What does my head in about the Feria in Sevilla…

The longer I stay in Sevilla, the more I realise what the city is really like. Don’t get me wrong, Sevilla is a great place to live, but over time, like any city I guess, I’ve started to wonder if I really belong here. In my previous blog I made it quite clear that I’m more of a Semana Santa type of guy, and even though I think the Feria is a great festival, there are a few things that do my head in. I can manage one afternoon and evening at the Feria tops, any more then I’d just end up fuming inside. But why, what is it that bugs me about the Feria?

Sevillanas

Dancing Sevillanas… Photo by Tom Raftery

The repetitive music

I love music, and I’m a fan of Spanish music. They have some great artists and I rarely have to turn the radio station over, unless I’m listening to Copla. I particularly enjoy listening to flamenco, which is why my novel is connected with it, but I couldn’t listen to it all damn week.

The problem with the Feria is that in the casetas all they play is Sevillanas. It’s the constant ring ting ting ting ting, ring ting ting ting ting that gets on my goat, and the tick tick tick, tick tick tick of the castanets that peck at my head like a woodpecker on speed.

If you have spotify, then type in Sevillanas and scroll down the songs and play the first 10 seconds of each one you’ll see they are all the same. I don’t know how the locals know which one is their favourite because they are all identical.

It might be bearable if they had some mini breaks where they threw in the odd pop song, or even a corny ballad at the end of the night, but that’s tricky I guess, because there is never an official end.

Extortionate prices

Being an English teacher isn’t the best paid job in the world, so money is always tight over here. Even if I loved the Feria, I’d probably have to get out a small loan to be able to afford going every day.

“You’ll never guess how much a jug of rebujito was at the Feria,” “And a plate of jamon, it’s a joke!” tend to be the reoccurring comments once it’s over.

It always astonishes me how Sevillanos manage to go to the Feria all week. The cost is tremendous. Typical prices include the following:

Entertainment

Flamenco dress: €100-€1,500

Hire a horse and carriage to get there: €100-150

8 different rides on Hell Street: €30-€60

Ticket for the caseta: €50-200 for the week.

Food

Plate of jamon: €8-16

Tortilla de patatas: €5-10

Torilla de camarones: €4-6

Plate of calamares, cazon adobo, gambas: €6-12

Plata of cold meats (chancinas): €8-12

Salmorejo / gazpacho: €3-5

Drinks

Beers: €1.50-3

Jug of rebujito: €8-12

Mini bottle of manzanilla: €5-8

Glass of wine: €1.50-3

Bottle of wine: €8-20

So depending on how you want to party it up you can spend between €30 and €500 a day, not including the dress. This is just your average Sevillano, what about the owners of the casetas?

Apparently it can cost up to €18,000 for a medium sized caseta, and between €6,000 and £9,000 for a smaller one of 70M2. That’s not including costs of security, €350 per day, a flamenco band, €3,000 for the week, plus about €1,000 to the government for the license. So that’s why it’s such a big deal, 1,000 casetas x €1,000 makes a tidy sum of €1,000,000 for the lovely government. I wonder where that goes…

I’m guessing the caseta owners make some profit, but I’m not sure because I know they have to pay for their own food and drinks. The mind boggles. A holiday abroad would do me fine thanks.

Typical scene from the Feria de Abril in Seville

Knights in shining armour Photo by Tom Raftery

The essence of the Feria

Let’s be honest, the Feria is mainly for the wealthier members of Sevilla’s elite society. Those who can afford to hire a horse and carriage for a week, splash out on eating plates of jamon until their fingers become sticky and grimy, and have a different flamenco dress for each day of the week.

The Feria is all about ‘el presumir’ – showing off. It’s about who has the most expensive suit or dress or the most slick hair cut, and who can arrive in the carriage on the shiniest horse with the jingliest bells. As you walk about you can see how arrogant some people are, how they just have to show their face at the Feria, to let the world know they are there and they have money. It would be interesting to know how much of the money is actually theirs though, and how much of it they will be paying back over the year on a loan.

For the average Pepe Bloggs, if you don’t know anyone who owns a caseta then you have to go to the public ones, which are normally full of drunken louts, nutters, and niñatos (chavs). They are not very well kept, and fights often break out in the early hours of the morning. Not to mention the annoying guiris who steal the bands drums. 

