Monday, May 30, 2016

Travel Tips {Day Trips}

We have done our fair share of day trips (by car) to various towns within Andalucia. anywhere from thirty minutes to four hours away.  I highly recommend day trips when traveling -- have a home base (whether your house, a hotel.... anything) and then explore places around your home base.  It allows you to stick to a fairly similar routine for your toddler but still see some pretty cool places.  We typically do our day trips on Saturdays -- mostly because everything in Spain is closed on Sundays*, but also because it allows us a day to recover before the work week, if needed.

We've gotten our routine down pretty well for packing the car and heading out on a day adventure -- so here are our tips and tricks for taking a day trip by car!

Gear -- Stroller + Carrier
Because we have our car, we aren't really hurting for space -- therefore, we bring both our travel stroller and ergo 360.  We often leave one or the other in the car, but it is nice to have both available because we never know what the city will be like!  So often as we drive through the city looking for parking, we are also figuring out if we need our stroller, carrier or both.

Books: We again go with books (can you tell Serafina LOVES books?) as our main source of entertainment.  She very much likes to look at this book and this book while we are driving -- both are super colorful and easy for her to turn the pages.  We often hear her "reading" to herself while we are driving!  Books are also easy to throw in the stroller if needed.  We also have a set of these books which are just amazing.  They are super small, but colorful board books that are often found in my purse, the car, the diaper bag -- you name it!  I bring one or two of these books with us almost anywhere because I then always have something to entertain Serafina if needed.

Toys: We also packed a few toys that are high interest toys -- we start out with books and move up to toys as needed while driving or if Serafina is in the stroller while we are exploring a town.  Because I don't need to worry as much about annoying other people while driving (or in a louder outdoor, city setting) -- we tend to go for the noise making toys on our day trips. This musical toy is great -- so is this one.  But when we really need something that can distract Serafina -- we use this toy phone.  It is amazing!  It talks, you can record your voice, it lights up; Serafina LOVES it (seriously a huge thank you to our good friends for giving us this toy!).

TV Shows: if all else fails -- we result to download episode of Daniel Tiger.  We use the Google Play app that allows you to download shows and watch them offline (a huge win so we don't use all of our data on Daniel Tiger).  I also just learned about Guided Access (Google it to find directions) which allows me to limit what Serafina can do/see while on my phone watching a show -- it's been awesome when we've needed to distract Serafina with Daniel Tiger.

Again, we pack A LOT of snacks.  Actually, we typically pack a picnic lunch because well, Spanish hours and all.  When Serafina (and let's be honest, us too) are hungry for lunch, most places aren't serving food.  And our active toddler would never sit for a 2-3 hour meal....  So we pack her lunchbox with snacks for her (usually cheese, a banana, some pouches, ham or other meat/protein, sippy cup) and then also bring a small cooler with food for us -- typically the total European picnic lunch: meat, cheese, bread and chocolate!  We will throw in some goldfish/cheerios to use in the snack catcher which works great in the car or stroller (and keep extra goldfish/cheerios in these -- I like them better than Ziploc bags because they are reusable and also keep the snacks from getting crushed).  I have also discovered these really good Spanish graham crackers that we all like, so I typically throw a few packs in of those too (I picked them specifically because there was a label on them that basically said approved by the Spanish Pediatric Association).  Then we just enjoy our picnic lunch whenever we are hungy!  Each town we have been to has a park of some sort that has allowed us to let Serafina run around and eat our picnic lunch.  

Other Tips
Because we have used our car on our day trips thus far, I should note that I already have a small basket of necessities in the car (a toy, a book or two, extra clothes, diapers, wipes) so if for some reason we forget something or need extra, I know we are covered.  Therefore I usually only bring our wipes clutch and a few diapers while we are out exploring whatever town we are visiting.  Most of the time I also bring our travel changing pad because you never know when you'll need to change a diaper -- park bench anyone?  But if we have our stroller, we often just lay it flat and change Serafina in the stroller.  I have learned that most tourist sights have changing tables in their bathrooms but so far we haven't encountered any other places that have them.

While we are on the subject of bathrooms -- I should warn you that many European cities do not have public restrooms or if they do, they are few and far between (and you have to pay for them).  So we always take advantage of the restrooms in the tourist locations.

