Springtime in Seville is arguably the best time of year to visit this southern Spanish city. The people are out enjoying the sidewalk cafes, tourists bring new energy into the old centro, the summer heat is starting to set in but the parks are still enjoyable, and everyone’s attitude seems to be happy and upbeat.
Every spring 2 weeks after Semana Santa (Holy Week), Sevilla is home to La Feria de Abril or The April Fair. From Monday night at midnight until the following Sunday night at midnight, Sevillanos/as dress in their flamenco finest and take to the city. For a foreigner, its a surreal experience. Although I wasn’t able to experience the whole week of Feria, I think I got a good dose of the atmosphere.
Monday night (April 19), I set out with some friends about 9:30 to find a tapas bar before heading for the casetas (fair tents). We found a little place with an open sidewalk table on a busy Triana street. We ordered claras (beer with lemon Fanta) and chose our favorite tapas. I have a pretty good handle on Spanish tapas menus at this point but we decided to order 1 thing we didn’t recognize just because. We decided on the menudo which turned out to be a bad decision. The waiter said it was ribs, we should of known not to expect what we expected. We did enjoy some favorites, patatas bravas (potatoes with a spice red sauce), patatas con alioli (potatoes with alioli), & solomillo (pork? sirloin). Some of my favorite times all semester have been sitting outside or in a little cafe with friends sharing plates of tapas. Its really something so very Spanish and a little hard to recreate anywhere else.
Tapas With Friends 🙂
We set out for the main entrance to Feria, where at midnight, the lights were turned on signaling the beginning of the week-long festivities. This year the entrance was a huge display of lights in the form of NO8DO. NO8DO is the motto for Sevilla & Sevillanos/as alike. Walking down the sidewalk on any given street, you can see NO8DO on bike racks, garbage dumpsters, or man holes. In Spanish, the “8” appears like a skein of yarn and is called a madeja. When read in Spanish, NO8DO is No Madeja Do. When broken down it means, No Me Ha Dejado. The English translation is It (referring to Sevilla) Has Not Left Me.
At midnight, the lights were turned on and we headed to a friend’s apartment to enjoy the views of Feria from her balcony and hang out with friends. By about 4am, we could see the line on the sidewalk outside her apartment for the city bus. The line stretched foreeeevvver and everyone appeared to be over 60. I love Spanish people and their ability to enjoy life well into their old age. It would be hard to find that many older Americans doing the same thing.
Enjoying the views from the balcony
We finally decided to head home about 4:30am after dancing Sevillanas and hanging out. Of course our walk home included the random drunk Spaniards about our age but mostly it was more elderly people. This was 4:30am!!! Americans, we could stand to use a little of this in our culture.
4:30am Walk Home
The next day, Tuesday, Alyssa and I went out about the town. It was the first official day which meant the flamenco dresses were out in full force. We went shopping a bit in el centro and then headed for Feria. We rode the ferris wheel which was more like a roller coaster and tried to just take in the atmosphere. I went out again Thursday with Andrea and Sarah. We rode a few rides and ate churros & chocolate. 🙂
It was almost overwhelming to walk through. It reminded me a lot of a state fair in the United States with rides and food but EVERYONE was dressed in flamenco dresses and suits. Instead of funnel cakes, there were churros & chocolate. Instead of your standard Coke, it was little cups of manzanilla (fine liquor). Men were dressed in their finest suits, hair slicked back, flowers on their lapels, and a cigarette in hand. Women were decked out along with their children, dressed like mini versions of their parents. If you don’t know anything about flamenco dresses, just imagine the brightest colors possible, lots of polka dots, matching bright gawdy jewelry, and hair pinned in a bun with a flower. The dresses can also be very expensive. The most expensive I heard was €400 (~$600)!! They are obviously gorgeous. Groups of friends were gathered, couples rode together on horseback, families took carriage rides driven by men in top hats, and people danced Sevillanas (much like flamenco) outside their casetas. Casetas are tents and are possibly the heart of Feria. They’re very exclusive, requiring an invitation to enter. I saw somewhere that there were over 1,000 casetas. They’re all lined up next to each other and inside is like a mini ballroom. There is a bar, dance floor, live music, chandeliers, and tables set for tapas and manzanilla. Its basically a social spectacle. The tents are paid for by prominent families in the city, social organizations, churches, any kind of thing you can imagine. There is a man at the entrance for security and to make sure no one unworthy enters.
Isn’t she beautiful?
As much as I enjoyed seeing Spaniards in their finest attire doing what they enjoy most, eating, drinking, & being merry. I couldn’t help but notice how EXclusive it was. Sure there were public casetas with free general admission and no one stared you down if you weren’t in a flamenco dress. However, the whole idea of flamenco came from the gitanos or gypsies who natively occupied this part of Spain. Today the gitanos are ostracized and don’t take part in the celebrations. Instead, they walk around in poverty, selling things like fans and other trinkets to the Spaniards dressed in expensive attire. I found it all to be ironic.
I do understand however, that today flamenco is a recognizable part of the Spanish culture and more specifically Andalusian. The dresses are without a doubt beautiful pieces of work and the Spanish women wear them well, showing off their Latin sassy side. Feria definitely is a sight to see for any foreigner and Spaniards take it all seriously, their one time of year to be decked out and dance in the streets all while holding a glass of liquor and a cigarette. How very Spanish.