Apr 08

Fiestas Valencia style

This post is rather shorter and sweeter in terms of words than my usual ramblings, though I hope that the abundance of photographs makes it a colourful read.

In keeping with the Spanish tradition, Valencia knows how to party. Fiestas abound. Since the beginning of 2018 we have seen Three Kings Day, Carnival, Falles and preparations for San Vincente Ferrer feast day.

Unfortunately we didn’t see much of Los Reyes Magos [Three Kings] Parade, basically due to the number of people who got there before us! It is very much aimed at children and is the time when they receive their “Christmas” gifts. Throughout the parade, sweets and sometimes small toys are thrown to the crowd by the Kings and their entourage.

The Kings arrive by ship and then walk a route which takes about three hours before they reach the Plaza de Ayuntamiento. We just saw their arrival at the marina.

Whilst Carnival is celebrated, it is perhaps rather more low key in Valencia because of the city’s Fallas festival which takes place a couple of weeks later. However, several of the “barrios” host small carnivals and we went to two of them.

First of all, Cabanyal ….

…. which is the old fisherman’s quarter close to the marina.

Their theme was Mardi Gras.


















The very popular “queen” of the proceedings gave a rousing speech …..

….and all in all it was very much a fun local family affair.









Then it was the turn of Ruzzafa…

……which hosted a “folkloric” carnival with various South American communities being represented.

Decorated cars…













flags…. and ….












Performers and dancers in their hundreds…
































Fantastic costumes…













….and head-dresses….























Bit of a creepy mask…














Balancing acts….

People of all ages…..












A great time was had by all

Then, every March Valencia gets ready to welcome the spring – with the main event in its annual fun packed calendar, Falles – a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph.

Each neighbourhood of the city has an organised group of people, the “Casal Faller”, also known as the “Comissío Fallera”, which works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners.

The Valencian people, and any visitors lucky enough to be in the city over the festival period, really get to live life to the full as the city celebrates. The general gist is that everything that is bad is burnt and the new season is reborn from the ashes.

There are different versions regarding the origin of the Falles festival but the most popular one seems to be that the Falles started in the Middle Ages, when artisans disposed of the broken artefacts and pieces of wood they saved during the winter by burning them to celebrate the spring equinox. Valencian carpenters used planks of wood called “parots” to hang their candles on during the winter to provide light to work by. With the coming of the spring, they were no longer necessary, so they were burned. Over time, and with the intervention of the Church, the date of the burning of these parots was made to coincide with the celebration of the festival of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.

This tradition continued to evolve. The parot was dressed with clothing so that it looked like a person; features identifiable with some well-known person were added as well. The “Ninot” [character figure] was born.

These figures, often “disney-like” in appearance might just be fantasy creations but sometimes represent politicians and other celebrities from the local neighbourhood, the city, the country and the world. These were then placed on a pedestal so they could be seen in the distance.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the falles were tall boxes with three or four wax dolls dressed in fabric clothing. This changed when the creators began to use cardboard. The fabrication of the falles continues to evolve in modern times, when the largest displays are made of polystyrene and soft cork which means they can be more easily moulded with hot saws. These techniques have allowed the creation of falles over 30 metres high.

Each year there is one “ninot indultat” [pardoned ninot]. This has resulted in an exhibition of the best figures, one per Falla, with the general public as the jury. We went to this year’s exhibition – held in the Science museum.

There are so many to choose from and it was really difficult to know what makes a good ninot. We just enjoyed seeing them and didn’t vote.


Recognise him?

A piss take on the British tourist…

Counting people!…….

The Fab Four

Now who could this be…..!

Certainly a popular choice of caracature

All the pardoned ninots, dating back several years, are exhibited in the Falles Museum which, you might remember, we visited in February.

From 1 to 19 March, every day at 2 pm in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the city vibrates to the sound of the traditional mascletà, a display of gunpowder explosions that beats out a unique sound. We went to the first one and the noise was tremendous. We couldn’t work out a particular beat but the ground certainly shook.

It was all overseen by the Fallera Mayor and her entourage.

