Sunday, March 29, 2009

Perscription for eliminating fear of fireworks? Las Fallas Parade!

Hola queridos,
So in between looking at all the dozens and dozens of Fallas (there are over 300 to be exact), I watched one of the most interesting & intense parades of my life!

Basically, diablos, or devils, represent the fire that comes into the city when they burn the Fallas down (later that night). It included some of the craziest fire gadgets I've ever seen.

It began real innocently, with some dancers and musicians... including the presentation of the 2009 Queens and Princesses of Las Fallas.

Then went into full-out, hardcore fire action! I was so scared because they were soo close to us!! Aside from the fear, it was a blast (no pun intended)!!!

At the conclusion of the parade, everyone crowded the streets to form a procession to the end of the street. Us, being the crazy Americans that we are, went along for the ride! I then joked, kinda, that it would be funny if we were going to go and get sacrificed & not even know it! Fortunately, it was just marching to the end of the street where there was another spectacular, with a fireworks show that I'm sure has left me more deaf than when I first arrived.


Valencia, Espana

Hola queridos,

Valencia, after Las Fallas, was a very beautiful city to visit. It certainly was one of the most modern cities I've visited in Spain.

This is their theater, it's actually second in size only to Sydney's theater.
The rest of the buildings, to be honest, I'm unsure of their function, however they're really cool to look at (and take pictures of)!

...and at night:

Of course, there were still Spanish elements such as the Bull Fighting Stadium, train station, look-out tower from the "old days," etc.

This is El Corte's the equivalent of a Macy's Department Store. The Spaniards say that a city's wealth (or importance) is measured by how many Corte Ingles stores there are in the city! Each store usually has 5 or 6 floors, as well as a grocery store area as well.
We also went out for a beer, wine, coffee and ordered these delicious tapas, the first is Tuna from the Mediterranean and the second is Eel. The sushi and beer were tapas from another good!


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Valecianos Spend All Year Building "Las Fallas" & Then Burn Them

Hola queridos,

Las Fallas is a Spanish festival that happens once a year. The reality is,this fiesta takes an entire year of planning (they literally start working on next year's Falla the immediate day after the festival is over)!

The fiesta occurs in Valencia, Espana, which is Spain's 3rd largest city and located here -

Here are examples of some of the Fallas...they're like stationary floats made out of wood and styrafoam material. The mainly critize certain people (all are fair game except the King), current situations, etc...So although I didn't understand all of the "inside-ness," they were still a pleasure to look at!

(This one is critizing the "mayor" of the town who's critized Las Fallas)

(This one received first place!)
(And of course something about Obama)

This a picture of the Virgen, an image that's closely related to Valencia. It's made completely out of smelled wonderfully!

Fireworks, fire, loud noises are all apart of this fiesta! At 2 PM they did an amazing display of fireworks, even though it was daylight, the sounds and sight of all the smoke was really rather impressive.

Valencia also had a Starbucks! This time they got a little closer to spelling my name.

Beautiful streets and look at all the people! Some 1 million people crowd this city on this day!

A soccer field...but still no hottie soccer players... sorry Cathy!

For the fiesta they also had typical Paella served from this massive dish as well as other foods made right on the street!

Finally, in the evening (or more like 2 AM), they burn the Fallas.. here's a picture at night...
..and here is the Falla burning.

This was an amazing fiesta that I will have in my memory forever and ever.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cordoba and Mezquita from the VII Century

Hola queridos,
In Cordoba, Espana, I visited the second largest mosque in the world (the first is the Meca). Constructed in the VII century, this is pure history still in existance today and quite possibly the greatest 8 euro investment thus far. We easily spent an entire afternoon impressed by the beauty of this place of worship.

(All painting!)

(Pictures just don't do justice for the quanity of these arches)

(The most sacred part of the mosque)

Although originally created as a mosque, it was "transformed" into a Catholic place of worship with the construction of a church in the middle of the mosque (although the Catholics maintained the architecture of the muslems). It was easily one of the most impressive things I've whitnessed as I sat in the pew staring an awe for a good 10 minutes.

Aside from the Mezquita, we were enchanted by the beautiful streets of Cordoba and natural beauty of southern Spain.


I left my heart in Sevilla (March 12th)

Hola Queridos,

After a stressful exam week, I went on what felt like a true vacation to Sevilla, Spain. Sevilla is the 4th largest city in Spain and is located in the South, a good 12 hour ride (with lay-overs) by bus! We enjoyed beautiful, sunny, 70/80 degree weather with plenty of gardens and friendly southern Spain hospitality!
I got my first cup of Starbucks in a good two months and it never tasted so good! Normally, I can not justify paying $5 for a cup of java, however, I spent $5 euro for this cup and didn't think twice about it! (...and they thought my name was Brendan)

We stayed a beautiful hostel, Friends of Sevilla...I'd highly recommend it to anyone! For those who don't know what a hostel is, it's a cheaper form of accommodation. This room was a 6 bed dorm, including locker space, and communal showers. Some hostels include breakfast or WiFi connectivity and other ammenities. The price of hostels are significantly less (this was only $25 euro a night) and is also a great way to meet with other travelers!

(view from the roof down)

(sign in the kitchen)

We visited the Cathedral of Sevilla which was one of the most beautiful that I've seen so far.

I doubt this is how they lit the church senturies ago...

After having my breath taken away by the beauty of the church, we decided to climb the tower. As we've passed by the 20th floor we start thinking, when is this going to end? 25th, 32th... then finally, the 34th floor! And we weren't greeted by just any tower, no! It was a bell tower! So sweet!!