26 Jun 2009

End of an era...

First thing that appeared on my screen when I turned the computer and opened up Firefox... major unpleasant surprise!

Oh my, Michael Jackson R.I.P.?!

Of the many famous musicians, actors and other celebrities you hear about when they die, this is the first one that kind of hits close to home... not because I was a major fan of the "King of Pop" (I enjoyed his music but didn't like his figure and crazyness), but because he sort of represents my childhood. Thriller and Beat It are the first pop songs I remember hearing (along with my parents' Abba albums), learning the lyrics to, singing along with... and the Thriller music video... *shivers* it had me spooked as a kid! I hear beats of those songs and it sends me back to a childhood in Saudi Arabia with the desert and the heat and the swimming pool (where I learnt to swim) and the markets...

It unfortunately can't be embedded, but here's a link to the Thriller video on YouTube (I just realised I haven't seen the whole thing in years! I just hope the werewolf transformations in New Moon are done better, lol!) for those who want to take a trip down memory lane or discover this short "musical horror film" for the first time. Enjoy!


25 Jun 2009


Have been way to out of it today after two nights out and about enjoying Hogueras to edit photos and video... but I did want to give you a taste. I thought this would be a nice equivalent of blowing out some candles for my 100th post! (my that came along a lot sooner than I expected!)

Hogueras are over for this year... but tonight a 5-day fireworks competition starts at the beach. I won't be heading down tonight, I need my zzzzzzs, but if I'm still awake at midnight I'll head up to the roof and enjoy the view (you can se the entire Alicante Bay from my place so it's a good spot to see the fireworks from, even if you get the "sound" a few seconds later, what with light travelling faster than sound and all that)

24 Jun 2009

Hogueras: La Noche de San Juan!

What with a short day (due to getting up a tad bit late, lol!) and lots to do, I haven't been able to put together the other post I wanted to... I guess I'll have to wait and show you more of the Hogueras themselves after they've been burnt to a crisp! :p


Tonight all those amazing constructions get filled up with firecrackers and and some point during the night the Bellea of each Hoguera will light the fuse to her Hoguera and as the flame travels into the statues firecrackers and fireworks will burst and the flames will set the whole structure on fire!
And that's where I am right now, watching it! Well, right now when this post goes "live" (I'm scheduling it for midnight, right when the "Palmera" gets launched from the Castle to signal the beginning of the fires). I'll tell you more about it tomorrow, but just so you get an idea, here's a video I put together last year when I went out with friends.

Hogueras by Night!

Well, after a loooong night out and not enough hours of sleep, I'm back at my desk fiddling with this blog instead of down by the pool. Can anyone say blogging addiction? ;o) Nah, I'm just having too much fun sharing all this!

So in that spirit, I thought I'd share some images of what things look like during Hogueras once the sun's gone down! Starting with City Hall:
Here's the "Official" city hoguera again (Sun and Moon) with people milling about.
And you remember the images and video of the Ofrenda - the flower offering - I posted 2 days ago? Well here's what the finished result is:
And I had a good laugh when I came across this small Hoguera, would have been perfect for our World Oceans Day event! It's the Plaza de Santa Maria Hoguera (3rd category), by artist Francisco López.

These two fellahs are great! The sign under them says "La gamba de platja vol enfosquir-se la pell i es torra hores al sol per ser bruna de nivell", something along the lines of "the beach shrimp wants to burn its skin so spends hours in the sun to be darker"... a nod to all the northern tourists you see leaving the airport of Alicante... with skin so bright red it hurts just to look at them! :p
And here we're looking down at a Barraca where the members of the previous Hoguera are finishing off their dinner and drinks and dancing 'till they drop:
And finally the famous fires on the beach:
We never made it to the water! Try getting through those crowds... scary!!! Should have gone when we made it down town (you could just see a few fires here and there, not many people), but we were running late for dinner! :s Oh well, that goes on my list of things to NOT miss next year! ;o)

Hmmm... the pictures don't say much without the music... perhaps this will help!

And to finish off, this is what I woke up to this morning:

was looking around for the marching band like crazy, finally saw them on the other street. Dunno why they stayed off my street this year...

Potter Wednesdays: on hiatus!

Sorry 'bout this folks, but I'm currently swamped with all this blogging about Hogueras so I'm going to have to put off Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for a week! :s Had I known beforehand how much time I'd spend with each post (particularly weaving together videos and selecting and editing photos, not to mention the time out on the street getting the pics) I would have written this Potter post in advance... my bad!

