Archive for the ‘Festivities’ Category

Una bienvenida de Querétaro!

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Hello everyone.

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?  Well, blogs have gone out of fashion completely (mostly?) and now any old twit tweets.  I’ve decided to resurrect this for the nth time to document a bit my new life over the ocean in Mexico.

To be precise, I’ve moved over with work for six months to the company’s small office in Querétaro, a largish city to the north of Mexico City (DF in local parlance).  I’m not supposed to repeat how nice the city is (to keep it a “hidden gem”), but as it goes, it’s very clean, very friendly and very pleasant to amble around and look at.  I’m currently staying at a place called Queretaro Home B&B, which I have no hesitation in recommending.  (The owner is an extremely amiable former chef (i.e. delicious breakfasts) hailing from Canada, with an enormous wealth of information about the city and the country.)

Once I know the place a bit better, I’ll write a more in depth account.

I arrived just in time for Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), the festival celebrated pre-Christianity and now the two are fused to give the visitor here quite a spectacle.  Queretaro isn’t a place where the biggest celebrations are (I’m told the state of Michoacán is where it’s at) but I’ve still seen rather a lot going on.

Here are some photos to whet your appetites! More photos should follow on Flickr at some undefinde point in the near future.

(As I used to do way back) Now Listening: Gorillaz - Empire Ants (ft Little Dragon) spotify youtube

This’ll do for a first post.

Written by Benjamin

November 5th, 2012 at 1:58 am

Carnaval and the Start of Fallas

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Exams have been and gone, I’ve recovered and become angered by The System, and the Poly is taken over by election fever.  Actually, it isn’t, but the candidates like to think it is, what with electoral debates on UPV TV and all.  One is promising laptops for all and has such a swish election campaign all it achieves is to look tacky.  They’ve both gone web 2.0 with blogs and YouTube clips and twitter and things.  To me it all seems a bit silly, so I’ll leave that topic there.

Currently I’m amused by a sentence on a BBC News story I read today, about the debate over the collapse of bee colonies:

It is believed these chemicals can act like alcohol on humans, disorienting the bees and causing them to get lost on the way home.

So is this implying that all humans get lost on the way home after chugging a pint?

The other amusement is coming from Spanish president of the government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. He let slip in a televised statement that there now is, between Spain and Russia, an agreement to “stimulate, to assist, to fuck… to support Russian tourism”. Ooopsie daisy. It’s clear he realises what word has just come out of his mouth, but can you imagine being in that position? Dear oh dear.

The end of February kickstarted the season of celebrations, with Carnaval.  For those in GB that don’t know what it is, here is an article on Wikipedia.  Here in Valencia, it’s taken as an excuse for yet more partying, but this one is unofficial.  Apparently the Carnaval parade in my barrio was stopped by the police, who hosed them down and shot rubber bullets.  Here is a video on YouTube showing the dissolution into trouble. Either way, it was an excuse to dress up in disfraz and to get reduced entry to clubs for the effort.

Before any of the troubles, I managed to capture a video of one part of the parade in Benimaclet, with the human tower troupe.  (In my visit to Taragona there was a museum about it as they say they have the best ones there.)  Basically, people clamber on top of each other in an organised fashion to make this tower.  Check out the YouTube video below (or this link if you’re reading from Facebook and it doesn’t come up).

The first day of March heralded the start of Fallas, Valencia’s very own unique festival which lasts until the 19th of the month.  I’m not sure I can effectively describe it, so here’s yet another pointer to Wikipedia.  Or you can be patient, and as things happen and I take photos or videos and upload them here.

Meanwhile, below you can find are a selection of photos of the Mascletà in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.  As I described way back in October, a mascletà is essentially a fireworks display but for the sound rather than the visual effects.  It’s five minutes of eardrum-popping body-shaking explosions and lots of smoke.

During the festival, one takes place each day at 2pm prompt, the plaza filled with people and the fallas girls (there must be a name for them) standing on a balcony of the Ayuntamiento with their traditional costume.  Bizarrely, it is also relayed live by the local television and radio stations.

The Fallas girls.  Notice it is before the mascletà, before the smoke.

The Fallas girls. Notice it is before the mascletà, before the smoke.

It begins...

It begins.

 

Now you see it (just about)...

Now you see it (just about)...

...now you don't.

...now you don't.

 

Little puffs of smoke in the sky; sparks and flashes in the plaza.

Little puffs of smoke in the sky; sparks and flashes in the plaza.

 

And it's over...for today.

