Some baby boomer ex-pats find a nice place to live on a lower budget. But Norm Bour and a lady friend do it differently. They find a new nice place every six weeks. That’s what Norm blogs, and has written a book, about. So when he wrote this episode, which is excerpted from his book, they were in Spain. By the time you read it, they’re doing a new six week stay, now in Thailand.
When my lady friend and I left the U.S. permanently in February, 2019, the first place we stayed was Valencia, Spain. Imagine our surprise when we were roused from our sleep at 8 in the morning on the first Sunday after we arrived by the sound of bombing! We asked our AirBNB host if this was normal and she told us about “Las Fallas— the Fires,” an annual event in Valencia. The actual event this year runs from March 15-March 19, but the celebrating starts well before then; about 30 days prior! Our host was surprised that we were not aware, since over a million people come into town during the weeks preceding until the final night of the event. Below is part of my report from 2019…..
From March 15th to the 19th (the feast of Saint Joseph, the father of the country), Valencia is given over to a carnival of bonfires, fiesta, fireworks, and a healthy dose of satire known as Las Fallas— the fires. The festival also signifies the end of winter as revealed by the 70-degrees-plus temperatures.
You cannot escape the sounds (and smells) of fireworks! Kids of all ages— and I mean all— are igniting and throwing them everywhere.
As we walked down a city street, we found many others were closed off to traffic and open to a gathering of paella cooks! In several places throughout town, corners and streets were sequestered from traffic as cooking fires burned (using orange and lemon wood, we discovered) with pans of paella boiling atop them.
But wait, there is more. Every afternoon at 2 o’clock, fireworks erupt from a large plaza downtown. They draw a crowd every day and all the adjoining streets are closed to traffic. Not a place you would want to drive in during these times! On many street corners throughout the city are colorful ninots, which are giant paper-mâché and Styrofoam figures, some over 50 feet tall. They are placed on city street corners. Some reminded me of portable Rose Bowl floats because they involve spectacular craftsmanship and construction.
They stay under wraps for several weeks and slowly get revealed as the construction process is completed. The figures satirize political figures, soap opera stars, or more exotic creatures from the movies, along with what appear to be cartoon characters, musical instruments, and objects from someone’s vivid imagination.
And there is another thing unique about Las Fallas and the ninotes: on the night of March 18th they get torched in the streets. The fire department keeps everyone safe and the festivities continue until the late hour.
The entire town is in a festive mood, street vendors of every sort abound, and it’s wild without being disorderly. It’s not the kind of thing I would want to do every year, but my advice is, you owe it to yourself at least once.