An Ex-pat Monthly Experience of Moving to Gandia, Spain - Part 23

24th March 2024
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Fallas time in Gandia .....

Fallas time in Gandia!

So it’s that time of year again! A good friend of ours posted on Facebook sometime ago, a little statement that I shall never forget, because it is SO Spain and definitely so Gandia. It said, “What’s going on? We haven’t had a Fiesta for a week!” It is little exaggeration; I can assure you!

But as I was saying, before I got sidetracked, (how unusual – Ed), we are just emerging from the Valencian phenomenon, called Fallas. For those of you to whom this means nothing, it is probably easier to describe it as a period of utter madness, culminating in closing down entire towns and setting off major pyrotechnics in the streets, spending huge sums of money creating the most wonderful dioramas, many of them the height of a three-storey house, then, yes you guessed it, setting fire to them! And yes, in-situ, that is to say, in the streets of the towns. The fires created being of such intensity that the Bomberos (Town Firefighters) spray down the buildings to deal with the heat caused by the conflagration!

Indeed, if you are of the somewhat nervous disposition, pack spare underpants when visiting town during this period because most young children are out and about with pocketful’s of quite vicious firecrackers that they set off with gay abandon and total disregard for passers-by.

This Valencian tradition began many, many years ago by carpenters, burning off their old off cuts in preparation for the new season. It then evolved into a political and satirical celebration of anything that should be protested. A Spanish national pastime of course. The wood was used/is still used to make frames and grand Disney like dioramas created, nowadays of incredible detail and realism. These are displayed throughout the town for all to admire. On the final day, they are judged and one is selected as the winning entry for the year and at midnight all the others are burned along with a grand firework display running into the early hours of the morning. This is Fallas!

There is, in fact, a Fallas Museum in Gandia. A fascinating visit tracking the history and containing a working model where you are free to design your own Fallas display using a wonderful interactive model scenario. Then, when you are happy with your decisions, you press a big red button and jump out of your skin as the concealed sound and light system creates the sonic result of your deliberations ….. very loudly! Great fun! It’s a must visit!

On a totally separate subject, winter this year has been a particularly mild event, even for this area. I don’t think that we have had many more than a dozen log fires and there has been little rain. Not a good thing from the rain point of view, because much as we love the sun, we still need to keep the reservoirs and aquifers topped up and the fire risk as low as we can in the forests around us. A sign of things to come I guess as the planet goes through another one of its historic cycles. But of course, now there are a lot of us as witnesses. I guess we all agree that humankind has not been helping matters for many years now, with our increased use of harmful chemicals, much of which has been released into the atmosphere. 

Of course, one of the biggest changes has been the proliferation of solar panel use. Spain is an ideal country to benefit from this form of electricity generation, with its super high level of regular sunshine hours all year around. The glint of sun on these panels is now a common sight as you drive around the area. As research continues, these panels are getting more and more efficient. The batteries to store the power generated are still very expensive, and, of course, require materials which are still far from eco-friendly to manufacture them, so it is more an off-set of the cost of planet generated electricity to the household which drives their popularity. 

This year the spanish government is giving grants of 60% of the cost of the solar system installed with certain criteria to follow, Harry at ''For Sale By Sally In Spain'' can advise you of all the current details if you decide to harvest free electricity from the sun and feed your excess back to the grid too, why wouldn´t you have a solar system with a 60% grant from the government, ask us for more details and we will be happy to help recommend a good solar company which makes sure you have all the necessary licenses so the system is legal and also help with submitting the grant paperwork.

The electric car is not as popular in Spain as it is in the UK. There are charging points at many supermarkets and shopping centres, but you don’t see many of them in use. The Spanish charge less for diesel fuel than they do for petrol. As it should be, because it costs less to supply diesel than petrol. But the Spanish have had a love affair with the diesel engine for so many years now and that is going to take a lot of changing. Also, as I was recently told in one of our local garages whilst having new tyres fitted; most Spanish drivers consider themselves to be racing drivers, so driving what is ostensibly an automated iPad on wheels is going to take some selling and is only popular amongst a small proportion of the driving population. Add to the mix that most Spanish car owners spend a small proportion of their income on a car and the costs involved purchasing an electric vehicle also make the attraction of these vehicles difficult. What has happened (and it does make good sense in my little opinion) is that the Spanish DGT have basically forced elderly/heavily polluting cars off the road by tightening up on emissions in a big way. It is actually easier and somewhat cheaper to buy a new or very recent car with good emission controls, than it is an older model. With all the emission limiting equipment that the major manufacturers have introduced over the past decade, this has already made a difference in air quality. Also, large cities have introduced restrictions on driving within them. You don’t get fined; you just can’t go in unless you have a zero emissions car. But then the public transport systems are proliferous and economical. Indeed, we never use the car to go into Valencia. We go by train. The equivalent of £1.10 each for the 55-minute journey and free parking at the station all day. What’s not to enjoy? You can take your bike or scooter on the train, or hire one pretty cheaply when you get there, so you can be completely independent if you wish.

Oh and did you know? Valencia is the European Green City of 2024. We are absolutely not surprised. It has the largest green park of any other city right through the middle of it. When they decided to divert the river to avoid any further flooding (it now mostly travels underground) the powers of the day planned to build a motorway in its place. The local population decided they wanted a green sward instead. They got it. A huge meandering green retreat where you barely hear the bustle of the city. They brought nature into schools and offices with vertical gardens and atriums. If you visit the old city and the cathedral on a hot day, you can refresh yourself by walking through a small ‘amazon forext’ garden and be sprayed with micro droplets from overhead tubes to cool you down ….. just a few steps away from the Numero Uno in cafes, Cappuccino. Coffee to be savoured in seriously opulent surroundings …. Oh and once there, you must ask the waiter for one of their ‘Old Fashioned’ cocktails to go with it. Lush, just does not cover the joy!

I feel the need for a coffee break! So until next time dear reader. If it pleases you, we are currently beneath grey, heavy skies. It rained on and off last night and is pretty miserable right now. Overcast and drizzly. But do you know what? It’s all fine because the sun’s gonna shine tomorrow – go on admit it. You’re singing it in your head now aren’t you?

Nos vemos!

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