Last year we brought you colourful scenes from the Ferias de Andalucia in the south of Spain. Now that the weather’s finally turning and the sun’s been switched back on, we’re taking a look at perhaps the region’s most famous festival: the Feria de Abril de Sevilla, when reining in the syllables also called Feria de Abril or Feria de Sevilla.
With its origins dating back to the mid 19th century, Feria de Abril began life as a livestock meet in 1847 and was held in the Prado de San Sebastian area of Seville‘s suburbs, a part of the city now home to the University and a large bus station. The popularity and size of the Feria grew quickly and it became as much a social occasion for neighbouring families and communities to meet as it was an opportunity for livestock dealings. By the early twentieth century it was well-established as one of the highlights of southern Spain’s calendar and a place to be and be seen.
The fact that the Feria de Abril traditionally begins at midnight exactly two weeks after Easter Monday goes a long way to set the party precedent it is famous for. Due to Easter’s late arrival in 2014, this will mean that the Feria de Abril will actually fall in May, starting on Monday 5 May. There will follow six very loud days of music, dancing, decorations, eating and drinking until finally the locals and visitors decide they need a rest on Sunday 11 May.
Nowadays, the Feria de Abril de Sevilla is considered the country’s largest and most famous fair and is held in the southern district of Los Remedios where it spreads across an area of many square miles, allowing for livestock tents, live entertainment stages, a theme park and rows and rows of casetas. These traditional marquees are set up by local families and businesses for their eating, drinking and socialising though many are open to the public too. Getting there is easy with special busses from the city centre, and in many ways it’s recommended that you don’t stay too close to the Feria just so you have the option to leave the party and recover if needed!
Feria de Abril still keeps a focus on its roots in livestock and is widely recognised as the official start to Spain’s bullfighting season. The bullfighting at Feria de Abril is held across the Canal de Alfonso XIII at the magnificent Maestranza arena. While the sport remains a contentious matter in Spain and abroad, there is no holding back on the pomp and ceremony of the tradition, with matadors parading in their finest traje de luces outfits - translated aptly as ‘suit of lights’.
Clothes are a crucial part of the Feria, with many visitors coming just to see the colour and frills of flamenco dresses donned through six days of celebrations. You’ll almost certainly see the dresses in action as men and women take to the floor to perform organised and impromptu Sevillanas dancing, a type of flamenco music and dance specific to the Seville region.
For the full authentic experience ensure your Feria is fuelled with a glass or more of rebujito, a sweet but powerful drink made by mixing sherry and lemonade and when it’s time to eat, among the feast of tapas available make sure you try pescaito frito, a regional dish of assorted fried seafood, and a plate of solomillo al whiskey, pork cooked in whiskey!
While the Feria de Abril is reason enough to go to Seville, there are other advantages to visiting the city in spring, not least the famously sweet sight and smell of the orange trees scattered around this beautiful city. May is also one of the better months for weather as the summer in Seville can prove too hot for some. For this reason, May is a great time to explore the many miles of bike lanes that have made Seville one of Spain’s best cycling cities; hop on a Sevici bike, the public bike scheme that visitors can use too with trips of under 30 minutes being free. Enjoy the calm of a lazy bike ride along the banks of the GuadalquivirRiver before heading to the Feria for an evening overdose of colour, light and music.
Have you ever been to the Feria de Abril in Seville?
Ah Andalucía, you had me at “hola”. Your late summer sun, your all-year colour and warmth, your traditions, your food and your ferias. Oh, yes las ferias. Throughout the year, this region of Spain, rich in culture, history and holidaymaking opportunities, celebrates a number of ferias. It’s a little tricky to translate feria accurately; the most literal translation is “fair”, but you only have to witness a feria in Andalucía to see that it means much more. Part-festival, part-carnival and huge part-party, it is more difficult for visitors to avoid the ferias of Andalucía than it is for you to stumble upon one.
