Nit de Foc

Valencia Travel Blog

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I met Elena at the Valencia train station and we decided to grab a cup of coffee.  Her English was quite good and she was happy to practice on me which was a good thing as my grasp of Spanish probably consists of a few hundred words.  Of which few string together into any sentences beyond, “mi Espanol esta no bueno!”  We had some good conversation and found out that we both work in similar industries (freight logistics) and I asked her about some of the various things about Spain that vexed me.  Namely why you can’t find anything other than snack sandwiches to eat with the exception of certain times a day!


Elena also asked me about my hotel situation which actually ended up being one because I decided to get to Valencia a day earlier than expected.

  So although I’d already booked the following night, I had not gotten a place for tonight!  She helped me track down a hotel, so after our coffee we decided to walk to my car, drive to the hotel and then stop for dinner.  Simple plan, right?  Wrong!  So we got to my car, navigated around the closed off streets and found a sweet parking spot in the area we wanted, I grabbed some things to go check into the hotel and went to lock the car, but it wouldn’t lock.  It was like the key fob had shorted out or something, no big deal I figure; I will just lock the car manually.  Umm, what?  No manual way of locking the car!!!  Crazy Europeans!  :  )


After looking all over in the car and trying to find a way of locking things I pulled out the owner’s manual…all in Spanish.

  Good thing Elena was there and was so patient in reading through the manual.  I’m sure she was having a wonderful time at this point!  However she took it as a challenge and eventually discovered a way to lock the car.  Nothing you would have figured out without the manual let me assure you!  So that all sorted out we walked down to the hotel and Elena graciously talked to the front desk for me…they were booked and no longer had a room!  Doh!  A long story short Elena called around for me and was able to locate a hotel.  This time I handed over my credit card and she booked me so there would be no issues!


By this time we were fairly hungry and Elena suggested a place near the waterfront and not terribly far walking distance.

  We headed down there and I was treated to a wonderful dinner with wine and seafood paella, excellent!  After the nice dinner we decided it was time to venture back into the center of the city.  Finding parking was just as crazy as the first time and we found a really odd parking spot, but Elena assured me it would work.  Her sister Rosana was planning to meet us for the big fireworks show, so we used our newly found trick to lock the car and headed to the train station once again to meet her.


We grabbed Rosana and I followed them to the river park where the huge Nit de Foc firework display was to be held.  It was packed wall to wall with people but we managed to find a decent spot. The fireworks display was huge!  For you Americans, try to imagine the biggest fireworks displays you’ve seen for 4th of July and multiply that times ten!  It was impressive and very cool.

  After this, we decided to go grab some beers and we had some entertaining conversations.  We then decided to head to a place where one of the fallas committees was sponsoring a rock band stage.  It was very fun…heavy metal and rock covered by a Valencian band!  Elena introduced me as a friendly American to one of the falla committee members and I ended up getting free drinks!


When all was said and done it was working on 5am!  Oh man! I was going to be tired!  We walked Rosana back to the train station and Elena and I walked most of the way to my car before she grabbed a cab home.  When I got to my car, it was all by itself and parked at a strange angle just sitting there, but everything was fine.  I made my way to my hotel, checked in and totally crashed!

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I arrived in Valencia a little after Noon on the 18th after a nice drive down the Autovia Mudejar (aka A23) at an average speed of 140kph (85+ mph for you fellow Americans!)  The speed limit is generally 120 kph and they do have radar traps, but Spain (and France for that matter) is very nice in telling you as you approach the speed trap that you will be being monitored by radar with a nice sign.  Very handy, that.


As I approached Valencia on the coast highway, the level of traffic began to get pretty heavy and it was clear that a major regional festival was on.

I looked for parking for a good 30 minutes (but having lived in San Francisco…this is nothing!) before I scored a nice spot. However, I had no idea where in town I was.  So I looked for a bus stop (usually a good starting point unless you find a subway first!) found a map and located how far to the center of the city.  I was near the University in the north of the city and ended up not being far from a subway stop. I went in, bought a ticket and waited for the next train.  As the train pulled up…it looked like the most packed commuter time subway train I’ve ever seen in New York!  People squishing out of the doors and all of maybe three people able to squish in.


Hmm…this may not work.

 The trains were on about a ten minute interval so I decided to wait one more, but the platform was chock full of people and I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope.The next train arrives, same deal. I decide that it’s a good time to live up to my nickname of “Walks Too Fast” and just hoof it into town.  I don’t have a map on me, but I check the map in the Metro and get my bearings then start walking toward the center of town.  I see a few of the famed fallas sprinkled around and get a couple nice pictures and wonder if this is kind of what the festival is going to be like.


Suddenly, fireworks start going off like crazy.  Huge booms that sound like anti-aircraft guns firing and little ones that sound like machine-guns.  I’m not a skittish person, but if you were, you would freak out because these are fireworks intended to be noisy…it’s the middle of the day, no pretty lights to see!  The fireworks went on for a solid half-hour and by the time they were over, I had snapped pix of some cool architecture and walked across one of the bridges into the center of the city.

 I then began to get an idea of just how many people were here and what a REAL falla looked like.

At the center of the city was the government sponsored falla.  A huge 22 meter tall (over 70 feet!!!) piece of beautiful artwork in the image of Aladdin and the Genie (the Disney version.)  What is a falla you ask…well first look at the pictures and you get an idea.  There is an incredible amount of detail in them, lots of figures and I can only imagine how much work goes into one.  Basically they are crafted from a skeleton made of wood and a skin made of paper mache.  They are then artfully painted and as mentioned, there are about 7 or 8 of them that tower over 6 stories tall.  There are hundreds sprinkled around the city and even out in the suburbs, but the most impressive ones are in the city center.


I walked all around the city during the afternoon, but another Travel Buddy person I had spoken to who happens to live in Valencia told me she would be available after work to show me around.  I didn’t have anything more than her email, so I found an internet café and touched base with Elena.  She sent me her cell number and we arranged to meet at the train station.  To be continued in my next entry!

photo by: spocklogic