Each Falla committee has a queen but one is then selected as the overall queen of the Falla.

On the night of 15th March the plantà [installation] takes place, when the falleros and falleras – the men and women who construct the falles, get together to work through the night on erecting them, to have them finished by dawn on the 16th. It seemed that not all Falla societies waited until the official start time of 5pm as Mike saw these guys at around midday.

When we first heard about the festival we went to the tourist office and enquired as to where we might see the figures. The answer was “everywhere” and that was absolutely right. There are somewhere between 450 and 750 constructions, and when we went into the city on 16th March they were in every plaza and on many street corners.

Rather sinister….














A bit bawdy…

Here he is again…

Falles or phallus!…

During the day there were small parades taking place in the local falla committee streets…










Amazing dresses…












…but you have to eat sometime!

Accompanied by bands…











just time for a quick check on mates….

…..and during the evenings of 17/18 March all of the city’s falles members take part in a parade from their respective districts to the Plaza de la Virgin….

….in order to make an offering of flowers to Our Lady of the Forsaken, a Patron Saint of Valencia. The celebration takes place from 4 pm until past midnight. With all of the bunches of flowers given by the falleras to the Virgin, an impressive 15 metre-high tapestry is formed on the main façade of the Basilica and a mantle is made for the Virgin.

Waiting for her flowers…

Now fully bedecked

We went in to the city to see the parade and happened to decide to go for a drink and a bite to eat. The café was showing the event on the TV and we quickly realised that only the people in the parade were actually allowed into the Plaza and that the best view of the proceedings was right there on the screen. So we stayed warm and cosy and watched until they had all passed by when it was time to head for the Alameda.

Every night from 15 to 18 March, the sky of Valencia is filled with impressive firework displays. At 12 midnight, people gather on Paseo de la Alameda to enjoy the best display of colour and light. The most spectacular display is on 18th March – the Nit del Foc [Night of Fire], which is the one that we saw. It lasted an impressive 25 minutes.

These photographs, however, were taken on the 1st March when, for the first time, Marina Juan Carles I, organised a firework display to start the Falla celebrations in grand style. Because we were at the marina we managed to get a grandstand view and didn’t have to fight with the crowds on the far side of the canal basin.

On 19 March all of the sculptures, both those in the large and the children’s categories, go up in flames. At 10 pm the Cremà of the children’s sculptures begins.

“Bomberos” everywhere…just in case

The local young queen setting fire to her Falla



Gone…Children walking and singing around the burnt out Falla

Two hours later it is the turn of the large monuments.

The falla in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento was the last one to burn, at 1 am in the morning.

The Ayuntamiento Falla the night before the burning

It is always preceded by a small display of spectacular fireworks which fill the square with noise, light and colour, leading to the Cremà of the city’s last falla and with it the end of the festival.

The final fiesta – and yet another local holiday! – was for San Vincente Ferrer, another patron saint of the Valencian community. He is known for being one of the most prolific Catholic miracle workers and this aspect gets most emphasis during the day.

Once again there is an offer of flowers made – to an altar outside what was his home. There is apparently a fairly formal procession of religious associations but the most eventful unusual part are the various plays depicting his miracles which are staged by local children under 13. 13 seems to be important as across the city 13 different stages are erected. They are really quite elaborate…..

….and the performances apparently last around 2 hours.

Those of you who are observant might have noticed that I have failed to mention Easter. We did see some small Easter weekend parades [but nothing like the elaborate “Stages of the Cross” seen in other places] and on Palm Sunday there was a special service in the cathedral but Valencia appears to save itself for the Corpus Christi festivities in June. I wrote about the “Rocas” in an earlier blog but, all being well, we won’t actually see this parade as we are hoping to leave Valencia in the next week.

