Sunday, March 22, 2009

Valencia, Mallorca, and buckets of onions and potatos

The eventful weekend kicked off with a scenic 4 hour bus ride through the Spanish country side from Barcelona to Valencia. Beautiful vegetation set on low mountain sides and fields of Spanish vineyards welcomed us along our way. Further setting off the cultural experience was the peaceful serenading of 2 Spanish women ripping through 2 hour conversations in a matter of minutes as they sat behind us.
The Sun greeted us in Valencia as we stepped off the bus and we enjoyed a stroll through the town checking out the creative, cartoony Fallas; large, papier-mâché creations destined to burn for the sake of tradition. Each section of the town had their own artist's renditions to offer, each unique and some ... well, disgusting. After a brief walk around town we went to the main square to watch the kicking off event. A storm of fireworks in the midday sun left little to be seen but smoke and confetti. Between thunderous cheers and the rumbling explosions the spirit of Las Fallas we fantastically bestowed on everyone present - let the party begin! All through the streets we saw children (and dads) lighting off tiny fireworks while we stuffed our faces with waves of chocolate-dipped churros. After a short tour through a few sites the sun began to set over the city as we stood atop the cathedral bell tower. We descended back into the city to await the burning of the Fallas.

The towering structures were set up mere meters from the buildings in every narrow street and small courtyard; simply turning a new corner could reveal a children´s Fallas burning and a small band playing.

After a late night of taking part in the Valencia tradition we retreated to Kaitin´s hotel room for a brief nap before our flight to Mallorca in the morning. 5 hours of cold, hard wood floors reminded us of every boney joint in our body. Morning could not come soon enough ... but it did come, and off to Mallorca we went.

After an uneventful plane ride we arrived at the sunny beaches of the small, 60 miles across island of Mallorca, aka "German paradise." Streets were teeming with blonde-haired cyclists, bar signs written in German, and wrinkly sun bathers. After a trip to the supermar'(ket) we hit the beach and chowed down our snacks and watched the beautiful turquiose waves lap against the sand and furry horse poo-poos (see pictures on "furry horse poo-poos"). An hour later we met up with our Juan (landlord) who let us in to the place we rented for the weekend; and thus began the funnaties.

For some reason Juan assumed we didn't want warm showers or gas for the stove, so he neglected to tell us the hot water heater was turned off and the gas tank was empty. Nothing too big, a visit from Juan and some cross-cultural linguistic gymnastics got us on track, expect for the shower drain - we couldn't get him to understand how a drain could clog ... anyway. That evening Raedun went to the supermar' to get some food "para cena." Upon arriving home she came bearing a sack of potatoes and bag of onions, food for the next 2 days.

After eating our egg-potato scramble for breakfast we began executing our plans to jump to the east side of the island to visit the Cuevos de Drach (Drake Caves) and explore some more beaches. A few bus stops and an hour train ride got us to Manacore, and a short bus ride got us to where the caves were. We arrived in the mid afternoon and ate our lunch on the docks overlooking a gorgeous harbor set inside wave-worn rock faces and green hills on either side. After lunch we ran down to the caves and got in to a tour starting just a few minutes later. While we waited we snapped a few pictures of the peacocks outside the caves (don´t know why they were there) and a quaint valley leading down to the sea.

The caves were, well, caves. Stalagmites, stalactites, and humidity - really cool! No pictures were allowed, but with some stealth and treachery we were able to sneak a few pictures from under our sweaters. The caves were well lit and you could see the water shimmering as it dripped from above. Although the caves do not have direct access to the sea, water seeps through the rock to form an underground lake inside the caves where the tour reaches its end. Here they have tiered seating in a grand room, the largest in the caves. They turned out the lights so it was pitch black and all we could hear was rustling of clothes and dripping water. A light shown from around the corner and music began to play. Three small boats came around the corner, one with 2 live musicians on board (organ and violin). The boats passed by and circled around again. A short "concert" (as the tour description called it) but still a unique and enjoyable experience. From there the boats docked below us and took us to the exit of the caves; how cool!

The caves were fun but we hungry and wanted to check out the town a little bit so we did some walking around. As the Sun began to set we walked back down to the beach to watch the sunset while we sat on the rock cliffs, dangling our legs over the waves. A beautiful and unforgettable sight for sure. After that was done we decided it was time to get on the bus and head back to Manacore and toward Palma.

We got to the bus stop 15 minutes before the last bus out of town left, arrived at the train station minutes before the last train out of town, and got into Palma only to catch the bus we needed just as it stopped across the street from the train station. A combination of lucky timing and beautiful weather made for a smooth, unforgettable weekend on this little Spanish island of Mallorca.

... but it´s still good to be back home. :)

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