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Friday, January 02, 2009

Chelva, España

New Year's Eve in Chelva, España

I spent New Year's Eve (Noche Vieja in Spain) in the village of Chelva, about 70 kilometers from Valencia. A friend from the neighborhood here in Ruzafa rents a place in the village where he spends weekends with his family. I used to do the same thing when I lived in Athens, Greece years ago. Some friends and I rented an apartment in the village of Araxova up in the mountains. We used it for skiing weekends in the winter months. The apartment in Chelva is absolutely enormous and has four floors. There is a fireplace on the top floor and a wood burning stove in the huge kitchen.

There were 15 of us in all, with a big mix of nationalities. Because we are in Spain, there was way too much food. We began the New Year's celebration with a incredibly diverse banquet which included a Russian soup, hummus, Finnish salmon, stuffed turkey, meatballs, a tortilla de patatas, an array of sausages (my contribution), olives (also my contribution as I am a total snob when it comes to olives), cheeses, salads, and bread. I ate for a solid hour. I barely talked to anyone as I stuffed my fat face.

Besides the rustic setting and the United Nations make up of the group, it was a typical New Year's party. Before midnight we headed up the hill to the village square in front of the cathedral. The square is undergoing major renovations so most of it is fenced off. We stood on the steps of the cathedral holding our twelve grapes and waited for the bells to ring in the new year. Evidently, the bell ringer had the night off so after a short fireworks display we took matters into our own hands and counted the bells as we ate the traditional twelve grapes, one for every ring of the bell. There were only a few dozen other people in the square and no one really knew what to do. I prompted our group into singing a rendition of John Lennon's “Power to the People.” Don't ask me why. I think I will make this a new tradition on New Year's.

As usual, I was the last to bed and the first one up in the morning. I walked around the village and took the pictures you can see if you click on the title. When I got back a few hours later everyone was up. We had an English breakfast of eggs, bacon, rashers, toast, and beans...and coffee, lots of coffee. After breakfast (which we finished at around 3 in the afternoon) we went for a walk along the river and through the village. When we got back we had a tremendous lunch of everything left over from the night before. That made three big meals in less than 24 hours. Even for Spanish people that's a lot of eating.