Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spain goes on strike and I'm going...

On vacation! Tomorrow Spain will go from its usual slowness to a full stop with a general strike to protest the newly proposed budget. Spain's President, Mariano Rajoy, has proposed to cut the budget 40 billion euros this year. No wonder people aren't happy. However I am pretty excited because we finally have some vacation! Semana Santa starts Friday and I'm going to a place that's been on the top of my travel list for a while now. I'll give you some hints and maybe you can guess where I'm going!

I'll be eating the Mediterranean diet but it will look a little different.

I'll be surrounded by ancient history.
And I'll be viewing sunsets like this:
Can't wait!!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

City on Fire: Las Fallas

This past weekend I was lucky to check off another item of my Spain bucket list: going to Las Fallas. The valeciano celebration was the first major Spanish fiesta I have been to and I was really nervous. I feel like I can tough it out under most traveling circumstances but lots of drunk people, firecrackers, and fire sounded like a potential recipe for disaster. But I loved it! On Friday I loaded my bag into my co-worker Eva's car and headed down to Valencia. As we headed out of the metro into the center of the city 5 hours later, the wafting scent of pumpkin bu├▒uelos and sound of firecrackers greeted me. I couldn't wait to see the massive statue-like fallas hidden around every corner of the city. 

The first falla I saw!
Las Fallas is a Valencian celebration that commemorates St. Joseph (as in Mary and Joseph). Neighborhood clubs or casal fallers all around Valencia hold fundraisers all throughout the year to raise money and create the fallas that are placed all over the city. The fallas are generally satirical, poking fun at everything from celebrities to political figures to Spanish expressions to Cristiano Ronaldo. I was shocked and delighted at the amount of detail and money (the winner cost 400,000 euros) that goes into each and every one. 

For me the most interesting thing was the contrast between a Christian ceremonies like the women falleras and men falleros bringing thousands upon thousands of flower bouquets to la  virgin for her opulant cape and decorations and almost pagan parades/fire obsession. The Valencian virgen's cape took 3 days to complete and was absolutely astounding. 
Las falleras bringing their flowers to the virgen

In all her glory on the last day
And yet after seeing that awesome cape of flowers, we went to another parade that had people dancing around in devil costumes and trying as hard as they could to light the crowd on fire. WTF Spain? 

But I digress. What is the point of this entire ceremony with its beauty, intrigue, and murky Christian origins? To burn it all to the ground of course! Every falla is thrown up into flames except for the winner and boy is it fun/terrifying to watch. 
Here we go!

Viva las Fallas!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm still here!

I know you may think have fallen off the plains in Spain but no I'm still chugging along in Madrid! The truth is I haven't felt like writing to much lately so I haven't. Instead I've been enjoying the nice weather in Madrid right now and doing things I haven't done in ages like going to the Rastro or the neighborhood La Latina on Sundays. But I haven't forgotten about you readers! And this weekend I'm going to Las Fallas in Valencia so I'll have lots to post about when I get back on Tuesday. Get excited!