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Posts from the ‘bullfighting’ Category

Seville | Spanish Lifestyle

1-IMG_20140216_133811street life in Seville

Although the notion of a Spanish national character can easily be overdone, there are some cultural biases that people from the English-speaking countries will probably pick up on. The Spanish are generally ebullient, noisy and outward going, with a smaller personal space than you’re used to, and this combination can make them seem a bit “in-your-face”, especially given a widespread lack of foreign language skills (the Swiss and the Belgians can look smug at this point; the Brits and the Americans should probably keep quiet). But really, they’re by and large friendly and hospitable.

Timetables. Partly as a product of climate, and partly because Spanish clocks are an hour out of kilter, everything happens later in the day than you’re used to. A lot of people don’t start work until 10, lunch starts at 2 not 12, and carries on through siesta until 5. Then everything opens up again until 8 or 9. Dinner (usually tapas if you’re eating out) is after that, and may carry on until midnight, especially in summer. In school holidays and at weekends you’ll also see lots of quite young children out and about at this time.

There’s a good reason why “siesta” is the most widely understood Spanish word in the non-Spanish speaking world – it’s just such a good idea. Although a long afternoon break is anathema to the corporatist work ethic of much of Northern Europe and America, it actually conforms to the natural rhythm of the human body. And in the days before aircon, or if you’re working outside, what else could you be doing in the heat of the summer sun? It also allows you to stay up late and get up early.

jamonjamón Ibérico de Bellota

When it comes to eating out the hustle, bustle and sociability of the tapeo is an essential part of Spanish culture in general, and Sevillano culture in particular. Despite the buzz, it’s essence is laid back and informal, with lots of sharing and conversation, and at the end of the evening, lots of lingering over a final drink. People often go from bar to bar, but no one ever tries to move you on to clear the tables for the next shift. Visitors often remark on how civilised this way of eating and drinking feels.

Before the tapeo, if work schedule and weather permit, is the paseo, the evening stroll. The Spanish live outside more than their northern counterparts, and on a warm spring or autumn evening what could be finer than a walk out of doors and perhaps a bit of window-shopping?

arenal (2)Bullfighting is still very popular in most of Spain, though not, of course, as popular as football. They still kill the bull, and the ritual and symbolism are part of every Spaniard’s repertoire, even if they’ve never been to a bullfight. These days the social, see and be seen, aspects of attending a bullfight are as important as the fight itself (unless you’re a bull).

Religious processions are very popular throughout Spain, though not, of course, as popular as football. Although strict religious belief and observance are in decline, Spain is still very much a Catholic country, and in Seville participants prepare all year for major events such as Semana Santa (Holy Week) which still draws huge crowds.

Even if (unfairly) the Spanish, especially in southern Spain, don’t have a reputation for working hard, they do have a reputation for knowing how to party. Every locality has its annual fair where they dress up in flamenco costume, dance the night away and drink lots of rebujito (a cocktail of sherry and 7up). In Seville the Feria is in April.feria flamenco dresses

All this, of course, just scratches the surface, and if you want to find out more about why so many people love Spain and its relaxed lifestyle, you need to come and stay in one of our holiday apartments and experience it for yourself.

Seville | The View from Triana Bridge

Every city has its impressive and/or beautiful monuments, the things that residents boast about, and visitors come to see, but often it’s the less spectacular sights and sounds that capture the heart and make a place feel like home.

0131_betis-blue-1-01view from our Betis Blue apartment

The Isabella II (Triana) Bridge in Seville is definitely one of those places. It connects the old city of Seville proper with the neighbourhood of Triana on the other side of the River Guadalquivir. Triana, whose origins go back to Roman times (it is thought to be named for the Roman Emperor Trajan, who was born nearby), has always been a neighbourhood outside the city walls (an arrabal in Spanish), a marginal community that was something of a refuge for “outsiders” such as the gypsies. It also sat astride the main road westward to the Aljarafe and the coast, which is why the Muslims built a castle on the site of what is now the Triana market, followed in 1171 by the famous “bridge of boats” that was the only crossing of the river until it was finally superseded by the Isabella II bridge in the mid 19th century. The castle, meanwhile, became first the headquarters of the Order of St George, giving it its modern name of Castillo de San Jorge, and then from 1481 to 1785 of the Spanish Inquisition. By about 1800 the castle was demolished, and became the site of the Triana market.

lovers locks-001lover’s locks on the Isabel bridge

With their working class and immigrant roots Trianeros have always regarded themselves a breed apart. Many of those who sailed on the voyages of discovery and trade to the New World came from there, as did many famous flamenco artistes and bullfighters, for whom this was the way out of the ghetto. During Semana Santa (Holy Week) the processions of El Cachorro, La O, La Esperenza, and La Estrella are among the most fervently followed in all Seville, and the annual July fair of Santa Ana, Seville’s second largest, has been held since the 13th century.

