Thursday, August 20, 2009

LES ALFABEGUES (or The Tomatina without tomatoes – see link, still time to book)

The legend:
I have never been to Les Alfabegues festival but this year I was invited so was forced to say 'thank you' nicely. I had, of course, heard about it ... such fun, all these hefty guys stagger through the streets of Bétera wearing flowery shirts and straw hats carrying huge floats (over 2 metres high) of Basil decorated with roses at the top, whilst drinking copious amounts of Sangria and a homebrewed concoction that is anybody's guess. Every so often they stop to sing loud, rousing songs in praise of the humble Basil plant accompanied by brass bands. And if that isn't joyful enough for you there are others guys with huge bags of confetti who throw it all over you (you are not allowed to throw it back) where its specially gluey properties clamps itself to your sweaty skin ensuring that you will be unable to remove it before Christmas unless, of course, you get lucky and one of the residents throws a bucket of water over you from a first floor balcony. By the end, then, you're knee deep in tiny bits of sticky paper, it's 43º and you're soaked in either sweat or water, or both, with confetti in your underwear where it's worked its way into awkward little places even you don't want to go, wondering what you're doing here ... how blissful is that?

The truth:
This is a joyous festival, full of fun and laughter, music and singing. Even the little ones join in carrying small floats of basil between them, their small faces shining with pride, dressed in their flowery costumes and straw hats. The confetti is hurled with wild abandon and in places reaches almost to your knees. In England this festival would be banned. One because it makes a terrible mess (no less than 6 tons of Confetti are used in the two hours or so) and, two lots of drink is involved and fighting would, sadly, inevitably break out. But here everyone is good-natured and here to enjoy the spectacle and be part of this most important day.

The facts:
No-one actually knows when the festival first began – some say the 19th century, some say it's been going on since Roman times – but the purpose is to celebrate the rebirth of life after winter, to honour The Virgin of the Assumption and ask for the protection and welfare of her people. The seeded Basil of Bétera is acknowledged to be the largest and most magnificent in the world. The previous record was measured by the Notary at the Garden of Basil and reached 2.59m. This year the long, dry summer has been perfect for growing the Basil, making Ramon Asensi, the man in charge of the cultivation of the plants, extremely happy because he has a new record - not in height but in girth this year.

NB: Basil is a native plant of Persia and South East Asia and was first introduced into Europe by the Greeks, becoming highly prized by the Romans both as a culinary herb and for its curative properties. In Egypt it was used in the process of mummification.

Valencia Formula 1 Experience at Bonaire

I read in one of the papers last week that a Scalextric replica of the Valencia Formula 1 circuit was being set up at Bonaire. Since Luke, my twelve year-old grandson, was flying back to England last Tuesday, I decided to take him for a look on the way to the airport. The model is housed in a tent by the main entrance.. There are six cars and a raised area where the joystick controls give the would-be racer a good view of the circuit. At the front of the stand is a full-size Formula 1 car with a large LCD screen, allowing drivers to pit their skills against the best in the world. The queues were long and, knowing we only had thirty minutes to spare, which queue should he choose? Luke went for the Scalextric track while I spoke to Dora, a member of the Bonaire marketing team. Explaining our predicament, I hoped she would find a way for Luke to take a turn with one of the cars. Instead, Dora called her manager over and an excited young man was boosted to the front of the queue. After five thrilling minutes racing in a highly competitive field (and the cars are very fast), Luke was escorted to the F1 simulator where, against a background of envious boys, he was pitched into an exhilarating ten-lap race.
All too soon, it was time to rush off to the airport. Before we left, Dora asked for an email address so that photos could be forwarded. A truly memorable experience!

Alonso, YouTube and George Clooney - Formula One Valencia

George and his Nespresso Ads, If he's not here in person - these ads will be all around

The VIP Meeting Point at Valencia Street Circuit.

With the Second Formula One European Grand Prix about to take place on the Valencia Street Circuit rumours and news stories are rife:-
Confirmed is the fact that Renault won their appeal and Fernando Alonso will race alongside team mate Romain Grosjea. Alonso is hoping to score a podium finish in front of his adoring home fans this year. The decision came a little too late for Valmor, the organisers of the Valencia Grand Prix as ticket sales were so low that they didn't build as many stands this year...Schumacher's proposed visit boosted sales a little, but then he pulled out.
Confirmed also is that multimillionare Co-founder of YouTube, Chad Hurley has announced that he is the major backer of the new US F1 team, whose first car will be ready in October, they will be one of three new teams next season.
Unconfirmed, but a very strong rumour is that George Clooney is on his way down to Valencia with his yacht which he is hoping to more in the Marina within the Valencia Street Circuit - we'll let you know when it's confirmed!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alonso Will Race In Valencia after all!

The FIA decided at 09:30 this morning that Fernando Alonso will be allowed to race in Valencia after all. There are rumours all over Valencia that 'Saint Rita'- Rita Barbera personally intervened and had a word in Bernie Eccleston's ear. The decision is just a little too late to affect ticket sales for the Valencia Street Circuit, but it will come as a relief to all Spaniards. Tomorrow, the Federation will decide what the new sanction on Alonso and Team Renault will replace this lifted ban.