So, as I hope I have demonstrated, Valencia thoroughly appreciates its fiestas and we have very much enjoyed partying along.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/04/08/fiestas-valencia-style/

Mar 29

Beautiful buildings and bridges – a walk through “The Turia”, Valencia

I might have mentioned in an earlier post that we have come to love our walk through the Arts and Sciences Park and the gardens in the old riverbed of the Turia. It is somewhere we take all our guests so I have delayed posting too many photos of it so that it didn’t spoil things for later visitors. But, barring any unexpected last minute guests [or unexpected problems which result in us staying longer….please no] then it is time to share with you the delights of this small part of Valencia.

The City of Arts and Sciences, an impressive example of modern architecture, is comprised of six different areas designed, in the main, by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava.

The first area, and the only one designed by a different architect – Félix Candela, is the “Oceanografic” which is the largest aquarium in Europe with 110,000 square meters and 42 million litres of water. It was built in the shape of a water lily and each building represents different aquatic environments including the Mediterranean, Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical Seas, Oceans, the Antarctic, the Arctic, Islands and the Red Sea. It is home to over 500 different aquatic species and also wetland birds.

Given that we have been lucky enough to see much of the sea life contained within it in their natural habitats we haven’t actually visited the oceanographic  though, judging by the queues seen on several occasions, many people do.

The next building is the Ágora. This was apparently seen as the new icon of the City of Arts and Sciences – a versatile space in which to hold varied events.

Artisist impression…. courtesy of Valencia tourism website

As far as I can make out by “reading between the lines”, it has been a rather controversial addition to the park. Constructed between 2005 and 2009 it opened in a partially unfinished state but was capable of holding events such as large tennis tournaments. However, when commissioned by the private company who were to run the building and organise events, another architect declared it structurally suspect both inside and out. By this stage it had cost €96 million, with the original architect still requiring somewhere between €10-22 million to complete the retractable roof. City planners said No and the building was “abandoned”.

During our stay in Valencia there has been scaffolding all round it and some work does seem to be being done so whether funds have now been found and it will, one day, open again I don’t know.

Agora, slightly hidden and surrounded by scaffolding

Whilst on the subject of money and mismanagement – some would say that the whole park has been a drain on resources. The original budget was €300 million and the final cost approx €900 million. However, I can think of lots of projects and buildings which go over budget and, in its defence, I would say that this part of Valencia attracts lots of visitors and seems very well used by local people too. I am also sure that it brought some money into the city when it was used to film Dr Who! [Series 10, Episode 2 – if there are any particular Dr Who fans out there]

The first building in the “main park” is the Museo de Las Ciènces Príncipe Felipe – a very striking building which is 220 meters long, 80 meters wide and 55 meters high and resembles part of a whale skeleton.


Close up of the roof area

The museum itself is orientated to children learning the sciences through experience, so apparently everything is graphically displayed, with huge texts and pics, experiments, buttons to touch and experience. We have been in the building, but only on the ground floor, when we went to see the exhibition of the 2018 Niñots [about which you will hear more in my next blog].

The park is full of pools of water intersected by attractive streams.

Whilst we have been here, both the Valencia Full and Half Marathons have finished just outside the Science building with the final approach to the finish line being built on a platform over the water and spectator seating lining each side…..

…… and someone has to keep it all clean!

When we first visited the park this pool contained 6 sculptures by Valencian born Manolo Valdés.

Heads in the background

The giant heads were apparently influenced by traditions of Spanish painting and the history of art. They went on display in June and in mid-September they were put to a popular vote to decide which one should stay in Valencia. Which would you chose?

Los Aretes

La Doble Imagen

La Mariposa

La Pamela




















La Diadema






The winner was “La Pamela” who received 12,855 of the 41,538 votes.

The other main pool is used for paddle boarding, boating and “hamster balls”.

Don’t really know what else to call them!

Along the southern edge of the park is L’Umbracle which was designed as an entrance to the City of Arts and Sciences and includes 55 fixed arches and 54 floating arches that stand 18 meters high.

It is 320 meters long and 60 meters wide, and encloses a landscaped walk with plant species indigenous to Valencia [such as fig marigold, “spanish flags”, rosemary, lavender, honeysuckle, bougainvillea and palms].