And it's over...for today.

Looking the other way down a street from the plaza.

Looking the other way down a street from the plaza.

 

Oh, and finally one last photo I’d been meaning to get for ages (actually, thanks go to Samuel for taking the photo). Since the day I twigged what it sounds like when said in English, I can’t now not see it like that. I’ll leave it there on that note.

 

Colon Fluid.  Nothing more need be said.

Colon Fluid. Nothing more need be said.

Written by Benjamin

March 5th, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Tata for now

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Alright, I know I said I would write about Madrid, and I will.  I still need to sort out the photos and things first, and then I can finish writing about it.  After all, a picture is a thousand words.

It’s come to the end of the first “cuatrimestre” here in Valencia, and tomorrow I’m about to jet back to the familial abode for, in theory, rest and relaxation.  In reality, it’s going to be two weeks of solid, horrible revision in preparation for the exams literally the day after I arrive back after the break.

The festive feeling is quite strange here.  For one thing, the trees are full of oranges (which are now starting to drop and be squashed and annoying on the pavement, adding to the instinct that you need to develop to avoid the dog shit) and there are no mince pies.  Christmas is not Christmas without mince pies.  Another thing is how it can still be 18ºC in winter.  I’m not complaining, but it’s strange!

Naranjos! Tarongers! Orange trees!

Naranjos! Tarongers! Orange trees!

Then there are the usual Christmassy things, like huge nativity scenes (see below for the one in my School) and humungous Christmas trees (like the one in the main square).  The one in my School is studded with notes to the Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men, or in the case of one, to “Gauss, Fourier and Laplace”) asking for improvements to the department building or for certain lecturers to improve their personal habits.  I should’ve noted them down, some of them were pretty inventive…a tradition that would be pretty cool to introduce in Bristol!

Nativity scene in my Escuela

Nativity scene in my Escuela

Christmas tree in Plaza del Ayuntamiento

Christmas tree in Plaza del Ayuntamiento

Another thing I encountered the other week in my School was this bizarre trophy, given for the traditional troupe of male singers, musicians and general merrymakers, called a “tuna”.  Apparently it’s “la Dama de Elche”, whoever she is, but to me she’s more like Princess Leia.  Decide for yourselves…

La Dama de Elche and/or Princess Leia

La Dama de Elche and/or Princess Leia

I meant to mention before about the concept of “botellón”, which features quite largely in the life of the yoof in Spain.  Essentially it’s a huuuuge number of people that take to the streets en-masse to drink between about midnight and 5 or 6am.  In Valencia it’s in the roads around one of the campuses of the Universidad de Valencia and there’s usually literally hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands over the course of the night) of students.

Botellón in Tarongers

Botellón in Tarongers

The idea is to get very drunk, very cheaply.  The streets quickly become littered with discarded Fanta bottles and the glass of vodka and rum bottles is smashed everywhere.  It’s not unusual at all to turn up with glasses and ice too, or the dedicated (aka boy racer chavs) bring their cars with pimped-up stereos for entertainment.  Fanta (or coke) with the cheapo 56-cent cartons of red wine to make “tinto de verano” (or “calimocho” with coke) is a surprisingly popular combination.

Oh, one last thing, here is the infamous 24-hour bread machine of Benimaclet.  So useful, practically right outside my door, and full of fresh baguettes baked the same day.  Why don’t they have more of these around the place?

24-hour bread.  What more could you ask for?

24-hour bread. What more could you ask for?

The last few months have gone as fast as anything, and I expect the next will go even faster.  So tata for now to Valencia, and see you in the new year.  ¡Felices Fiestas!

Written by Benjamin

December 19th, 2008 at 5:02 am

Links

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If for some reason the video links didn’t come out properly for the last post, here they are again.

Written by Benjamin

November 1st, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Festivities, Valencia

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Mascletá en Benimaclet

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Hola a tod@s.  For fear of beginning to sound like a broken record, I will yet again mention the fireworks and firecrackers that the Valencians seem to love so much.  To my surprise, the other evening there was a procession through the streets of Benimaclet, replete with priests, a figure being carried, candle bearers and a brass band.

Procession in Benimaclet

Procession in Benimaclet

A close-up of the shrine or whatever it is, I couldn't really make it out!

