TOUR OVERVIEW & REVIEW OF
PP TRAVELS' LA TOMATINA TOUR
4★ SUPERIOR HOTEL OPTION - 2012 & 2013.
I'm not sure how many people would actually spend their money again and re-book the same tour they had previously disliked, but that's exactly what I ended up doing. As a solo traveller in 2012, I didn't really have the best time on this PP travel tour, however I knew if I came back with friends the following year that I would have the best time, and I did.
2012 OVERVIEW & REVIEW
Arriving in Valencia at 2:30pm, I travelled in a €30 taxi to the Hotel Primus Valencia, located in a really good position next to the City of Arts and Sciences. Upon arrival at the hotel the PP info and tour desk was set up in the foyer in order to check in with the PP tour and get any information you need upon arrival.
(I didn't really have the best time on this tour in 2012 (not PP's fault). I'm sure this isn't always the case, but as my luck would have it, I was the only solo traveller in my group. As I was travelling alone, I figured booking twin share would mean that any other girls travelling alone would automatically be paired with me and I would, to some extent, have an instant La Tomatina buddy (a move I thought was smart on my behalf). My room-mate was lovely, however, she was part of a group of 4 and her 3 friends were sharing a room down the hall, so of course apart from sleeping in the room, she spent her time with them. I ended up at the festival in a sea of 45,000 people alone and I knew I had to come back and re-do the event I had always been waiting for properly.)
At 8 pm the group met for a welcome session and full briefing about what to expect at La Tomatina. I thought this might be a bit of an opportunity for a meet and greet but most of the other people in my tour group we're very cliquey with their friends or travelling with family and therefore not very interested in socialising beyond their groups. After this point the group all travelled by coach to High Cube Bar which is beside the Port of Valencia, however, I cannot comment on the 2012 pre-party. My body was in Valencia but my mind was still in Ibiza so I ate dinner at the hotel restaurant and stayed in for the night. (Looking back I probably should have pushed on and gone to High Cube as my roommate ended up going. I would have been able to connect with more people.)
The day began early with our alarms going off at 5:30am. Naturally I didn't get out of bed for another hour and missed breakfast – not the smartest move. The group then met downstairs outside the hotel at 7am. I had forgotten my camera's memory card upstairs so ran up to get it. This is when everyone started splitting up and getting onto different buses and I lost my room-mate and her friends.
Within 2 minutes of the bus being on the road we we're in a little accident of sorts. Driving through the first roundabout, a person driving a mini-truck beside us began to change lanes. Our bus driver wasn't paying attention as he was talking on his mobile phone, forcing him to have to slam on his breaks to avoid a collision. At this time the PP tour guide was standing at the front of the bus on the microphone, giving us another run down of the day and some history regarding the event. He went flying into the window and ended up severely cracking the glass on the right hand side of the window with his head. He stood back up and carried on trying to talk, although all he said was gibberish. He was concussed so we made him sit down and rest. In Australia due to passenger safety this situation would mean that everyone gets off the bus to wait for a replacement bus, however, you have to remember that this is Spain and the priority was La Tomatina, so the bus kept on.
Upon arriving my only thought was to try and find my room-mate, so I didn't realise I'd forgotten all my money on the bus. Bad move as the bus wasn't to be unlocked until 3pm. I also didn't end up finding my room-mate so I ended up heading into the festival alone. Once arriving at Calle Cid around 9 am I found my spot close to the Palo Jabón (ham pole) and right next to the water guns. There I ended up talking to a group of Spanish guys that I was standing next to. They handed me a cup that was full and said “agua (water), agua, drink, drink” so I did. It was straight vodka; They we're my type of people to waste a couple of hours with. They ended up giving me more vodka and then some sangria, considering it was 37°c and I had no money, I was very appreciative of this. I did find out it came with a price though, as every 5 or so minutes they would try to pick me up and repeatedly toss me into the air. This was ok at first, however after the 3rd or 4th time all I could think about was having to make a claim on my travel insurance. They also taught me how to say “de peces carajo en el océano” before informing me it means 'fish fuck in the ocean', teaching me to avoid drinking water in the future.
We all stood in the same area until 11 am when the ham was knocked down off the pole signalling the ridiculously intense water cannons/ hoses to fire off. I say ridiculously only because I was standing too close to them and a hose was aimed right at us for the majority of the time. The water was so powerful, cold and being blasted at my face, the thought of drowning whilst standing up and in the middle of a street had never crossed my mind until then. Some other Australian girls were escaping at the same time, so I followed them out to dryer ground in the main square. One by one the trucks entered filled with locals throwing tomatoes onto the street and into the hands of crazed people who all began throwing in a frenzy, painting the town red. The lunacy ensued for exactly 1 hour until the siren went off again and marked the end of the event. Everyone then heading off on what I'm sure was the biggest shower search in history.
