Tag Archives: fallas

Winter 2017: Places and Memories


Street Art In Valencia

Returning to Valencia after several months in Catalonia, I resumed my exploration of the vibrant street art scene here.  Some new work, some old but all new to me.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge images.

A Beautiful History of Silk

Falleras in their Valencian silk dresses

I paid my first visit to the Museo de la Seda (The Silk Museum) — it is a remarkable place. Over the years I had passed the Museo many times, always sad to see it in a sorry state of neglect. The building where the Museo de la Seda is located began construction in 1494 and was declared a national historical-artistic monument in 1981.  Restoration — finally — officially began on November 10th, 2014, and it re-opened to the public on June 18th, 2016. A visit to the museum is a journey to the heart of Valencian history and culture.

Silk arrived on the Iberian Peninsula with the Moors. Mulberry trees and worms were cultivated in the Valencian huerta (market farm belt). In Valencia itself,  the weaving of velvet began in the historic Velluters neighborhood.  Velluters comes from vellut, which means “velvet” in the Valencian language. Silk was then introduced and, at the height of the industry in the 15th and 16th centuries, there were more than 5,000 registered workshops weaving velvet and silk. Silk helped bring power and wealth to Valencia.

Tile design in the museum dedicated to San Jerónimo, patron saint of silk weavers

The Museo de la Seda (The Silk Museum) is one of the most important buildings in Valencia. This is where the Gremi de Velluters (Velvet Weavers Guild) was born, officially ratified by King Ferdinand the Catholic on October 13, 1479. It is one of the oldest guilds in Europe. The Guild was elevated to the El Colegio del Arte Mayor de la Seda (The College of High Silk Art ) by King Carlos II in 1686. The silk industry still survives in Valencia today thanks to demand  for use in traditional Valencian costumes — especially las Fallas, which is a celebration of Valencian silk — as well as for decoration.


For me, winter months are perfect for visiting the Costa Blanca — the Mediterranean coast north of Alicante.  The weather is warm, the tourists are scarce and the rates are low.

La Vila Joiosa

The colorful houses of La Vila Joiosa

I returned to one of my favorite Costa Blanca towns, La Vila Joiosa, to enjoy walking its beach promenade, exploring the narrow streets and multi-colored houses of the old town, and discovering its new history museum.

A Trip to Altea

From La Vila Joiosa, the town of Altea is an easy 35-minute trip north by the coastal tram. I had always been interested in visiting Altea, frequently described as one of the most charming towns of the Costa Blanca.

The town was fortified in the 13th century, creating what is now the “old town”.  The coastal highway runs through Altea — on the seaside there is a sandy beach with a long promenade and marina. On the other side of the road the old and new town are side-by-side.

The old town does have a lot of charm.  It is whitewashed, with narrow stepped streets that wind up to the historic church Nuestra Senora del Consuelo. The church has a beautiful dome of blue and white tiles — it is the (very) frequently photographed symbol of the town.  Neo-Baroque in style, it was built in the late 19th century on the ruins of a much older structure. The church plaza has beautiful views of the mountains and sea, including  the mighty rock outcrop of Peñón de Ifach, known as the Costa Blanca’s (mini) Gibraltar.

The cobbled streets are filled with restaurants (note: I have never visited a historic town on the Mediterranean coast with more pizza restaurants per plaza!), cafés and local craft shops catering to tourists. In fact, for me, the only disappointing thing about Altea’s old city is that everything is designed exclusively for tourism and all you meet is tourists. The real bustling heart of the city is in the new town.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge images.

Benidorm from a Distance

“I believe in Tokyo, Benidorm, La Grande Motte, Wake Island, Eniwetok, Dealey Plaza.”           J.G Ballard, What I Believe

Benidorm, the definition of package resort holidays in Spain, is located between La Vila Joiosa and Altea. With its forest of high-rise blocks, it has become a byword for the worst of mass tourism, entirely separated from the “real” Spain. Until the 1960s, Benidorm was a small fishing village — today It has the most high-rise buildings per capita in the world. No surprisingly, it was a source of inspiration for dystopian author J.G. Ballard. “Benidorm” is also the name of a British sitcom that features an ensemble cast of holiday makers and staff at an all-inclusive hotel in the city.

I did not visit Benidorm this winter, only seeing it from the distance of the tram.

Exposición del Ninot (Ninot Expo) 2017

When I  returned to Valencia, the Exposición del Ninot was underway. Beginning in during the first week of February and ending March 15th each year, the display of ninots begins las Fallas festival season.

