Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Seville, Spain-Feria de Abril (April Fair)

What a spectacular explosion of color and culture and food!  Unlike anything that I have ever seen before.  Two weeks after Easter, in the beautiful city of Sevilla, the city comes alive with horse drawn carriages decorated with flowers and ribbons.  Riding in them are the people of Sevilla, all wearing traditional Spanish clothes.  The women have beautiful dresses and elaborate combs in their hair.  It is just an amazing sight to see.  The men wear their short bolero jackets and hats and are typically astride beautiful horses all decked out for the occassion.  It is a splendid celebration of their culture; their food, their drink, their music and their way of life and it is so exciting to be welcomed at their party.

It is believed that the fair evolved from a cattle fair that started in 1847.  The party loving people of Sevilla started erecting tents that became known as "casetas" for the local dignitaries to hang out in during the fair.  The number of casetas grew year after year until the 1920s when Feria de Abril had grown into Sevilla's largest annual event.

In the 70's the city opened its current fairground.  It is an enormous site that last year housed more that 1000 casetas and is known as 'Real de la Feria" and right next door is "Calle del Infierno" which is full of your typical carnival rides and circus show.  La Feria begins on a Monday at Portada which is the entrance to the fairground.  The Mayor of Seville switches on thousands of lights at midnight and let the party begin!!   The fairgrounds teem with traditionally dressed Sevillanas every day of the fair and they party well into the early morning hours.  It is very understandable that the poet Byron when referring to Seville said it was "famous for oranges and women".

The Portada lit up at midnight.
My daughter and I at the Portada on the first day of La Feria.

It always comes as a great surprise to tourists that most of the casetas are privately owned and admission is by invitation only but that doesn't stop us from enjoying ourselves.  There are several public casetas available.  We found the locals very welcoming and song and dance broke out all over the place.  So much fun to be twirled around by handsome Spanish gentlemen on your way to the restroom.

Dancing in the Public Caseta.

Every evening, during LeFeria the year's top bullfights take place at the historic Plaza de Toros. Though  some find this tradition of Spanish culture objectionable, I attended with an open mind to try and understand its evolution and appeal.  Take the time to tour the Museum dedicated to the bullfights before you go to the fight, it helps you to understand what is happening as you watch.   It is not dissimilar to an American baseball game.  Music is playing, fans are yelling, booing and cheering the matadors as they fight the bull. It can be a bit disconcerting when the massive bulls get too close to their human counterparts and a bit gruesome when they kill the bull but I embraced the experience as an important part of the Spanish culture and never regretted attending.  If you wish to enjoy this experience, get your tickets early because they sell out every night during La Feria.

This is one of the best cultural experiences that I have had abroad and I encourage anyone visiting the lovely country of Spain at that time of year, to take a few days and enjoy this truly unique Spanish event.

Until next time, safe travels!

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