March 30, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Spain, Traditions, Travel, Travels in Spain, Video

Because words can’t really capture the spectacle that is Fallas, I’ve put together the below video. To read more about Las Fallas and my great “unexpectations,” check out this week’s blog post, which is being featured on Gogobot.

If you are having trouble viewing this video, please click here.

March 24, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine, Spain, Traditions, Travel, Travels in Spain

I went to Valencia last weekend to experience Spain’s famous fire-filled festival – Las Fallas. Forget Fallas, though – the fire part anyway. I think there are more important subjects to discuss here, like the abundance of churros con chocolate. You knew I’d find a way to make this about the food, didn’t you?

Us Americans (or Californians at least) have grown up with some version of the Mexican churro – that crispy but chewy fried stick of dough rolled in layers of cinnamon and sugar. Sure, those are pretty darn good, but they aren’t the churros I’m talking about here. Spanish churros, like their Mexican counterparts, are also made of fried batter, but are instead shaped like a looped raindrop. And while they don’t come with a dousing of sugar, they do come with a side of hot chocolate, which, let’s be honest, totally beats those amateur wannabes that we eat in the US. The hot chocolate is a treat unto itself – it’s dense and somehow light (to taste anyway), and ready to be dipped, drank or downed.

So what has this got to do with Valencia and Las Fallas? Well, it just so happens that during this festival (and many of Spain’s festivals for that matter), Valencia converts into a churros and chocolate wonderland. Halelueia! For every falla (the structures errected throughout the city and burned at the week’s end), there certainly must be at least one or two churros stands just ready and waiting to serve the hungry (translation: drunk) masses at all hours of the day.

These stands don’t just stop at serving the typical churros and hot chocolate – they also tempt us with their chocolate covered churros, and ginormous churro-y tubes stuffed with something (who cares what, really) and then topped off with sprinkles (SOLD!). Then there are the porras – a fatter, less attractive version of the churro, but equally delicious.

It turns out that the already over-the-top selection of sweets mentioned above just isn’t quite enough for this festival of flames, fireworks and apparently fried foods. There is one more detail you might notice at these stands – it’s the hanging pumpkins (which naturally got my American attention, causing visions of Halloween and pumpkin pie to dance in my head). This is because Valencia happens to specialize in buñuelos de calabaza (basically pumpkin donuts).

Before you get all geeked out about the pumpkin part (like I did), let me clarify – these pastries taste nothing like pumpkin. Tear, I know. The good news is that they are basically the most amazing donut-like concoctions on the planet. Fresh out of the fryer, they throw them into a bag with sugar, shake them up, and hand them over so that you may commence with your heart attack. You can imagine my disappointment when I accidentally ordered a bulging bag of twelve…

I realize this begs the question – where is a picture of these pumpkin-y treats? I would have taken one, but I was kinda busy eating. Priorities.

*Have I left you longing to learn more about Las Fallas?? Stay tuned – in the coming days Gogobot will be featuring a blog of mine about the festival (I will post a link here once it is up). You can also see pictures on the La Tortuga Viajera Facebook page.