Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

SCENES FROM SUFFOLK MADRID: Exploring Spain outside of Madrid

Some lights in the Russafa neighborhood.
Grace MacDonald
Some lights in the Russafa neighborhood.

On March 4, my boyfriend flew in from Virginia to spend his spring break with me in Spain. We spent six days in Madrid and then took a train to Valencia, an old city on the coast. My boyfriend has been to Valencia twice before, and he did a two-week exchange program in high school so he has a host family that lives there.

For me, this was my first trip to a city outside of the Madrid region in Spain, so I was very excited. Our trip fell during the days leading up to Valencia’s Fallas Festival, and the city was already starting to celebrate. 

Fallas is an annual festival that celebrates the arrival of spring. The festivities begin on March 1, but the true festival takes place from March 15-19.

Just minutes after getting off the train, we were already engulfed in the culture of the city. As we walked through the streets to try and get to our hotel, we stumbled upon a massive crowd in one of the main plazas. We learned they were waiting for the mascletá, which was starting in a few minutes.

Mascletás are essentially daytime fireworks, although there is more noise and smoke than anything. They occur every day at 2 p.m. in the main plaza throughout the duration of the festival, and as March 15 draws closer, they become more frequent. 

We stayed to watch, and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It was so loud, and you could feel each explosion pounding in your chest. I loved it, and it was quite obviously one of the most popular events of Fallas as thousands of Valencians were gathered in the plaza to watch it. We watched two more mascletás throughout our stay in Valencia – another in the main plaza and another that took place at night, in a different neighborhood.

Another significant part of Fallas that we were able to experience was in the Russafa neighborhood. A few of the streets in this neighborhood put up thousands of lights that span the whole length of the street, and we got to watch them be turned on. It was so pretty and the sheer number of lights was astonishing.

During Fallas, you’ll find giant statues being built in the center of every neighborhood plaza. These are designed each year by the neighborhood, and there is a vote for the best one. On the last day of Fallas, it is tradition to light each statue on fire.

Paella is a traditional Valencian dish, so of course we ate some while we were there. I’ve tried paella before, but as my boyfriend’s host father said and I agree — there is nothing like paella from Valencia. The one we ate came with chicken, rabbit, rice and some green vegetables. It was delicious and easily one of the best foods I’ve eaten since I came to Spain. No other paella even comes close. 

We visited Oceanográfic, Valencia’s aquarium, which was very big and housed so many different animals, from flamingos to fish to turtles to penguins and more. It also had an underwater hallway that you could walk through, with fish and sharks swimming all around and above you. That was one of my favorite parts of the visit; it was so cool.

Our weekend in Valencia also included touring the Valencia Cathedral, which had some cool ruins underneath it that we got to see, and we climbed up more than 300 steps to the tower at the top. There was a very pretty view at the top, and we were up there while the bell was ringing to signify the start of a new hour. 

I was able to dip my feet into the Mediterranean Sea, which I was so excited for, although I wish it had been warm enough to swim. I also tried a Valencian orange at Mercat Central Valencia, which is a huge indoor market that sells all kinds of food. It was delicious but so juicy; it made a mess everywhere. There are orange trees growing all over Valencia, which I thought was really cool.

It was amazing to finally be able to visit another city in Spain. I witnessed so much culture and tradition while I was there, and it was truly such an incredible experience. I loved Valencia so much, and I hope I can go back someday.

Follow Grace on Twitter! @GraceM123456

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About the Contributor
Grace MacDonald, Graduate Copy Editor | she/her
Grace is a graduate student from Seekonk, Massachusetts, majoring in communication with an integrated marketing communication concentration. Besides having a passion for writing, she enjoys listening to Taylor Swift, watching movies and exploring the city. She loves to travel and rock climbs in her free time. After graduating, she hopes to work in corporate communications. Follow Grace on X @GraceM123456

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SCENES FROM SUFFOLK MADRID: Exploring Spain outside of Madrid