Feria de Abril in Seville
The Feria de Abril in Seville kicks off a long summer of festivities in Andalucía. A large festival which takes over the Los Remedios area of Seville, expect to see women wearing flamenco frilled dresses, colourful decorations lining the streets and many fairground style attractions as well as rows and rows of “casetas” – special makeshift house-tents and marquees set up for socialising – though be aware that many are private and invitation only. This feria began not as a religious festival but because back in the 1840s two local businessmen decided the city of Seville deserved three days of fun and entertainment centred around a livestock meeting during which nearby residents gathered. Apparently, it took them quite a while to convince the mayor, but the fact that the feria grows each year should suggest that they were right to do so.
The Horse Fair in Jerez
credit: Dominic’s pics
Jerez’s Feria de Caballo is a highlight of the international equestrian calendar, but is still a spectacle to see for non-horsey types. Andalucía is fiercely proud of its history raising some of the world’s finest performing horses and this is the place to watch the famous caballo andaluz while also enjoying flamenco dancing and of course, tasting the “fino” sherry that the region is famous for.
Summer Feria in Malaga
At the end of August the people of Malaga face the heat head on and get their castanets out for a festival full of fireworks and flamenco dancing that lasts ten whole days. The celebrations mark the city being re-conquered by the Spanish back in 1487 and tourists are warmly encouraged to join in with dancing and celebrating along the city’s main street, Marques de Larios.
Summer Feria in Mijas
credit: Family in Spain
Moving away from the bigger cities and to the quaint and traditional town of Mijas, September sees locals celebrate their own feria. Incorporating many of the same elements - live music and dancing on the street, traditional dress and the streets being lit with lanterns – the feria at Mijas is one for photographers and those seeking a traditional Andalucian backdrop thanks to Pueblo Mijas’ reputation as “the white village of Andalucía” and also its proximity to some beautiful beaches.
Have you ever been to Andalucía during feria-season? What was your experience?
Featured image by jl. cernadas
It’s a funny thing. Love, the most inconvenient and unpredictable of all emotions, is neatly celebrated once a year on Valentine’s Day. Because of course that’s the day the world at large feels romantic. Apparently every single one of us wakes up on the 14th of February with nothing on our minds but roses and hearts and kittens and chocolate and strangely inflammable looking lingerie. Well here’s a handy Valentine’s Day tip: ‘if it’s supposed to be romantic, it probably isn’t’.
Romance is imaginative, sincere, memorable, unexpected – not rings in pudding, that’s just silly and dangerous. Romance isn’t about a gesture or a day, it’s a shared experience that no one else can have in quite the same way.
So in the true spirit of romance we’re leaving Valentine’s Day to the Divine Order of Retailers and laying claim to the rest of the year instead.
Romance is wherever you happen to be. By yoga – photowork.
Giudecca Island, Venice
When it comes to romantic experiences that just aren’t, The Gondola has to be right up there with a carriage ride round Central Park. We defy you to find a pic. (not posed by models) where the ‘happy couple’ don’t look as if they’re thinking, ‘Please Venice sink faster and take us with you’?
True romantics catch a vaporetto and cross the lagoon to Giudecca Island. Giudecca is the best place to see an uninterrupted panoramic view of St. Marks, its breathtaking Campanile and the skyline of Venice itself. The island’s also home to the world famous Hotel Cipriani and, since you saved a fortune foregoing a gondola, you could afford a cocktail and the pleasure of the hotel’s seductively beautiful gardens.
Hotel Cipriani, Venice. By sabinaharlacz.
The Giant Pandas, Edinburgh
We can’t vouch for any romantic entanglement between Tian Tian and Yang Guang themselves as yet, but we can tell you that Edinburgh’s Giant Pandas are now so popular with everyone else you need to book a time to see them. Good news is you don’t pay extra and you can choose your 20 minute Panda Experience time slot on-line and print your pass. Plus you’ve got the rest of one of the world’s best zoos to enjoy while you’re waiting.
Tian Tian. By afcone.
La Musée de la Vie Romantique, Paris
If anything can kill the spirit of romance quicker than a sweltering summer afternoon spent creeping along in a queue at the base of the Eiffel Tower, we’d love to know.
