Getting to know the Valencian community through fiestas and day trips.

Katrina Fuller is a third year Modern Languages student (studying French and Spanish), and this year she has been working as an English Language Assistant in Castellón, in the Valencian Community, Spain. Enjoy reading about some of the Turing Scheme grant recipient’s favourite fiestas and places she has visited during her time in Spain thanks to Turing.

FIESTAS IN THE VALENCIAN COMMUNITY…

Fallas
Let’s start with Fallas, likely the most well-known fiesta that I’m going to talk about. Fallas is celebrated in March every year. After 2 years of no Fallas, Valencia (and beyond) was ready to celebrate, bigger and better than ever before.

What I hadn’t realised before coming to Spain was that Fallas is not only celebrated in Valencia but also in pueblos (villages / towns) near Valencia too! So, I spent an afternoon exploring the Fallas in Burriana and 3 days for the finale of Fallas in Valencia. The streets of Valencia were bustling with life, music, and food. It all comes together for the finale of Fallas, that’s for sure. Although, it felt a little strange and sad walking through the streets after Cremà (burning) of the Fallas.

Something to note: hostel, hotel and Airbnb prices rise extortionately for Fallas, so the sooner you book the better! This is the same for flights and train tickets to Valencia during Fallas, especially the final week of celebrations.

Las Fallas de Valencia

Turing helped me cover the costs of staying in and travelling to Valencia, even though I did book quite far in advance.

Semana Santa
Another well-known fiesta in Spain, however, the most extravagant celebrations take place in the South of Spain near Andalucia. That doesn’t mean, by any means, that no Semana Santa celebrations took place in Castellón. In the neighbouring pueblo, Almassora, I got to experience Tambors de Passió. We stood in the square in complete silence until the clock struck midnight, then the drums broke the silence and resonated through our bodies.

Vilafamés 1900
Vilafamés is a small pueblo about 30 minutes from Castellón, and at the end of April they put on a show to transport us back to Vilafamés in 1900. You got to enjoy traditional clothes, houses, schools, food, and more.

PLACES I’VE VISITED…

Segovia
Home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site aqueduct, it is an incredibly beautiful town, 30 minutes away from Madrid by train to Segovia Guiomar (€22 per person – depending on the time of day you travel, and how far in advance you book it. I paid €22 the day before), where you can catch a bus (€2 per person) to the centre of Segovia or to the aqueduct.

The aqueduct is a highlight of Segovia but there is also a castle (Alcázar de Segovia), a cathedral, and other cute calles (streets) and artisan shops to check out too! Did you know that Walt Disney based the Disney castle on the Alcazar of Segovia? Can you see the resemblance?

Another highlight of the day not to be overlooked is the Segovian food. Typical Segovia food consists of judiones de la Granja (farm beans), soup, cochinillo (suckling-pig), and for dessert ponche segoviano. We ate at a restaurant called Maribel, and we couldn’t fault anything.

Peñíscola
This is one of the pueblos you can’t miss if you ever find yourself near the Valencian Community. In 2021, Peñíscola was chosen as the Ferrero Rocher 2021 town! Over Christmas, the town shone bright with lights, giving it an even bigger fairy-tale feel. It is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Spain, and now I completely understand why. There’s a castle perched perfectly on the edge of the sea with incredible views.

Morella
Before visiting I’d heard a lot about Morella, so when a trip was organised for Erasmus students in Castellón I took the opportunity to go and see what all the fuss was about. Morella is another unmissable destination in the Valencian Community. It even has the label of ‘one of the most beautiful cities in Spain’. Yes, that’s right, Morella is actually a city despite having only a population of just over 2000. But don’t let its size deceive you, there is still plenty on offer.

When in Morella, you must eat croquetas morellanas (Morella croquettes) and flaons which you can find in most bakeries. You will also see a lot of mantas morellanas (blanket of Morella) which come in all colours and sizes. Also, there are some amazing artisan shops to be discovered.

The main attractions however are the castle (€2.50 for students under 25) and dinosaur museum (€1.50 for students under 25). When I stumbled across a dinosaur statue, seemingly in the middle of the mountain in Morella, I was taken aback. But apparently, Morella is rich in dinosaur history. The castle offers incredible views across Morella and the mountains. It’s also one of the most notable parts of Morella, and you can spot it from quite a distance as you’re driving up to it.

Something to note: Morella is in the mountains so it can be quite cold. In winter it snows in Morella! I visited at the beginning of April, and it was -1℃, so be sure to dress accordingly!

HOW THE TURING SCHEME HAS HELPED…
Turing has without a doubt helped me fully-immerse myself in Spanish culture and helped me explore new cities. Apart from helping me travel to new places, Turing funding has allowed me to go out and involve myself in other Erasmus activities, by covering the cost of the ESN Card (15€ in Castellón) and local activities with my friends, letting me enjoy my year abroad experience to the full. In fact, I went to Morella with ESN Castellón. My walls in halls will be looking a lot less bland next year decorated with all these new photos and memories.

Tambors de Passió

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