30 March 2012

Beautiful Day for a Hike!

So amazing to be only minutes from the center of Montpellier and yet be able to hike in such a beautiful park!

18 March 2012

Little Bits of Nothing

Your own personal Jesus!
American football being played in the park in Valencia

Lunch at Gonza's parent's apartment.

The Incredible Crowds of Valencia

These pictures were taken at around 21h30 and midnight tonight. Amazing!!  Seriously it never ends during the three days of Fallas!!

Final night of Fallas for us

It is 00h31 and the parade of beautifully gowned women continues. By tomorrow the Virgin will be completely decorated with the bouquets offered by the masses.

The dress is made up of thousands of red and white bouquets offered  to  la Virgen de los Desamparados -- the Virgin of the Forsaken

17 March 2012

Madness in Valencia!

The normally quiet streets of Valencia are completely insane. The parade of people dressed in the traditional costumes started at 15h30 and goes nonstop well to midnight for two days! There are bands from each neighborhood that accompany the girls. The girls are told what color of flowers to carry and they present them at a wooden two story statue of the Virgin Mary whose dress is decorated with all of the bouquets. There are thousands of girls that present their bouquets to the Virgin.

Since there are Falla statues scattered throughout Valencia, there is a nonstop flow of people in the streets...every street. If this were the only time you were ever in Valencia, you would think the city was madness! But the great part is that 24/7 it is all age groups and families out in the streets so it never feels out of control. At 1:30 am last night we women were walking home alone and we felt completely safe. Each neighborhood sponsors a three day block party during Fallas and have dinner and activities together so it has a very community feel to it as well.

The back of the Virgin starting to fill with bouquets.  The people on the skeleton of her dress are thrown each bouquet and they place it on the structure.  It takes two days and thousands of bouquets presented individually by a girl in the traditional costume of Valencia.  Each girl's costume and entry fee to participate can cost in the thousands of euros!

This is what is known as the “Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados”, a floral offering to the Kingdom of Valencia’s patron saint, Our Lady of the Forsaken. All the Fallas Committees take part in this event, decked out in their finest, to present their bouquets of flowers to the enormous image of the Virgin which stands in the centre of the plaza named after her, overlooked by her Basilica.

A parade of thousands upon thousands of “Falleras” and “Falleros” fills the city streets, wearing regional costumes and adding to the visual charm with the colours of the flowers. Each Committee brings its own music band and, in some cases, a spectacular basket with the most original and creative floral decorations.

Party In Valencia

Life in the streets of Valencia took on a definitely serious party air today. The streets are absolutely packed with people. the firecrackers are flying wildly. I have never seen such a high level of professional partying!

We walked all day and saw well over 50 falla structures. They generally are using the financial crisis and Germany and France's domination in the euro zone as their satirical themes.

This is the most serious festival I have ever seen. Valencia really knows how to throw a party!!

This neighborhood was having a paella cook off.  There were more than 20 of these impromptu fire pits cooking.  It smelled so incredible!  It is the men who cook paella when it is cooked outside and women who cook it when it is prepared on the stove.

So this is SuperLady who is supporting on her back the kids, the shopping, the ironing and a husband who is a slacker in his underwear watching soccer!
This Falla was commenting on the financial crisis.  Note the broken open safes in the foreground.  I love how they mixed the fun for the kids to see with the sharp political commentary for the adults.