Strap in – this might feel like a long one. February was a busy month in Valencia. And March will prove crazy as our little burg swells with tourists from around the world. How will coronavirus impact the most important fiesta of the Valencian calendar? There is speculation at every gathering. But one thing is for sure – the city is ready to party and it would be a major blow if the fireworks fizzled and the Falla stayed in the workshops – dreaming of next year.
But in this post I’ll focus on most of February. There has been very little planning of my time in this month. Other than buying the car, I have been a bit adrift. But the world continues to turn and Valencia hasn’t stood still. As usual, we’ve done a fair bit of walking and there is always something to see, do, hear, experience. Sometimes it’s so random you just have to laugh. You’ll see.
February is when the orange trees are at full fruit. And you can smell them everywhere. Mostly, because the city is harvesting the trees with big farm equipment right on the streets. They’re frantically moving from street to street because, as of March 1st, it’s Fallas and there will be no room to maneuver with all the street closures for fireworks, random processions and countless other goings on. I wish there was smell-o-vision because it must be what the garden of Eden smelled like.
And speaking of farming equipment in the city, we had own own agricultural protest that shut the city down a couple of weeks ago. Farmers, farm workers and unions protested down Calle Colon to the Ayunamiento (town hall) to let their feeling known. Jeff and I were at El Corte Ingles. He was buying me a little gift of some gorgeous new bone china cafe cups I’ve wanted for awhile and we happened upon the shouting and giant tractors as we made our way home.
Then procession season kicked off the other night. Processions and fireworks define Valencia. Fireworks are a near daily occurrence here, but processions have been thin on the ground since the big 3 Kings Parade on January 6th. But one night we heard the marching band. Soon there were scores of Falleras (the defining female symbol of Valencia) leading a procession. Men in robes were pushing a cart holding ‘Our Lady of the Forsaken’ another symbol of Valencia. I’ll say more about that a bit later. This was followed by the local priests from our church in Benimachlet and then the marching band. Why? We have no idea what the occasion was. I asked a fellow bystander and got a shrug.
After we picked up our new car, we took a drive down the coast to Culliera. It’s a beach town on the coast and it’s filled with high rise condos for Valencian’s in the summer time – looking to escape the heat. There’s always a breeze and and the weather has a regular forecast of ‘Sunny’. The cathedral/castle on the hill is a serious hike of you can take the tourist train up to the top to explore. The town can be reached via 50 minute train ride from Valencia.
I walk through the old city – the one built by the Moors – nearly every day. Narrow streets and alleyways. Honey colored building and cobbled streets with a gutter running down the center. Most of the sidewalks are made of granite and slate and the doors are big, thick and wooden. And on a Sunday after lunch we walked by one of the Fallas workshops and the lovely people of Casal Falla Negrito allowed me in to take some photos as they started the assembly of their neighborhood Falla.
There was a mini little celebratory market near the house. We aren’t sure what it was celebrating but it was filled with spices and herbal remedies and tinctures. And plenty of crystals and amulets.
And finally, sometimes when you learn about something you see it everywhere. I visited a local Refugio maintained by the city of Valencia. Admission is free for the tour. When I was on the Camino, these were places of rest for Pilgrims. But in Valencia they’re subterranean air raid shelters. During the Spanish Civil war there were more than 300 of them built in the city as Franco bombed the city from the air with planes and bombs supplied by Mussolini. And bombarded the port from the Sea. Thousands were killed or left homeless. During that time, nearly 20% of the population was illiterate. So the font for the letters and the color these signs were painted were important so that those who couldn’t read would still be able to identify them and run for safety. When I was walking home from this tour I saw one on a street I have walked past a hundred times. It’s funny, I’d always thought it was a bar that was never open during the day. Not an air raid shelter. Notice the colors in the shelter. Blue indicates where safety is during a raid. The red colors are not, so they encourage people to shelter further inside. Again, even if you were illiterate you understood color.
March will prove to be a busy month on so many levels. But February was a pleasant month full of quiet surprises none-the-less. Just what I needed.