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton is returning to F1 in Valencia after a four week summer breakand says he's "still buzzing from the win in Hungary and I'm hopeful of being able to carry that pace into the Valencia weekend - particularly with our new upgrades to the car!"

Could be an exciting weekend after all!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

“freakismo” The Valencian Oscar

Golden Delicious Fartons - the Freak Film Festival's version of the Oscar

The Freak Film Festival (FFF) draws to an end in Valencia on Thursday 13 August. The prizegiving for this “anti-festival” of film shorts will parody “Hollywood glamour” in a ceremony with a Valencian version of the Oscar, the “Golden Delicious Fartons”.
Ali G and Bruno star, Sacha Cohen Baron, is honoured and has been invited to the festival. Not clear as of yet if he is coming. (Almost definitely NOT. Though the organisers tell us they are trying to convince him to come with a video!!)
300 “videomakers” are said by the organisers to be projecting short shorts. The contest is now in its second year in Valencia but has also taken place in Berlin, New York, London and next, in Tijuana.

FFF define the concept “freak” as a rash (Lost in translation?) “the alternative thing, the different thing, the rare thing, the unusual thing” with a touch of “inevitable” humour.

But the philosophy of the FFF is the one of the “counterattack”, a proclamation of the “anti-festival” to supplant the “dawn of the cinema director” that abounds in the festivals of short films that flood the cities of the world. According to Sheila Conte, one of FFF's organisers, “We wanted something more democratic so that any person of the world through the facilities of the new technologies could participate”.

The films have been (and are being) projected on various locations around Valencia from a van mounted projector, and include “a squalid wall of a ruined farmhouse near a local cemetery in Benimaclet” and tomorrow 12 August on the beach at Puig close to a "30 metre high Pylon near an Urbanización!

Prizes will be in the Umbracle at around 23:30 on the 13th , and will include “a red carpet". Oh! and the official drink of the FFF - Horchata of course!
Mmmmm!! Don't you love Valencia!

Festival d’Estiu Sagunto Presents Ainhoa Arteta In the Roman Theatre

Ainhoa Arteta appears for one night only In the Roman Theatre in Sagunto singing songs from her latest album of famous songs down the ages. Songs include Presley's "Love me Tender", Lennon and McCartney's "Michelle" and Clapton's "Tears in Heaven". Inmaculada Gil Lázaro, director general of Teatres de la Generalitat describes Ainhoa Arteta as an artist who manages to generate moments of high voltage emotion of with her remarkable soprano voice, and who moves with this greatness between popular and classical music”. An artist of this stature together with the beautiful setting of the Roman Amphitheatre of Sagunto should make this evening, part of the Festival d’Estiu Sagunto, an unforgettable evening
Performance is at 22:30. Tickets are only 25€

Valencia - Schumacher deals another blow to the city!

So now Schumacher is NOT racing for Massa at Valencia Street Circuit. On Schumacher's website he says "Yesterday evening, I had to inform Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali that unfortunately I’m not able to step in for Felipe. I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible, however, much to my regret it didn’t work out. Unfortunately we did not manage to get a grip on the pain in the neck which occurred after the private F1-day in Mugello, even if medically or therapeutically we tried everything possible."

This is awful newsnot only for the city, but for the organisers, Valmor Sports too, they are going to be besieged by angry fans wanting their money back - though chances are very slim on that score .

Let's hope the persistent rumours that Alonso may be allowed to race here after all are true! More as we get it.

On a separate note, has anyone noticed that the Movistar/Telefonica poster of the event all over town shows the originally proposed route going past the City of Arts and Sciences - Did nobody tell them or their ad agents it had been changed?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Leonard Cohen to Play live in Valencia

LEONARD COHEN is to play live in Valencia at the Velodrome on 18 September as part of his world tour. The man is amazing, he will be celebrating his 71 birthday on the tour! Book your tickets now, this is bound to be a sellout.

33 America's Cup- Do you really care?

The long-awaited ‘grudge match’ between Alinghi and BMW Oracle is closer to being arranged........but not much closer.
For those of you still following this story after two years, yes two years of court cases and verbal sparring, this will not come as any surprise. For those who are reading about this for the first would take too long to explain, so read the back-pages if you want the full story. A brief summary is impossible.
But it is not going to happen in Valencia but in Ras al-Khaimah, bet the teams are happy about that!
read (much) more on this sad and convoluted story by clicking the headline.
Words 2009 Mike O'Neill
Image of First sail for Alinghi 5 on Lake Geneva ©2009 Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi


That’s it – it’s definite! The America’s Cup is NOT coming back to Valencia. (Although there’s always a small voice somewhere from the Town Hall that says, “Well, it might just if…and then gives a fairy tale list of if, buts and maybes that will never – but never happen.)

Which leaves us with the question, “What are we going to do with the beautiful white elephant that is the Puerto Americas Cup?”