After the event the streets of Bunol erupt in a giant street party with revelers drinking sangria, singing and dancing. PP gave you 3 hours to participate in this. As I had no money I walked around, had a bit of a dance and then head back to the bus in hopes to be able to get a couple of Euros out of my belongings. This didn't happen, I spoke to the driver and said that because of the heat I was dying for a drink of water and he couldn't open it due to the risk of theft. ARGH!! I was so thirsty. Luckily a guy on my tour that was hanging around heard me ask and gave me 2 euros for a drink. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a non-alcoholic beverage as much.
I walked back to the bus to wait for it to be opened and literally ended falling asleep from the draining heat, only waking up when the bus was finally started up. Everybody waiting began grabbing their belongings off the bus and searching for the most private spot to change. You have to get completely changed (shoes included unless they look spotless) as they will not let you back on the bus with any tomato on you and they are very strict about it. There are no bins available for your used clothing and you do have to get fully changed on the side of the street so that's where everybody had to leave their dirty clothes before jumping back on the bus. Whilst waiting for the bus to leave I started noticing families appearing and going through the piles of belongings, looking to salvage anything they could. This was really sad to see.
The bus left at 3:30 pm and we arrived back at the hotel just after 4 pm. This left just under 4 hours to eat and get ready for the official La Tomatina after party. I was invited out for dinner with my room-mate for her friends' birthday, although, decided to opt out to check out the after-party considering I missed the pre-party. I should have gone out to dinner.
I ended up on the shuttle bus to the Maccao Club, a very cool little outdoor venue with a pool you can swim in. I didn't stay for too long considering I didn't know anyone. I drank my free drinks, had a chat with the PP tour guide, hung around for another half an hour or so then caught the bus back. Stupid me didn't realise the bus was going to drop me off so far from the hotel and what followed was a deliriously lost adventure through Valencia trying to find my hotel. I walked around for 2 hours before jumping in a taxi. Turns out I had walked in the right direction as I was right around the corner.
Check out day and the end of the tour. A generous checkout time of 12 noon was allowed and the hotel we're lovely enough to hold onto my luggage for a few more hours so I could see more of Valencia.
4 things learnt during this tour:
2012 ACCOMMODATION REVIEW
Hotel Primus Valencia
Carrer de Menorca, 22, 46023 València, Spain
TripAdvisor Review Link
Hotel Primus Valencia far exceeded my expectations. For tour accommodation the hotel was beautiful. The room was spacious (for Europe), stylish and modern, with floorboards, crisp white linen, contemporary furnishings, satellite TV and remote control blinds (which I was intermittently obsessed with playing with.)
The only negative thing I could possibly say about the accommodation itself was that the free wifi connection was awful in our room. My room-mate was able to connect using her phone if she sat in the bathroom using the toilet as a chair and I was able to connect on the first night, but despite that the signal continued to fail and I would have to go down to the lobby hotspot with my laptop if need be - Which all in all wasn't the biggest deal considering we were on holiday and not there for business.
Both nights I stayed there I ended up grabbing dinner and drinks at the hotel restaurant. Sometimes I am not the most adventurous with food and ended up ordering the beef burger twice, however, I finished my meal both nights and that's a rarity for me at a restaurant so it has to have been good.
I found the hotel and restaurant staff to be generally quite lovely, very helpful and I was able to store my luggage in their luggage room after checkout so I could spend my last few hours in Valencia free to see the city without lugging around my overweight broken suitcase.
Location - the hotel was in a great location. It is right next to the Arts and Science district and there is an El Corte Inglés and multi-level shopping center right across the road.
2013 OVERVIEW & REVIEW
As mentioned, I didn't have the best time as a solo traveller in 2012, so i decided I had to come back with friends and experience La Tomatina with PP travel again the following year.
The three of us arrived in Valencia at 12 noon and made our way to NH Valencia Las Artes, as per the previous year the taxi was approx. €30 from the airport. Upon arriving the PP tour desk was set up in the foyer as it was the following year. This year was a little different as it was the first year you had to pay to get into the festival, so this is where we picked up our wristbands which had to be worn for the entirety of the tour.
That evening there was an information session where we were debriefed on the schedule of the tour. After, we all jumped made our way to the bus stop to catch a bus to High Cube Bar for the PP Travel La Tomatina Pre-Party. This Bar was in a fantastic location, looking out over the water at the Port. We stayed here for a while and enjoyed ourselves before joining 2 other travellers for dinner at Vivir Sin Dormir, a lovely restaurant suggested by our tour leader.