I certainly haven’t counted but there are supposed to be over 230 large trees, 42 different varieties of shrub and 5,500 ground cover plants. Birds fly through the trees – the loudest, but most difficult to spot, being the parakeets.

L’Umbracle sits atop a huge carpark but unless you knew you would probably never guess that this is a ventilation shaft to allow exhaust fumes to escape.

Similarly, unless you get close enough to inspect the cone, I don’t expect you would think it contained a lift…..

I also like the in-keeping architecture of the apartments behind the park

Alongside the L’Umbracle runs “The Walk of the Sculptures”….

……an outdoor art gallery with sculptures by contemporary artists and from that walkway there is a great view of the whole complex….

….and in particular the parks centrepiece – L’Hemisfèric.

This contains a Laserium, Planetarium and IMAX cinema. The building is meant to resemble a giant eye that opens to access the surrounding water pool. The bottom of the pool is glass, creating the illusion of the eye as a whole

From the front I think it looks like a helmet of some kind.

Finally in the main park is El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía – the Opera house and performing arts centre.

Another helmet…. or a fish?

Measuring over 70 metres in height, the Palau de les Arts is divided into four separate halls. It is here that we saw the ballet “Carmen”.

Palau des Artes by night

Inside the Arts building

A view back into the park from the first floor

From this point the gardens of the Turia wend their way around the city. In total the reclaimed riverbed is 9km long. Within the gardens is a children’s play park where “Gulliver” lies waiting for children to clamber all over him, a skate/scooter park and a separate roller park, café’s, football and rugby fields, athletics track and baseball ground, separate walkways for runners(¡) and a cycle path so that strollers, on their designated path, can wander in peace and no activity impinges on the other. It is all extremely well designed and organised.

Another building found in the Turia is the Palau de la Musíca…

… the home of the Valencian Orchestra who we went to see performing Tchaikovsky. On two other occasions we saw, firstly, a performance by two modern jazz pianists [more Mike’s taste than mine] and, secondly, the Glenn Miller Orchestra [surprisingly enough – more my taste than his!].

Again, as in the Arts and Sciences Park, water is a particular feature.

In total, nineteen bridges cross the Turia. We have seen most of them either during our walks or whilst on the 95 bus which runs up and down the roads parallel to the riverbed.

Perhaps the most immediately striking is “El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or”….

a white cable stayed bridge situated between El Museu de les Ciències and L’Agora. The tower of the bridge, at 125 meters, is the highest point in the city. For reasons which may be obvious, it is commonly known as “The Harp”

Fly past!

Both this and the other bridge in the Arts and Sciences Park – Puente de Monteolivete – were also designed by Calatrava….

….as was the Puente de la Exposición situated further up the riverbed.

Traditionally known as “La Peineta” (an ornamental comb) on account of its unique shape, it is built in high-tensile steel and is set on one single span, with a 14-metre high arch running from one end to the other.

One of the most famous bridges is the Puente del Mar.

Surrounded by palm trees, it was rebuilt after flooding in 1591 that destroyed the simple wooden bridge that stood in its place, and for centuries it was the natural route connecting the city with the port. In 1933, the Puente de la Mar was closed to traffic and has remained pedestrian only ever since.

It has ten pointed arches and along the top houses two structures within which are the statues of the Mare de Dué dels Desemperats [Our Lady of the Foresaken….

…….and San Pascual Bailon.

Their statues replaced the original images of San Vicent Ferrer, San Vicente Màrtir and Sant Joan Baptista which were all destroyed during the Spanish Civil war. Statues of the first two saints can still be seen on the Puente de Real, a little further along the Turia, and again they sit on a gothic bridge which replaced the original wooden structure.

The Puente de Serranos is so named because it was the most obvious access point to the city for those people who travelled from Serrania. It was built in 1518, on nine segmental arches with breakwaters, cutwaters and parapets.

The Torres de Serranos at the head of the bridge [from the top of which this photo was taken] is one of the two remaining towers from medieval times.

Whilst the Puente de Aragón may not be the most exciting bridge….

….I did rather like the shadows it cast…..

