The best tours in Spain

A Beginner's Guide to Spring Feria in Southern Spain

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Feria in Southern Spain means spring has arrived and it is time to get out and celebrate life. The weather is getting warmer; the flowers are blooming; and in Spain, that is reason enough for a big fiesta.

As a foreigner, feria may seem a little mysterious. When I first heard about it, I knew feria involved food, feria dresses and dancing, but that was about all I understood. I hope this article will give you a little insight about what to expect when you head to feria. Above all, remember it is mostly about having a good time.

Sevilla´s Feria, Andalucía, Spain

Feria started in the late 1800's in Sevilla. It began as a large spring market where cattle and horses could be bought and sold. Casetas, which are tents or simply constructed halls, were set up to conduct business. I imagine people started drinking the local sherry that Andalucía is famous for, and business evolved into the festive fair that feria is today.

Most towns have an established feria ground that is hardly used all year except for feria. When the appointed week rolls around (it is almost always a different town every week) the tents are constructed in rows, and lights and paper lanterns are strung about. Every feria has a grandiose entrance, called a portada, which is lit up in eye-opening, glaring color lights at night. The grounds are composed of packed dirt with some paved walkways.

As a feria virgin, you may be concerned about what to wear. In modern times, almost all men, except performers and horse riders, wear regular clothes. For women and girls, it is equally acceptable to wear modern clothes or a traje de Gitana (feria dress). If a mother is wearing a feria dress, she will probably dress her young son in a cropped jacket and a bolero hat. This cute outfit is rarely seen on boys older than six or seven.

Portada, Sevilla´s Feria

Feria dresses often cost 100 to 300 euros, quite an investment if you are not a long-term resident of Spain. If you do decide to wear a feria dress, you might as well toss out all your preconceptions about modern day fashion rules. These dresses look best with a tight waste regardless of body shape, tons of ruffles, and the gaudiest, most opposing colors of the spectrum that can be found. Whether or not you are in a feria dress, a flower in the hair or some polka dot accessories are a nice touch for women.

Feria doesn't have strict opening hours. In fact, feria never really closes, but lulls and climaxes depending on the time of day. My favorite time to arrive is about one or two in the afternoon. I can enjoy a leisurely lunch of tortilla de patata, (potato omelet) and pimientos fritos (local fired green peppers with salt). There is also an abundance of meats, fried seafood and even yard snails, for the brave hearted out there. All this goes so deliciously with a nice pitcher of tinto de verano (red wine mixed with a 7-Up like soda), especially as the temperature ramps up in late afternoon.

By this time of day, the crowd is feeling frisky and Sevillana or flamenco dancing is usually breaking out sporadically in various casetas. You will here music wafting from almost every caseta, inviting you to clap your hands and move your hips. If you never learned the formal steps of Sevillana, but you feel pulled to join in on the fun, do what I recently did. Walk around and find the caseta that is most crowded with dancers. Go to the middle of the crowd and, if possible, get in a dancing line with a partner. Do your best to imitate the other dancers and turn and twirl when they do. It's really quite fun and probably the most Spanish you will feel as an outsider. Try not to carry a big purse because it will be hard to turn and you will likely whack you partner with it. Don't worry about how you look. All the other dancers are having too much fun to notice.

Travel to Sevilla´s Feria in Spain

Another part of feria is the carnival area. This area will remind you more of the county fairs you may have attended in the United States. I like to hit this area at dusk, when the lights on all the rides are turned on and color zigzags around in every direction. There are also plenty fair games with stuffed animal prizes. My husband particularly enjoys losing money at these.

Once you've been on a few rides and your stomach begins to settle, you may be ready for dessert. Luckily, there are plenty of choices. There are gofres (waffles) with half a dozen different toppings. There are churros and hot chocolate. There are candies, ice cream, and candy apples. As you chomp on sweets, you may be lucky to see some horses being paraded around by riders in traditional costume.

If you have children, feel free to bring them to feria at any time. Like everywhere in Spain, it is acceptable to have children out until the wee hours of the morning. Babies and grandparents are part of the family and the family celebrates together.

Enjoy in Cordoba´s Feria, Andalucía, Spain

If you are interested in more of a club atmosphere, feria has something for you as well. After dark, music in some of the casetas starts to change from flamenco to techno and disco. About one or two in the morning, families start heading home and hoards of teenagers and twenty-somethings descend in club garb, ready to dance the night away. Many times the party is still hopping at seven am.

The feria differs in size depending on the town. Sevilla's feria is very large, but the casetas are all private. If you don't know someone who sponsors a caseta, you will not be admitted to the tent. For this reason, it is highly advisable not to make Sevilla your first feria experience unless you are with a local. You can start in Cordoba´s feria where all casetas are free.

I hope this gives you an idea of what feria is all about. Enjoy and drink some sherry for me.

Continue reading:  Tourism in Cordoba   or   Sevilla has a special color

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