0131_betis-blue-1-apartment-14view of Triana from the Seville side of the river

The bridge itself, with its arches and iron rings, is highly distinctive, and if you’re walking across it you may notice that the railings are often festooned with padlocks, sometimes bearing the names of those who have chosen this way of “plighting their troth”. At the Triana end the Carmen chapel and the roof of the Triana market above Saint George’s castle are also instantly recognisable. It’s certainly worth taking the time to pause midway across the bridge and looking down the river at some of Seville’s other landmarks. On the left are the wharves of the old river port, once one of the busiest and most important in Europe, where the sailing ships moored to load and unload the riches of the Americas. Beyond are the Torre del Oro and the towers of the Plaza España, and on the right the unusual shape of the old Moorish dock.

Our Betis Blue apartments on the Triana river front are the perfect place to be a part of this special atmosphere.

Seville | El Arenal neighbourhood

The Arenal neighbourhood of Seville is the southwestern part of the old centre, between the Avenida de la Constitución that runs in front of the Cathedral, and the River Guadalquivir. Its name is derived from the Spanish word for sand (arena), in this case the sand of the bullring, which is in this neighbourhood.

arenal (1)inside the Maestranza bullring

Crossing the Avenida at the corner of the cathedral takes you from the tourist district of Seville into an area with a quite different character. It was created by the extension of the city walls in the 10th century, some of which can still be seen around the Torre del Oro and the Torre del Plata (the gold and silver towers). During Seville’s golden age after the discovery of America it was the port area of the city, and even today it’s still a largely residential area. It was here that the treasures of the New World were unloaded, and from here that voyages of trade and discovery set sail.

arenal (4)Plaza del Cabildo

For the sightseer the main things of interest cluster around the southern end of the neighbourhood. Start at the Plaza del Cabildo, which is reached by a short passageway directly opposite the main door of the Cathedral. It’s normally a quiet place, away from the busy main avenue, with a section of the old wall, a fountain, and a semi-circle of shops and apartments with splendid frescos along the eaves. On Sunday mornings there’s a little collectors’ market selling stamps, coins and other items. Look out for a little shop called El Torno, where they sell cakes and pastries made in the local convents. The name derives from the turntable that separated the nuns from the buyers of their goods.

arenal (5)the Atarazanas

From there go through the Postigo del Aceite, the oil gate, into the riverside area. This is one of the few remaining city gates, and still has a little chapel just inside where you can give thanks or pray for good fortune as you enter or leave the city. To the right is a little artesan market for your souvenir shopping, and to the left are the Atarazanas, the 13th century dockyards. They’re not open to the public at the moment, but you can look in through one of the windows to see the visually stunning effect of its arched naves. If you’re lucky you may see storks nesting on the chimney above the building, something that always gives me a lift. Follow the building round and you’ll come to La Hospital de la Caridad, the charity hospital founded by Miguel de Mañara (sometimes said to be the model for Don Juan, though this is almost certainly not true). It’s still a working charity hospital but the splendid Baroque chapel is open to the public.

torre del oroTorre del Oro

Down by the river is one of Seville’s most famous and iconic buildings, the Torre del Oro, built in the early 13th century to protect the then Moorish city from the approaching Christians. In the 19th century it survived a couple of proposals for its demolition. It now houses a small naval museum with old maps and prints and model ships. You can also climb to the top for a view along the river, and to imagine what the area was like when it was the most important port in Europe.

arenal (2)Bullring Museum

A little further along the river is the bullring, one of the two oldest in Spain. Bullfights (to the death) are still held here during the April fair and in September. Even if you choose (like me, I have to admit) not to see a fight, it’s still worth taking a guided tour to experience the atmosphere of the arena.

Nowadays one of the Arenal’s great pleasures is its profusion of excellent tapas bars, many of them, such as the Bodeguita Romero, Casa Morales or Casa Moreno, retaining their traditional ambience and cuisine, making it a great alternative to the more touristy Santa Cruz for a proper tapeo. For tapas with a more modern touch try La Brunilda. Also pay a visit to the Arenal market to see how the locals shop and buy a few supplies.

arenal (3)Entrance to the Arenal Market

Last but not least there are several places where you can see flamenco. For a show try the Arenal Tablao in Calle Rodo. For something less formal pay a visit to Casa Matías on Calle Arfe (contrary to your expectations it’s not open late at night – go between 7 – 10 pm for impromptu flamenco).

