Ahhh, Sevilla’s Feria de Abril – flamenco-style dresses, rebujitos, parties, the smell of orange blossoms, bright colors, and sunshine….all in the beautiful Andalusian capital. That’s how I was looking forward to spending a long weekend. Ever since I first went to study in Sevilla in the fall of 2009, people have been raving to me about the gorgeous Feria de Abril. But it didn’t quite live up to what I was hoping for.
(Note: I’ve put in a slideshow with a few more photos at the end, and there’ll be more coming soon!)
By far the most fun part of the Feria for me was looking at all the fun flamenco-style outfits. The women all wore brightly colored flouncy dresses that made even the skinniest, boniest girls look like Jennifer Lopez’s body doubles. From my limited experience dressing up for fancy events in the U.S., all the girls want to look slimmer. But Andalucian women were happy to flaunt their curves in these tight-fitting dresses.
Little girls were often dressed identically to their moms. There was even a family with three girls who all matched their mom exactly, right down to the fancy earrings.
Hidden under all those flounces, though, is a secret. Notice how none of the women are carrying bags? It’s not because they left them inside, or put them down for the photo. They have pockets hidden under the ruffles! I was shocked when I saw a friend pull up layer after layer of volantes to reveal two zippered compartments.
The men wore mostly suits, although some of them wore more traditional short jackets and pants. There were way more little boys wearing these than adult men.
The men’s clothing for Feria is not super interesting – they are most definitely the final accessories to the women, who look like colorful flowers in their outfits.
The horses get dressed up too, and are decorated with pom poms, flowers, and bells so they look picture-perfect to drag people around the fairgrounds in yellow or red-wheeled carriages all day. They looked pretty, but it must be annoying to have to walk around jingling all day.
Now, onto all those striped tents lining the streets – the casetas, elaborate private tents set up all around the fair. I was lucky enough to get into a few nice casetas, including one that had a view of the glittering portada and Caja Sol’s prize-winning one.They are very pretty inside, and it’s stunning what they can do with a tent. Some casetas looked like full-on restaurants inside, and you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference just from a photo.
At the back of the Feria, there’s a giant carnival on the Calle del Infierno (Hell Street). It was so, so weird to see the people in their old-fashioned outfits whizzing around on very modern rides that turn you upside down before shooting you up 300 feet into the sky.
The thing to do was to jump from caseta to caseta, finding friends and family inside and sitting down for a drink and something to snack on. The drink of choice is the rebujito – manzanilla wine with lemony soda – that you drink out of tiny glasses about the height of my index finger. (This was an initial disappointment, until I realized you got to drink lots of tiny glassfuls). The food was delicious, though maybe my standards for “delicious tapas” are not as high as an Andaluz’s.
Most casetas also had a big dance floor for people to show off their dancing skills, and some even had live music. The sevillianas look really complicated to dance, but everyone swore to me they weren’t that tricky once you knew the secret. An auntie took me aside and helped me with the steps. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but it was fun to try (and the rebujito had kindly disabled whatever brain structures are responsible for embarrassment).
The music was all traditional until about 3 a.m, when the DJs gave up on the soulful flamenco numbers and put on David Guetta. Most of the younger Feria-goers were pleased with this development. Even a girl with a broken foot wearing a gorgeous blue flowery traje de flamenca pulled out her crutches to get up and dance until the sun came up.
This all sounds great. So why didn’t Sevilla’s Feria de Abril live up to my expectations? Basically, it’s a very traditional event. This has some fun aspects, but also means there are some pretty not fun outdated attitudes involved.I’ll post about it in some more detail in Part 2, with lots more fun Feria pictures!