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5 Tips for Enjoying Las Fallas to the Full

From the last Sunday in February to 19 March – the feast of St Joseph – Valencia is gripped by its most acclaimed and unique fiesta, Las Fallas (Falles,in Valencian). This year’s edition is one of the first festivities to be celebrated in the city after Las Fallas was designated a World Heritage event by UNESCO on 30 November last year. Here, then, are some pointers to getting the most out of the fiesta.

1. The Origins

Las Fallas pay tribute to St Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Popular belief has it that the Fallas originated in the carpenters’ guild where, each year on the eve of St Joseph, they would clean out their workshops and burn the leftover junk in bonfires in an act of purification to mark the arrival of spring. Over the years, those scraps of furniture were remodelled into the now famous dummies known as ninots.

2. It’s Really About “Ninots”

These human effigies echo current affairs by parodying the most controversial public figures of the moment, mostly lampooning them in a spirit of pungent irony. They are the true protagonists of Las Fallas. All the ninots compete to be saved from the flames. The weeks in the run-up to the fiesta, they are collectively put on public display, before being devoured by the flames. Well, all of them except one which, for its originality or painstaking manufacture, will be spared from the fire. Which one will be spared the ordeal this time around?

3. The Crowning Events

The falleras (festival queens) and the firework displays are further ingredients in this celebration, endowing it with a character of its own. The crida or “call” marks the start of the festivity which, as mentioned earlier, takes place on the last Sunday in February. The thunderous mascletàs, the despertà, a firecracker “awakening” marking the start of the day, and the ongoing pyrotechnic displays provide the sound, light and colour which become a constant feature throughout the celebrations, culminating in the cremà, the mass bonfire where theninotsare burned.

4. Culinary Traditions

A must-taste culinary speciality of this fiesta are the buñuelos or fritters – packed with energy, they will help you withstand the riotous goings-on. Whether plain or puff fritters, chocolate ones or those with pumpkin or sweet potato, you should make a point of savouring this delicacy. You can plan your bites at the numerous street stalls around the city, or opt to head for the classical venues where this speciality is served, like the Horchatería Santa Catalina, located in the heart of the old town, the Horchatería El Collado or L’Orxateria del Mercat Central.

Seeing you’re in Valencia, the land of master paella makers, you won’t be surprised to learn that this culinary marvel abounds among the fiesta dishes. Don’t hesitate to join the crowds around the various open-air, mass paellas simmering away.

5. Beyond the Fiesta

Take advantage of your stay in Valencia to tour its historic centre and soak up such gems as Valencia Cathedral, La Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange), in elegant, civil-Gothic style, the Central Market, a fine example of pre-Modernist architecture, the city’s magnificent palaces and its medieval gates.

You should also make a point of visiting the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Art and Science), where you are bound to be amazed by the futuristic buildings, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.

Be sure to book your Vueling to Valencia to experience first-hand one of the city’s most important and exciting celebrations.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by keith ellwood

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Five Spanish summer dishes

We love discovering new destinations through their food and drink. In Spain, as well as typical food that you can eat all year round, like paella, tortilla and bread with tomato, you can also find special dishes that are perfect for summer. Ideal recipes for hot days when you really fancy something light and fresh.

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The Best Monas de Pascua in Alicante

Traditional festivities often go hand-in-hand with culinary delights, as is the case with the mona de Pascua, associated with Easter Monday, when the custom is for men to gift one of these cakes to their godchildren. Eating the mona de Pascua ushers in the end of Lent and fasting.

Themonais eaten in various regions of Spain, including Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Aragon, Murcia and Valencia, each with their own recipe and peculiarity. In Catalonia, the chocolate mona prevails, while in Valencia they resemble a sweet bun, most of them made of flour, sugar, eggs and salt.

The Tradition in Alicante

Several types ofmonaare made in the Community of Valencia, although the panquemado or toña are available all year around in bakeries and pastry shops. But the variety that appear at Easter are more elaborate and decorative. They are usually either elongated or round and dusted withanisetes(aniseed candies). Those made for children come in amusing, attractive shapes, such as monkeys, snakes or lizards, with a hard-boiled egg embedded in their mouths.

In Alicante and, in general, throughout the Levante (south-eastern seaboard), the custom is to go on an outing in the countryside or hills on the Day of the Mona. Families and friends meet to eat the traditional confectionery in nearby nature areas, including the Sierra de Callosa, the Pinada de Guardamar and the Sierra del Maigmó.

One amusing custom is to break the hard-boiled egg that comes with the mona on a friend’s or family member’s head. They say that some bakers garnish their monas with raw eggs to make the situation even more entertaining. The ritual dictates that the aggressor recite the verse: “Ací em pica, ací em cou i ací t’esclafe l’ou” (Here I’m itching, here I’m smarting and here I break the egg over you).

The Best Pastry Shops in Alicante to Buy Monas and other Confectionery

In Alicante, the pastry shops vie with one another to produce the best monas and display them in their shop windows. One of the most acclaimed ones in the city is Prefiero Sussu, owned by José Manuel Samper, at number 3, calle Pintor Baez. It is a landmark of the best pastries and has won several awards for its delicious toñas. At Sussu they also make one of the finest croissants in Spain. Fresh out of the oven, the taste of butter is unmistakeable, as margarine is not allowed into the Prefiero Sussu bakery under any circumstance.