This multi-million euro drain on the public purse had a brief couple of months of glory in 2007 and has since stood all but deserted. On the cusp of the Formula 1 event, whose track runs through the port, the only people in attendance were a team of cleaners washing down the enormous windows of Veles i Vents, the once posh VIP centre for the Americas Cup, now looking sad and dejected – but clean! A few workmen are tarting up the cafés and restaurants, but broken plant holders and streaked paint give off an air of neglect.

At five minutes before two on a Friday lunchtime (07 August - 3weeks before F1), when restaurants would normally be filling up, the staff at elegant Arribar set out on the terrace over forty tables, each with four chairs, with half as many again inside – with not one customer. Throughout the chi-chi area not one member of the general public moves, sits down to lunch or even takes a beer.

Weeds grow through the slats of the wooden seats built for people to watch the Cup races on enormous TV screens. It’s a perfect place to have an open air cinema, under the stars, with a cooling breeze blowing off the Med, but the Town Hall doesn’t seem to have thought of that, or thought of anything else to do with enormous area of big venue spaces, open air walkways, fancy bars and restaurants – it even has its own Victorian bandstand. But there’s no sign of the floating golf course we’ve been promised – at least we can be grateful for something!

So, wanted, an astute, inventive, far-sighted entrepreneur, with ideas, plenty of money and an ability to deal with a lot of bureaucratic plonkers.
words and images ©2009 Derek Workman

Saturday, August 08, 2009


This is an interesting and fragrant festival, most of the village turn out in flowery costume and the world's biggest Basil Plants (When I say big, I am talking over two metres high and carried by at least eight men or women) are paraded through the streets accompanied along decorated and painted streets by men carrying confetti (and throwing copious amounts of it) and pulling barrels of beer or wine. By the end of the morning the town is knee deep in confetti and there is a fair amount of hosing down by the Alameda. more by clicking the headline

Friday, August 07, 2009

La Tomatina - Get on the bus!

Thisisvalencia's Tomatina Tour is back again for another round of tomato-slinging fun this Summer 09! 26 August
Our day trip includes a return journey on a lovely cool coach, the whole Tomatina in Buñol, a shower and swim to cool and clean off, and a delightful lunch of tapas and Paella (and all the beer and sangria you can drink!) before heading back to Valencia for around 6pm.
The best bits are:
·You can leave your gear on the coach, so can slosh around in tomatoes without a care in the world, safe in the knowledge your things won't get lost, stolen or broken
· We give you a pair of goggles so you don't get nasty bits in your eyes
· The shower and swim on the way home - to get back to the City clean, dry, and tom-free is a luxury, believe us!
· You get to meet a really fun group of people on the bus! (and you get to meet the TIVlc team - always a pleasure!!!)

Our start point is the Plaza del Ayuntamiento at 9am, and we get back to the same place for around 6 in the afternoon. All this, including the goggles and lunch of course! for just 55 euros.

If you want to book a place on our great tour please go here and follow the link asap. Places are limited and sell out fast.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Amán - Ballet at the Roman Theatre in Sagunto

Sagunto's excellent Festival D'Estiu continued at the weekend in the glorious Roman Theatre that sits above the city, with 'Aman' by the fine company of Ballet de Teatres de la Generalitat. Choreographed by Patrick de Bana, and based loosely on the greek myth of Penelope and Ulysses, it was billed as a multicultural spectacular with not only classical music from Bach, Albinoni but also music from Armenia, Turkey and Morrocco. It certainly sounded like an interesting proposition at the press conference in Valencia last friday.
We arrived in Sagunto early to take our time walking up the ferociously steep Calle Castillo in the heat of the evening. I am so glad we did; street performers playing music or dancing or painting to music were dotted along our route all the way to the entrance, even so, we were still early and were able to get our breath back with a cool breeze sitting on the wall outside the gate to the Amphitheatre.
We finally took our seats and looked down to a stage bare but for seats for the orchestra and choir to the left and to the right seats for the Morrocan female musicians.
It all started rather slowly with two soloists singing with the orchestra and, dimly lit, two dancers walking along the back of the stage very slowly and making their way to the centre. That ended and they began to dance. It gradually became a delightful and hugely energetic and entertaining ballet. Th couple were replaced on stage by three wonderfully spirited dancers dressed in white, who were in turn replaced by a marvelously androgynous dancer, she was joined by more dancers in two's and seven's and so the pattern was set - the three in white danced to the drum and voices of Bnat Houriyat, one moment dervish-like and the next covering the stage in record time from side to side. There was music from a quartet of musicians playing Armenia and Turkey and the orchestra and choir played and sang the Music of Bach and Albinoni. mch of the dancing was the dance equivalent of 'rounds' in music and was so exciting and effective.
It was a remarkable performance which unfortunately was only on for two nights at the Roman theatre, but you will have another chance to see this beautiful show when it returns for a few nights in November at the Teatre Principal in Valencia, we'll remind you closer to the time and urge you not to miss it.
Amán Ballet photos ©2009 Festival D'Estiu
Street Photos © Diana Birch for thisisvalencia