We are standing in searing 38ºC heat in a small Spanish village square with goggles on. We are amongst a staggering 30,000 people and are being doused with water, buckets of it, from the flats above. Meanwhile, there are people trying to climb a greasy pole to reach a Serrano ham at the top.
BANG! A cannon fires.
The crowd roars and dumper trucks arrive, tipping tomatoes into the street. The crowd surges, grabbing tomatoes and hurling them at anything in sight. Within minutes we are ankle deep in tomatoes, water and assorted t-shirts. All three are also hitting us from all sides.
This is the madness that is La Tomatina, the biggest, messiest food fight in the world. For just one hour, the streets are filled with half-naked people covered in the sticky smelly mess. Then, the cannon fires once again and the wonderful Tomatina is over for another year and the cleanup begins.
Just where did it all begin? The story goes that one day in the 1940s a resident of this little town was walking across the town hall square singing, badly, and through a makeshift megaphone. Market stallholders and shoppers expressed their views of his bad singing by hurling tomatoes at him and a salad fight ensued. It was such fun that they decided to do it annually. It has survived bannings and public uprisings over the years to become one of the best known of the Spanish Fiestas of the year.
Oh, and why the goggles? Just try rubbing squashed tomato in your eyes!
Long live La Tomatina!
Buñol, Comunitat Valenciana, Spain
La Beneficencia is a free museum, and if you walk through the shady inner courtyard, you'll find the restaurant for a great value set lunch at €9.
Service starts at 2pm although I'd arrive a little earlier and have a drink as it is very popular with the locals.
For €9 you get three courses of excellent modern cooking and there are three choices per course. To give you an example of what we ate: salad of salt cod, chicken in a curried sauce with wild rice (or Valencian paella), coconut cream with pineapple and lemon sorbet. It was all delicious.
Museo de Prehistoria y de la Culturas de Valencia (La Beneficencia)
Calle Corona 36. You'll find it in all the guidebooks - it's next to the Institito Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM).
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