This is what the city’s residents say; condensed for you by David Rhead and Jose Marín…
The smell of cordite and the sizzle and crack of rockets. The smell of Buñuelos frying in the middle of the night. The smell of the Plaza de la Virgen carpeted with Spring flowers at four o’clock in the morning. The smell of ammonia in the morning when someone has used your doorstep as a bar toilet. Sunny mornings, windy afternoons and chilly nights. The mad rush to get to the Mascletá. The whole city still buzzing at three in the morning. The down time between five in the afternoon and nine in the evening. Burnt out bins and exploded milk cartons. The jumpy feeling of walking round and knowing that at any moment someone is going to throw a banger at you. Nervously jumping out the way of a banger only to find it was a pathetic little “popper” thrown by a four-year-old. Nervously jumping out the way of a banger only to find that it was a cigarette end someone had thrown away.
The constant Fallas soundtrack of Snap, crackle and pop and distant marching bands. The Fallera Mayor waving and weeping. The Mascletá. The overcrowded “VIP” balcony at the Ayuntamiento. The rhythm of the masclets filling the square. The rush and rumble that booms in through your toes and blasts out through your fingertips. Walking for an hour and then waiting forty-five minutes in a hot, crowded square for five minutes of loud bangs. Screaming rockets on sunny blue skies. The “knowledgeable” crowds and the roar of approval at the finale. The first few bars of “El Fallero”. Sunglasses, mopeds and Nobel cigarettes. Beers and Calamares amongst the bustle of a sunny post-mascletá. The bright colours, fun and weird bawdiness of the fallas. Angels and demons. Ducks coming out of teapots. Waiting with five hundred other people at the Torres de Serranos for the one taxi on duty in the whole city. Long walks home through crowded streets. Moors and Christians in Calle Conde Altea.
The lights in Ruzafa. Who pays the electricity bill for the lights in Ruzafa? Paellas in the street. The enthusiasm and rush of activity at the beginning of a midnight paella competition. The smell of burning firewood and melting asphalt. Being too drunk and hungry to care what the paella taste likes by the time it’s finished. Unexpected energetic guests. Street stalls, pony-tailed musicians from the Andes. Buñuelos, churros, porras, waffles and chocolate fried in three day old fat. Silly hats, glow in the dark bracelets and tweetie pie balloons. Human statues and jugglers in the narrowest of streets. The Fallera Mayor going up in a balloon. “Senyor pirotècnic, pot començar la mascletá”. Fourteen-year-old Valencians’ first taste of nightlife. Verbenas everywhere. Tardis toilets in the river. Beer in a paper cup. Agua de Valencia in a plastic cup. Dodgy vodka in a plastic cup leaning over one of those yellow crash barriers around the Falla. Jerusalem, Merced, Mercat, Na Jordana, L’Antiga, Seneca, Calle Quart, Murillo. Porcelain pastels in Plaza Pilar.
Arranging to meet five different people at the same time in different places and everyone arriving late, including you. Not meeting your friends but always bumping into your enemies. Traipsing back and forth across the river five times in one night…Falleros selling you flags, plants and oranges at the traffic lights. Falleros blocking off your street three weeks before Fallas has even started, keeping you awake all night and then knocking on your door asking for a contribution. Community spirit. Civic pride. Xocolatá and the Casal. Access only through a friend of a friend. Flags on the balconies. Controlled chaos. German Schalke 04 football fans back again. The way the city magically evolves into something completely different for five days and then the day after it’s miraculously back to normal, like it never happened. The noon time rush for a pint of Guinness on St Patrick’s day. The Castillo. You never tire of its spectacular colours and thunderous splendour. A couple of quiet beers in Bar Pana while everyone else is at the Castillo. The Fireworks. Those rockets that go down and then go back up again. The bronze palm trees and exploding hearts and stars. Paying twice the price for half the quality. Six Euros for three Patatas Bravas.
The pomp and celebration of the Ofrenda and the Mare de Deu. The Falleros swanning around blocking up the streets in their finest, each trying to impress with the biggest and most ostentatious flower arrangements. The Five year old Little Princess falleras all flowers, regal smiles and mini legs. Fifty year old Falleras all tear-strewn make up, black lace and cigarettes. Julio Tormo beaming out to Valencia 24 hours a day from the Plaza de la Virgen. “Estas plorant xiqueta?” Marching bands all formal airs and traditional music during the ofrenda; Dixieland jazz, “tirate de la moto” on the way home. Greenhouse effect fumes streaming into the air from the fireworks. Five days of everyone walking or taking public transport in a car free city centre. Dancing with your grandma at the Verbena. Dancing with someone else’s grandma at the Verbena. The red and black smoke that rises above the city on the night of San Jose. The firemen. Everyone getting soaked in the Plaza Dr Collado. Trying to see six different Cremás and arriving late for each one. The crowd booing the National anthem in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. The feeling that spring has finally come. Out with the old and in with the new. Tired legs and aching heads. A good square meal when it’s all over. And then, on the twentieth, L´apuntá to set the ball rolling again for next year.
David Rhead and José Antonio Marín