The contradiction

The atmosphere is completely different in each festival and normally you are either a Semana Santa fan, or a Feria one. But there are the few people who are both. One minute they are a religious believer, being kind to others, remembering their morals, and doing a penitence for their own personal reasons. Then, two weeks later, they are going out getting battered, causing havoc, being rude, getting into fights and generally going mental.

Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly, but you get the picture. Officially the Feria is always two weeks after Semana Santa to give people enough time to reflect before the fun and games begin. But from what I see, as soon as Semana Santa has finished everyone goes on a high waiting for the madness to commence; happy that they have cleansed their souls and can let off some steam.

So yeah, one afternoon and possibly a night (if we can get a babysitter) is plenty for me per year. What about you? Are you a Feria fan? Have you ever been to the Feria in Sevilla, or any others in Spain?

23 thoughts on “What does my head in about the Feria in Sevilla…

  1. I totally agree, Barry. I don’t like Semana Santa at all but love Feria, however not the feria in Seville. I think everyone should experience it a few times but for me after the first couple of years the shine wore off and I started to see it in a different light. I would recommend visiting the ferias in the pueblos as they are totally different and a lot more enjoyable. Here in Mairena del Alcor, which incidentally has the very first feria of the year, it’s much more relaxed, friendly, open and of course, much cheaper than Seville. I always think the feria in Seville is quite clasista – everyone’s either posh or a chav – but here it has much more of a family atmosphere with the rides and attractions actually ridden by the local children rather than obnoxious teenagers and adults. It’s not very big but to be fair once you’ve been in one caseta playing sevillanas you been in them all. Also, there’s no security or heavy-handed bouncers so very few casetas are exclusive and even though the majority are public, as it’s a small town there’s very little drunken loutishness… apart from us Brits of course 🙂

    1. Ah, Mr Ian, great to hear from you mate. I thought you used to be big on the Feria, sure I saw you a few times dancing Sevillanas in class. Sounds like the Feria in Mairena is more my type of party too, not so pompous. When does it fall? Sure you were involved in the loutishness haha. Hope all is well mate, take it easy.

  2. It’s our feria weekend here too…I expect we will wander down and see what is happening, meant to be some flamenco tomorrow afternoon and of course, ‘pack the mule with cork and lead it round a course’ and win a prize is always popular. It’s always a nice, holiday atmosphere here so we can put up with the loud music for a few days 🙂

    1. So did you go down in the end? ‘Pack the mule’ sounds interesting, what do they pack it with? Sounds as if the town Ferias are much more fun and welcoming than the ones in Sevilla.

      1. Yes, went down both days – the pack the mule is a competition to load your mule with cork and then lead it around a course…money to be won! So you didn’t see my dancing ladies at the feria picture, then…?! 😉

  3. Just read your feria blog and very much echos my thoughts. I often feel bad for being critical of it but then think about how self obsessed the typical sevillanos are and how in their closed minded opinion it is the best festival in the world and this allows me a bit of poetic license. It is a spectacular event but for me it’s the monotony and the arrogant pomposity that most get my goat. A bit like if I went to The Henley Regatta. The difference being the people at Henley probably do have the wealth that they portray.

    1. Thanks for writing Hootie. Yeah I know what you mean about being critical, but sometimes it’s necessary, and fun. Yeah it gets on my goat too…glad that part of the year has drifted by…

