We then took a stroll through the town, trying to find/follow the things to do from the Fallas guide. It was so busy, and soon, we decided to call it a night. Apart from parades and a late night fireworks display, nothing else was happening. On the way to the van we treated ourselves to a traditional Spanish KFC, it has been ten months of no KFC and it’s return was awesome and awesomely greasy!
That night we made a decision to watch the burning in Gandia, this was due to how busy Valencia was, I don’t think we would get a good viewing place to see the burning. Rather than travel direct, we went inland via a climbing crag, we parked in the woods below the crag, for the first time in an age we were in silence, it had been a week or more, since we last stayed in a silent location, instead parking at the side of roads or near the festivals.
The next morning, I awoke feeling more refreshed than I had for a while! I think we need a few more wildcamps before this trip is over, as that’s when I feel at home the most! We climbed all morning, and only in the early afternoon, did it start to rain, so again we decided to call it a day, fully aware that this would be our last climbing day in the Costa Blanca before heading north and eventually home!
That afternoon we headed back to Gandia, had a pretty awesome evening meal and wine, and eventually made our way into town to see the burnings. We wondered around town, having one last look at the different statues. To be honest we had no idea what was being burnt or when, luckily for us, we arrived on the scene of a large statue as it was being set up, so we nestled into the crowd and watch the firemen set up, and others who were wrapping the statue with fireworks and eventually covering the base with some flammable fluids. Eventually a firework display proceeded a group of local women in traditional dress igniting the cord that eventually exploded its way toward the statue. I think the rest is pretty obvious, the statue lit up and began to burn, it was funny that the head stayed on even after the whole of the structure had burnt, and only at the very end did it topple to a cheers from the crowd.
We then made our way to another large statue in the plaza, this one had dancing ladies, monkeys giving a one finger salute and elephants. Such an amazing structure, it was shame that we knew it was soon to be reduced to ashes. Im sure if these statues were anywhere else, they would be protected, however the Spanish don’t follow the norms of the world, and stick to their traditions, and fair play as most of them are pretty unique and cool. As for the kids, all playing with fireworks, literally kicking them away and playing around them. If this was the UK there would be an outcry, a frenzy of health and safety legislation to keep them safe…imagine watching a parent give a child fireworks in the UK and let them set them off in public, you’d probably be sectioned and have your children taken away. But not in Spain, it’s the norm, and so it should be, the children looked as though they were having an amazing time! Jess less so, as every bang made her jump out of her skin!
We were waiting for while, eventually the crowds built up and following the same procedure as the previous statue, the structure went up in flames. This one was larger than the previous one and so took a little while to burn! I love watching fire TV, so this was great entertainment for me. Occasionally the crowd would buckle as water was sprayed or the structure looked unstable. It was fun to be jostled in the middle of all of this!
After this we called it a night, I’m sure there was a couple more to go, but this was enough for me! As we left you could have been forgiven for believing that the town was burning to the ground, the smoke rising high above the city. I was a little surprised by the lack of festivities on the final night, I thought it would be the last big party, although it seemed more of a closing down. I’m sure Valencia would be more up beat, but I’m also sure we would not get as close to the burnings, if close enough at all to see anything! As it was we were close and saw everything, and got the full experience, I reckon we made the right decision for the final night!
This was a great experience to see the Fallas, and to experience it in both the city of Valencia and in Gandia was a bonus, as we got the best of both worlds. This trip has been a great opportunity to mix up visiting cities and occasionally happening upon local traditions, with adventurous activities that we love! It’s not long now until we are home, so I’m trying to absorb everything from these last weeks! It’s crazy how fast time has passed, however this is a testament to how great this trip has been!