La Roqueta neighborhood is the home to a lot of different communities. Some of them from overseas, some of them as Spanish as can be. Some easy to find, some others with a little guidance. There's so many things to see and experience! We'll describe the neighborhood's most interesting events and activities below:
On Tuesdays between 09.00 and 14.00 there's a market in the streets behind ours. This is the best way to have a truly authentic experience of the Valencian lifestyle. Take a walk over the market, the air filled with the voices of salesmen exclamating their best offers. Didn't pack for hot weather? Great, because here is where you will find a summer dress for almost nothing. But also shoes, fabrics, tights, and even some antiques.
Had a long flight? You can really relax with a massage at TUI-NA.
Tui-Na is a form of Chinese manipulative therapy often used in conjunction with acupuncture, moxibustion, fire cupping, and Chinese herbalism.
Tui-na is also the name of the massage center in our street. They are opened from Monday to Sunday, and offer a very profesional service. Zalamera receptionist Alejandra has tried it, and loved it!
A few doors down you'll find a very regular looking Spanish bar. But it's not regular at all! A door in the bar gives access to the Pelayo Trinquet: a huge, bright sportshal where professional games of traditional Valencian pelota are played. Being built in 1868, it's the oldest sports facility in the whole of Spain!
Visiting a match is the best way to experience Valencian culture and language and above all, have a good time!
On Thursday and Saturday you can see professional matches. So grab a beer at the bar, and find a spot on one of the benches along the field. The rules are easy to understand and the scores can change very fast. And if you don't think the game is exciting enough, you will get your adrenaline from avoiding the pelota (ball) to hit you in the face! Find out more about pelota here.
Chinese New Year
This neighborhood has always had a strong commercial character. Since a few years ago the Chinese community has taken a main role in business and trades. For this reason the neighborhood has a strong connection with the Chinese culture. Here it is possible to taste gastronomy of many of its regions and also to buy all types of alimentary products, decorative objects or cosmetics. It is very curious to see how the Chinese street signs are mixed with those of the traditional shops in Valencian in our streets.
As can be expected, the entry of the Chinese New Year is celebrated in this neighborhood. The Chinese year is based on the lunar calendar, and every February the traditional red lanterns are placed on the façades, and there is a festive atmosphere in the streets. Especially on the day of the parade, calle Pelayo . People of the neighborhood together with the students of the Confucius Institute of the University of Valencia organize a parade and offer us a beautiful display of martial arts and dances, with colorful costumes, masks and lucky dragons. It is a very special moment because all the neighbors come together to celebrate the beginning of a new cycle.
Mid march is Fallas time. For the Valencian people it is a very important part of their identity. However, observing them as an outsider, some aspects can come across as quite surrealistic:
Walking through the center around 1 pm, you will notice that great crowds of people are moving in the same direction, important main roads are cut. What's going on?
It's the mascletá at 2 pm on plaza ayuntamiento (town hall square). Fireworks? In broad daylight? Yes, these fireworks are set off on the ground, programmed by different artists each day. You will hear the rhythm from far away, and if you're close enough, you can feel it in your chest. Something that many Valencians seem to have developed an addiction to, as they won't miss a single one of the daily mascletás that take place between the first of march and the 19th.
Resisting the temptation of the smell of churros, coming from hundreds of churrerias, avoiding the firecrackers, thrown in every direction by little kids, you arrive home with your heart in your throat and your ears ringing. What a party! But what's this all about?
What are all those huge statues doing in the city? And they burn them at the end? Why?
In the reception of Zalamera, we have witnessed various confused moments like this ;)
So we decided to look into it a bit more and well.. Some of those questions, we may be able to answer. Others will remain a mystery.
To understand everything that happens between March 15th and 19th, you'll need to approach it from the perspective of a Mediterranean culture, in which the beginning of the springtime is celebrated with an explosion of stimulations of the senses: the colors and noise of the fireworks, the extravagant dresses and the smells of the pastries.
The origin of the fallas is a pagan celebration during which people burned all those objects that they had accumulated during the winter, that, with the arrival of the nice spring weather, they didn’t need anymore. Over time they became increasingly artistic and satirical, but they have maintained that ritual character of renewal towards a new cycle.
In the neighborhood we have one of the most important monuments, the one of Convent of the Jerusalem Falla. This falla is always among the prize winners for its great artistic quality.
Generally it seems that the scope of the Fallas has been growing over the last years, as they have recently been included in the Representative List of Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
However nice traditions are though, and however popular the party, critical voices call for some changes. The irresponsible use of fireworks cause many injuries each year. Another important point is the artificial material of the statues (the fallas) themselves. When they are burned, they colour the skies of Valencia pitch black, leaving the city smelling like burned plastic. This can't be good for the atmosphere.
Personally we feel more identified with alternative type of fallas, the ones that are not so monumental, but intend to endow the party with a more socially committed and ecological character. Luckily, there are more and more associations in the city that are adding a more conscious spin to the holidays. The one on plaza Ayuntamiento (town hall square) for example, is made of wood and constructed 'al tombe' (the traditional way).
Another association that organizes interesting alternative events is http://fallespopulars.org/. You can witness their paella cooking contest, join the karaoke or dance to on of the many live bands that play in their event.