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Posts from the ‘bullfighting’ Category

Seville | Feria de San Miguel

feria san miguelThe Feria de San Miguel in Seville is the short bullfighting season in autumn that falls on or close to Saint Michael’s Day (Michaelmas) on September 29. “Saint” Michael is not, strictly speaking, a saint, but an angel, one of three Archangels whose names appear in the bible (the others are Gabriel and Rafael). When taking time out from being commander of the heavenly hosts, he’s the patron saint of, among others, police officers, fire fighters, the military and paramedics, and also, more prosaically, of grocers (but not of bullfighters).

The bullfights of the Feria de San Miguel at the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza, only last two days, Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th, both at 6pm, with tickets available online.

To coincide with the fights, the Abaceria San Lorenzo is hosting a three day event (September 25-27) with a menu of traditional beef dishes prepared from the Toro de Lidia, the unique breed of bulls raised for the fights. These will include steak tartare, beef sirloin, beef neck with tomato, rib eye steaks, chops, “babillas” with saffron, and red beans with beef cheeks, cola de toro (tail), meatballs and hamburgers.

cola de torocola de toro (oxtail)

Toros themed decoration and sculptures by Jacinto Oliva and Jesus Iglesias will add to the atmosphere of this traditional and rustic abaceria.

We still have a variety of quality holiday apartments to rent in Seville throughout the San Miguel weekend.

Granada | Cruces de Mayo and the Feria of Corpus Christi

There are always good reasons to visit Granada. The best known is Europe’s most visited monumental complex, the Alhambra Palace, last refuge of the Moors in Spain, and capital of the Nasrid dynasty of Spain for 250 years until it surrendered to the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. There are also the historic neighbourhoods of the Albaicin, Realejo and Sacramonte to explore, and the bars and restaurants of San Matias to sample some of the local hospitality. But this time of year, as spring turns to summer, is when Granada puts on its gladrags and celebrates some of its major festivals.

granada cruz mayo (1)Cruz de Mayo at Mirador de San Cristobal [photo courtesy of John Sullivan]

The first of these is the Cruces del Mayo (May Crosses), held on May 3, although celebrations continue for several days around the official one. According to the stories this is the day when Saint Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, discovered the pieces of the True Cross of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, but this event has been assimilated to a pagan spring flower festival. The result is the appearance of flower-decked crosses in the streets and plazas of the city (this year about 80 of them), with a competition for the best. The festival has a special emphasis on children, who build their own crosses and parade them through the streets.

granada corpus (2)Dragon float

Undoubtedly the principal attraction of this time of year, and in fact Granada’s biggest annual festival, is around Corpus Christi (this year falling on June 4), and includes Granada’s feria, bullfighting, the Corpus Christi religious processions, and the essentially pagan procession of La Tarasca. The Feria of Granada starts officially at midnight on Saturday May 30 with the Alumbrao, the switching on of the lights, though people will start coming to the fairground earlier in the day. It ends at midnight the following Saturday with a fireworks display. Like most Spanish fairs the daytime is for the parades of horses and carriages, their riders and drivers in traditional costume, and everything and everyone at their smartest and shiniest. Night time is for eating and drinking and dancing flamenco.

From Thursday June 4 to Sunday June 7 is Granada’s main bullfighting season, with fights at the bullring each evening at 7 pm.

granada corpus (1)La Tarasca

At midday on Wednesday is Granada’s famous La Tarasca procession. The participants wear big papier-mache heads and fancy dress costumes (which are a closely guarded secret until the parade assembles in the Plaza del Carmen), but the centrepieces are the gigantes – statues of famous historical figures, and the traditional fire-breathing dragon. It’s colourful and noisy in the best carnival tradition and draws huge crowds of both locals and visitors, so arrive early if you want a “ringside seat”. This is the most popular day of the holiday, so afterwards the partying will carry on until the small hours, so you need plenty of stamina.

granada corpusCorpus Christi altar

The following day (starting at the Cathedral at 10.15 am) is the religious procession of Corpus Christi, the Catholic celebration of the Eucharist. This is the solemn and serious part of the holiday, and is still a popular day in the religious calendar, with large numbers paying their respects to the Sacrament as it’s carried through the streets.

granada cruz mayo (3)Cruz de Mayo at San Agustín Market [photo courtesy of John Sullivan]

If you’re coming to Granada for the celebrations we still have apartments for rent in locations around the city centre and old town.

Seville | All the Fun of the Fair

Let it never be said that the Spanish don’t know how to party. And the place to party is at the annual local feria, or fair. Every town and city (and some city neighbourhoods) has its own, but one of the biggest and most famous is The April Fair (Feria de Abril) in Seville. Coming two weeks after Semana Santa, the big religious festival leading up to Easter, the fair is an almost pagan celebration of spring, and is all about having a good time. This year the official dates are from Tuesday, April 21 to Sunday, April 26, although in fact things really get going the day before, leading up to the alumbrado, the switching on of the lights, at midnight on Monday.

portada 2015putting the finishing touches on this year’s portada 

But the fair isn’t only about having a good time, it’s also about tradition – though like many traditions it’s not as hoarily ancient as you might think. The first April Fair was held in 1847 (okay, it’s old, but not as old as El Jueves or the Vela de Santa Ana) on the Prado de San Sebastian, and was initially a horse and cattle fair that was a kind of modernised version of mediaeval fairs. It moved to its present location, a purpose-built site on the southern edge of the suburb of Los Remedios, in 1973 (within living memory, so barely a tradition at all), by which time the cattle were long gone, and the fair had developed the character it has today.

feria horseshorse carriages and casetas

So, what’s it all about, and what are some of the traditions that make it so beloved by most Sevillanos? Well, first of all there’s the fairground itself. Even before you arrive, making your way towards it among the hurrying crowds generates a sense of expectation and excitement. You enter the fairground through a specially constructed gateway, the portada, which is rebuilt every year to represent some aspect of Seville (this year it’s the facade of the Bellas Artes Museum). Inside, especially at night with the strings of light bulbs and paper globes, everything is hustle and bustle and that strange combination of the tacky and the magical that is the hallmark of fairs and circuses the world over.  The streets are lined with small marquee style tents, called casetas, where people congregate to eat, drink and socialise, though the fact that most of these are private tends to exclude outsiders. You can, of course, get something to eat at one of the fast food stalls, or treat yourself to candy floss or some other sugary concoction.

feria dressescolourful flamenco dresses

In many ways there are two fairs. Daytime is for the horses and carriages that parade around the fairground, with the men dressed in the traditional traje corto (short jacket and tight trousers), and the women in traditional flamenco dresses, a time for society folks to  see and be seen, so if you like horses and spectacle this is the time for you.

At night is the second fair, the fair of lights and noise, the drinking of many rebujitos (sherry with 7-up) and dancing of Sevillanas  (a folk dance with flamenco style music) in the casetas, with traditional fried fish and  puchero to ward off hangover, that often carries on until dawn. You should also pay a visit to the Calle del Infierno (Hell Street) funfair, where the younger element can mostly be found, and scare yourself to death on one of the rides. On your way home stop for churros and chocolate, the breakfast for those who haven’t been to bed yet. The fair always ends (officially) with fireworks at midnight on the last day.

feria casetascasetas

The feria is also bullfighting season. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you want to experience the atmosphere of a bullfight, tickets are available here.

To get to the fairground you can take a taxi, one of the regular bus services 6 or C1/C2, or the special Feria bus service that runs from the Prado San Sebastian. It’s also possible to walk, especially if you’re in the southern part of the city.

If you’re here for Feria, renting an apartment will give you the flexibility and do-as-you-please freedom to enjoy late nights and sleeping in, as well as seeing more of Seville.

Malaga | Three New Museums

new museums malaga (1)

Already an important centre for the arts, especially for a city of its size, with the Picasso Museum, Carmen Thyssen Museum and the Contemporary Arts Centre all being internationally recognised, Málaga has recently moved up a gear with the opening of the new Centro Pompidou Málaga, the Russian Museum and the Bullfighting Arts Centre.

new museums malaga

The new Pompidou Centre is, of course, an offshoot of the famous Pompidou centre in Paris’ one of the world’s largest and most prestigious collections of 20th century art, and only the second such after the Pompidou Metz. The agreement between Malaga and the Pompidou will last initially for five years, with the option of another five. The Málaga collection is being housed in the large glass cube at the end of Muelle Uno in the renovated port, a variation of the glass pyramid at the original.

The new centre will be in three sections. The first will house the permanent collection, consisting of around 80 paintings and other works by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Max Ernst, René Magritte and Rineke Dijkstra. The second will be for temporary exhibitions on particular themes (starting with Joan Miro’s works on paper, and female photographers of the 20s and 30s), lasting between 3 and 6 months. The third will be devoted to workshops for children and adolescents to encourage the next generation of artists.

new museums malaga (2)

The Russian Museum, a branch of Saint Petersburg’s State Russian Museum, can be found in Málaga’s old Tobacco Factory (itself an important example of 1920s regionalist architecture), which it shares with the Automobile Museum. Its permanent exhibition is of Russian art from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries, with items ranging from Byzantine icons, through Romanticism and Avant-garde to Soviet Realism, and of every size from the very small to the monumental. The 1,000 or so works on display form the largest collection of Russian art in western Europe, and are a fascinating window onto a culture at once familiar and exotic.

The museum will also house a series of temporary exhibitions tracing the relationship of Russian and European art, an auditorium and reading room and digital resources creating a virtual museum of the parent institution, as well as a Children’s centre with computer games and creative workshops.

new museums malaga (3)

The Centro Arte Tauromaquia can be found in the former tourist offices in the Plaza del Siglo in the centre of the old city, which have been totally renovated to accommodate a multi media salon and more than 300 pieces of the Juan Barco art collection, possibly the most complete and comprehensive in the world of bullfighting. Posters, paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures, including works by Picasso, Goya and Salvador Dali. Definitely a must see for anyone fascinated by the romance of the bullfight.

These three new museums will make Málaga one one of the most important cities of art in Spain, and are a great reason to be one of the growing number of visitors here, whether you stay in a hotel or rent an apartment.

Seville | Spring Flowers

jacarandasjacaranda trees in blossom

With the equinox less than a fortnight away, the last week has seen a definite shift from winter to spring in southern Spain. It’s not as if winter is really tough here, of course, but the days are short and the nights chilly, and the blue skies and sunshine are harbingers of the year’s reawakening.

Spring has always been a good time to come to Seville. For a start, the weather is near perfect (as in most places the changing of the seasons can bring a little unpredictability), warm enough for shorts, sandals and T-shirts, but without the sweat and exhaustion inducing heat that will kick in during June. It’s the season for eating al fresco, strolling through the parks, gardens and charming squares with which Seville abounds, or relaxing on the terrace of your apartment with a siesta-time cocktail.

1-0504_macarena-seville-apartments-terrace-spain-01flowering plants on sunny Macarena Terrace

Early spring, around mid-March, is also the time for one of Seville’s best (and free) attractions, for this is orange-blossom season. The orange trees (around 30,000 of them) are decorated with the delicate white flowers of the azahar, and for around three weeks the air is filled with one of the most delightful scents known to mankind.

orange blossomazahar – aka orange blossom

The colours of spring are everywhere in the city, which is vibrant with flowers and blossoms of every hue. Particularly worth looking out for are the blossom of the almond trees, and in June, just when you thought it was all over, the purple of the jacaranda erupts for a couple of weeks, a blaze of glory to finish the season.

spring blossomsalmond blossoms in Maris Luisa Park

Seville is justly famous for its two Spring Festivals too, the first deeply religious, and the second its “have a good time” party week.

Semana Santa, Holy Week, leading up to Easter weekend, sees the streets full of processions with statues of the Christ and the Virgin Mary being carried to the Cathedral, huge numbers of penitents and Nazarenos in their pointed hoods carrying crosses or long candles, the smell of incense and the distinctive brass band Semana Santa music. Being a spring and rebirth festival flowers again figure prominently. Religious observance has declined, but the processions still draw huge crowds (especially the overnight processions on Thursday through to Good Friday morning), and are a moving and emotional experience. The celebrations in Seville are said to be the largest and most elaborate in the world, and are worth seeing even for the non-religious. They also say there are two types of Sevillanos – those that watch all the processions, and those that leave town for the week.

flowers virginflower-festooned procession float – photo courtesy of ABC.es

Two weeks later it’s the April Fair, La Feria de Abril. The modern fair grew out of an older horse and cattle fair, and during the day this is still evident in the horse and carriage parades. But the primary purpose nowadays is to dress up in your flamenco finery, put a flower in your hair, drink lots of rebujito (a mix of dry sherry and 7up), and dance the night away. The main venue is on a purpose built area of small marquees on the edge of town, but the carriages, horses and polka dot dresses can be spotted anywhere in town. April Fair is also the main bullfighting season, when the upper crust can be found eyeing each other up outside the bullring (a kind of Spanish Ascot) before the main event.

feria flowerswomen  at the Seville fair with “flowers” in their hair

More than any other time of year the spring is when Seville is at its most alive and colourful, and the chance to visit and experience its unique atmosphere is not to be missed.