El Arenal’s location close to, but not in, the main monumental area, makes it a great neighbourhood to rent an apartment for your stay at a reasonable price.

Take our virtual tour of the El Arenal barrio.

Seville | April Fair 101

feria 2014 gateFeria de Abril Portada 2014

The people of Seville have a reputation for knowing how to party, and next week is Seville’s biggest party of the year, the April Fair (this year it’s actually in May, following a late Easter). If you’re looking for the Spain of myth, legend and picture postcard, with señoritas in polka-dot dresses and smartly dressed men on horseback, this is a good place to start. But for a first-timer it can all be a bit confusing and overwhelming, so you’ll be needing a few tips on what it’s all about and how to blend in with the locals.

The first fair was held in 1847, and was intended as a livestock show and market, but even from the early years it increasingly became an important social event, and by the time it moved to its present site in 1973, it had become the week-long party we know today. That present site is on a large strip of land (reclaimed from the original course of the river) on the southern edge of Los Remedios, across the river from Maria Luisa Park. It’s entered through the portada, a specially constructed gateway with a different theme every year. This year’s was inspired by the “water kiosks” built in the late 19th century to provide drinking water, and the 50th anniversary of the canonical coronation of the Virgin of Hope of Macarena the following year.

feria horses

The fair opens officially at midnight on Monday (May 5) with the alumbrada, the switching on of the lights, and ends the following Sunday night with an impressive fireworks display. The streets of the fairground are all named after famous bullfighters and are lined by the casetas, the small decorated marquees that are the focus of the socialising. Most of these are privately owned, either by wealthy individuals and companies, or by professional associations, clubs or groups of friends, and you’ll need an invite to be allowed in. But don’t panic! There are a number of public casetas run by the city council and neighbourhoods, so you’ll still have places to go for refreshment and to watch the dancing and singing.

It’s often said that there are really two fairs. The daytime fair is the one with the processions of horses and carriages, mostly owned, ridden or driven by the Sevillian social elite (it is, after all, an activity that doesn’t come cheap). They are there to see and be seen, so it’s quite an impressive display, with everyone and everything immaculately presented. The rest of us may not be in that league, but you’ll still want to look good. Flouncy flamenco dresses will cost you anywhere from 200€ up so you may not want to invest in one for just a short visit. However, a colourful shawl and espadrilles, along with a few bright accessories – flowers for your hair and big plastic hoop earrings – will probably do it for the ladies. Check out Flamenco & Más for some inspiration. Men should probably avoid the traditional traje corte, the short jacket and tight trousers, unless they’re really in good shape (and own a horse). Casual smart is the best way to go if you don’t want to look too much like a tourist.

feria dresses

The night fair is for eating tapas and drinking rebujitos (dry manzanilla sherry mixed with 7Up), dancing Sevillanas, and visiting the Calle de Infierno (Hell Street!) for the fairground attractions. By daybreak you should be ready for the traditional breakfast of churros and chocolate, or just head home for bed, depending on your stamina.

This is also the main bullfighting season, so if you want to see a fight go to the Real Maestranza. Best to book your tickets in advance.

Málaga | Feria de Agosto (August Fair)

Beginning tomorrow night in Málaga is the annual extravaganza of the August Fair, and the city will be full of locals and visitors enjoying a full programme of events in both the Feria del Día (the daytime fair in the city centre) and the Feria de la Noche (the night fair) at the main fairground in Cortijo de Torres in the west of the city, as well as the nightly bullfights in the Plaza de Toros.

The fair kicks off at midnight on Friday August 16 with a firework display followed by a concert on Malagueta Beach and lasts officially until midnight on Saturday August 24, with a recreation of the entry of the Catholic kings into the city (the fair was instituted as a celebration of the surrender of the Moorish city to the Christians in August of 1487 following a four-month siege) at the Plaza de Toros on the Sunday evening.

malaga feria del dia

For lovers of horses and carriages there will be all the parades so typical of Spanish fairs, both in the city centre during the day and at the fairground by night, as well as lots of eating and drinking in the casetas, but the Málaga Feria is particularly notable for its daytime events, and for a whole week the streets of the historic centre will be alive with the hustle and bustle of the crowds, biznaga sellers, street theatre, concerts, an artesan market in the Plaza Merced and lots of special exhibitions in the museums. For the children there’s the “Magic Pirate Fair” every afternoon by the Roman Theatre with games, storytelling and magicians.

The August Fair is a great time to be in Málaga. So if you live locally, already have a holiday planned on the Costa del Sol, or are still “just thinking about it”, get over there and join the party.