Last weekend, I went to Seville to visit the Feria de Abril (April Fair). Yes, it was May. But that’s only a small detail…
The Feria started in 1847 as a livestock trading fair, and is one of the major events in Seville. But it’s morphed from a traditional farm fair into what could best be described as “the Easter Show on steroids” (to steal my friend Julie’s expression).
With this in mind, I decided to write about some of the more interesting aspects of the Feria, should you be tempted to visit next year (and I very much recommend a trip!).
The Feria is held at a kind of showground, and the main streets are lined with hundreds of casetas. These are tents or marquees, decorated in traditional Andalusian style, and are either public or private.
The public casetas (there’s not very many of these) are open to anyone. In contrast, the private casetas are rented for the duration of the Feria by families, groups of friends, professional associations, unions, political parties, clubs, etc, and are strictly invitation only. The private casetas tend to be smaller and more relaxed, and it’s easier to talk and meet people there. The only issue is that if you don’t know anyone in Seville, it is very hard to gain entry into these tents.
It’s hard to describe exactly what happens in the casetas, except to say that they’re a kind of weird mixture of a restaurant crossed with a bar crossed with a nightclub. Here’s a few pictures:
2. The Sevillanas
In the photos above, you can see people dancing in a particular way. This style of dance is called the Sevillanas, and consists of four parts, each with slightly different steps (to ensure maximum confusion). Sevillanas are great if you know what to do. But if you don’t, it’s probably best to sit and watch, as, well, there’s a time and a place for improvisation.
And this isn’t it.
Interestingly, as the night wore on, the Sevillanas tended to be discarded, and Enrique Iglesias appeared, so I guess there’s something for everyone…
3. The dresses
The thing I loved most about the Feria was the amazing dresses. Although it’s perfectly fine to turn up in your jeans or casual clothes, many of the attendees opt for what’s called a traje de gitana. These dresses are absolutely gorgeous. They are long, with lots of ruffles, and are so tight, it’s a miracle that the ladies are able to get into them. They are also ridiculously expensive, particularly if you get one made-to-measure.
But it’s not just the dress which is important- you also have to make sure you have the right accessories, and I couldn’t help but wonder at the amount of time it must have taken some of the people to find earrings and flowers in EXACTLY the right colours to match their dresses.
4. The Rebujito
Needless to say, with all this dancing and partying, people are bound to get thirsty, and feel like a drink. The Feria has a special beverage called a rebujito, which is a mixture of sherry, lemonade, and lots of ice.
It is sold in jugs in the casetas, and drunk from plastic shot glasses, as in the picture below.
This is all well and good, but as you can probably imagine, although the rebujitos don’t taste very strong, after 10 hours of partying at the Feria (and this is pretty normal), people start to feel their impact. And the impact can be quite intense.
Overall, I loved the Feria, but it’s not for the faint-hearted, and you’ve really got to be prepared. But would I go again? Yes, in a second!