I heard about this festival called La Tomatina festival (it’s basically a large tomato fight) around 15 years ago and l knew from that moment that l needed to go and this year, only 15 years later, l finally found my way to Valencia for 3 nights where Phil, Marcus, Giorgio and myself would stay for the duration. Phil joined me in Certaldo for 4 nights before we headed to Valencia and from the moment we hopped off the plane in Valencia 2 hours before Giorgio was meant to arrive is when our first story started. The wifi in Valencia airport, that even though it says it exists, actually doesn’t work and so Phil having data we got the address of our Airbnb and set off on the metro towards the location. We changed trains like we worked out and on the way, looking out the windows, l was getting a feeling we were not in the right area however Phil said let us just go check it out plus he needed to find a pack of cigarettes, which was the easiest part and the lady had pretty decent English (this ended up being a saving grace about 20 minutes later). We got to the address and l knew straight away this was the wrong place and our GPS took us to the wrong street, so we headed back to the tobacconist to ask about the address. She took one look and let out a little giggle that we were in the complete wrong location and we had to be back in the city, so by this time of carrying our bags and in the heat we decided to get a taxi but apparently this little town does not believe in taxis and wifi was also non-existent and the only option was another 30-minute train ride back to the city plus a combined 20-minute walk meant we found the Airbnb at the same time Giorgio arrived. We stayed just out of the old town where it was quiet enough to get some sleep but still an easy walk to the main tourist areas. Marcus arrived in the afternoon and we decided to head out for dinner and drinks however Giorgio and l decided we would cap the night so we had a good head for the next morning as it was festival day and this ended up being the best decision as Marcus and Phil were not doing that well the next morning.
We woke up nice and early to get some breakfast in an walk to our pick up location as we went through the tour company es.tomantina for tickets and transfer to Buñol where the festival is held. Before l continue the story of what we had to go through to get into the festival, l need to let everyone know who reads this, DO NOT USE THAT TOUR COMPANY! We got told that our bus would depart at 7am for the 30-minute ride to Buñol, so we turned up at the meeting point about 15 minutes early just waited. There was no main organiser for about the 1000 people they had there and just a tour guide for each bus walking around with a piece of paper and a number scribbled on it which was the group they were looking after. After about an hour, Phil, Marcus and l (Giorgio had booked late and had already left) found other members of our ticket group but no tour guide and nearly all the buses had left when a bus driver walked up and said we were his group so we just went along. The bus ride was smooth enough and when we got to the Buñol, we disembarked the bus to find everyone else had been given a t-shirt and entry wristband except our bus because we had no tour guide. We ask another guide what to do and his answer was ‘you don’t have a guide?’ and then proceeded with the old saying, let me ask my boss. We stood around for another hour before we even got a t-shirt which was in an unorganised way too and when we then asked about wristbands, we got told to just get them at the entrance but no real indication exactly where. We walked to the festival to get told we had to go all around to the other gate to get a wristband and by the time all of this happened we finally got into the main fighting section 15-minutes before the fight started at 10am.
The fight, l can only describe with one word… madness. It was a bit slow to get started where we were but once it did, well there were just tomatoes everywhere. The fight lasts 1 hour and believe when l say that is all you need as by the end of it, you’re standing in 30cm of tomato sauce and you have tomato in every hole of your body, even if you don’t want it there. I lost Phil and Marcus about 20-minutes in but found Phil at the end for the long walk to the showers and back to the bus where we located Marcus again and because our tour company is awesome, our bus was delayed taking off saying he hadn’t been paid and was going to leave us there, however we got lucky and at least got back to Valencia where we were able to finally shower properly and catch up with Emily (a friend l met in Certaldo and had also planned to come to Tomantina but that is another story and if you ever meet her, she can tell you) to have some drinks.
Day 2 of Valencia, we hired bicycles and with Giorgio being our tour guide as he had been to Valencia before, we headed to the old town for the cathedral and up the spire for the views, then over to the Science and art museum which transforms into a completely different town altogether which also included a fall from Phil as he tried to cross some water, the funny part to this is about 5-minutes before, he was telling Giorgio and l to be careful as we decided to ride in a skate bowl in bikes not made for it and then to the beach. We rode about 20kms that day and by the time we had dinner and drinks that night, we were all falling asleep at the table.
The trip home the next day was straight forward which was a nice change for me after the strike I experienced in my last blog and getting to Valencia but in summary La Tomatina festival is a must do once in your life, Valencia is a very beautiful city with many little hidden gems and l would love to return to the birthplace of Paella but l still need to see the rest of the world first.