I don't remember the international Half-Blood Prince release date, but I won't be seeing it until I get to London on July 24th so by my count that brings the final Potter Wednesday post to Wed July 22nd, right on time for my trip! ;o)

Potter Wednesdays returns July 1st with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Enemies of the Heir beware!

23 Jun 2009

Hogueras: the Monuments. SJ-1!

It's the night before San Juan and I'm finally going out partying!!! FIESTA!!! And apparently discovering another aspect of the fiesta I'd never heard about (or done) before! "Wave jumping"... something about burning bad feelings or memories in bonfires at the beach and jumping waves for good luck? I'll tell you about it tomorrow (if my head is clear enough, lol!)!

For now, short post, had to teach today and then went out to get pictures of Obama in all the Hogueras he's in (so drove all over town!) so no time left! I thought I'd start introducing you to some of the monuments themselves, after all they are the stars of the show! For starters the one in front of City Hall which is "fuera de concurso" i.e. not participating in any of the competitions. The theme is "El Sol y la Luna".

How about these local fishermen hoping for the mermaid's blessing?! ;o)

And I just realised I haven't taken any other pictures of this one except for the few I took the first day when they were finishing setting it up! :o( Will have to correct that tonight, I've got my Mom's small camera so I'll be able to share some "night" shots with you (there's no way I'm taking my DSLR out partying! lol!).

Tomorrow I'll take you on a tour of a few others, prize-winning ones, of various "categories". Last Sunday the people in charge (head comissioners, the Belleza del Fuego etc.) went around visiting all the Hogueras and gave out awards to the best ones in each category. I wouldn't like to be in their shoes comparing apples and oranges and trying to decide which I like best! (plus I don't agree with the big winner) How are the categories defined? Well, like many things, by money! Now it wouldn't be fair to pit a small Hoguera from a neighbourhood with limited financial means to another one in a richer neighbourhood, now would it? Here's how they divide them up (prices for the "big" Hogueras, the children's ones have a lower budget as they're much smaller):
Special Category > 54122€
First Category 23287 - 47754€
Second Category 15782 - 23286€
Third Category 10926 - 15781€
Fourth Category 8940 - 10925€
Fifth Category 7505 - 8939€
Sixth Category 6843 - 7505€
Talk about some random numbers! My guess is the numbers make more sense (i.e. "round" numbers) in pesetas (from before the Euro, once upon a time!) Hmm... that's a lot of money to go up in smoke! Not to mention all the money participants spend on the Barracas where they get together to eat / drink / dance, and the outfits! It ain't cheap! But for the people participating in the Fiesta it's more than worth it!

Ok, I'm off to get changed and meet my friends for dinner, wave jumping and all-night dancing! Hasta mañana! :o)

22 Jun 2009

Hogueras: Ofrenda de Flores. SJ-2!

La Ofrenda de Flores is an offering of flowers by all the "Comisiones de Hogueras" and "Barracas" to the Virgin.Spread over two evenings (yesterday and today) the representatives of all ages of the different groups (including their Belleas)walk through town to the beat of the drums and the melodies of the dolçaina and other instruments, all carrying flowers to take to the Virgin.
The route pretty much crosses the whole city centre, passes in front of the "authorities" (mayor, Bellea del Foc, head of the Hogueras etc.) and then past City Hall
and through the narrow streets of the oldest part of town to finish up in front of the Cathedral where a painting of the Virgin and Child has been placed atop a wooden frame shaped like a skirt.
The participants deposit their flowers to the side and then head back out and return to their own Hogueras (you can run across random groups just waltzing around town with their marching bands behind them, is quite amusing!). At the Cathedral the artists involved will be taking apart bouquets and organising the different flowers by colour and then placing them in the wooden framework to make up the flowery skirt. The result is different every year.

I wanted to stop by today to get a picture of the skirt 1/2 way done, but got too caught up with real work to be able to make it! :s I'm heading into town on a photo safari tomorrow so I'll show you the results of this then.

Yes! Video is finally up and running!

Good night!

21 Jun 2009

Hogueras: the downside of the festivites, SJ-3

Every coin has two sides. When the light shines there are always shadows lurking around somewhere. And so even with crazy fun holidays there's always a downside.

I was planning on leaving this for a later date, perhaps as a "hangover" piece once the festivities had finished. But my mind and body have decided to do it today... probably a result of coming home exhausted from >3h wandering around town taking pictures and videos of various Hogueras and people, and being too tired to do anything with them tonight (it's almost midnight). That and the kids down below my appartment setting off firecrackers, grrr!!!

Let's just say that there are A LOT of people who don't like these fiestas and vacate town for a couple of days (if possible) every year around this time...

