La Feria de Abril is a special event that I was looking forward to since leaving Sevilla when I studied abroad. The translation is the April fair, however in a typical and confusing Spanish style it was in May this year. I started celebrating early when my parents came into town the Sunday before it started. They flew from Paris to Sevilla and Antonio and I picked them up at the airport. I had found a hotel for them close to my house and in spitting distance from my school. Getting a hotel during feria can be a challenge. Many of the hotels I looked into several months in advance had already been booked for months. With some luck, I stumbled upon this hotel (which prior to Antonio mentioning it, I didn’t even know existed.)
From the airport Antonio drove us to the hotel so my parents could put their suitcases in the room and get ready. From the hotel we walked to Antonia’s house for lunch. It was absolutely beautiful out and we sat outside and ate lunch on the terrace. She prepared, rebujito, a typical drink for feria to introduce to my parents. Rebujito is manzanilla (a dry sherry from the bordering province) mixed with Sprite. Antonia threw some mint in the mix, too. They were also very kind and bought some red wine because they know my parents love it. Lunch was really special. I love when my two families come together. Translating is always a bit difficult, but I think everyone understood what was going on. I also learned that Antonia speaks much more English than I thought! When she came to visit us in Chicago this summer her friend Carmen came, too. Carmen also joined us for lunch. It was the first time I’d seen her since Chicago! She’s a surgeon and has an incredibly busy schedule. Either way, I was happy I was able to see her during feria. Briana joined us for tea and sweets after lunch and then we went out for a walk.
We walked through la juderia (the old Jewish neighborhood) and barrio santa cruz. I thought I knew the center well, but they proved me wrong. We passed by so many things I’d never seen. Since Antonio has his own ceramics store and is quite knowledgeable on the subject he’d stop us every few steps to explain something about the tiles. Their friend Antonio owns a famous house in Sevilla. I had seen it when I studied abroad in Spain in high school, but I’d never been able to find it again. Antonia and Antonio talk about it a lot, so they figured we should walk by. It’s one of the most photographed houses in Sevilla and happens to be on the cover of many guidebooks. In the warmer months flowers line the walls. Unfortunately, Antonio (the owner of the house) and his girlfriend, Juana were at a wedding so we couldn’t stop in. In my last few hours in Sevilla I may try and walk by to see if the flowers are in bloom yet (side note: the torrential downpour yesterday prohibited me from doing so...and all of the other excursions I had planned.)
Our short walk was quickly turning into a long walking tour of the entire center. I wanted to make sure my parents tried out the Italian restaurant that I frequent all too often. That being said, we went there for dinner after our tour and Antonia, Antonio and Briana joined us. Since an insane amount of Italian food wasn’t enough, we had to top it off with some gelato. When in Rome/Sevilla, right? I also frequented the gelato place all too often. Thank goodness we’re not on a first name basis with the staff. Everyone agreed that it was the best gelato they had ever had. I have my friend Julia to thank (or perhaps blame) for introducing it to me. After gelato we walked back in the direction of my parents´ hotel. It was a very long day considering how tired everyone was and we had to get up early the next day to do it all again.
I think the few days that my parents were here were the busiest days I’ve had in Sevilla. I was absolutely wiped when they left and didn’t get out of bed until 5pm the next day. On Monday I made breakfast for my parents at our house. We stopped at Polvillo, our local and absolutely delicious bread store, for some fresh bread, coffee and orange juice. I think my dad was missing his daily fresh squeezed juice, so he had two glasses. At Polvillo we also picked up more Sprite and manzanilla to bring to Antonia’s. After a wonderful breakfast, if I may say so myself, we spent some time looking through all of the photos I’ve taken this year. We only made it to mid January though because we needed to go back to their hotel to drop off my things. When I came to Spain my luggage was overweight. I’ve purchased my fair share of souvenirs (including a very large flamenco dress) so I knew that if I didn’t give my purchases and half of my clothes to my parents I’d be doomed. I unloaded quite a bit of things on them: books, clothes, flamenco dress, teapot, 100 scarves, etc. I’ve started to pack my suitcases to leave tomorrow and I’m hoping that I’ll be under the weight limit…and that everything will fit! (follow up: my bags were overweight again! Also, I guess Iberia changed their luggage policy since I’ve been here, because they made me pay for a second bag. Luckily Antonia was with me and was trying to talk some sense into the lady. In the end, I just had to pay for the extra bag and not two overweight fees. I think she felt bad for me pouring through my bags trying to take heavy things out. Also, the long line of people behind me didn’t hurt. What does hurt, however, is my back. I think my backpack must weigh at least 30 pounds.)
This semester Antonia had another American girl staying at her house. Robin was in Sevilla for a semester during her gap here. Coincidentally her dad and step mom were here at the exact same time as my parents. Antonia had invited Robin’s family over for lunch and invited mine, too. I felt like we were intruding, but Antonia insisted. We delighted in a delicious and classic Sevillano meal: salad, paella, rebujito and several other things that are now escaping me. We lucked out with the weather again and sat out on the terrace. After lunch and after Robin’s family left we skyped with Jose Alberto who’s studying in France. I know my parents enjoyed talking to him. Little did I know that I’d see him the following week. He surprised Antonia and his entire family and showed up at home for feria. He went to Antonia’s house first and expected to find her there after she finished work. That plan didn’t exactly work because Antonia brought her dress to work so she could expedite the process and get to feria faster. However, Antonio walked into the house, stood there in silence for a few seconds, did a double take and asked Jose Alberto what the heck he was doing there. Jose Alberto did the same and surprised his dad at his house. The surprise paid off when he went to feria and surprised both his mom and Alvaro. They couldn’t believe that he was there and that he was able to keep it a secret.
After skyping with Jose Alberto, we continued with our strict schedule. Briana, my parents and I met Jan at a coffee place in the center. Coffee/hot chocolate was very enjoyable, however an argument with the staff left me with a very sour taste in my mouth and no intention to every go back. Time was flying by and I realized it was already 8:00pm and we were supposed to be meeting Antonia at her house at 9:30pm. We tried our best to get the check (that’s where our argument with the wait staff began. For some reason they weren’t very willing to give us the check. Weird, right? I mean who gets mad when you’re asking how much to pay!) We ran to drop my parents off at their hotel and Briana and I ran home. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten ready faster. We power walked over to Antonia’s to meet her and Antonio. From there we walked to La Albahaca, Antonio’s sister’s restaurant. It’s by far the best meal I’ve had in Sevilla. One of their house specialties is bacalao (codfish.) I’ve never been one to order fish off a menu, but I figured I’d give it a try. I’m very glad I did. Everything was great. After dinner we even got a tour of the building. It’s a beautiful, old 14th century home. Antonio’s sister showed us the upstairs part of the restaurant, which serves as party rooms and her office. We even went on the roof, which was great because it had a wonderful view of the cathedral.
Monday night was el pescaito (fish fry) at feria. It kicks off the fair and after dinner at midnight they light everything up. Our dinner and tour lasted a little longer than expected, so we missed the lighting ceremony, but we went anyway. We walked around a bit and briefly sat in one of the casetas (tents.) By this time it was well past 2:00am, and I needed to work the next day.
The following day was a particularly uneventful day at school. In a typical Spanish fashion, there was only one day of school that week and to make matters stranger, it was a Tuesday. And they wonder why they’re in an economic crisis. I’ve got two words for them: logic and efficiency. Since there was no school Monday the people who don’t like feria go to their beach houses. Then the people who do like feria are at feria for the first day. Meaning, about half of the school was actually present. There were 8 kids in one of my classes. I was super glad to be there doing nothing when I could have been spending the time with my parents. After school I ran home as quick as possible to get ready. I had purchased a traje de gitano (flamenco dress) for the event. Feria is a big deal to begin with, but dresses are even bigger deals. I spent a very long time finding one that I liked and that was also in my price range. The cheapest I saw was 150 euros and they go over 1000 euros. Since my budget was limited, I didn’t have as large of a selection. I really love the dress I ended up with. In addition to the dress it’s important to have the right accessories. You need a mantoncito (shawl), earrings, flower and a peineta (special decorated hair comb.) Let’s just say there’s a lot that goes into feria, both finding your accessories and donning them.
When we were finally ready we walked over to Antonia’s, took some pictures and then took the bus to feria. I don’t know if our bus broke down or if we got stuck in traffic, but it took us forever to get there. Once we arrived we went to a Cajasol tent. Cajasol is the bank Antonia works at. We ordered several different tapas for lunch, listened to the music and most importantly, scouted out the other pretty dresses.
I didn’t understand how exclusive feria is during study abroad. The fair itself is made up of over 1,000 tents. The overwhelming majority of them are private. To enter you have to be a member or have a ticket. Just gaining membership to a tent can be a difficult thing to do. They range from family run to businesses and there are also some exclusive government tents, which seems kind of ironic to me. Carmen was telling us a bit about her old tent. Unfortunately, someone forgot to renew the paperwork, which you have to do every year, so their tent was given away. Her tent was with people from the hospital she works at. Every year there was a 500 euro fee to help maintain the tent. In addition to that you have to pay for everything when you’re there. Since most people renew (or try to renew) their tents every year it doesn’t leave room for new people interested in creating their own tents. I would imagine it could be a difficult time of year if you didn’t have access to a tent. If you’re a member you’re allowed to bring friends, but I’m not exactly sure how that works. I would have to imagine there’s a limit. Some larger tents give out tickets to their members. That’s how we got to go to the Cajasol tent.
Each tent has its own music, dance floor, kitchen and flushing toilets! (The last one makes me the most happy.) In the Cajasol tent we were in there was a very limited amount of chairs. We were able to snag two after a little while, though. It was a long time to be standing, however I don’t know if I could have sat down even if I had wanted to. My traje was very tight. Not wanting to risk ripping the seams (yes, that tight) I offered to stand. We tired pretty easily, so my parents and I left. I went back to my house with my mom and my dad went back to the hotel. Wearing a traje was such a production. Mine zipped very high in the back, so I needed help getting it on and off. Oh, and I had to take the whole thing off to go to the bathroom. That provided for a memorable experience while at feria. I felt like a new woman when that thing was unzipped. I could breathe again! Even though it was a lot of money, I’m very glad I bought one. I will always cherish it and the memories. Better yet, I even have a Halloween costume for this year…and every year after that.
Tuesday was my parents last day in town. For dinner we went to a delicious Moroccan restaurant. I would say it was on par with what I had in Morocco. I’ve been there two times now and each time it was empty. I’d hate to see them close, however I suppose that’s a moot issue now considering I’m finishing this blog post from the Madrid airport. Well, next time I’m in Sevilla hopefully it will still be around. I was very sad to see my parents go, but now that seems irrelevant considering I’ll see them again in 12 hours.
As I mentioned, the following day I slept super late. I had actually woken up early thinking I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep. I ate breakfast, watched an episode of Sex and the City and then managed to fall asleep until 5pm. It was just what the doctor ordered. Later that night Briana and I went back to feria. Antonia had already gone home for the night, but she left her Cajasol tickets with a friend, Elena. We found Elena and headed to the Cajasol tent. I had a good time and I’m glad we went, but it just wasn’t the same without Antonia and Co. We sipped rebujito, spilt a huge cotton candy and called it a night. The next day we were off to Lagos and didn’t want to spoil the fun.