Archive for May 7th, 2009

07 May 2009

World’s Largest Paella – aka Free Beer #2

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The Spanish are not the most likely contenders in the “world’s greatest, fastest, largest” stakes, being more than content just “being”, rather than being the best at anything; provided there is food, wine and song of course. The “Free” beer festival may have proved to be the exception.

We found a spot under the shade of an olive tree, on the side of a hill, overlooking a large field surrounded by olive groves on all sides. Just after midday, the main street (the only street) into the field began to fill with traffic from the neighbouring village: tractors carrying floats, quad bikes, vintage cars, trail bikes, cars with mascots, old trucks, horses, ponies, horse drawn carriages – you name it, all loaded to the nines with locals dressed in traditional costume. By 1pm, the field, now filled with at least 1,000 people, was beginning to look interesting, so we made our way down from our shady spot to see what all the fuss was about.

First stop: “Free” ice-cold beer in large plastic cups. Rafa, Ali, Andreas, Rebecca and I would be back many more times that day for more “Free” beer.

Next stop: Let’s see what’s going on with the Paella. We walked down to a spot in the middle of the field where a large purpose constructed Paella pan – about 2.5 metres in diameter and connected to an array of 6 gas bottles, no kidding – was being dutifully watched over by a couple of chefs. The stew of meat, fish and seafood bubbled away in the warm afternoon sun. People gathered around and looked on hungrily. 20kg sacks of rice stood nearby. By about 3pm, the Paella was ready and a long queue (although I should add, the Spanish have difficulty with the concept of queues) of people had formed, eager to get some Paella before it all ran out. It turned out there was enough Paella for everyone… and some to spare.

We camped in front of the heavy metal stage that had been erected on a float hitched to a tractor – with our plates of Paella and cold beers – and head-banged away to some bad Led Zeppelin and AC-DC covers. A bunch of heavy metal dudes, with long hair, and black-t-shirts that said “Rock, Drink & Fuck”, danced away happily alongside small children dressed in traditional costume, young lovers and elderly couples – it was all very “other worldly”. Try to picture a heavy metal concert, in combination with free booze and the general public, happening anywhere in Australia … and you would be reading all about the fights, the broken glass, the policing etc in the next morning’s paper…

Nine hours later, after the horse races had finished, the taps were closed, and the dancing had stopped; the crowds began to dissipate, hitching up their trailers, gathering their kids and driving off into the sunset, no doubt off to another Festival just over the next hill.