More than 700 ninots were on display at the Sala Arquerías of the Museum of Sciences Principe Felipe, part of the City of Arts and Sciences complex. It is an impressive space to enjoy the carefully crafted ninots.

The Sala Arquerías of the Museum of Sciences Principe Felipe

The display, in which a ninot from each casal (neighborhood Fallas group) in Valencia is shown, has been held since 1934. It attracts large crowds of locals and visitors, offering a preview of what news events, personalities and politicians will feature prominently in the social satire of las Fallas.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Click on thumbnails to enlarge images.

As winter gave way to early spring, the orange trees in my neighbourhood were in full fruit.

Falles/Fallas: Lasting Impressions

A few of the many Falles/Fallas impressions that remain with me long after the festival ends:

Beso,Na Jordana 2016

… Ninot, Na Jordana 2016

City Hall 2016

… City Hall Plaza Falla, 2016 …

The Falla de la Plaça de l’Ajuntament (City Hall Plaza). It is always one of the most spectacular.

Mama Falleras


… Falleras in their traditional Valencian silk dresses …

The manufacture of silk is an important part of Valencia’s history and the silk industry has survived thanks to use in traditional Valencian costumes, as well as for decoration. The most valued type of Valencian silk, “Espolin”, is still hand-made on XVIII century looms. Its name comes from the instrument used to weave the silk.

Delight 2016

…hundreds of ninots! (ninot, Convento Jerusalén, 2016) …

Street Paella

Paella being cooked on a wood fire in the middle of the street

Fallera Cookies

… and all the other festival treats! …

Lights 2-Ruzafa

… the illumination of the Ruzafa neighborhood …


… gunpowder, ready to be lit! …

The smell of gunpowder. Daytime fireworks, nighttime fireworks, firecrackers, and more firecrackers — weeks of pyrotechnic celebration!

Tienda de Valencia

the post-Fallas sales at the traditional dress shops

All photos © La Gringa Ibérica

Les falles de València: All about “Ninots”

Working on a Classic

Large “ninot”

Les falles (Valencian) “the fires” — also known as Las Fallas (Spanish) started in the 16th century as a celebration of the Catholic feast day for St. Joseph (Sant Josep), the patron saint of carpenters, and evolved into the 2-week, multifaceted celebration it is today. The focus of the fiesta is the creation and destruction of ninots (“dolls”), statues made of cardboard, wood, wax, paper-machè, plaster, and polystyrene foam. This whole assembly is a falla.


A satiric ninot (Menopause!)

In your Face

A political ninot (detail)

The ninots — which range in size from small to several stories high — usually depict bawdy, satirical scenes and current events — plus whimsical ninots created by and for children.

Regal lgi

A ninot for children

I count two Little Falleras

A small ninot for children featuring traditional costume

The labor intensive ninots, are crafted by both neighborhood organizations (casals) and professional local craftsmen, take a entire year to construct. The festival has, in fact, created a local industry with an entire suburban area —Ciutat fallera (Fallas City) — devoted to the creation of ninots.


A large ninot in Plaza Pilar, 2014

Summer and Winter

Ninots, Ruzafa neighborhood, 2013

More than 350 ninots occupy a large percentage of the city’s intersections, plazas and alleys, and Valencia turns into a (very temporary) open air gallery. I always enjoy exploring the neighborhoods during Fallas — usually the crowds are smaller than city center and the creativity is amazing.

Open Heart

The Falla of Casal Na Jordana, 2015

The ninots remain in place until March 19th, the day known as La Cremá (“the burning”). Crowds gather, the streetlights are turned off, and all of the ninots are set on fire beginning at exactly 12 a.m. (midnight). Each year, one of the ninots is spared from destruction by popular vote. This ninot is called the ninot indultat (“the pardoned doll”) and is exhibited in the Fallas Museum along with the other ninots spared in years past (Fallas Museum, Plaza Monteolivete, 4, Valencia).

Neighborhood falla burning

The burning of the “ninots” in my neighborhood, 2014. You can feel the heat!

Neighborhood falla burning 2


A linguistic note: Les falles de València is celebrated in Valencià (Valencian), the official language of the community of Valencia —  thus ninot, casal, etc. are all Valencian words.


All photos © La Gringa Ibérica

12 Favorite Photos from 2015

I take a lot of photos here in Spain — the 12 I have selected represent what (and where) inspired me the most in 2015.