  4. As always enjoyed the read very much. I have always wanted to attend this feria and plan to do so eventually. As I try to discern a long term future with long term consequences this kind of material in invaluable. I have spent my life dreaming about living in Spain and planning for it. The truth is to that end I have directed all my efforts in one way or another. However I only lasted about a year on my two previous attempts, and yet in spite of that, I am longing and yearning to go back. As I read your work I feel able to factor in your experiences and pay careful heed to your observations and deeply appreciate the chance to do so. I did not understand that there are so many chavs and boneheads in Seville etc. Also the price lists was helpful information especially as i am trying with CELTA and potentially plan to teach English as a means of starting a life albeit in Madrid . Anyway I did enjoy the read as I always enjoy and love your work, but as I ponder the future I am also paying very careful heed to your opinions. I have 17 years of ex pat experience and many many adventures under my belt, but at my stage in life I am looking to settle down and establish roots in a place where I can live a very simple, but still viable life. For as much as I love Spain (in my case Valencia and Madrid) I worry I will go there and leave defeated after a few years of struggle and back to Ireland with my tail between my legs etc.I used to speak near fluent Spanish and now I would be an B2 intermediate level but once again it will never be my native language and I would always be a guiri. I am starting to wonder about the dream versus reality scenario, and I appreciate your input. You did ask me about CELTA and I am exactly at the two week mark. It has been a major struggle thus far, however I am loving the student interaction and I have loved the TP sessions and I love the classroom. So far I am passing the course, but not without the pain of six hours work per night and 12 hour days on the weekends. a huge and major battle looms for another two weeks. Then I visit Dublin for a well earned break and might just drink the town dry. I wish I could be in Seville today , it is lashing rain here, May now and we have had two sunny days since the start of April four sunny days since the year started. Paying 6 euros for a plate of ham seems like a good deal if I get to see the sun a bit more than that. Wish you well as always Barry, and as always it was a real pleasure to read your account from down there. I assume your formative years in North London have prepared you somewhat for dealing with the Seville scangers (irish for chav) and no doubt you are more than able to chat your way around their occasional unwanted assaults as you continue to make their town your own. Thanks for sharing Seville with me ,it helped me to forget the CELTA stress for a nice half hour. I will have to visit the feria and see it for myself, for now I continue my vicarious Spain life through you ! Much respect to you as always !

    1. Haha, great comment. Sure you’re not up for starting your own blog, sounds like you have a loads of stories to tell. So have you finished the CELTA then? I remember those days, lots of planning and late nights and hardly any drinking, not sure how you fit the trips to Dublin in. So glad my DELTA is over now, last year was mental. Glad that my blog is helping you. I guess you never know what a place will be like until you get there, and live there a while. I’m not a massive fan of Sevilla, but try to make the most of it, I’d like to think we’ll settle somewhere near the beach one day, obviously stearing clear of Torremolinos and scangers down there! After all your input on my blog I’ll put you down for a free copy of my novel, whenever I get it finisheed, probably not until next year sometime at this rate. Have seen another comment by you on my jungle blog so chat in a second! Take it easy.

  5. I have never been to the Feria in Sevilla – — but now I want to go just to experience it one time…..I can see your point though if you lived there…..

  6. Good to see you still alive and licking Mr B o Leary, I have trouble leaving comments on your ex pat work, not sure why, perhaps my not having much social media stuff etc Anyway I am able to access what you write that comes out on WordPress so always glad when I see an e mail that starts with a Novel Spain, Sending you the very best as always for all your work and projects and novels and books, keep at it and sooner or later your name be right out there. Un Abrazo

    1. Hey Dood,

      No mention of the dull derby then? For comments on the expat focus blog you need to have a twitter, facebook, or discuss account. How’s life for you at the mo? Have you started teaching yet? Thanks again for leaving, several, comments haha!

  7. furthermore just to clarify I have trouble leaving comments on your ex pat magazine work as opposed to the wordpress/novel spain stuff. Dood I am lame today !

  8. The dull derby passed me by, have been crazy busy , spending a great deal of time down in the Rural west of Ireland, great laid back people wicked pubs and laughs galore, weather is awful but the compensations are many, Life is sweet with me , helping many Spanish people in Belfast on a volunteer basis, making great contacts , mostly people from the Madrid metro area, also some Catalan folks and a few basque doods who seem to love holy Ireland, Yes I did see your ex pat dad article on the ex pat magazine , it was double awesome and simply an outstanding written piece, you just seem to get better and better with each time you write. My attention span and interest in reading has never been weaker, but yet you always capture me and captivate me and relight the flame of literary interest that was always a big part of my life. By a strange twist I am starting to find myself interested in the Seville area, climate wise especially seems to have much to offer. As always sending you a big huge truck load of respect for your work and best wishes for your continued writing , I cannot wait for your novel and for your name to be out there generally, you have the gift and you must keep working it. I hope you will be able to enjoy some good times with your wife and son in the West of Ireland one day, and by the way was over the moon to read number two is on route. I still have no twitter or faceache etc , so I guess I will keep tight with your work on novel Spain and eventually I will join the modern age and be able to comment on your awesome work on the ex pat magazine. Sending you the very very best as always , a wonderful sunny morning here in the Emerlad Isle., Un Saludo .

