La Tomatina is a festival that takes place once a year in Brunol; a small town near Valencia. It’s not completely clear how this tradition started but sometime in the 70’s they advertised it a lot and now there are mostly tourists. A lot of Australians, Kiwis, English and of course some Americans; and mostly around the 20-30 age range with an appetite for craziness.
My Sister and I had been warned about bringing anything of value so we put some money and our key cards for the hotel in a plastic bag and attached it to the inside of my Sisters bra. We also came prepared with waterproof cameras and goggles from the states. I had opted for safety goggles while my sister went for the swimming type. Here’s the before photo:
After having a lovely breakfast at the hotel buffet around 8am we took a double-decker bus from our hotel (one of four) to Brunol. We also brought a bag to leave on the bus with t-shirts and water which for anyone who plans on going I highly advise.
We got off the bus and found the beer pretty quickly; it’s not as strange to be drinking at 11am if everyone around you is also drinking. We casually walked into the center of the old town observing the festivities and scenery along the way.
Then we were in the crowd waiting to see what would happen next. We had read that there is a ham put atop a greased pole and once someone reaches it the trucks of tomatoes come. Before that though the locals dump water on the people walking by and so a sort of water fight commences.
We were too far back to see but we heard the starting noise (I can’t remember what it was exactly a bell or a starter gun) and the crowd quickly grew around us. We decided to move near a side street so we would have a way to exit if things got too intense. It’s a good thing we did because things got very intense.
Everyone was pushing and there was really nowhere to go, we were all just waiting for the tomatoes. The weirdest thing was the people with their kids; some of them toddlers! Really? Ok I have to rant a bit: You think a very small crowded street filled with drunk 20 somethings that have come solely for the purpose of throwing old tomatoes at each other is the place to bring your children? I saw one boy crying on his Dads shoulders cause he was obviously scared and I wanted to shake the parents; what are you doing?! Back up out of the crowd if you have little ones!
Some said later their feet were off the ground because they were so enclosed in moving people. And it was hard not to notice the occasional guy in the corner who was obviously peeing, so you knew that the ground was not just covered in beer, sangria, and dirt but also some piss. I tried not to think about it.
Then the trucks came and it went from crazy to insane.
There weren’t that many tomatoes at first so everyone was pushing to get to them and the trucks were literally being pushed along by the crowd around it. That’s when Sister and I got out to catch our breath. Then Sister, who was elbowed in the ribs by a girl being pulled in two directions, started feeling faint from the claustrophobia. Plus we kept seeing people coming away from the trucks with ripped shirts, covered in tomatoes, one guy was being carried out, and some girls that looked very upset.
Here’s a photo I stole from the internet:
We walked up a back street that was a lot less crowded, caught our breath and found where the trucks finished. That was great because there were about a fourth the amount of people and much more space so we threw tomatoes at each other and some locals, took some photos, and had a great time.
Later on the walk up the hill we got some more beer. Sister got a t-shirt and some paella (which was the best we had in Spain) being made by locals and sold from their houses. All the locals had garden hoses running out of their houses and people were lining up (and sometimes paying) to be hosed off. We were lucky and caught a small group passing a hose around so we were able to spray off some of the tomato bits that had started to harden in the sun.
I slept on the bus but, Sister told me later that about half way back a guy opened a bag in which he’d put his tomato soaked clothes in while he waited for the bus. The whole bus did a simultaneous “uhhg” (grossed out noise) from the smell. And the hotel smelled pretty bad too, all the elevators had tomato muck and there was a line of people (covered in tomato) waiting at the front desk because they had lost their keys in the commotion.
Thankfully we had not so we raced upstairs to take showers and soak our clothes.
After some long hot showers and a bit of rest and sangria at the hotel we were ready to go again and headed into the old city.
A side note: It was this day that we found out McCain had chosen Sarah Palin (there was a lot of coverage of US politics in Spain) to which we both responded, “What the fuck?!” Personally I find it insulting that McCain thinks he can get Hillary supporters simply by choosing a woman. She has so much less experience and completely different ideas. Ugh, I’m so happy I’ll be away from all the stupidity of American politics for the next four months!
First we went to dinner near the beach, we got paella but it wasn’t as good as the stuff in Brunol (although the menu was interesting). We liked the view of the beach but that area of town seemed a bit expensive so we headed back to the old city to the same Brazilian club we had been the other night. It seemed kind of dead and we were about to leave when:
That got us in the mood to dance so we moved onto a bigger club where everyone was kind of standing around; and I have to say we brought the party. We walked in kind of sweaty and excited from the last place and just started to dance and all of a sudden everyone was dancing and singing with us. It was great!