August 23rd, 2012
Another week, another fiesta…it must be August in Spain!
We´re off to Puebla del Duc, an hour away from the fantastic city of Valencia, to give it it´s proper Valencian name, La Pobla del Duc.
Why are we heading here? To the Grape Festival – La Raima - of course….not to eat them, not to crush them underfoot, and not to drink the delicious juice….but to throw them! The Grapes of Wrath?!
Another strange Spanish fiesta then! Forget screw caps, you need a screw loose for this one!
A bit like the more famous La Tomatina, - also in August – where battle commences with the ripe tomatoes and everyone gets really messy….La Raimá celebrates and signifies the end of the Grape Harvest and , unbelievably, the start of the colder months…although as I write this at 10:00 am and the temperature is creeping towards 30º I can´t actually see any sign of cooler weather!
What does it involve?
This particular party has been happening since way back in 1930, and has continued every year ever since, usually during the last week, and also usually on the last Friday in August. If you do happen to find yourself in La Pobla del Duc around then, head for the main drag.
Wait for the church bells to strike 12:00 noon. Crowds will gather expectantly in the main square - La Plaza de la Cooperativa – as 90 tonnes of grapes (in fact local Garnacha Tintorera if you´re fussy about what you throw) are delivered by half a dozen or so trucks.
A small warning
At this stage, look down.
If you´re wearing your Manolo Blahniks and best bib and tucker, turn around, go home and change. Or hide.
Make sure that you don´t have too far to hobble home, here´s a selection of holiday homes in Valencia to choose from…
And they´re off…
Everyone rushes to the trucks and grabs as many grapes as they can hold and …well… fling them at each other…hard!
The battle has commenced, and carries on until the last grape has been thrown and everyone is covered in the red stains of this juicy war.
It´s very messy, it´s extremely exhausting, but it´s great fun!
The floor is red with the juice of squashed grapes, the whole place smells like a big smashed bottle of wine, so it´s time for the hoses to come in and both the streets and everyone there gets sluiced down and hosed off!
The after party
Afterwards, there´s Paella cooked on giant pans for everyone to share – after all,you are in Valencia, the home of Paella – more grapes in the form of the local wine to drink, beer if you´ve had quite enough of the taste of the grape, the crowning of the King and Queen of La Raimá, and music and dancing form a mobile disco to round off the great day.
Take another day or two to discover the other delights of La Pobla del Duc, which was founded by James I. Situated on the right bank of the River Albaida, this is agricultural land, not just the aforementioned grapes which are gown here in abundance, but also Peaches, Plums and Apricots on a grand scale, for export all over the world.
Back in town, for a bit of sightseeing, visit the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the public but very peaceful Calvary Gardens, and the convent, Convento de Minimos from 1603.
Remember that despite the surrounding agricultural landscape, that you´re only an hour from the magical city of Valencia, and all that it has to offer in sightseeing and shopping, with it´s wealth of restaurants and nightlife.
So you see, there´s much more to Valencia than just plates of Paella and Oranges!