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Photography Travel

Las Fallas: Preparing the Fallas

Las Fallas is one of those large and wild festivals in Spain that should be on any festival-goers bucket list. What started as a feast day for St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, has evolved into a 5-day, multifaceted celebration involving fire and fireworks. Valencia, a quiet city with a population of just over 1 million, swells to an estimated three million flame-loving revelers during Las Fallas celebrations. I’m one of those millions of people currently in Valencia to take part in this festival.

During Las Fallas, hundreds of exquisitely-crafted monuments called “fallas” are set up throughout Valencia. Each neighborhood’s falla can cost hundreds of thousands of euros and teams of artists have work on these for an entire year.  Valencians create these fallas, which are incredible works of art as unique, funny, satirical and thoughtful tributes to past year.

The fallas have been getting set up over the last few days using cranes, workers to assemble each piece and craftsmen to touch them up with paint.   They must be completely assembled by tomorrow morning and then the judging will begin. The best fallas will receive rewards. They will be on display until March 19th, La Crema, when (you might have guessed) they set them all on fire!

As I’ve strolled around the neighborhoods near me and in Old Town Valencia, I’ve been photographing some of the fallas as they are being assembled to give you an idea of the amount of work and the scale of the fallas.

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Photography Travel

Valencia: City of Arts and Sciences

Any visitor to Valencia, Spain, who is interested in cool architecture must visit the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. The Cuidad covers 2 kilometers and contains complexes dedicated to arts, culture, science and leisure. The architects were  Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela and the project was completed in the late 1990’s.

After visiting it a few years ago when I came to Valencia the first time, I knew I would do a return visit so I could photograph it again. Here are some color infrared images as well as some monochrome images I shot in an afternoon at the Cuidad.

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Food Travel

Barcelona: Foodlover Tapas Tour

While I’m here in Spain, I made a quick trip via high-speed train to Barcelona for a few days.  As part of one of my excursions, I signed up for a Foodlover Tapas Tour. Along with our guides Javier and Daniel, there were 8 of us hailing from the USA, Germany, Luxemburg and the UK. There were a great bunch and it was fun to share food and stories with them! Here’s photos of all the tapas I tried along with plenty of wine (of course).

Our first stop was La Boudequeta Provença:

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Octopus Salad, Ensalada de Pulpo

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Bread with Tomato, Pan Con Tomate

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White wine from the Pamplona region.

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Fried Anchovies, Boquerones Fritos

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Salt Cod Croquettes, Croquetas de Bacalao

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Fried Baby Squid, Chopitos

Stop number two was a few blocks away and a small rustic and intimate tavern, Taverna Mediterrania:

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A handcrafted Vermouth aperitif to start.

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Mushroom and Egg Omelette

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Ox Stomach Stew, Tripe Aita

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Steamed Mussels, Mejillones al Vapor

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More fried anchovies, Boquerones Fritos

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Chickpea Stew with Morcilla, Cocido

Our final stop of the night was Bardot in the L’Eixample district:

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Beef Croquettes

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Calamari and Beans

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Salt Cod Omelette

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Braised Oxtail

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Vegetable Risotto with Pancetta

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Grilled Beef Steak, Chuleton

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Postres — Chocolate Torte and Crema Catalan with Ice Cream

We finished off near midnight satiated and quite happy.  I really enjoyed the people in our tour group, and Javier and Daniel were great guides!  I’d do another Foodlover tour next time I’m back in Barcelona!

Photography Travel

Valencia: Soldaditos

Valencia has a great museum dedicated to re-creations of historic scenes featuring over a million toy soldiers.  If you’re an avid toy soldier collector, this would be your Mecca.  I enjoyed photographing all the miniature diaoramas which where elaborately displayed throughout the museum.  The building itself is a very cool Gothic style palace that was the residence of the Marquis of Malferit and is well preserved. It was a nice little side trip as I strolled around a pretty part of old town Valencia.

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Photography Travel

Valencia: My first Mascletá!

I’m reporting in from Valencia, Spain where I am currently documenting an amazing festival called Las Fallas.

The famous Fallas is Valencia’s most anticipated annual festival, featuring the ear-splitting Mascletá celebration which happens every day from the beginning of March until the end of the festival on the 19th of March. Each day, strings of hundreds of large firecrackers are hung by local groups in the town square. At 2pm sharp each day, thousands of onlookers and party-goers gather in the main square, Plaza del Ayuntamiento, to enjoy the explosive choreography of the petardos, the lighting of hundreds of firecrackers in all of their cadenced power and glory. Fireworks artists are allowed to use a maximum of half a metric tonne of black powder in their show as they compete for the best Mascletá.

mascleta 027 Las Falleras Mayores on the balcony of city hall getting ready to announce the lighting of the fuse.

mascleta 025 The crowd gathers at the Plaza. The barricaded area behind the tall fence is filled with fireworks.

mascleta 029-6 mascleta 029-12It was amazingly loud during those 6 minutes of non-stop explosions in the sky. I captured it on video while holding my camera over everyone’s heads.