We have found that what is under the bridges is often as interesting as the bridges themselves. One bridge has palm trees growing through holes made specifically to enable this to happen.

Another shows the original bridge drains.

So ornate for something which was probably hardly ever seen, except by a few boatmen, prior to the river being diverted and the gardens built.

I was so attracted by the geometry of the underside of the Puente del Mar that this photo now adorns our saloon!

I am not sure why I have left this bridge to the end – probably because it is the most colourful.

The Puente de las Flores (Flower Bridge), is a relatively new bridge dating from 2002, which is permanently decorated with beautiful flowers of all colours, which vary throughout the seasons. During the Christmas period, both ends were full of poinsettias.

So, I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the Turia – better still, hop on a plane, sail your boat here, drive your campervan, whatever …… and see it for real!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/03/29/beautiful-buildings-and-bridges-a-walk-through-the-turia-valencia/

Feb 28

Ups and downs at the beginning of 2018

Let’s get the down over and done with first… it was when our hire car was broken into on a visit to Tarragona. We believe that the thieves used some form electronic device which either stopped the door mechanism locking or which recorded the “bleep” and could replicate it to open the doors. Whatever, there was no sign of entry and it was about three hours after leaving Tarragona that we got a total shock when we opened the hatchback to find everything gone. [Not sure that you can actually “find” things that are gone but you know what I mean!] We calculate that the monetary value was over £2,000 – partly as a result of our two almost new sailing jackets, a new Olympus Tough camera [my Xmas present from Mike], a tablet, some prescription glasses and a bag full of clothes [have you bought Levi’s recently!!] The worst loss though was the irreplaceable silver earrings which I have collected on our travels. Not expensive but so valuable in other ways. As someone said – I will just have to start again.

We were clearly targeted as tourists and were probably watched as we put our rucksack into the back where it joined the travel holdall. In some way this may have worked in our favour as they didn’t realise that the I.pad we use as a GPS was actually tucked under the front seat and the phone in the drop down box. We were also lucky that our passports were safe back on the boat and Mike had taken the wallet in his pocket in case we had to pay entrance to the site so all our cards were with us. We believe “identity theft” is the biggest earner these days so, whilst they got away with a boot full of stuff it probably wasn’t what they wanted!

We filed a claim with the National Police which took us all day as we traipsed from Guardia Civil, to Policía Local and finally, the correct Police force. Confusing. But, to add insult to injury, even though we knew any property loss claim was limited, what we then found out was that the insurance doesn’t cover loss if there is no evidence of break-in! Again, on the bright side, had the lock been broken or windows smashed we would have had the whole hassle with the car hire people and then a reclaim on the insurance. So, maybe it was better the way it happened.

What we have learned is to actually lock the car door with the key rather than the button.

But, on to better things. We were in Tarragona as part of a trip north to Barcelona – to sort out an issue for Becketts [which was successful] – and to visit our friends in Cadaques.

We had a brilliant weekend. We arrived, having driven through snow in the mountains, to a damp and windy Cadaques but a really warm welcome from Jack and Christine. As usual a few drinks and lots of chat and a fairly late night ensued, but not so much that we weren’t up and ready for a trip into France the following day. Being almost on the border it is only a couple of hours from Cadaques into France. We took the scenic coastal route and stopped first in Banyuls-sue-Mer before driving on for a late lunch in Collioure.

Yes, it was still chilly and a bit damp that day – but Sunday dawned dry and bright and we enjoyed a walk down into the village….

Sunday antiques market – Cadaques

…. to have a drink overlooking the market and to buy local produce for lunch on the balcony.

A lovely, if short stay, topped off by a great game of Mexican Train.

Tarragona was chosen as our stop off place on our return journey because of its Roman ruins which made a change from the Moorish history, artefacts and remains we have seen elsewhere.

Our “all-in ticket” was a bargain and we started our day at the Murallas Passeig Arqueològic, a walk which runs around the inland part of the old town’s perimeter between two lines of city walls.

The inner walls are mainly Roman and date back to the 3rd century BC, while the outer ones were put up by the British in 1709 during the War of the Spanish Succession.