You’ll find us at 16 Rue Chapital, at the foot of Montmartre hill, taking tea in the garden of La Musée de la Vie Romantique. Once famous for its Friday evening salons where Chopin, Delacroix, Georges Sands, Ingres and even Charles Dickens were guests, 16 Rue Chapital is one of only three Literary Museums in Paris. Small (by Louvre standards) the museum is like a perfectly imagined Parisian home filled with eccentric and intriguing art and ephemera where you can wander around for free any day of the week – except Monday.
La Musée de la Vie Romantique. By eraritjaritjaka.
Orange Blossom, Seville
In spring the streets of Seville are filled with the scent of oranges and orange blossom. It’s not too hot just warm and pleasant. And the streets aren’t crowded with tourists ticking one after another of the city’s Moorish masterpieces off the ‘Must See’ list. If you want to make Seville the setting for your own particular romance, Spring is definitely the time to do it.
Orange lined street. By Simon & Vicki.
Vienna On Ice
When it comes to romance Vienna doesn’t make such a song and dance about things as Paris. It’s quite happy to let the city speak for itself. This is where the waltz was born, home to Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’, chocolate cake is considered part of a balanced diet and just about everyone looks confident, happy and almost unreasonably attractive.
Plus, every winter from January to March the kindly Viennese freeze large parts of the city to let you, and your love, skate. So if you want to leap and whirl or just stumble about try the grand rink in front of Vienna City Hall. Take to the frozen paths of City Hall Park. Go classical at the Wilhelminenberg Palace. Or join everyone else on Friday night for in-line skating – we think you may need to practice this first. It’s outdoors, very Viennese and who doesn’t look desirable in a beanie?
Skating on the Danube. By trbuh.
Wild and Wanton Winter Beaches, Cornwall
We’re the first to admit to a bit of a winter crush on wild British beaches. The weather doesn’t matter because it’s not August so we don’t (foolishly) expect too much sun. And crashing surf make us feel rugged and explorer like.
From windswept Godrevy on the North Coast to the gentler sweep of Praa Sands in the South, Cornwall does beaches – lots of them. And, as an added bonus, almost every Cornish beach comes with a cosy pub not too far away. So once you’ve braved the elements, faced down your fears and made it back from the wild, you can cuddle up and have tea.
Fresh, clear and cold. By grakki.
Night and Day Amsterdam
It doesn’t really matter what they’re showing at Amsterdam’s Theatre Tuschinski book a Love Seat. Then sit back with some food and wine and enjoy the old fashioned romance of this wonderfully grand and eccentric Art Deco cinema.
A Saturday picnic is a bit of a tradition and the best place to pick up supplies is De Negen Straatjes, the city’s irresistible shopping district. Just a short walk from Dam Square and spread out over the network of 17th century canals, De Negen Straatjes is where the very tall, very elegant and very charming citizens of Amsterdam gather at the weekend to make the rest of us feel like a sub-species. For your picnic spot choose nearby Vondel Park; sitting on the grass, holding hands and looking picturesque is almost the law here.
Tuschinski Theatre, Amsterdam. By Kees van Mansom.
Birthplace of Aphrodite, Paphos is known for beaches, glorious weather, secluded swimming coves and wonderful walks. What better way to worship the Greek Goddess of Love’s bounty than by making the most of her home town? Best time to visit is Autumn or Spring when the Mediterranean climate is only perfect for cycle rides, lazing in the sea, long picnic lunches and touring the Temples.
Cyprus sunsets. By sweenpole2001.
Horseshoe Bar, The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin
The most famous thing about Dublin’s most famous hotel is the iconic Horseshoe Bar. Name checked no less than four times in James Joyce’s Ulysses, just having a drink here gives romance a glamorously louche and Worldly edge.
Horseshoe Bar. By aj842.
A Moment in Barcelona
At about half past seven on a late summer’s evening the crowds, queues and postcard sellers have moved on, La Sagrada Familia is silent and Barcelona is in between day and night. There’s a little park just opposite the Cathedral where you can sit and have a glass of wine in the last warmth of the sun. The Passion Façade is yours alone for just that very brief time. It’s an almost perfect moment.
The Last Supper, The Passion Facade, La Sagrada Familia. By bobcat rock.
Happy Valentine’s Day – and the rest!
