DAY ONE (Friday, April 27)
Today was just one of those great days where I learn to appreciate this unique city even MORE than I did before. When Ali and I got back from Berlin & Prague at 930 last night, following a nap and long lunch break during our 5 hour layover in the lovely Gatwick airport in London, we couldn’t have been more happy to be home/enjoy time with our favorite Carmen/have free homemade meals/hot showers/our own room back. PLUS-we were just in time for FERIA de ABRIL.
“Feria”, translated simply to “fair” in English, is the huge annual week-long fair unique to Sevilla. Sevilla has a long history with flamenco dancing-YES the fabulous traditional flamenco dresses and all, and pictures can only BEGIN to describe the beauty of feria. I’ve tried to find an American equivalent-to no avail; it’s just increeedible…imagine a combination of the fourth of July, EXTREME tailgating, the state fair, prom, a family reunion AND the best wedding reception you’ve ever been to…ALL with the crazy energy and spice of the Sevillian culture. Thousands of people are wandering the streets and casetas from noon until at LEAST 4/5am the next day, dancing, eating, drinking, going on horse and buggy rides, spending time with their closest family and friends…and they do this ALL day, EVERYday for SEVEN DAYS! It’s been going on for over one hundred years, a tradition started years ago, and what’s so cool is it hasn’t really changed with the times, or tried to become more modern whatsoever. It started Monday night at midnight, and ended Sunday at midnight.
Ali and I left around 4pm Friday to see what the entire city has been raving about since the second we arrived in Spain. It consists of over one thousand “casetas” or “little houses” which literally looks like a small circus tent village with streets and all (named after famous bull fighters)-but 1000x better. Each caseta is privately owned by a family, organization or group of people besides the few large “casetas publicas” that are open to everyone- which are such a blast because of the mix of ages inside: from pint-sized 5 year-old girls donning gorgeous flamenco dresses, to older couples dancing the Sevillana like they’re back in their golden days. The major challenge for us tourists and American students is finding our way into the private casetas. It’s like high school lunchtime for the first time on the first day, or wandering into a party alone, where you’re not necessarily invited…which sounds bad, but it’s a celebration of family and friends, and for those of us who don’t have a ton of local friends, it’s not the easiest social situation in the world. The cool thing is, we were able to go into the private caseta of a friend of ours, and experience the “local side” of feria with a live band, food and drinks, and nonstop dancing, can life get any better?
In between Feria outings, and after meeting up with some of the kids from our program and sipping on our first taste of “rebujito”-a mix of bad white wine and Sprite- we headed home for dinner with Carmen, high on life and possibly a little bit giddy from the rebujito…”cuando en Sevilla” right?! What we DIDN’T know, was that we would end up having a drink and getting tapas at a bar in our apartment building with Carmen, her daughter Carmen, and her two grandchildren who we have grown to LOVE-Anna and Miguel. They talked to us about Feria, and Carmen helped us get ready for Feria the RIGHT way: large, beautiful flowers in our hair, a shawl clipped in front, bangles and big earrings, and all! With our casual American wear it didn’t look quiteee as suave as the flamenco-dressed Spanish women, but hey-we tried. 😉
We went back to feria later, and spent the rest of the night until 4AM in our friend’s private caseta, dancing around, attempting to learn the “Sevillana”, sipping rebujito, and embarrassing ourselves when the band requested we sing the Macarena to the crowd. Like, who really KNOWS the words to the song anyway?!
The night was so much fun, and Ali and I wandered back at 4, a good 20min walk back to our cozy beds where we fell into deep, Spanish-soundtracked dreams…
DAY TWO (Saturday, April 28th)
We woke up around 10AM Saturday, feeling like a million bucks, andddd…ate, ran, laid around, and did some actual (gasp) HOMEWORK most of the day, until we decided to get ready to go back to the Feria grounds around 7. I knew it was time for us to head that direction when people in the streets would yell at me in Spanish for not yet going to Feria-I’m convinced they don’t believe in working out in Sevilla, don’t they know the “smoking a pack a day” diet isn’t for everyone??
