The scent of orange blossoms permeates the air. Faint traces of flamenco guitar can be heard from all corners of the city and beautiful women walk past in their “faralaes” (traditional flamenco-style dresses) that swish with every sway of their hips. Proud young men saunter after them in their “trajes cortos” (Andalusian horsemen’s outfits) complete with wide-brimmed hats and riding boots.
Spain is an exciting country to be in at any time of year and the Andalusian city of Seville is one of the liveliest places of all. In spring however, near the end of April, Seville and her residents really let their hair down.
As if to lighten things up after the sobriety of Semana Santa (Holy Week), two weeks later La Feria de Abril (The April Fair) takes place, offering all of Southern Spain’s favorite pastimes: eating, drinking, dancing and dressing up.
The opening ceremony at midnight at the beginning of the first week starts with the illumination of half a million tiny lights covering the fairgrounds and the huge main gate. This is the official kick-off to six days and nights of non-stop merrymaking.
The party doesn’t end at dawn. Instead, it transitions from night to day with a sort of shift change; the nocturnal festivalgoers head home to sleep, stopping along the way for their breakfast of churros con chocolate. Then the daytime revelers ride in, atop long-maned, high-stepping horses with beautifully coifed women riding side-saddle behind them. More still arrive by carriage; on the busiest of days there can be upwards of 600 buggies parading the fairground and streets nearby.
La Feria de Sevilla is much like Seville and Sevillanos themselves—full of color and life, a little bit over the top and absolutely intoxicating. It’s one of Europe’s most popular festivals. This picture I snapped (above) gives a sense of the energy on Seville’s streets come festival time.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult and expensive for tourists to make it here. Accommodation and restaurant prices skyrocket come festival time and many of the celebration sites are now private.
But these issues don’t come into it when you’re an English teacher.
I was teaching at a school in Seville when the festival rolled around…and it shut its doors for the entire week. Not only did this give me enough free time to enjoy the festivities, but my job also gave me the inside track.
Because I lived and worked in the city I was able to attend the festival as a local, and with locals. I was welcomed into private parties…I hitched rides in carriages…and I had the inside scoop on all of the festival’s events. My Spanish students were eager to make sure I got the VIP treatment.
Being based in a city as full of passion and culture as Seville is life changing. I chose to work part-time so that I could spend as much time as possible exploring this incredible place. Even still, I made more than enough money to live comfortably.
I also had time to take dance lessons…learn Spanish…and go on weekend trips to neighboring countries like Portugal and Morocco.
As the Spanish would say, “Estaba como unas castañuelas”—I was as happy as a pair of castanets!
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