It’s that time of the year again when I get out my horseman’s suit, dust off the hat, and polish up my shoes ready for the Feria in Sevilla. I’m only messing, I wouldn’t be seen dead in one of those shiny grey suits and poncy hats the Sevillanos wear while they totter about on their horses with a glass of manzanilla sherry, but that’s mainly because I don’t own, and can’t ride, a horse.
The mighty Feria in Sevilla starts up next week, officially at midnight on Monday with the pescaito (fried fish night). Sevillanos remortgage their houses so they can spend a week eating, drinking and prancing about dancing Sevillanas on unstable wooden stages.
Can you sense that I’m not a Feria kind of guy? I’m more of a Semana Santa man. I probably would have been a fan back in my early twenties when I was young, free and single. Sure I will be again once my boy is old enough to drag me on the intense rides on Hell Street. I do try to see the positive aspects in most things though, so here are a few reasons why you should get out a loan from the bank this week and attend the Feria de Sevilla!
Get smashed and make a fool of yourself
Most long-term Sevilla expats have stories of when they got stupidly drunk on rebujito (a mix of lemonade and manzanilla – sweet sherry) and did something embarrassing at the Feria. Mine happened eight years ago on my first outing.
“Be careful of rebujito,” one student told me. “It is a dangerous drink, you think you are not drunk, but really you are.” As a stubborn British man I laughed him off.
“Sure, sure, I can handle my drink,” I said.
That year my sister was over with her boyfriend (at the time, now happily married) so I was on even more of a high. We went round to have lunch with my girlfriend (at the time, now also happily married) at her folks and they put on an amazing spread of jamon, prawns, and tortilla de patatas.
Manzanilla was flying about, so by the time I got to the Feria I’d already had a skinfull. We started in a public caseta where my girlfriend’s mum decided to teach me how to dance Sevillanas. I thought it was quite easy to pick up, but so does everyone after rebujito.
Then we went to a private caseta owned by friends of the family, and also my girlfriend’s boss. That’s when it went downhill. I don’t actually remember, but my brother-in-law always finds it funny bringing up the story of when I grabbed one of the drums and decided to play my own version of Sevillanas, which was more like Wonderwall.
The cloud of rebujito ensured that I ignored my girlfriend’s commands to stop smashing the drum, and ruining the occasion for everyone. I had an awful hangover the next day, added with the guilt of embarrassing my girlfriend, was enough to scare me off drinking so much rebujito again.
So if you’re looking for a place to get blind drunk and make a fool of yourself then the Feria is the perfect place, don’t worry though, you won’t be the only one.
The atmosphere at the Feria is unique. The build up really starts once Semana Santa has finished and the whole city goes crazy in preparation for the event. Locals set up random churros stands in various corners round the city, supermarkets stock up on manzanilla, and queues begin to form outside flamenco dress shops.
I’ve never actually attended, but the opening night, el pescaito, looks like a laugh. A massive crowd forms under the main gate and everyone chomps on battered fish waiting for the main gate to light up and fireworks to shoot into the sky.
To give you an idea of the size of the event, there are over 1,000 casetas – stalls – spread over 15 streets in an area of 1,200,000 M2 round the back of Los Remedios. Each caseta has its own colour – normally red and white, green and white, or blue and white, and they all seem to compete for who can blast out Sevillanas the loudest. Add in the constant singing and shouting then you can imagine how noisy it is.
The number of different styles of flamenco dresses always amazes me. Each woman seems to have a different coloured dress with a unique style. They are really colourful and add to the atmosphere. They are bloody expensive though. You can get a cheap one from about €100, but the most glamorous ones can fetch in the region of €1,000 plus.
Most guys dress up in trousers and shirts, but you do get the odd plank who goes the whole shebang and wears a tight fitting suit with hat, some even have spurs on their crocodile skinned cowboy boots.
During the day it’s quite chilled out and a family occasion, but at night it’s a great party atmosphere.
Sevillano kids and teenagers are damn lucky. When I was their age, the only fair I got was the local one in Pinner where the most exciting ride was ‘the eggs’, which normally turned me green after my fifth go. La Calle de Inferno, or Hell Street, is a must see. It’s spread over an area of 300,000 M2 with about 100 rides and you can have a lot of fun.
Each ride costs between €2-€7, depending on the fright factor. Some are absolutely mental, and if you like the buzz of whizzing through the air at crazy speeds then there are some really cool rides. There are less manic ones too. My favourite is the Frog, which bounces up and down while it rotates. You can have a go on the bumper cars, ride a pony, and even take home a contaminated goldfish if you fancy.
Queues for the rides can get enormous though and for the main ones you can wait for up to 30 minutes, best time to go is in the day. Some rides are also half price on the first Sunday before the official opening.
Dance and be merry
If you like dancing and having a laugh then it’s a great festival. I’m no expert, but Sevillanas is quite easy to pick up. There are only about four different moves and if you have a decent teacher then you can normally have a bash without feeling too embarrassed.
If you don’t know anyone who has a caseta then you can attend the public ones, click here for a list.
It’s a brilliant chance to get to practise your Spanish too as after a few rebujitos everyone is up for a chat and a laugh. Who knows, you might even meet your future partner?
As I said before though, I’m not a massive Feria kind of guy, so my next blog will be about why it does my head in.