So, to start it off I'd say the main downside to this fiesta is definitely the NOISE! When you've got several of these in every neighbourhood (fortunately they're only allowed to be there during these fiestas)...
...and the kids are out of school,
then this is the inevitable result:
This is the one time of the year I wish I didn't have a "park" (more like dirt lot) below my place, as it's the perfect spot to set off firecrackers! And off they go, at all times of the day (and into the night)! And you can hear them from pretty far away.
Oh, and four-legged critters? They can hear them from even farther off than you and don't like it one bit! See example below:(we can't let her out without her leash anymore, if she hears a firecracker she rushes off home, through traffic or anything else!)

Let's see... another downside? Well definitely the traffic! With so many streets cut off all over the city (and many parking lots inaccessible), moving around in a car is nothing short of a nightmare these 5 days! But then that's why we have public transportation, right? ;o) Unfortunately some of the big awards-winning Hogueras are at the other end of town so if I want to see them then car it is... :s

And finally... environmentally this holiday just sucks! I've tried to look up info on the carbon footprint of the Hogueras (or any other popular Spanish holiday) and have found zippo! But when you consider just the sheer amount of gunpowder exploding over two weeks... you know there's definitely an impact! Not to mention the extra trash generated. And let's not stop and think that these beautiful constructions cost a lot of money to make... to be burnt in a single night! But then many people participate in this, each giving a certain amount so the financial impact is spread out thinly, and much of the money will go to the designer and the builder so at least someone gets a job out of it.

So there you have it. The musings of a tired brain who is promptly going to hit the sack and crash for the night. Tomorrow I'm going to have to sort through all those photos and go through the ritual "do you like this one better? or this one?" argh!!! Plus I have to head out for some day shots and try to get to some of the big prize winners on the other side of town.

Oh, and just for the record, in spite of any and all "downsides", I really love these Fiestas! ;o)

Good night!

20 Jun 2009

Hogueras: Gigantes y Cabezudos

I saw this on the official program and wondered what the hell it was as I'd never heard about it, at least not here in Alicante. From the name (giants and big heads) I related it to Carnavals in Belgium and other Midevil traditions but was surprised to see it here, new event for Hogueras? Then, when I was wandering around the plaza in front of City Hall yesterday I spotted these fellows peaking out the door:
Patiently waiting to head on out to see the Mascletà, these 8 "Gigantes" (giants) were receiving the finishing touches from their caretakers while other were finishing getting dressed to take them out:

So I asked around, and it turns out this group has actually recaptured an old tradition (yes, back to the Middle Ages) that was lost! These figures are from the 1960s-70s (but the tradition is much older). There are 4 couples, representing the history of Alicante:

The farmers Sento and Marieta, dressed in traditional Alicantino clothes.
The Christian King Alfonso X "El Sabio" (the wise, he "reconquered" the region) and his wife Doña Violante
The Moorish King Alí and his wife Cántara (according to legend when the Christian troops entered the city the king threw himself off the mountain-top castle -to this day you can "see" his face in the rock formation- and the combination of their names Alí+Cántara is what gave birth to the name Alicante)
The fisherman Nicolau and his wife Remediets, representing the link between Alicante and the sea
These four couples get taken out every day at 1pm and walk and dance their way through town until they reach the Plaza de los Luceros in time for the Mascletà at 2pm. Afterwards they mosy along back home to City Hall, accompanied by their 6 shorter friends "Los Cabezudos" (the big heads).
Here they are heading down the Avenida Alfonso X el Sabio on their way back to City Hall, dancing and prancing along to the beat of the drums and the melodies of the dolçaina:

I put this video together from a couple of snippets I took with my mom's camera:

Hogueras: La Planta! SJ-4

Tah-dah! Hogueras "officially" start today: June 20th is the Plantà!

Today streets started getting blocked off to make room for each Hoguera and the adjoining "festivities" area (tables for all the participating neighbours, kitchen area w/ drinks and food, a stage for a DJ or a band). Remember that street (mine) I showed you yesterday? Check it out now:
Depending on the size and number of elements involved, some Hogueras will be set up more quickly than others. The Plantà is when the Hogueras "officially" get set up (but like I wrote yesterday, some of the bigger Hogueras got a heads start on Thursday). Tomorrow the Jury will travel around town visiting all the Hogueras and on Monday the awards in the different Categories will be announced!

The following pictures are from the Hoguera Condomina (celebrating its 10th anniversary):
bringing in one of the "ninots"
while others wait their turn...

And while the grown-ups are taking care of all that, what are the kids up to?
(petardo = firecracker)