If that wasn’t surprising enough, after the procession had done it’s rounds of the streets, it turned up in the park by which I live.  And then the noises, flashes and bangs kicked off once again.  There was about ten minutes of normal fireworks, as seen here:

No smoke without fire

No smoke without fire

Excitingly, I have gone interactive, and you can even watch a video of the mascletá, taken from my balcony. Try to imagine that the noise was so great the ears hurt.  Not just discomfort, I’m talking pain.  The advice is to keep your mouth open.  Not just in awe of the spectacle, but to stop the eardrums rupturing.


Link to the mascletá video

Now something without fireworks, but still with noise.  Last weekend, Valencia hosted the MotoGP so there was a bit of excitement in the city.  Thanks to my flatmate, I got hold of some of the free tickets to a concert hosted by TVE, Spains’s national public broadcaster.  It was pretty good fun, if a bit cold on the hard stone seats of the Plaza de Toros (bullring), and the music was a little dubious too.

TVE MotoGP concert in Valencia Plaza de Toros

TVE MotoGP concert in Valencia Plaza de Toros

I insist you check out this recording of Ragdog, one of the bands playing at the concert, to hear how bad they were.  Another was Amaral, who were an improvement, and here is a video of them at the concert too.

TVE MotoGP concert in Valencia Plaza de Toros

Lots of people

The presenting (it was being recorded for tv) was a bit shambolic too, but overall it was worth seeing…after all, the tickets were free :)

Link to the procession video

Written by Benjamin

October 31st, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening

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Yesterday, Thursday, was Valencia’s Community Day when it celebrates being liberated from somebody or other and becoming independent.  In Spain celebrations are big, spectacular and very, very loud.

The Spanish like their fireworks, or at least the sound of fireworks can be heard every couple of days or so in a celebration of something or other.  I’m not sure a concrete reason is needed.  The festivities kicked off at midnight with a full hour of fireworks,  stopping only for five minutes to allow a break between the two shows.  I can tell you, my eardrums were feeling the pain of this.

The next morning the party continued at 2pm when the next round of fireworks took place.  These were designed mostly for the noise they produce, and being set up in the city square surrounded by tall buildings on all sides, this really was a show of noise.

A few loud bangs in slow succession started it all off, probably signifying some crucial shots in the decisive battle for independence.  No-one I’ve asked seems to know much about the background story, just that it involves King James I of Valencia some 800 years ago.

The firecrackers and bangers started properly, strung up on what looked like washing lines that filled the main square.  The people gathered in the street and the surrounding side-streets, all vying for the best location.  The noise was incredible.  With each bang the body shook, at first a jolt and tremble of surprise, after, for the next five minutes, from the force of each explosion.  There was a sensation of clothing flapping as each blast boomed in the air with a cacophony of popping and cracking below.  The square, filled with such noise and the acrid smoke of gunpowder, seemed to me like something from a war scene.  But of course, instead of horror, people felt delight.

Later in the day there was meant to be a procession, but bad weather meant I ended up not going to see what the procession was about.

Instead I went out with a friend for a drink in some local bars.  At about 6pm, the weather was worsening, with strong winds and drizzle, but it wasn’t anything terrible.  About at about 9pm we noticed the rain coming down by the bucketful; and the thunder and lightning began, real crashes and flashes that dimmed and flickered the lights.  At 10 we got peckish and decided to go to a nearby restaurant to get some food while there was a slight dip in the severity of the storm.

While we were eating, we heard some commotion with the waiting staff, who then began running carrying sacks of rice to store on the higher surfaces, namely on top of the lavatories in the toilets.  A few moments later we realised what was happening when I felt my feet sloshing around in water, and looking down the water was already over a centimetre deep.  It was flowing inwards really quickly too, bringing all sorts of detritus from the street with it, like cockroaches, dead, on their backs with their legs stuck up in the air.  Within minutes it had at least doubled in depth, and we were putting our feet on the edges of other chairs to keep our feet out of the water.  The staff tried in vain to stem the flow, but nature had the upper hand.

By the time we left, the rain had slowed a little bit, but still in the road it was up to half a car tyre’s height in depth in places, and water was cascading down the vents and the steps into the metro station.  All the while the thunder and lightning continued.

The storm got worse again and seemed to arrive right above the district.  In my apartment the hammering rain was coming in around the window frames and the lightning was cutting out the electricity, but the strikes and flashes were frequent enough not to need a light on anyway.  The rain finally subsided about 1am, but the winds have carried on to this morning.

The news today reported a British woman and her daughter being killed in the storms, I’m not sure if it has made the attention of the British press.

Some pictures/video in this El País article.

Written by Benjamin

October 10th, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Festivities, Valencia

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