When we arrived in Madrid I was ready for the next phase of my plan. I deplaned and passed through immigration. I wasn't asked any questions the guy just looked at the picture, looked at me, stamped the passport, Passed it back and said, buen viaje (have a nice trip). Well that was easy!
I found a place to change my dollars to Euros. This magic trick turn $140 USD to 80€... I've never felt so much pain in my LIFE. I've been in Europe 10 whole minutes and the euro is already kicking my ass!! Next it was time to find a taxi. Hundreds of them were lined up so I was directed to the front of the line where a very friendly taxista picked me up, I explained that I needed to go to ave 05090. He knew exactly where it was and after a 15 minute right through beautiful Madrid I was being dropped of at the bullettrain station. I used my debit card to buy my 54€ ticket at the ticket machine and 30 minutes later I was on the bullet train heading to Valencia. The train was identical to the bullet train in Tokyo. The ride was a hour and a half and I slept a good portion of it.
The train station in Valencia was full of an exciting buzz over las fallas., most people headed straight for the tourism center so I followed that crowd. They had many magazines, maps, and itineraries for all the fallas activities. I took as much as ai could and asked one of the assistance to point out my new residence on one of there maps she have me, she circled it and drew a route in how to get to the center if it all from there. She recommended I take a taxi to my new apartment.
The taxi knew where to take me but was unsure if he could drop me off directly in front since many streets were blocked with fallas in the intersection. He was correct in thinking that fallas would block our way but boy was I excited to see them. He was able to get me within 2 blocks and I walked the rest of the way completely enchanted by the larger than life statues.
Las Fallas started during midevil times (600-1700AD). Each year neighborhood communities get together and construct these comical statues that poke fun at the years negative events. The events will make fun of politics, entertainers, undesirable social constructs, and current events. They are made if cardboard, paper mâché, styrofoam, and wood. They are made with such detail that they are mind blowing many are as tall as 4 stories high. Each day around 2pn is the mascleta. La mascleta is the deafening firecracker display that rocks the city. Each neighborhood has their own mascleta with the largest being in the city center. The thundering sound of explosives and firecrackers are strong enough to rattle your eardrums and this is music to the locals ears. All day long children and families are setting off firecrackers, it's like New Year's Eve 3 months late. I immediately started filming and photographing las fallas. I used my iPhone GPS to get me to my apartment but had no idea which apartment to ring... So I rang them all, one at a time.
"Hola, se encuentra Ana y Guillermo?"
"No, estas equivocada"
Finally apartment 5 told me to try apartment 12. Apparently I'm not the only one to have called each resident. I walked up the narrow winding staircase to apartment 12 and knocked. A lady opened the door. "Ana?!"
"No, no soy Ana.. But you're in the right place. Are you renting here too?" She asked switching to english.
"Yes" I explained. This must be your room then. She pointed to the first room on the right. It was definately the bunk beds from the picture, they were unmade though, as if someone just rolled out of them and left. She explained that the previous guest had just left and Guillermo hadn't made it home yet to clean up. I dropped off my bag and have myself a tour of the apartment and it's other temporary residents. The lady who opened the door was there with her boyfriend and two young daughters. They were from Germany. Our other housemates, boyfriend and girlfriend, looked Asian but were from Australia. The Germans spoke perfect English,of course, and even spent time in Atlanta as teenagers on a foreign exchange. They all were helpful in helping me get settled in by pointing out important things and giving me the free wifi code. Free wifi is like oxygen when you are traveling!
Since my bed wasn't made I saw that as a sign to freshen up and get out. I took a quick shower while I charged my phone, changed clothes and headed out. After filming the first set of fallas i saw a local pointed me to the city center. I was immediately stopped by a black man who asked if I was also from Africa as he was Nigerian. I told him that I was only visiting for las fallas and that I was from the US he almost jumped for joy when he heard me speak English. He insisted on leading me to the main fallas area, I accepted the offer and we walked and talked. He appeared to be in his 40s. He left Nigeria to study electrical engineering here in Spain but wa haunted I him studies due to his lack of Spanish language skills, he wa struggling with the language. He's lived here 3 years and enjoys it, the people are very friendly to him, and help him when he needs it... This is why he felt compelled to also help a list visitor in the Valencia's spirit and as good training from his ibo mom back home in Nigeria. Due to the economic crisis in Spain and most of Europe time were hard bug he was happy nonetheless. We walked around for hours and he lead me time very place he knew a falla to be. My travel angels are the best! After about 5 hours the jetlag started to get to me, he walked me back to where I could find my way back home alone and he left me with his phone number in case I was in need of help or a free meal. Thank you Kingsley for being a travel angel to me!
I then stopped by a pizzeria for food and water then headed back home. My bed STILL want made and Ana and Guillermo were nowhere to be found. The German man was kind enough to point out the sheets for me so I took out the prettiest ones and made my own damn bed! I got in my PJ and made sure I talked to everyone at home on skype and viber. As I was drifting off to sleep Guillermo came home apologizing for not being here to greet me and clean up. He had a great vibe, I hope I get a chance to sit down and talk to him before I leave. Here are some pix of las fallas: