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Posts tagged ‘April Fair’

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.

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.

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.

Seville | April Fair

Feria Portada 2013 - a representaion of the Plaza de España

Feria Portada 2013 – a representaion of the Plaza de España

The April Fair (Feria de Abril) is the second of Seville’s spring festivals. Normally held two weeks after the first one, Semana Santa, the Feria changes the religious theme to a celebration of spring and having a good time. This year the official dates are from Tuesday, April 16 to Sunday, April 21, with the alumbrado, the switching on of the lights, at midnight on Monday.

Unlike Semana Santa, which is concentrated in the city centre, the April Fair is held on a purpose-built site on the southern edge of the suburb of Los Remedios, on land reclaimed from the old course of the river, so although it’s only about a 15 minute walk from the Puerta de Jerez, it doesn’t disrupt daily life in the same way, though some shops and bars may be closed at the weekend.

feria flamenco dressesThe first April Fair was held in 1847 on the Prado (field) de San Sebastian, just outside the old city walls, which at that time were still standing, and it was initially a cattle and horse fair intended as a modern version of the old mediaeval fairs. Strangely for what has become such a Sevillano event, it was the brainchild of a Catalan, Narciso Bonaplata, and the Basque José María Ybarra. As the years passed the Fair gradually began to acquire the character it has today. The horses and carriages have remained a staple of the fair, at least during the day, as have the traditional traje corto (short jacket and tight trousers) of the men and colourful flamenco dresses of the women, but the cattle are long gone. The first electric lights appeared in 1874, followed shortly by the paper globes that are so typical today, and the first commercial casetas. In 1973 the Feria moved to its present home.

The main entrance to the fair is through a gateway, the portada, which has a different theme each year. This year it’s a stylised representation of the Plaza España. Inside, the streets of the fairground are lined with casetas, small marquee style tents where food and drinks are sold. Although some of the casetas are public, the majority are owned by companies, associations, rich individuals and groups of friends.

feria horse carriagesDuring the day it’s the horses and carriages that take the attention, along with their riders, everything and everyone done up to the nines to parade around the fairground, and for anyone with a love of horses this alone is enough to make Feria worth a visit. At night, however, Feria is quite a different experience. The lights are all switched on, and the party begins. In the casetas there is much drinking of rebujitos (sherry with 7-up) and dancing of Sevillanas (a folk dance with flamenco-style music), that often carries on until dawn. Next to the main fairground, in the Calle del Infierno (Hell Street) is a funfair, with all the traditional rides and typical fast-food stalls.

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.