    1. Indeedy doo. Thanks again for your kind words mate. I’d love to go back to Ireland for a visit. I went to Cork a few years back and had a bawl. Also saw Kerry, and a town where my granddad was from; all the shops had ‘O’LEARY’ in the title which I thought was hilarious. Just sitting watching Mary Poppins while feeding my son fish fingers, great way to spend a Sunday evening, especially after watching Spurs win! Hope all is well mate, keep reading!

      1. Yes man, Cork is the Mac Daddy of all Irish fun, did figure there was at least one Irish grandpa. The Spurs win was not so shabby, figure the O Leary clan more usually with the local nemisis but due to the massive enjoyment gleaned from your literary talent shall pass on potential jibes for that one ha ha. As always loving your work, I get the e mail from the ex pat magazine but have no means to comment or reply etc, so just to say I have always enjoyed your writing on there also and your last about bumping into the butcher baker and candlestick maker about Sevilla was much enjoyed. If not before hope you and your fish finger munching son and the trouble and strife a la sevilla have an amazing Christmas and new year. Fullest of respect to you as always and never get tired of reading your stuff and out there now plugging you to the strange mix of humanity that is the locals here learning Spanish. Hope a few followers will eventually surface from my marketing efforts, mind you the spanish lessons take place in a pub and usually most rat arsed by the time we all leave they might start following that other fella trying to get people to come here and start a business, but hey ho come here and die drinking is what is really gonna happen. Saludos my number one penner of penship.

        1. Haha, you should start a blog, seriously, give it a go man. I’d push your boat out too, of course. Spanish lessons in the pub is the way to go, I learnt mine in cafes, mainly because the trouble and strife didn’t drink, then, she does now thanks to me. Well, not at the moment actually cos expecting the second baby next April, little girly. But yeah I learnt my Spanish writing down vocabulary on the back of those horrible tissues you get over here in the cafes. Been bashing away at the novel but realised is a tad on the serious, dull side, so trying to inject some wit for good fans like yourself! So you got any plans for crimbo? Am back in London for a week to stock up on mince pies and turkey sarnies. Can’t wait. Have a good one!

          1. His Most Royal Bazza Doodness of Seville, only getting about to answering your last , hope you enjoyed your return to Blighty and the big smoke, no doubt some silly buggery was enjoyed to the max down at your local. Hilarious the wife never drank until she married London boy,mind you from a good family London boy(as she does not drink during the pregnancy you say). Seems like you both about to get blessed from the maximum heavens with a wee daughter, you will never be the same again man, sincere best wishes and a big cheer from here , was wonderful news to read. Yes, a bit of fun and a few laughs in your novel will not hurt, I commend your tenacity and courage taking on a project like that. I am back to studying basic Spanish grammar, and also basic English, I realize that I have not studied English for over 30 years and Spanish for more than 20. This is a painful and humbling scenario but before I could perhaps consider a future in Spain more seriously feel there is a huge gap and have started the painful process of filling that. Reading a great deal about Zaragosa, also Gran Canaria has started to appear on the mental map, 95 % of my life here now is with the newly emerging Spanish ex pat crowd, some good times with various doods but mostly Madrilenos and a few Catalans,, still to meet a punter from Seville in the crowd, few from nearby mind you. I Cannot wait for your novel and your more usual posts in the meantime, always a great pleasure to read your work and enjoy your writing. Take good care yourself and the sheila and the wee an soon to be wee ans in April. ! .

          2. Can it be true? Somehow your comment slipped through the cyberspace and decided to hide from my googley eyes until now…Thanks for your kind words again, even though I shouldn’t really be talking to an Arsenal fan as it seems you have done it again already, pipped us to the higher positions in life. Nemind, next year as always. Yeah not long now till babba numero 2 is out in the world, no doubt screaming and keeping her Daddy occupied in the early hours of the morning, can’t wait to meet her, but also a tad scared of managing two! Great to see you are reading more about España, and also studying English, how do you go about that? Funny to think you are surrounded by Spanish expats, do they meet up for coffee, or pints? Anyways, got an early class, chat soon my friend!

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