Horno Rafelet, at 57 calle Maestro Alonso, is a family concern in operation since 1932 where some exquisite homemade products are made. It stands out from the rest because of the traditional recipes they follow and their fine baking.

In the town of Orihuela, in Alicante province, we find what are reputed to be the best toñas in the province. They come from the bakery of El Horno del Obispo, which has been operating since 1850, located in the historic centre of Orihuela. It shares the accolade for the best toñas in Alicante with El Angel, also located in that town. If you visit Orihuela, you should also taste their typical confectionery, known as chato de Orihuela.

How about the Gluten-free Variety?

If you’re looking for gluten- and lactose-free monas de Pascua, there are some delicious ones in the Pastelería José María García, at 46 avenida de Novelda. Their bakery follows homemade recipes based on natural products.

What are you waiting for? Check out our prices here!

Text by Scanner FM

Images by Horno Rafelet, La Murciana and Pastelería Torreblanca


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Three Essential Hiking Trails on La Palma

La Palma is one of the most beautiful islands in the Atlantic. Unlike its sisters in the Canary Island archipelago, it is blessed with a highly fertile ecosystem endowed with outstanding natural traits, making this an idyllic island. Indigenous fauna and flora are an integral part of its spectacular scenery. Its well-kept natural environment is ideal for enjoying an alternative, exciting holiday, doing all kinds of sports and indulging in activities close to nature.

This authentic Eden for ramblers offers a host of options for hikers. Before setting out, you are advised to check the weather forecast and to avoid walking alone. Let someone know what route you are taking and the time you are due to return. You need to take a small back-pack with a warm jacket, a raincoat, food and plenty of water and don’t forget essentials such as a hat, sunblock and sunglasses, as well as a mobile phone with the battery charged, a map and, if possible, a compass. Observe the signposting along the route and keep to the track and, above all, make sure you wear proper hiking boots. You are also advised to check the gradient, walking distance and duration of the hike on the website, www.senderosdelapalma.com. Of all the various routes, we have made a selection of three, with different difficulty ratings, which will allow you to admire the aforementioned scenic diversity of "The Beautiful Island":

Puerto de Tazacorte – Roque de Los Muchachos

This itinerary has a high difficulty rating and is intended for experienced sportspeople. The main difficulty lies in the pronounced gradient. You are urged to avoid the hike in summer or on particularly hot days, while in winter, take into account that it rises to high altitudes and you may even encounter snow and ice on the Roque de los Muchachos. The route covers a distance of 17.16 kilometres, with an accumulated slope of 2,600 m. The route starts at Puerto de Tazacorte, at sea level. From there, it rises steadily for 3.8 kilometres as far as El Time. It then runs past Hoya Grande and Risco de las Pareditas, where it is wise to stop to regain your strength and take in the marvellous scenery at an altitude of 1,500 metres. There are still nearly 7 kilometres to go before reaching the end of the route, after passing through Hoya del Estrabito, Pinos Gachos and Degollada de Las Palomas, where the slope is gentler up to the finish. The high points of this route are the stunning views of the Barranco de las Angustias gorge and those of the Caldera de Taburiente from the Roque de los Muchachos.

Cubo de la Galga

This trail has a low difficulty rating and is therefore suitable for taking children along. Signposted as the GR 130, it starts and finishes at La Galga, Puntallana, at the intersection with the GR 130. The overall walking distance is 12.4 km, with an accumulated slope of 750 metres, and the estimated walking time is 3 hours 45 minutes. The route takes you through the Parque Natural de Las Nieves, a protected nature reserve so spectacular you are unlikely to switch off your camera. The trail is negotiated in two sections – one is a circular itinerary, which takes you through the most interesting area, the Cubo de la Galga temperate laurel forest, a warm, humid forest with some frost, featuring huge trees,guaco and lianas, with leaves similar to those of the laurel, hence the name. The other section connects this route to the main road orguagua, as well as to La Galga mountain, where you simply must stop off at the Somada Alta viewpoint, and the GR 130, with the option to continue on to Puntallana or Los Sauces. You can also continue down the PRLP5 footpath to the district of El Pósito, on the main road. 

Valencia – Pico Bejenado – Valencia

This is ideal for visitors hiking with the family. The route is circular and, if you complete it, covers a total of 10 km, rising from 1,100 to 1,800 metres. The estimated walking time for the circuit is three hours and the whole trail is confined to the limits of  La Caldera de Taburiente National Park. You can drive up to the end of the dirt road in the Valencia district. From there, you set out on foot along the PRLP 13.3 footpath as far as El Bejenado. The ascent to the summit of this mountain follows a winding trail through pine forest and takes an hour and a half. The route affords some superb views, both of the interior of La Caldera de Taburiente and towards the Route of the Volcanoes and the whole of the Aridane Valley. Also, don’t forget to sign the visitors’ book when you get there.

The above are but three of the multiple routes possible, each with a different difficulty rating, designed to take in a maximum of the island’s scenic diversity and lead us past the most emblematic spots – Pinar, Parque Nacional, Angustias, Laurisilva, Puerto Tazacorte, volcanoes, dragon trees, village where time stands still almond trees in blossom, coastal cliffs, etc. For further information, see the Patronato de Turismo de La Palma.

Don’t wait to discover La Palma – the Beautiful Island! Check out our flights here.

Text and photos by Patronato de Turismo de La Palma

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