We awoke to rain and an overcast day, a huge change from the boiling 37°c the previous year, then headed downstairs for a big continental breakfast before heading out at 7 am. We met up with the two girls we had met the previous night and all boarded the coaches that would take us to Buñol. Once arriving, we began making our way through the town, past all of the street vendors and to Calle Cid taking our position. I was sure to stay well away from the water cannons/ hoses this year, although ended up standing right by happy locals with a hose and bucket who took plenty of enjoyment in soaking the crowd. Already wet, it then began to rain. It was so cold it was almost unbearable. Shivering intensely us girls huddled together for heat (I heard someone say it was the first time in the events' history that there has been rain, but I cannot confirm that.) Then 11 am came, the sirens went off, the smell of tomatoes filled the air and the water hoses blasted signalling the beginning of the battle. One by one the trucks filled with lucky locals travelled down the street dumping repeatedly handfuls of tomatoes on the 20,000 strong crowd. Instantly we weren't cold anymore. Frantically grabbing any tomatoes we could, we began to piff them at each other as fast as possible. It wasn't long before we were covered head to toe in tomato and our arms were sore from all the throwing. Dodging close range tomatoes I struggled to keep my shoes on in all the mess. This was pure Passata carnage at its finest. The most amazing fun. The hour went by so quickly. Once the sirens rang to end the event people continued to splash around in the soup created. It was so refreshing and awesome to see that many adults splashing around carefree like gigantic 4-year-olds.
We began to make our way towards some form of water to try and rinse off. The locals of Buñol are quite generous and a lot of them stand outside their houses with their hoses running as participants take turns standing underneath. We did pick up on the funny fact that a lot of these locals happened to be middle to late aged men with huge smiles on their faces, hosing down women. We found one of these men and used him for him water before heading into the street festival.
The streets were alive, loud music blared from different establishments/ stalls and people we're drinking sangria and dancing in the streets. We walked around, enjoyed the festivities, had a look at a few stalls that we're open and made our way back to the bus to grab our belongings to get changed. Once again getting changed on the side of the road and having to dump our dirty belongings. I was almost not let back on the bus due to the tomato in my hair. I did not bring a brush and my hair was matted thick with tomato, I had to stand there for 5 minutes pulling little bits out piece by piece.
Due to the festival being controlled in 2013 I did not see the local families that arrived at the end the previous year to rummage through the belongings for items they could salvage. I actually wondered if anyone went through and collected the usable items for them, but figured it wasn't likely.
One of the funniest memories from the day (apart from all the earlier madness) was on the coach on the way back to the hotel. One of the men on our tour used to be a tour guide so jumped on the microphone and started talking about Valencia. He said in a thick Dutch accent “In Spain they don't pronounce V's, the replace them with B's. Valencia is Balencia. My wife's name is Vivian, I will now call her Blibian” which made the bus explode into laughter. He then ended with “Remember, If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much.”
We arrived back at the hotel around 3:30pm and all headed straight for the showers. Due to the amount of tomato caked in my hair I opted to use the bathroom last. By that time the water was completely cold and the water pressure had disappeared to a trickle. I had to wash my hair around 14 times to clean it and even then I could still smell tomato. Lucky I love tomatoes.
At 7:30 pm we head downstairs to go to the after-party. Due to the rain the original location of the after party, Maccao Club had to be changed at late notice and to be honest, I have no clue where we ended up but it definitely was the middle of nowhere and in some form of industrial estate. The night got off to a slow start and you had to buy tokens for drinks which was a little annoying, however once the place began to fill and the vodka red bull's began to flow we started to enjoy the night. We danced for hours then heading back to the hotel where I then escaped down the road to scoff a Margherita Pizza.
Check out day and the end of the tour. The hotel provided a luggage store to stow away our luggage for the afternoon, so we had a chance to check out the Arts and Sciences district before flying to Barcelona.
2013 ACCOMMODATION REVIEW
NH Valencia Las Artes
Avenida Instituto Obrero, 28. 46013 Valencia, Spain
Trip Advisor Review Link
The hotel was decent but definitely not as nice as the accommodations provided on tour the year before. The rooms were clean and comfortable, with free wifi passes available at reception. There was a fantastic continental breakfast which I made sure I was awake to take advantage of and the staff at the hotel were very helpful. The only negatives were that about 70% (my guess) of the hotel patrons must have been La Tomatina participants and everyone arrived back and headed for their showers at the same time, it rendered the water freezing until the pressure completely disappeared to a trickle. But I'm sure that would be a rarity for such a large building as it worked perfectly fine at all other times. The other negative being that our room had an adjoining door and the gentleman in the adjoining room was a very loud snorer.
Location - The hotel was in a great location. Only a short taxi ride to the center of Valencia and right next to the Arts and Sciences district, only a short walk from a huge shopping mall with plenty of shops.
Book an extra day - Valencia is a beautiful city and if your not incredibly organised you may not get very much time to explore the city during the tour.
To see a larger list of dos and dont's please read La Tomatina: Fiesta like there is no Manana.