La Mascletá in Valencia, Spain from Carol Watson on Vimeo.

I’ll be back again tomorrow to see what the next team of pyrotechnic freaks offers up to compete with today! My goal is to get to the plaza early and get in closer.

Food Travel

A Day in Alessandra’s Italian Cucina

Since both my husband and I are foodies, one of our favorite things to do when we visit Tuscany is to eat. And an even better way to enjoy the food is to learn how to prepare regional cuisine from a local chef. Chuck and I took cooking classes from Chef Alessandra during one of our first trips to Cortona and we had such a blast that we enrolled again during our visit to Tuscany this past Fall.

Right from the beginning of the day, when you meet in a cafe in Cortona and Alessandra initiates the group to the menu, you know it’s going to be a glorious day (despite the rain). She led us as we walked to the various shops that supply her ingredients — the meats, the vegetables, the bread, the cheese, the wine etc. While in the shop, she gave us some history on the shop and the ingredients she purchased.

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Then, we headed down the hill to Alessandra’s home kitchen where we were put to work immediately. We began prepping, pouring, chopping, peeling, mixing and rolling out pasta all the while hearing tips, tricks and tales (many great ones) from Alessandra. We broke halfway through the day and shared platters of antipasti (salumi, mortadella, cheeses, bread) and a fair amount of wine — to get us warmed up for the rest of the afternoon.

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When it came time to eat what we had prepared, we celebrated the beauty and flavors of each dish we prepared: Risotto alle Zucchine, Ravioli al Ragú di Porcini, Filetti di Maiale Alle Cipolle e Mele, Patate Arrosto, Panna Cotta al Caffè.

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Everything thing was delicious thanks to guidance from Chef Alessandra. Lots of stories were shared and Alessandra’s big beautiful Italian personality kept us thoroughly entertained well into the evening. I was sad to see the day end. Alessandra not only filled my belly, but she also filled my heart.

This is a must do when you’re in the Cortona area of Tuscany.  You can book a cooking class with Chef Alessandra through her website. She fills up fast, so make sure you contact her well enough in advance!

Photography Travel

Zion in Color Infrared

Yesterday, I posted a series of color landscape images from my day in Zion. I also had my converted Nikon D300 color infrared camera with me and captured Zion in infrared too. You’ll notice the different color spectrum when you compare them to the natural color images I posted yesterday. Welcome to Planet Infrared. zion ir b02 zion IR 112-Edit zion ir b03 zion IR 087-Edit zion ir b05 zion2 IR 026-Edit zion2 IR 034-Edit zion2 IR 028-Edit zion2 IR 038-Edit-2 zion2 IR 047-Edit zion2 IR 058-Edit zion2 IR 082-Edit zion2 IR 067-Edit zion2 IR 091-Edit zion ir b06 zion2 IR 114-Edit zion IR 040-Edit zion ir b01 zion IR 047-Edit

Photography Travel

24 Hours in Zion

While on a trip to Las Vegas last month, I decided to get away from the strip and all the glam of the city and head out into nature.  I rented a car, loaded up my cameras, and headed to Zion National Park, Utah, about a  2.5 hour drive from Las Vegas.  Being late January, the park was not crowded at all and the traffic was minimal. The weather was cool, but not cold, so I enjoyed spending the day photographing the beautiful landscapes in the canyon.

I booked a room in Springdale at the Hampton Inn (very nice and in a gorgeous setting) and spent the night so I could shoot more images the next morning. I was treated to a light rain and low clouds the next morning so I was able to photograph the landscapes in totally a different light and mood.

I enjoyed my 24 hours in Zion and definitely plan to go back again when I’m in Las Vegas, but I will stay longer so I can explore the park on foot as well as by car.

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Photography Travel

A Rainy Day in Hungary

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

— Rabindranath Tagore

Dedicated to Timea.

Images photographed on rainy days in Budapest and Debrecen, Hungary.

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Travel

Vancouver in November

I decided, on short notice, to surprise my youngest daughter on her birthday. So I hopped on a flight to Vancouver, BC, Canada in early November. I booked an apartment in Yaletown with a great view.  Despite the weather being typically rainy and cold, I still enjoyed my week there because I was able to spend some quality time with my daughter. I love Vancouver anytime of the year. Fall color was starting to appear in the city as evidenced by some photographs I took from the apartment.

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