Valencia: quite literally on fire

Although the nearby fruit-finging festival La Tomatina attracts far more headlines, Valencia’s spring celebration Las Fallas is a much bigger deal for locals. Community groups spend the entire preceding year preparing for this week-long annual event, designing and building elaborate wood-framed sculptures fnished in papier mâché and polystyrene. On 15 March their fantastical creations pop up on street corners overnight, flling the city with oversized animals, giant babies and fairy queens, plus politicians and celebrities rendered in unfattering caricature. Their appearance marks the start of a riotous schedule which includes the Mascletà, a daily three-minute display of ear-shatteringly loud gunpowder explosions, and the Offering of Flowers, when a sea of señoritas in traditional Valencian costume parade towards Plaza de la Virgin clutching bouquets. Music provided by roving bands adds to the electric atmosphere, and the city streets constantly throng with joyous locals clutching cups of Agua de Valencia (a blend of cava, orange juice and liquers) and handfuls of fre crackers. The party ends with a bang, when on the last night all the fallas are razed to the ground in a city-wide bonfre.

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