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WT09 your two favourite gap-yearers make their way around the world armed only with a sense of adventure and a photocopied lonely planet guide to the mekong. wish us luck!

the real reason we came to spain...

SPAIN | Wednesday, 2 September 2009 | Views [2249] | Comments [2]

la tomatina

la tomatina

...was not to embarrass ourselves with our terrible spanish, nor to drink a lot of sangria, nor to enjoy the almost laughably laid-back spanish lifestyle (siesta often begins around midday and continues until about 9 the following morning), although a lot of all of this happened. in fact, we came to spain for la tomatina- for those not in the know, a tomato fight held once a year in a town called buñol, near valencia, where people basically spend an hour hurling tomatoes at one another for a reason that nobody can remember (although theories apparently include a group of students who would annually pelt their least favourite teacher with tomatoes, which i doubt improved their marks but probably made them feel better).

vivienne and i had a conversation many months back that involved a picture of people covered in tomato and the realisation that we would be in france in august, and that the tomatina is in august, and that france isn't all that far from spain. that may sound like a bit of a leap but this is in fact the way we travel, which actually works a surprisingly large part of the time (i think this can be attributed to luck more than good planning).

and so, after getting a rather exciting lift from manon's auntie to barcelona and having a lovely rampage around with lucy and franny, we caught a train (in 'class turistica', what an honour) down to valencia to our hostel where vivienne and i would not be sleeping in the same room for the first time in almost 4 months- gasp! we'd agreed we would each pick a key and stick with our room no matter what, which worked in my favour as i was with some nice tasmanians and poor vivienne scored a bunch of people who either didn't know la tomatina was on (but were presumably wondering why their dorm bed was costing them €30 a night), didn't speak english, spent all their time sleeping or a combination of the three. mad.

that evening met up with clare, lucy, claire and campbell (clare lucy and claire being friends from school and campbell being a friend of claire's) for a paella at a really dodgy restaurant and a catch up on everybody's goss from the last several months of travel. lucy and clare also handed out our 'tomatina outfits' that they'd bought in madrid for the grand total of €4 per person, which consisted of a white hooded shirt that said 'aloha college girls' on it, and some red silky jogging shorts that were such an unflattering style that even gemma ward couldn't have pulled them off. i will attempt to find a photo of the outfit, i promise.

we caught the train (along with the other 45 000 people who apparently participated in la tomatina) out to buñol pretty early in the day to get a good spot, but found when we arrived at about 9am that the streets were already packed with people, an enormous proportion of whom were australian (for some reason australians get really into things like this) and the majority of whom were boredly standing around waiting for the tomato-throwing to start (the few who weren't bored were the thieves and the aggressive spaniards pegging knotted t-shirts at unsuspecting tourists). the day did not begin well as a nasty spanish person pickpocketed campbell's camera, which is why we have only memories and no photos, and as we struggled through the crowd i got squashed between the backs of two really big guys and kind of freaked out as i couldn't move or breathe properly (the streets of buñol are really pretty narrow and with the huge numbers of people packing them we are amazed that apparently nobody has ever been seriously hurt). anyway, a few elbows out later the 6 of us emerged into a side-street for some fresh air and to discover that we were actually in a really good spot, as we wouldn't get crushed by massive numbers of people but were really close to where the trucks with the tomatoes pass by!

at 11am, the trucks roll through the main street and locals in the back pour armfuls of tomatoes into the crowd, who then spend the next hour hurling them at each other. there are few words to describe seeing thousands of people mash tomato into one another's hair and clothing, but hilarious is definitely one! locals on balconies also hose water into the crowd, which means that the gutters quickly fill with watery tomato pulp, which then runs down into the streets below (presumably to the great disadvantage of the poor people who live there).

as we agreed when we unexpectedly copped a bucket of water from a balcony prior to the tomato-throwing starting, the town of buñol is a bit of a hole and throwing water onto tourists is probably the highlight of their year.

after about half an hour of truck after truck rolling past and tomatoes flying everywhere, things calmed down a bit and we walked down our little alleyway to the street below, where we discovered hundreds more people flinging the tomato pulp that had washed down the streets at anything that moved (and a lot of things that didn't).

we had such a good day, other than the obviously annoying loss of campbell's camera, and made it back to the train station at the top of the hill looking like we'd bathed in pasta sauce and smelling like we'd slept in a bin. but all in the name of fun. and fun it was!

that night we were all really tired and so had a picnic in a park in valencia, where i insulted a south african by asking him if he was from new zealand and we played photo challenge in the dark, before saying bye and heading home.

we hadn't really planned a lot for valencia other than la tomatina (let's be honest, we didn't really plan a lot for spain other than la tomatina), so we did a 'free' walking tour (they always ask for money at the end) but it was actually really good and we found out all this stuff about how the christians and the muslim moors just rampaged around spain throughout the 19th and 20th centuries burning down one another's religious buildings and constructing their own over the top. such cool people.

v and i thought valencia was pretty nice, there's heaps of lovely old buildings and fountains and stuff, although we had kind of done everything by the time we left and weren't sad to be moving on to the next place. we would, however, be sad when we realised that the temperature in our next destination rarely drops below 40C and there isn't much to do there other than sit in front of the airconditioning and eat icecream.

but i'll let vivienne tell you about that.


Tags: la tomatina



Your "book" just got a lot bigger, thanks. Great stories -- although we have rather mixed thoughts about Gaudi (a bit like his architecture!). All well here and trust you both are now well scrubbed again and stay tatt free and well. Love from us all.

  G. & G. @ Minimbah Sep 3, 2009 1:49 PM


Hey vivienne_and_iona,

We really liked your blog and decided to feature it this week so that others can enjoy it too.

Happy Travels!

World Nomads

  World Nomads Sep 7, 2009 1:00 PM

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