I'm not the best holiday shopper. A lack of patience and the fact I usually travel with carry-on luggage means that I generally return home from my travels with little more than a pair of earrings (one of which I will invariably lose within two weeks) or something as exciting as a pen. So, this month's topic left me stumped: until I glanced at my wall and saw this poster.
A souvenir from when I lived in Seville, this poster is a daily reminder of the whirl of colour, food, music and fun that is an Andalusian feria. Almost every town in southern Spain, no matter how tiny, has an annual fair: a celebration lasting several days (usually Wednesday to Sunday, but then there's the pre-feria: call it a week). During these days, which fall between April and October, most of the town decamps to the recinto ferial. For 51 weeks of the year, this is a nondescript plot of land on the outskirts. Come feria, it's the town itself: 'streets' are created, lined with marquees known as casetas, food stalls and fairground rides. From noon until the early hours of the morning, the streets fill with locals dressed in their best, enjoying a few days' holiday from work and getting together with friends and family over drinks, dancing and plenty of food.
|Welcome to feria|
A huge illuminated archway known as the portada marks the entrance to the recinto ferial. At Seville's Feria de Abril (April Fair), Andalusia's largest fair, the design of the portada changes each year, drawing on key elements of sevillano or andaluz culture. Past designs have included a flurry of open fans and a recreation of one of the city's landmarks, the costurero de la reina (Queen's sewing room) in 2008.
My first feria was about as far from the glamour and grandeur of the feria de abril as possible. Keen to introduce me to Andalusian life, the friends I made on my year abroad in Alcala de Guadaira took me to the first local fair of the calendar, in nearby Mairena de Alcor. In fact, they were so keen that they took me to the pre-feria, where just the main caseta is open for drinks and dancing, and the trademark farollilos (lanterns) that line the streets of feria-town hang unlit. This first taste was enough though: sipping the traditional rebujito (a mixture of fino sherry and 7Up that goes down far too easily) and dancing with my friends, I was an instant feria convert. Returning twice during the real feria, the deal was sealed. Feria is an escape; a chance to catch up with friends and family in an exuberant party atmosphere, sampling whatever food takes your fancy, trying out a couple of fairground rides (and regretting that battered fish), moving from caseta to caseta in search of the music that suits you - be it traditional sevillanas or the latest chart hits and dancing all night, before a breakfast of churros con chocolate as the sun comes up.
|Better than a kebab at the end of a night out|