Detail - Palacio Longoria Madridfinal

Palacio Longoria, Madrid, Corner of Calles Fernando VI y Pelayo

The Palacio Longoria (Longoria Palace) is a Spanish Art Nouveau mansion, the work of architect José Grases Riera, constructed between 1902 and 1904. It was commissioned by banker Javier González Longoria, who gave José Grases Riera absolute liberty in the mansion’s design — making Longoria Palace the most important example of Spanish Art Nouveau in Madrid.

Photo taken March, 2015

A Donde Vas

¿A Dónde Vas? (Where are you going?) Street Art, Valencia

It only takes a short stroll around Valencia to realize that it is a great city for street art.

Photo taken March, 2015

Fallas Lion

The Lion of Congress Falla, Valencia

The Fallas is a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph in the city of Valencia, which lasts for 5 days and 5 nights, with very little time for sleep! The term Fallas refers to both the celebration and the monuments burnt at the end of the celebration on the 19th of March. Each neighborhood of Valencia has an organized group of people, the Casal Faller, who work all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring paella. Each Casal Faller a falla. The Fallas are not just a celebration but a very important part Valencian cultural life. The Fallas of 2015 marked my 5th year of attendance and I was truly sad to see the magnificent falla of the Lion of Congress burn.

Photo taken March, 2015

Bassa Vilasar de Mar

Can Bassa, Vilassar de Mar, Carrer (Street) Sant Pau, 3-4

Can Bassa (The Bassa House) is the work of Vilassar de Mar architect Edward Ferres Puig (1872-1928), built in 1898. The facade has carved reliefs of medieval-inspired floral decorations. There are also Latin American iconographic motifs, including a person drinking yerba mate. Can Bassa’s first owner, Peter Sitges Bassa, made his fortune in Latin America.

Photo taken June, 2015

Plastic Flowers

Faded Plastic Flowers and Crucifix, Cemetery, Sant Feliu de Guíxols

Sant Feliu de Guíxols, located on the Costa Brava about 90 minutes north of Barcelona, has an impressive cemetery, where there are some fine stone sculptures and some Art Nouveau features. It was constructed on the outskirts of the town in 1833.

Photo taken August, 2015

Facing East Palamós

Looking East from the Augustine Arch, Pedró neighborhood, Palamós

Palamós is a traditional Catalan fishing village, and, if you arrive early enough in the morning the fishing boats can be seen setting off for the day, just as they have for centuries. The Pedró neighborhood, the highest part of the town, has architectural remains of an Augustine convent — facing east, with a spectacular view of the Mediterranean.

Photo taken August, 2015

Viva la Mare de Déu - Street Art Elx

Viva la Mare de Déu! (Viva the Mother of God!), Street Art, Elche

This street art is one of a series painted on a wall near the Basilica de Santa María celebrating the famous liturgical drama dating from the Middle Ages, el Misterio de Elche ( the Elche Mystery Play). The play is enacted and celebrated in the Basilica de Santa María in the city of Elche on the 14 and 15 August of each year. It commemorates the Assumption of Mary, Mother of God. In 2001, UNESCO declared it one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Photo taken November, 2015

Bright Day - Barri Vell - Santa Creu Alicante

Bright Day in the Santa Cruz neighborhood of Alicante

Blue - Barri Vell - Santa Creu Alicante

Shades of Blue in the Santa Cruz neighborhood of Alicante

I took both photos during a walk through the Santa Cruz neighborhood of Alicante. This neighborhood, located on hillside at the foot of Santa Barbara Castle, is outstanding for its history, beauty and tradition, with a view of the old city to the Mediterranean.

Photos taken November, 2015

Detail, Cathedral Girona

Detail, Catedral de Santa Maria de Girona, Girona

The Catedral de Santa Maria de Girona (Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona) is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Girona, located in Girona, Catalonia. Its interior includes the widest Gothic nave in the world, with a width of 22 metres (72 ft), and the second widest of any church after that of St. Peter’s Basilica. Its construction was begun in the 11th century in Romanesque style, and continued in the 13th century in Gothic style.

Photo taken November, 2015

Winter Cadiz

The Castle of San Sebastián, Cádiz

Geometry and Light - Cadiz

Geometry and Light, Cádiz

I took both photos in Cádiz, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the oldest in western Europe. The Castle of San Sebastián is a military fortification, situated at the end of a road leading out from the Caleta beach. It was built in 1706.

With narrow cobblestone streets that open to plazas, Cadiz boasts a very Moorish ambiance. There are a number of Moorish style houses and buildings. These are characterized by their placement – generally high and lofty – and by flat roofs and turrets.

Photos taken December, 2015

All photos © La Gringa Ibérica