La Feria de Abril

Ommgggg. If you follow me on Snapchat, Insta, or Facebook, you have probably already seen my obsession and infatuation with La Feria de Abril. I couldn't get enough of it! A lot of people have been asking me where and why I was wearing such an extravagant, voluminous dress. Let me explain...

The Feria is a week long celebration that takes place every year, two weeks after Semana Santa. It's located a little outside of the city's center on a huge 24-block lot called the Real de la Feria, which is reserved solely for this week's events. Within the grounds there are streets lined with casetas, horse-drawn carriages, lots of dancing, live music, and a huge area with fair rides and attractions. The casetas are little buildings that are owned by families, groups of friends, or social clubs. Each of them has a bar where you can order food and drinks, a sitting area that turns into a dance floor, a working bathroom (remember this is only used for 7 days out of the year!) and usually a bouncer. The casetas are mostly private, so an invitation is necessary. The main entrance of the Feria, or la portada, is designed and constructed differently each year, and is a popular meeting point for friends and family. 

The first Monday is called el pescaito because friends and family get together for a dinner which consists mostly of fried fish and tapas. And at midnight on this same night, the whole portada lights up, the crowd cheers, and the party starts. This event is called el alumbrao (in Andalusian Spanish) which means the lighting. This night is the most casual, as people don't start wearing their Flamenco attire until Tuesday. 

The next day the real fun begins! Everyone arrives to the Feria dressed to the nines. Ladies in traditional trajes de flamenca and gentleman in suits and ties. The dresses are absolutely stunning and come in all different colors, patterns and styles. They are also so unbelievably tight that sitting down, breathing, and eating are all daunting tasks. The first night I made the terrible mistake of putting on my dress before putting on my shoes. I was all zipped up, feeling accomplished and when I went down to put on my wedges, my dress tightened in all the wrong places and I thought I was going to rip it up the seam. I physically couldn't reach my feet. I fell onto my bed in defeat, dying laughing by myself at how ridiculous I must have looked. The dress works kind of like one of those Chinese finger traps- the more you fight it, the tighter it gets. Anyways, I ended up taking the whole thing off, putting on my shoes, and starting over again. Fun fact: They actually have a seamstress at the Feria in case you forget how daintily you need to move around and have a little accident.

The shawl I wore is called a mantonsillo and some of them were sooo gorgeous- made of silk, velvet, and intricately embroidered. Huge hoop earrings are all the rage, as well as a big fake flower plopped right on top of your head. I did the flower on top one night, but the rest of the days it was off to the side or mixed with other flowers a lá Lana del Rey. I had too. A huge faux pas is to wear your hair down. If you want to be a true flamenca, your hair is up off your shoulders and usually pulled into a pretty up-do. Also, no one brings a purse. Underneath all the fluffy ruffles of your dress is a little pocket to store your essentials- cash, keys, lipstick.

The streets within in the grounds are all named after famous Spanish bullfighters (Juan Belmonte, Bombita, etc) and there are bullfights in the Plaza de Toros back in the city center every day of the Feria. It's common for the Spanish elite to go watch a bullfight, then hop in a super elegant coche de caballo (horse drawn carriage) and take it to the portada. During the day the streets are filled with people riding horses, whether they are pulling a carriage, or riding solo. Some of the ladies will even ride sidesaddle. The main drink of choice is called a rebujito, which is a mixture of manzanilla (a variety of sherry) and Sprite. It's dangerously refreshing. People eat tapas for lunch and dinner (obviously) and usually end the night with churros con chocolate (because every good night ends that way). Dancing is also a huge component of the Feria. Everyone is dancing sevillanas, which was influenced by Flamenco, but is unique to Sevilla. It is a four part dance with fancy hand movements and lots of twirls and turns. It's beautiful to watch, especially in the trajes de flamenca

Feria was one of the most incredible cultural experiences I have gotten to enjoy here in Sevilla. I was lucky enough to wear two traditional dresses, be invited to numerous casetas with close friends, see the events during both the daytime and at nighttime, and dance sevillanas (terribly). ¡Qué experiencia tan asombrosa! Until next time... 

Xx Un besito

New Year in a New City

Experiencing the holidays in Sevilla has been a blessing. I feel like I have had such an authentic Spanish celebration and my love for the culture, the people, and the way of life here has grown exponentially. I was obsessed with the Christmas spirit in Sevilla. From the smell of roasting chestnuts in the air on my way to work, to the floor-length fur coats that the elderly ladies donned while shopping in the center, to the lights that illuminated the city... I loved it all.

I was lucky enough to spend Christmas morning with my family in Paris (which was also sparkling, as to be expected), so my holiday celebrations in Sevilla were put on hold until New Years Eve or Noche Vieja. This was my favorite night in Spain. Ever. 

My friend Laura and her family have been so gracious to me throughout my time here. Whether it's meeting for a quick merienda (snack) in the evening or going to a traditional theater performance across town, they always extend an invitation. NYE was no exception! I joined her whole family (cousins, aunts, uncles, grandma) for their festivities in a town outside Sevilla called Montequinto.

We all sat around the table and ate traditional Spanish cuisine. Plates of cured meats and cheeses, little tapas of ensaladilla rusa with olives, picos which are crackers that are served with every meal, and shrimp. The Spaniards love shrimp, but not quite the way we love do. I'm hoping you can tell from my photo how different these shrimp are. I've tried them before and one after one little bite I realized they were not my cup of tea. Anyways, since I was not eating the shrimp and was also sitting across from Laura's grandmother... I guilt-ate about a half a plate of jamón. She kept insisting I was not full by putting more on my plate and honestly who denies a Spanish grandma??

The Spanish equivalent to "Dick Clark's Rockin' NYE" was playing on the TV in the background during dinner. If a great song came on the program, the family would sing along and watch the clip, otherwise it was just used as a time-checker. The main event of NYE in Spain is eating the uvas (grapes). The last twelve seconds of the year are counted down and with each "donggg!" of the bell tower, a grape is eaten. It started awhile back when grape growers experienced a surplus of product and now it is meant to bring luck and prosperity throughout the year!

So the grapes were the talk of the night and everyone was preparing and exciting me about this authentic Spanish tradition. But things went awry...

We were all prepared with our grape filled champagne glasses with about a minute left of 2014. We were watching the TV program when BOOM- It glitched and cut to commercial! Everyone was like... WTF?! Puzzled and anxious faces filled the room. Then it glitched back for a second and we heard/saw that the countdown had begun! We were all confused... Should we start eat them? Is it really counting down? WHAT TIME IS IT?! Laura's mom was not going to risk it.  From across the room she shouted "Corre, corre!!!" (Run, run, hurry!) and began popping the grapes into her mouth like her life depended on it. When we finally we found another TV program there was only one second left on the countdown. I started shoveling the grapes into my mouth but at this point Laura and I are laughing so hard because of what a #fail this was that I could barely keep them down. I was choking to death on my grapes. So was she. Laughing and choking and eventually crying. Crying out of laughter and because I literally could not breathe. You could not have scripted something more entertaining-- I am so glad we missed it.

After dinner Lau and I went out to a disco and danced until the wee hours. Everyone was dressed to the nines; most of the boys were in suits and ties and the girls were just glammed up like always. I couldn't get over how different NYE was here as compared to the States. Normally midnight is the peak of the celebration, drinks have been flowing for hours, and the night is on it's way to a close. Not here. I was getting home around the same time you were saying hello to 2015. 

Un besito X