Either way, we met up with our friends Kelsey and Sophie, Carmen’s sandwiches in hand, and took off for Feria…with rain and hail clouds following us the entire way. The thing is, rain or shine, Spaniards DO Feria, and we weren’t the only ones fighting the rain and hail, walking the Flamenco-dress filled streets to the fair, finding shelter under awnings along the way. Once we finally made it there, it was clear the muddy streets weren’t keeping anyone away, and we went into Sophie’s host-family’s caseta, four wet American dogs, and grabbed the last table in the corner, just happy to be out of the rain and cold for a while. I could literally watch Sevillana dancing for hourssss…and we proceeded to tent hop to the different public casetas where there was more dancing and excitement, taking in the beautiful, distinctive Sevillian culture. The culture here is SO rich I’m convinced you can bite right into it! As you all know, I’m most likely one of the worst dancers you know…and saying Sevillana dancing doesn’t come “naturally” to me might be the understatement of the YEAR. Regardless of Pablo’s free Sevilliana classes they offered leading up to Feria (which I totally took advantage of) I still don’t quite (if at all) have the hang of it…but we did our best, and jumped on the stage to dance around with local girls who were probably 10 years old, and danced like they had done it for YEARS. It’s incredible that these people just kind of take you under their wing, and we had fun dancing with the kids and families who danced without inhibition, the beautiful colors and flower-clad updo’s spinning around to the big mix of Spanish music they had playing inside-including a little Spanish remix of a Beatles song.
It became 11:30PM way too fast, and Ali and I found ourselves wanting more when our girlfriends left, so we stayed with some guys from our program, met up with our friends Lizzy and Ann, sipped a few dranks, and headed to a whole other side of feria: LOS ATTRACIONES (the ridessss!). Cue “choque coches”, “el barco espanol” and other classic rides…but a few of us took advantage of the chance to actually drive again, and had some throwback bumper cars craziness, before wandering around more casetas late into the night, and after realizing we were ready to leave/had no where to go, Lizzy and I ended the night with some late night Tex-Mex (note to self: NEVER EAT TEX-MEX IN SPAIN) and croissants around 430am. Ohhhh this city…
DAY THREE (Sunday, April 29th)
Watching Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber music videos isn’t normally my top favorite pastime, but when you’re doing it and singing along with two Spanish children-Carmen’s grandkids, to be exact-it’s a whole other story. I woke up around 11, and spent the next few hours sharing my American music and watching music videos with Anna and Miguel, soaking up EVERY minute of it, before doing some homework/researching places to live in DC (wait-REAL LIFE???) and went to get chocolate mousse at VALOR this fabulous chocolateria-with my good friend Darcie and her parents-who were ADORABLE. They shared crazy Spain stories-including their experience with the bullfight in the pouring rain the day before-even the BULLFIGHTS happen rain or shine! (Which seems even more dangerous…but hey, it’s Spain)
I wandered over to Feria around 6 afterward, and it was sooo different-most likely because it was the SEVENTH day these crazy Spaniards had been awake 24/7 drinking, dancing, eating, socializing, not sleeping…THE SEVENTH DAY!! Therefore, there weren’t a QUARTER as many flamenco dresses as the previous days, and many of the casetas were empty, or had people just sitting at the tables relaxing. I went alone, which was actually pretty cool to just take it all in on my own, while people watching like craaaazy-this included a group of couples in their 50’s or 60’s who marched around the grounds in a clump of flamenco dresses and caballero attire clapping and singing some Spanish Sevillana song-classic J I only went for a little over two hours before heading home though-it wasn’t quite as bustling, and because it was the same thing everyday, I felt like I had seen it all for the most part
Later that night, they had the fireworks to end the crazy feria week and honestly, it made me a little sad! This city was SO alive all week, with people running around like crazy, and smiles on everyone’s faces regardless of the bad weather later in the week. The colors, the culture, the spirit, the excitement…I think the craziest part, was that I knew after Feria, we had reached the three week mark: three weeks from today I’ll be HOME in Colorado. It’s surreal, honestly. SO excited to go home, but I feel like I’m finally settled in and comfortable being in Europe! To make things better though and avoid the inevitable end, I went with Darcie to watch the fireworks next to the river which was just beaaaautiful, and we sipped on some drinks and ate oreos and gummies before having a hotel slumber party-thanks to her fabulous parents who accidentally overbooked their hotel. Some quality chatting with Darc, a comfortable hotel bed…not a bad way to end a “hard” week. 😉 If you’re still reading, that’s more than anyone else can say, thank youuuu for taking the time to read this elaborate novel once again 🙂