Postcard from Valencia, Spain: Massive gates remnants of medieval past

There once were a dozen of them, but only two remain. Once the walls surrounding the medieval city of Valencia were torn down, most of the gates lost their raison d’être.

But the architecturally impressive Torres de Serranos, built in 1392, continued to function in other ways. For many years, the fortification made a suitable prison for upper crust nobles and knights finding themselves no longer in favor. During the Spanish Civil War, paintings from the Prado were stored there for safe-keeping.

But most dear to Valencians, the royal entryway always has served as a ceremonial heart of the city, the place where Las Fallas festival is kicked-off every year. Like Alamo Plaza has been but might never be again for San Antonians.

The smaller Torres de Quart perhaps was permitted to remain standing so its pock-marked walls serve as a reminder of its assault by those nasty Napoleonic forces in 1808.

From my point on the plaza observing even some of the young and fit clinging to nonexistent finger-holes on the steep descent bounded only by a skinny railing way too low to grasp, I concluded not to ascend the steps of Torres de Serranos. Jimmy Stewart convinced me long ago of my tendency toward vertigo. Shy of a helicopter rescue atop, I would have had to unflatteringly back down on all fours, hindquarters first.

I wisely opted for more of a Rear Window approach, happily sipping a beer while people-watching. The Daughter, on the other hand, scampered up and down on two occasions.

Postcard from Valencia, Spain: Maybe add a pair of chanclas or cowboy boots peeking out from under those hooped skirts?

Resuming our walk across the bridge in the direction from which an increasing number of hoop-skirted, mantilla-wearing women with dona hairdos were appearing, we encountered a huge swarm of costumed men, women and children. They were at the end of what must have been a hot walk – chatting amongst themselves, checking their cellphones, cooling off with beer and settling into open-air restaurants for lunch.

But more and more elegantly attired walkers kept arriving in the already crowded square, so we continued onward. Several blocks later we reached the end of the parade with the appearance of the woman who appeared to be the “queen” of the festivities. Striking in comparison to rowdy San Antonio audiences at parades taking place during roughly the same time period, only subdued polite applause greeted her, pictured above, as she passed.

Still have not figured out the occasion for this – whether it was in honor of Saint George, Saint Vincent Ferrer, the Virgin Mary or none of the above. But the predominance of crosses among the jewels does make it seem as though somehow connected with the church, which may be why the event is so reserved.

Watching this in Valencia as Fiesta San Antonio was in full swing, it seemed needing some level of excitement. It’s not as though Valencia does not know how to throw a party. The reputed wildness of Las Fallas, the Festival of Fire, in March makes Fiesta San Antonio – even Cornyation – appear extremely tame. Many natives flea Valencia to escape the days of continual explosive bombardment by eardrum-splitting fireworks and firecrackers.

And Las Fallas is held in honor of a saint, San Jose, the patron saint of carpenters. At least that was its origin. Probably as lost among most contemporary revelers today as Fiesta San Antonio’s original role commemorating the Texian victory at San Jacinto.

So, there must be a conscious desire to keep this particular pedestrian parade removed from such revelry. Open the door a crack, and any saint’s holiday can be hijacked. Santa Claus being a prime example.

But, with so much other competition, this brocade parade is almost a private patrician parade even though it takes place in the heart of downtown. Friends, family members and surprised tourists were the only ones lining the sidewalk one-deep. Most Valencians were otherwise occupied, packing the book fair and the wine festival.

The parade already has the gown-thing nailed, but don’t participants want a few more people around to admire their expensive efforts?

They are attired with splendid sashes just waiting for more medals, perhaps not as many pounds of them as now sported by Fiesta royalty. Couldn’t some of the children in the parade hand out souvenir medals to bystanders to generate a little more enthusiasm?

And, walking may symbolize a pilgrimage, but the queen definitely needs a major float to create excitement upon her arrival. A few claps must seem a paltry reward.

If nothing else; those boring shoes could go. Longed to hear enthusiastic shouts of “show us your shoes” and the resulting exuberant cheers.

And San Antonians with hair all frizzied up from seasonal high humidity during Fiesta (myself being a prime example) certainly could benefit from the importation of some of Valencia’s dona buns. A salt-and-pepper trio, please.