The earliest stretches are a mighty 4m thick, 6 m high and built of large irregular stones and reinforced by towers – one of the most renowned being the “Minerva tower” with the remains of what was a carved plaque representing the goddess.

Littered along the front of the walls are various pillars….










Built into one wall was a water system….

… and just prior to leaving the site we reached the  “Socors Gate” which is the only one remaining from the second phase of the wall.

During this second phase the large stones of each face were laid and the space between them filled with earth and smaller stones. Rows of ashlars were placed on top [no mortar], more internal rough stones added at the bottom which was then topped with loam bricks.

Representation showing second phase wall construction

Another information board told us that internal buttresses every eight to nine metres joined the two faces together.

Once outside the walkway we found ourselves in the heart of the old medieval town.

As one would expect, the cathedral dominates the centre…

…and we were quite surprised by the level of preservation of some of the statues.

We think it may have something to do with prevailing wind and rain direction because on the other side of the door the statues were much less intact.

Our next stop was the Pretori Romà where we saw the octagonal “Nuns Tower”….

…which was part of the medieval defensive wall built in 1366 taking advantage of the interior face of the roman “circus” façade.

The “Torre Romana” was built in C1AD and used as a royal residence in C14.

From the top were views over the modern city out past the commercial port to the marina in the far distance….

…and you can also see [flat yellow gravelly bit] what was once one end of the “circus”.

The circus was used for chariot racing, popular since C8BC. There were races for both two and four horse chariots and what I found fascinating was that the arena, and the participants, were representative of Roman beliefs. The arena symbolised the earth and the chariots, the sun. There were four teams whose colours, green, blue, red and white symbolised the four seasons. Three chariots from each team meant 12 racing which represented the signs of the zodiac/months of the year with each race of seven laps charted the days of the week. The Circus Maximus in Rome seated 125,000, the one in Tarragona, 25,000.

This impression shows what it used to look like.

The end of the circus nearest to the amphitheatre is what can be seen from the tower and what was the other end is now a street with the government building at its end.

A good view of the amphitheatre was also gained by climbing the tower…

… whilst this picture, taken later when we visited it, shows part of the now derelict church which was built within it long after it had been abandoned by the Romans.

Our favourite part of the Pretori was the underground passage…

…. and vaults.

Below what is now Calle Enrajolet is one of the longest [93 meters] and best preserved circus vaults. The Romans had apparently stopped using it by early C8 and it remained that way until C13 when a series of holes was made in the roof so it could be used as a dumping ground for businesses operating in the street which had now replaced the circus. In C17 it was used as storage for the nearby military barracks.

The underground part of the tower contained the bottom of plinths…

….and this statue…

…which was found in a park outside the city and probably was once placed along one of the roads leading in. It is dated to C1/2AD and was likely a funerary monument.

The final site visited in Tarragona city was the Roman Forum where the layout of the houses can be easily seen….










Running between them is the “decumanos” – paved street. In “Tarraco” [Tarragona] these strrets were mainly six metres wide.

All in all, a very interesting predominantly Roman morning and, although obviously not Roman, I became distracted – as is often the case – by colourful graffiti.

We then drove out of the city to see the “Aqueducte de les Ferreres”…

….an amazing structure at 217 metres long and 25 high.

Its other name is the “Pont del Diable” and I guess it lived up to its name because it was in this car park that the theft of our stuff took place!

As well as our little trip we also had the pleasure of hosting visits by James, in January and Claire, in February.

James came just after New Year. The weather was rather fine which gave the guys a chance to do some remedial work on the dinghy.

Interesting life forms – just two months growth in the marina

Get scraping and scrubbing boys

All clean – well as clean as can be expected for an old dinghy!

James wanted to just chill but we did venture into town on a couple of occasions and between craft beer stops we managed to take in some culture with a visit to the Ceramics museum which is housed in a palace that dates from the 15th century and was refurbished in 1740 in rococo style.  It was equally fascinating for its rooms as its contents.

