They should prescribe Las Fallas on the NHS, you know. The train from Barcelona hugs the Mediterranean coast (and the sleeper before that contains a bloke from Hong Kong who buys you a beer for discussing Premier League football with him), and then you arrive in a city that’s buzzing-and going bang.
It’s been a great few days – I’ve only heard English voices twice all week and it’s been fabulous fun wandering around this agreeable city, taking in the hundreds of faller sculptures which went up in flames last night. The weirdest, which unfortunately I can’t present in any decent quality at the moment, features Victoria Beckham and a collection of dildos. Yup, it’s like that.
I adore Barcelona but know to my cost its downside of crime and general hassle; Valencia is less prepared for tourism but it’s a comfortable city that is easy both to get lost in and feel at home in.
Some 10 million euros were spent on Las Fallas this year, while Spain is gripped by what is called here La Crisis. (One of the first industries here to collapse was property – the city centre offices of Charlton’s now-defunct former sponsor Llanera are still up for sale, a year after my last visit.) They might not spend so much next year, but the festival of fire proves there’s more to life than worrying about money; there’s also having fun and enjoying each other’s company. The local media clears the decks for this – Canal Nou gleefully showing an Australian tourist telling its reporter the daytime fireworks were “better than sex”. (After a few bottles of Alhambra topped off with some agua de Valencia, he may be right.) Even for a solo-travelling Englishman, the mood’s infectious.
And guess who the only English person I spoke to was? A Crystal Palace supporter from West Norwood… with a Dutch bloke and his kids in tow. She was in town to learn Spanish. It’s time I did the same.
In the meantime, it’s time for my last night in Valencia – another train, another city awaits. But for now… isn’t this Tony Blair going up in flames here?
And at the end…