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Posts tagged ‘Cádiz’

Fiestas, Ferias and Festivals of Andalucia

Andalucía is justly famous for its fiestas (a word that means both party and holiday), which cover the full range from the solemn (often passionately so), to the riotous and celebratory, especially in spring. So, if you’re planning a holiday in the South of Spain this year, and are thinking of experiencing one of the traditional fairs or some religious processions, now’s the time to be getting out your diaries and making a note of the dates.

The first fiesta of the year (after the Magic Kings on January 5) is definitely the party kind. The Cadiz Carnival, which this year takes place from February 27 to March 9, is the largest on mainland Spain, a ten-day spree of processions, concerts, children’s shows, street theatre and the like, many of them with a satirical edge, the highlight being a singing competition for satirical and humorous songs. Oh, and there’s lots of eating and drinking, too.

semana santa 2012the Macarena procession in Seville

In April it’s the turn of Spain’s biggest religious festival, Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week), which this year is from April 13-20. There will be processions in every city, but the biggest and best (and the most) are in Seville. The atmosphere, with the distinctive brass band music, the elaborate floats, the hooded penitents and all the little rituals, is absolutely unique, but if you’re coming to Seville to see it bear in mind that hotels and apartments can double in price and fill up quickly.

Other religious festivals include Corpus Christi (June 19) and the El Rocio pilgrimage (June 4-9). It’s worth being in town for the departure of the pilgrims in their wild-west style covered wagons drawn by oxen.

rociothe Seville brotherhood leaving for El Rocio

In the meantime it’s the turn of the traditional spring fairs. The biggest is Seville’s April Fair (which this year, because Easter falls so late, is actually in May, from the 5th to the 11th), which is immediately followed by the Jerez Fair (May 11 to 18), and a little later by the Cordoba Fair (May 24 to 31). Both of these are easily reached by train or car from Seville. Typical of all the fairs are the little marquees, or casetas, where people gather to eat and drink rebujitos, the traditional sherry and 7-Up cocktails, horses and carriages, and fairground rides and fast food stalls. They also coincide with the local bullfighting season too. The Seville casetas are mostly private, so if you don’t know anyone who is a member of one the Jerez and Cordoba fairs will be more fun and friendlier. The Malaga Fair is a bit later, running from August 16-25, and has more daytime activities away from the Fairground itself, including a re-enactment of the fall of Moorish Malaga to the Christians.

cordoba patiosthe Patios of Cordoba

Two other festivals that are worth seeing are the Patio Festival, or Festival of the Flowers, in Cordoba (May 8-19), which takes the form of a competition for the best patios and balconies in the city, and the city is full of the colours and scents of the spring flowers, and the Fiesta del Carmen in Malaga on July 16, which celebrates the patron saint of fishermen with an unusual water-borne procession.

Veoapartment has holiday rental apartments in both Seville and Malaga, that make a perfect base for experiencing these fabulous Andalusian festivals. For a complete listing of upcoming events in 2014 check out our city information pages for: Seville and Malaga.

Seville | A Day Trip to Cádiz

Cadiz Cathedral

Cadiz Cathedral

One of my favourite places for a day trip is the city of Cadiz, which is less than two hours away from Seville by train on Spain’s southwest coast. Founded by the Phoenicians some three thousand years ago, it is probably the oldest city in Europe, and has always been one of the country’s most important seaports. Located at the end of a long, partly artificial promontory, and surrounded by the sea on three sides, it’s also one of the prettiest. And just the right size to walk around in an afternoon.

When you arrive make your way into the old centre through Plaza San Juan de Dios, newly renovated with little fountains, and with the impressive town hall at the far end, and head for Plaza Catedral. Grab an empanada for elevenses at the little shop opposite the baroque façade of the 18th century cathedral, which will set you up for the rest of the morning. From there, go through the Arco-de-la-Rosa into the Barrio del Populi, which is the oldest part of Cadiz, and has quite a different feel to the rest of the city. Although it’s small it’s surprisingly easy to get lost in the maze of narrow streets. Nearby on the seafront is the impressive Roman theatre, only rediscovered under some old warehouses in 1980. From there it’s another short walk to the recently reopened central market, with its impressive displays of fruit and veg, fresh meat, and especially, an enormous variety of fresh fish and seafood. It’s one of my favourite stops in Cadiz.

Urta - a local fish

Urta – a local fish

Time for lunch. Have some starters at Casa Manteca (The House of Lard), making sure to sample that local speciality, “chicharrones especial”, before going to Restaurante El Faro for some topnotch fish and seafood. Try the “arroz negro” (rice with squid-ink) for a special treat.

Back on the sea front turn right and follow the coastal fortifications; Castillo San Sebastian, brooding out in the bay at the end of its causeway, from one angle looking like a great ship, and Santa Catalina on the corner of the headland, looking out over the Atlantic in three directions. Stop for a drink on the seafront terrace of the Parador hotel before visiting Parque Genovése next door, a botanical garden with a wonderful collection of strange trees and an artificial waterfall, and definitely not to be missed.

La Caleta

La Caleta

Time now to be heading home, taking the direct route across the middle of the old city. The pattern of the streets here is quite regular, and it’s not hard to find your way to the two big public squares, Plaza San Antonio and Plaza Mina, monuments to 19th century civic pride.  I love both these places to stop and stare for a while, but they are quite different in character, San Antonio wide and light and airy, surrounded by mansions and San Antonio church, while Plaza Mina is like a garden, filled with trees and exotic plants. It’s also the home of the Archaeological Museum. Other things to see include the Torre Tavira, the last of the old watchtowers from which the merchants would look out to see for the safe return of their ships, and the Oratorio de la Cueva, a 17th century chapel underground chapel.

View of Cadiz from La Caleta

View of Cadiz from La Caleta

How to get there: The best way to get there is by train. You can book online, at the Renfe booking office in Calle Zaragoza, or at Santa Justa station. Trains run approximately every one and a half hours, and the journey time is a little under two hours. A return ticket (ida y vuelta) costs around 25 euros.