Bucket List # 3: La Tomatina
Updated: Jan 25, 2019
Tomato Food Fight, Buñol, Spain:
"What is La Tomatina", you ask? The best way to describe it is, a massive tomato fight in the middle of a beautiful quaint town. Buñol, Spain host this wacky tomato fight each year on the last Wednesday of August. The tomato throwing doesn't begin until daring, some intoxicated, crazy men and women clammer over each other desperately trying to the be the first to get the leg of ham hanging at the top of a greased pole. Upon grabbing the ham, the fight start. Slowly, the tomato trucks squeeze through the crowd, while people on the truck pelt you with tomatoes. Loads of tomatoes are dumped and all goes wild.
The entire week is one big celebration of parades, paella, sangria, and fireworks. Most importantly people gather from all parts of world with one objective..."let's have fun."
I can't tell you when I got this crazy obsession to participate in La Tomatina. Maybe it was about 6 years ago, when I first decided that I had to be an active tomato throwing member, a Tomatinian. I'm not sure, but every years since I heard about it, I would go online to check to the latest footage. And, every year I would tell people about my plans to go.
Sadly, every year I had to put it off because I had to teach. I simply couldn't miss the first week of the school year. Honestly, on the day that I decided to retire, that smile appeared because I knew this would be the year I was going to La Tomatina!! As a matter fact, my trip to Europe was centered around La Tomatina.
I booked my trip, bought my ticket to La Tomatina, which included a tee shirt, paella, sangria, transportation from my hotel in Valencia to Buñol and back. I packed so old shorts and a pair of cheap shoes to throw away. I got my goggles, plastic protective cell phone holder, and waist belt to hold things that I might need. I was set and ready.
So, what was it like? It was a blast! I had the best time ever. For one hour, I laughed like a child, threw tomatoes at people I didn't know, got hit in the face, back, everywhere on my body from all directions. I was smashed between people, stepped on, even splashed with water, but I didn't care. What was so amazing was that everyone and I mean everyone was courteous.
They say, 20,000 people from around the world gather to participate in this international food fight. And, I was one of them splashing in tomato sauce, loving and laughing through every minute. The energy was amazing.
After an hour of chucking tomatoes, the clean up begins. The firemen and residents wash down the walls, sidewalk, streets and people (if they want it). Most people go to the public showers, inside and out. I hiked to the river along with other Tomatinians and washed off in the cold water. Good thing it was a hot day. The festivities continue with a celebration of music, sangria and paella.
La Tomatina isn't for everyone. However, it this event sparks a tiny bit of interest, I suggest that you don't put it off. As a matter of fact, I'm reentering it on my Bucket List.
If you do decide to go, here are some survival suggestions.
Google La Tomatina and do some research.
Buy your tickets online. There are plenty of sites that offer different options. I understand that only 20,000 tickets are sold. So, if you wait, you might lose out.
Stay in Valencia. Buy a charter bus ticket that will pick you up at your hotel and return you back. Make sure that you follow the time schedule on the return. They will leave without you. Take it from me. I missed the return bus by 10 minutes. Lucky enough there was another bus going to the same drop off and they let me on. You can also leave extra clothes on the bus.
Take old clothes or something that you can throw away. Backpacks and fanny belts are not allowed. There was security at the entrance checking.
Wear old tennis shoes, running shoes, or covered sandals. You will get stepped on.
Goggles are a must. I can't tell you how many times I got hit in the eye. And, tomato juice in the eye burns.
Don't stand in the center of town. Stand way before the ham pole. Or, better yet try to stand past the ham pole. The trucks come from that direction and you'll have a better chance of getting more tomatoes and more room. Also, it is very crowded and if you have issue with claustrophobia it's best to stand in the less crowded areas.
The lines for the showers can get crowded. If you want to wait, fine. But, I went to the river. Just expect the water to be cold. The bus driver won't let you on the bus with tomatoes on you. Just make sure to wash off all of the tomatoes.
Buy something that you can tie around your neck to protect your cell phone. You want your hands free.
And mostly, if you are part of a tour, memorize the time schedule, where to pick up the return bus, and where to gather for sangria and paella, if that is part of your ticket package.
Even though there is security, DO NOT put anything of value in your pockets.
Make friends. Everyone is there to have a good time.
Retired or not what's in your Bucket List? I would love to hear from you.