Bucket list item #82: Want to throw tomatoes at multiple people? Go to La Tomatina!
La Tomatina is a food festival held every year in a small town called Buñol near Valencia, Spain. What started out as a local tradition now brings in thousands of people from all over the world.
The main goal: throw as many tomatoes as you can at random people.
If you've read any of my previous posts, you'll know that I had decided to come up with a bucket list of things I wanted to accomplish and experience since I was unsure of where to go for my future travels. It was during the research I had done for my bucket list that I ended up learning La Tomatina was going to happen while I was scheduled to travel to Europe. One quick, spontaneous booking of a plane ticket, and I found myself planning a trip to Spain!
I did a bit of research on the festival itself, and found the tour company Festivals All Around. They had options to go to the festival that ranged from day trips from Valencia, to trips from Barcelona. I opted to stay in Barcelona for a few days before hand, then decided to take the train to Valencia, and booked a day trip from there. What I loved the most about Valencia was their bus system. It was so easy to figure out how to get from one part of the city to another. The pre-registration for the festival was in an area that had a lot of different restaurants and architecture. I quickly registered myself, then spent the day just looking around and relaxing, preparing myself for the day to come.
The day of the festival itself began at 6:00 am where all of the participants under Festivals All Around met at Plaza Tetuan. I'll have to admit, I was a little overwhelmed with the number of people that was there. Being my first solo trip, you would understand why I felt a little anxious about the experience. Personally, I'm the type of person that shies away from crowds, but I was determined to not let my fears stop me. I sat on the sidewalk and waited till' they started piling us onto buses. The adventure had only begun.
Arriving in Buñol, hundreds of people began walking into the town towards the pre-party venue. Some of the locals had already set up tables outside their homes, and were selling authentic paella and other foods. At the pre-party venue itself, free sangria was being served, loud music was blasting, and you could feel the excitement buzzing through the crowd. Still on my own at this point, I stood the side, sipping on my sangria, and smiled at those that had started dancing.
But fate would have it that I would end up meeting another fellow solo female traveler, and while standing in line to use to bathroom too! I ended up asking her if she wanted to be tomato buddies, and lo and behold, I had a partner in crime, a girl named Tweety. About 15 minutes to 11:00 am, we started following the crowd down to the main streets, and waited for the fun to begin!
Trucks filled with tomatoes started heading down the road with people on top throwing them down at us. Then the rest of the people started picking up the crushed tomatoes from the ground, and hurled them at everyone else. It didn't matter who you were with, or how old you were, you were a target. Some people would grab a bunch of tomatoes and just plop them on top of your head! The whole thing lasted only an hour before a loud bang signalised the end of the tomato fight. I was already tired out about thirty minutes in. Tomatoes are no joke. If not crushed properly, it can hurt when they hit you, and if you aren't wearing any goggles, the juice gets into your eyes. But definitely worth the trip.
If there's any advice I can give:
Come prepared! Make sure you bring extra clothes, the buses won't let you back on if you're still covered in tomatoes.
Be prepared to throw away your clothes. The tomatoes are going to stain them so badly, I would honestly suggest you wear clothing items that you wouldn't mind tossing out. Same goes for shoes.
Don't get the goggles that cover up your nose as well, you'll have a hard time breathing.
Lastly, have fun! While I may not ever go again, I would recommend the experience to other adventurers out there. I'll admit though, I did leave the festival thinking about all the tomatoes we had just wasted, but I can understand the importance of tradition, and it seemed like the town was enjoying themselves. There were even elderly people that participated in the event, and it brought a smile to my face seeing them laughing and having fun. It took me a couple of days to get the smell of tomatoes out of my hair, but overall, I'm really glad I decided to push through with it. Not only did I face my fear of going to a festival alone, but I also made a new friend, Tweety. It was definitely one for the books.