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Posts tagged ‘fairs’

Jerez – Xèréz – Sherry (and Horses)

This week we’re going to take a look at what’s going on in and around Jerez, which can be easily reached from Seville by train or by car, and makes a great destination for a day out. As we all know, Jerez de la Frontera (to give it its full name) is the centre of the Sherry region, and is also world-famous for its horses. Not surprisingly, both of these figure prominently in the Jerez Spring Fair, La Feria del Caballo, which this year is between May 11 and May 18, immediately following the Seville Fair.

feriaFeria del Caballo in Jerez de la Frontera

The Jerez fair is probably the oldest of Andalucia’s horse fairs, with roots going back to the 13th century, and it’s also my favourite. For a start it’s held in a pretty public park, Parque González Hontoria, rather than a glorified parking lot like many other fairs. There’s more space, the great majority of the casetas, including those of the big sherry houses, are open to the public, and the whole thing has a more relaxed, almost genteel, feel to it. The horse and carriage parades are fabulous, even for non-horsy people like me, and for the aficionado there is a commercial horse show and market, Equisur, alongside the main fair. And if you do want a bit more noise and excitement there’s always the nearby Calle del Infierno (Hell Street) with all the familiar fairground attractions.

After Jerez, it’s the turn of the second of the sherry towns, El Puerto de Santa María, where the Feria de Primavera and Vino Fino runs from May 21 to May 26. As well as the fair, try and fit in a visit to one of the old bodegas, which are fascinating places.

sanlucar bartapas bar with sherry casks in Sanlucar de Barrameda

It’s immediately followed by the last of the sherry towns, Sanlucar de Barrameda, whose Feria de Manzanilla kicks off at midnight on May 27 and lasts until June 1. Apart from the usual “fun-of-the-fair”, including horses, bullfights and manzanilla sherry, Sanlucar is also a seaside town with a nice beach, a traditional central square with lots of restaurants, and a small but historically important old town, the Barrio Alto.

To while away the time in between you might like to pay a visit to the Vinoble International Exhibition of Noble Wines,  a biennial event in Jerez for fortified, dessert and sweet wines, this year running from May 25-27. This coincides with Jerez being named the European Wine City for 2014 and is the premier international event of its kind, and apart from local producers also attracts exhibitors from around the world. Have fun and find out about some unusual and excellent wines at the same time. To make it a real win-win, the venue is the  Alcazar de Jerez, a stunning combination of Moorish fortress, mosque, palace and gardens.

vinoble 2014

Last, but not least, if all this has whetted your appetite for all things sherry, June 2 to 8 is International Sherry Week, with sherry events both locally and in 20 countries around the world. There are over a hundred events in Spain alone so have a look at the website for those taking place in and around Seville.

Christmas in Andalucia

There are many aspects of Christmas in Andalucia that are similar to those in other areas of Europe. The Christmas lights go on, the shops fill up with traditional goodies, and a lot of people eat and drink too much. But, of course, there is often a little Spanish twist to them.

christmas lights

The traditional date for the start of festivities in Andalucia is December 8, the day of the Immaculate Conception, but as in many other places these days, in practice the season seems to start earlier every year. In Andalucia there is a big tradition of Christmas markets and fairs to supplement your Christmas shopping, with donkey and camel rides, stalls selling cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) gifts and decorations, and sweets and hot dogs to keep you going.

An even bigger Christmas tradition is the Belen (Bethlehem). Almost every house has at least a modest version of the Nativity Scene, but there are also many more elaborate public ones, especially in department stores and churches, and a market that specialises in the models for making them.

Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) and Christmas Day (Navidad) are family days, especially Christmas Eve, which is the night for a big family dinner, turkey and truffles being traditional, and even the bars are closed, although some will open again after midnight. If you’re a visitor having your own apartment rather than a hotel will be a big plus at this time, as you can cook your own Christmas dinner.

grapes

New Year’s is celebrated with fireworks, and by the eating of twelve grapes as midnight strikes. Eating them in time brings good luck, and nowadays you can buy the grapes already peeled and stoned to make sure.

The end of the Christmas season is Epiphany (January 6). In Andalucia the night of January 5 is when Los Reyes Magos – the Magic Kings travel round the world on their camels to bring children their presents. Earlier in the evening most cities and towns have a big procession in which the kings and their assistants throw sweets to the crowd. For children it’s the biggest event of the year. At Epiphany everyone eats roscónes, a large doughnut shaped cake. Inside there is a coin and a dry bean. Whoever finds the coin is “king” for the day; whoever finds the bean has to pay for next year’s roscón.

Seville | Christmas Markets

In Seville this December? Planning on some fun Christmas shopping? Seville hosts a number of street markets during the festive season which add some variety and colour to the normal high street shops and department stores, and are worth a browse around to see if you can pick up a bargain or something unusual.

The christmas book fair is still on in Plaza Nueva until Sunday (December 9), with an interesting variety of old and specialist books (mostly in Spanish, of course).  This is followed on the same site from December 14 by the annual Christmas Artesan Market, featuring handcrafted  games, gifts, clothes and accessories in wood, leather and ceramic. Of all the markets, this is the best one to head for if you’re looking for something a bit more classy than the usual market fare.

 
The Fería de Belen (nativity), where you can go to buy everything you need for your nativity scene, is in Calle Fray Ceferino González, between the cathedral and the Archivos de India. Stables, mangers, sheep, wise men, Roman centurions – you name it, they’ll have it. Browsing or buying, if you’re into either christmas or models spend a while wandering around here.

There are traditional Christmas fairs in Alameda de Hercules and Plaza de la Encarnación. The stalls are mainly artesan jewellery and leather goods, but include a traditional bread stall and some fast food and funfair style sweet stalls. For the children there are fairground rides, a visit to the tent of the Three Kings (the Spanish alternative to Father Christmas who brings them their presents on January 6) under the Metropol Parasols, “Christmas tree cones”, and a miniature train to take you from one site to the other. The highlight of a visit has to be the camel rides in the Alameda, which give you a rare chance to get close to these unusual animals.

For the first time there is a Christmas market this year alongside the Puerta Jerez and the Christina, featuring craft, jewellery and leather goods and attendant takeaway food stalls.

From December 6 to 8 only (10am to 7pm) there is an exhibition and sale of the traditional sweets, cakes and pastries made in the closed convents in and around Seville in the Gothic Palace of the Alcázar (entrance through the Patio de Banderas). Plenty to tempt anyone with a sweet tooth.