Japanese room

… in the entrance hall


Beautifully painted ceiling.

In another room a very differently decorated ceiling was displayed

Over time it had had three layers of painted decoration, the third [top] layer dating from the late C15 Plateresque period. The name comes from “Plato” [silver] because the ornamental style of the period was silversmith like.

Three boards are exhibited on the wall with paintwork from the first period dating from C14 and having an Arabic style.

There was a reconstructed kitchen….

…several ewers….

……and a number of “Safa Barberas” – C18 shaving bowls.

Some of the ceramics were designed by Picasso….

…. but I was more taken with these.

They are chocolate warming saucers. Candles were put into the holes to keep the chocolate warm. It seems that C18 Spanish aristocracy was much taken by the whole art of chocolate making and drinking – a tradition which remains today – churros and chocolate being a favourite mid-morning snack.

Our “snacks” were more tapas based…

At Casa Montana

…. or just completely liquid!

Marina Sud weekend bar

Claire’s visit in the middle of Feb wasn’t quite as warm but despite one day of rain we had a lovely time. Of course, she had to be introduced to Agua de Valencia…

… which she probably enjoyed more than the local Horchata – a tiger nut based drink which she politely described as “sugary”. Like hot chocolate, it is a must taste Spanish tradition though to be honest I am happy to let others taste it and report back!

One of the most famous “Horchaterias”

A very Valencian tradition which we are looking forward to is the “Fallas” and Claire had read up about it and wanted to visit the museum. We were happy to go along because it was one we hadn’t visited before. A very interesting experience with the Niñots being a little unexpected!

What I mean is that the characters the Niñots represented were unexpected.

I had expected politicians/famous stars/Disney type characters – and there were a couple of these.

I hadn’t expected weird folk.

Some, however, were very colourful and funny….

… decorative….

….or just characters that we know and love.

We look forward to see the 750 [yes, 750 – that is not a typo] or so which will be erected all over the city overnight on 15th March ready for viewing on 16th.

I have a feeling that a whole blog will need to be dedicated to this festival – especially as we will have the added fun of having Andrea and Fiona with us during part of it. As another preview to what that blog might contain, below is a family in the traditional Fallas outfits.

Amazing – even the girl’s shoes match her dress.

As I said above, there was one day of rain during Claire’s visit but the rest of the time it was sunny and bright. We enjoyed watching a drumming band…

….in the Plaza de Ajuntamente…

…. and visiting Dénia and Xàbia on a day trip down the coast.

Xàbia we stopped at only briefly to take a photo of its coastline and strangely formed beach which looked quarried?

In Dénia we enjoyed lunch “al fresco”…

…. before visiting the castle.

As can be seen from the shape of the gate, the fortress is of Moorish origin dating from C10/11.

It is built on a rocky promontory, dominates the town and overlooks the harbour.

During the latter part of C14 it was remodelled and its outer and inner walls improved.

A wide embankment circles the castle and we walked along it thinking it might lead to a different way out. It didn’t! But, we were really glad we had made the walk because we came across these…. Look closely!

They are the hairy caterpillars of the pine processionary moth which live in silvery nests in the tops of pine trees throughout Mediterranean Spain. The nests are most obvious in the early winter months and now I know about it I realise I have seen them. These insects rarely leave their host tree until they are ready to find an adequate place for cocooning.

This normally occurs in March – mid April but probably, as with other things, warmer winters may have brought this phenomenon forward as we are only in February.

The word processionary comes from the fact that they follow each other in long lines that can reach several meters long, as we saw. They are considered to be one of the Mediterranean’s worst pests! If they are touched, their hairs cause an extremely nasty skin reaction. Fortunately none of us did.

So obviously spring is here, early maybe but there are definite signs everywhere.

Delicate almond blossom

We have been very lucky not to actually know that there has been a winter as temperatures haven’t dropped below about 5degreesC even on the coldest nights and have reached the high teens most days. But even so it is nice to know that spring is here and we can soon go sailing.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2018/02/28/ups-and-downs-at-the-beginning-of-2018/

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