There are many good things about a brand new year. It gives you a chance to wear your new Christmas socks, the opportunity to write a list of resolutions you will enjoy mostly ignoring, and an occasion to start planning a fun in the sun holiday for you and the family for the coming summer. While we doubt you need help putting your socks on, and we probably couldn’t help you keep any New Year resolutions (unless they are to visit somewhere new), we can help you consider some warm and exciting holiday destinations for when the sun rears its shiny head.
Here are our top recommendations for family fun in Spain this summer.
Valencia has to be one of Spain’s best locations for satisfying children of all ages while keeping the adults entertained too. It doesn’t suffer from the intense heat of the south of Spain. The relative cool of the Valencian region and city is thanks to the welcoming sea breeze blowing in from the nearby Balearic Sea. In addition to the nearby beach – voted one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 City Beaches – the city has the BioParc Zoo, and many interesting sights inside the striking City of Arts and Science such as an open-air oceanographic park, brilliantly set up to be explored by bike.
City of Arts & Science © JosSoria
Once just a run-down coastal town with plenty of history, but perhaps not enough beauty to entice holidaymakers, Alicante has undergone something of a facelift over the past decade. You could now mistake its luxurious expansive marina and elegant waterfront promenades as distant cousins of those found in Nice or Monaco. The old town remains quaint and quirky, with narrow hilly streets full of lively family-friendly restaurants. And a walk up to the Castillo de Santa Barbara is rewarded with some stunning views. For a history lesson you should head out to explore the Roman ruins at the nearby town of . For some added culture you could easily spend a few hours in the Museu de Fogueres – which explains the local Fiesta de Saint Joan that revolves around costumes and fire – or the Museo de Bellas Artes Gravina, a collection of fine art housed in a beautiful 18th century villa and its grounds.
Playa de San Juan © César Poyatos
Elaborate architecture, guaranteed sunshine, one of the largest churches in the world and all situated in the heart of Andalucía, Seville has much to offer those in search of summer culture. But what about fun, particularly for the little ones? A day at nearby Isla Magica should keep them smiling for a while and it’s not unheard of for adults to enjoy this colourful theme park too. A Sevilla Card gets you free admission to Isla Magica, most of the city’s museums (a popular one with visitors is the Flamenco Museum) and also includes a trip on most public transport and cruises on the Guadalquivir River. Refuel your family with some of the local tapas dishes that the region is so fiercely proud of.
Isla Magica © Mario Seekr
Southern Spain’s gateway to the Costa del Sol, Malaga is in an area that provides exactly what the name says it will – miles of beaches and long sunny summers. But beaches can only keep you entertained for so long, which is good news because Malaga has many more ways to keep families entertained. Discover how locals live, eat and shop by visiting the lively Atarazanas market; open every morning except Sundays. Then burn off the olives, ham and cheese you may have nibbled on by walking up to the Alcazaba fortress looming over Malaga, where you can easily convince your kids they’re lost in a small jungle when they enter the tropical garden grounds.
Malaga beach © MarkyBon
Foreign visitors for the beaches closer to Barcelona often overlook one of Catalonia’s almost secret destinations, Salou. Yet this town on the Costa Dorada has been keeping Spanish holidaymakers happy for a long time. Once a Greek and Roman port, it’s now well set up to keep families entertained, with the nearby Port Aventura theme park, traditional fishing villages to go back in time, Go Karting Tracks and even Jeep Safari tours available to those who think relaxing is too dull. Of course, we think there’s nothing wrong with relaxing, and beaches along the Golden Coast welcome the dull and adventurous just as warmly. It’s also worth letting the kids stay up after a Catalan dinner to see Font Illumina all lit up on the Jaume I Promenade. Pure magic!
Cybernetic fountains, Salou © Joaquim F. P.
A good idea when planning a trip to Spain in the summer is finding out when a family friendly fiesta is taking place. So if running with the bulls or being in the world’s largest tomato fight is a bit too much excitement for your young ones, consider the fact that almost every single city, town, hamlet and village in all of Spain celebrates at least one major fiesta in the summer time. Olé!
First image © oooh.oooh