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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.

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 | Semana Santa 101

semana santa poster 2013If you find yourself in Seville in the week before Easter, and nobody has told you what goes on here during Semana Santa (literally Holy Week), you may be in for a surprise. Why are there so many people in town? Why are the main street by the cathedral and the square beyond lined with chairs? Just who are those strange people with towels round their heads? And the even stranger people with the pointy hoods and cloaks, for all the world like some surreal multi-coloured gathering of the Klan (they’re not, just so you know)? Fear not, all will be revealed in our handy beginner’s guide to Semana Santa in Seville.

Religious processions are hardly unusual in Spain, but the Easter Week processions in Seville take them to another level. During the course of the week around 60 processions will wend their way from their home churches to the Cathedral and back again, which for those furthest away can mean a journey of up to 14 hours. The religious purpose of the processions is to take the sacred statues, usually one of the Christ depicted in one of the stages of the Passion, and one of the grieving virgin, from where they “live” in their various churches and chapels to be blessed in the Cathedral. Each procession is organised by its own Hermandad (brotherhood), and the week’s celebrations are co-ordinated collectively. The oldest brotherhood dates back to the 14th century, and in late mediaeval times they played a role similar to the guilds. After a period of decline in the 19th century, the 20th saw a progressive revival and the fixing of many of the forms and traditions we see today.

costaleros at practice prior to Semana Santa

costaleros at practice prior to Semana Santa

The statues are carried on floats known as pasos, by groups of men hidden underneath (these are the costaleros, the ones with the towels on their heads to protect them from the weight), whose movements are controlled by an overseer (capataz), usually by a system of coded knocks. Both the pasos and the statues, some of which are important artworks in their own right, are often ornate and gilded, the virgins decked with flowers beneath a canopy, and the sight of them as they sway down the streets is surprisingly moving, even for the non-religious.

They are accompanied on their journey by the Nazarenos and Penitentes (the ones in the cloaks and hoods, worn to preserve anonymity) carrying candles or crosses, various functionaries, and the brass bands who are responsible for the distinctive music that seems to be everywhere during this week. The largest processions can take up to an hour and a half to pass.

Although the final procession is on Easter Sunday, the climax of the week for most people is in the early hours of Good Friday morning, when six of the most popular processions take place, including both of the Virgenes de Esperanza (Triana and Macarena), El Silencio and Jesus de Gran Poder. If you’re here for Holy Week it’s worth staying up all night to see some of these.

0379_giralda-terrace-seville-apartment

If you are here for Semana Santa bear in mind that you’ll pay a premium price for apartments and hotel rooms (anything up to double), and that most of the bars (in the centre at least) won’t be serving tapas but rather larger plates (raciones), and will be very crowded. In fact, the whole city will be crowded, and in the afternoon and evenings the area around the cathedral, and through Plaza San Francisco to La Campana, is often impassable and may interfere with any sightseeing strolls you have planned. 

On the other hand, it’s an unusual and interesting experience, whatever your religious affiliations or non-affiliations, and maybe one that everyone should catch a glimpse of just once in their lives.

Veoapartment still has some apartments available on or close to the Cathedral and main procession routes in LarañaConstitución, and best of all, right by the cathedral in Calle Alemanes.

Feria and Salvador

Feria 2012 - Salvador Church portada

Spring is Seville’s fiesta season, and after the solemnity of Semana Santa, in late April it’s the turn of the Feria de Abril. With its casetas (small marquees), horses and carriages, singing and dancing, and colourful flamenco costumes, it’s probably the most famous fair in Spain, and every year the portada (the gateway to the fair) illustrates some aspect of the life and culture of the city.

This year’s is a representation of the façade of the Salvador Church, in celebration of the 300th anniversary of its completion.

View from our Salvador Terrace apartment

 

You can experience Spain’s most famous fair and live like a local with a great view of the Salvador Church from our beautiful Salvador Terrace apartment. The Plaza Salvador is also a lively spot to enjoy a tapa and a cold Cruzcampo beer out in the sunshine.

Feria de Abril 2012
April 24th – 29th

La Macarena

It’s been a very rainy Semana Santa in Seville, but the sun is shining today and it looks like all the processions will be going out, including one of the most popular, the Macarena, starting at midnight.

In the meantime, you can watch our video of the Macarena barrio:

Macarena Tour – Neighbourhoods of Seville