Anyways, we typically throw all of the things we will need for Serafina -- toys, extra clothes, diapers, wipes, etc. into her backpack rather than bringing a full diaper bag.  This allows us to put the backpack under the stroller, or I can throw necessary items (diapers, wipes, a toy or two) into my purse which happens to be much smaller than our diaper bag.  OR we will use a regular old backpack to keep everything we'd need for all three of us -- wallets, phones, camera, and stuff for Serafina.  Just depends on the day and where we are going.

And once again, be flexible.  We've had to pull over on the side of a very narrow road so I could nurse Serafina to calm her down after a long (long) day.  It worked and we were able to keep driving with a much happier Peanut!  We also plan for time to let Serafina run around -- whether its at a park or in a town plaza, just some place where she can run around and get some of her toddler energy out!

We have loved our day trips and have many more places where we want to visit so I am sure I will update this list as needed.  But if any of you guys have any other tips or tricks to add -- leave them in the comments!

*Just like almost every other European country, almost everything in Spain is closed on Sundays.  The only places that are open are museums and other tourist attractions in larger cities and then some restaurants (in both large and small cities) -- so if you are doing a day trip in Europe on a Sunday, plan accordingly.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Day Trip {Cádiz}

Cádiz is just across the bay from Rota -- on a clear day you can see Cádiz from the beach, making it a very easy day trip for us.  Pronounced CA-dith if I were to speak proper Andalusian Spanish (which is a whole post in itself! I am not learning traditional Spanish while here, that is for sure!).

Cádiz is often considered the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe.  The Phoenicians settled in Cádiz around 800 BC.  Cádiz was also an important city in Spanish history -- Columbus sailed to the Americas from Cádiz on his 2nd and 4th voyages; Spain's first liberal constitution was signed here in 1812; and Cádiz was the port where much of the trade between Spain and the Americas occurred in the 18th century.

The city sits on a narrow piece of land that is surrounded by the sea.  A new bridge was built to connect Cádiz to mainland Spain -- it was built in honor of the 200 year celebration of the constitution that was signed in 1812.  The bridge offers a gorgeous view of the surrounding bay and also coming into the city.  You can get to Cádiz by this new bridge, the old bridge, train or ferry!  We attempted to take the ferry from Rota, but missed it by about 3 minutes so we chose to drive.  The drive was gorgeous, but next time we will for sure take the ferry to have that experience as well!

We have since taken the ferry from Rota to Cádiz numerous times and it is amazing -- a fun and quick (and fairly cheap) way to get into Cádiz.  The ferry runs infrequently (by American standards) but works just fine for a day trip, especially with some planning; it also runs very much on time and if you are late, you will miss it.  The ride is about 30 minutes and drops you very close to the main area of Cádiz.  If the weather is bad, the ferry won't run and you can catch a bus instead.
the bridge (don't worry, these pictures were taken by my dad who was the passenger)
On our day trip, we chose to simply walk around and enjoy the streets and culture of Cádiz rather than spending our first sunny day (after many many days of rain) inside at the cathedral and museum.  However, I am sure we will be back to see both of these places.

We have since been into the museum -- NOT kid friendly at all. There is a gorgeous insanely old mosaic on the floor with little to no barrier and well, Serafina tried to walk right over it and I had to take a really amazing flying leap to stop her.  The museum is fairly cheap (under 5 for adults, I believe) and worth a trip if you don't have kids with you!  The cathedral is quite large and gorgeous inside (6 for adults, kids are free and this includes your ticket to climb the bell tower too).  Serafina absolutely loves churches and demanded we go inside -- it took bribing her with ice cream to get her to leave!

Cádiz is a wonderful city to explore and walk around -- the tiny narrow streets lined with shops and cafes were adorable and also very stroller friendly (and friendly to our Peanut running around).  Cádiz has a very European city feel (probably because it has been around since 800 BC) which I enjoy.  I love just taking in the sights and sounds of the old cities and of course people watching.  Or to be more accurate -- watching the Spanish watch Serafina....

The Spanish LOVE children and will always stop to tell us how adorable our Peanut is, talk to her and even touch her or give her kisses.  Another post for another time, but I have had to get over my own stranger danger with Serafina while in Spain -- it is their culture and we are here, so I am learning to embrace it.

I loved Cádiz and I have no doubt that we will be back many times!

There is always something going on in Cádiz -- we have gone for Carnaval and also a beer festival, and of course many other times just because Cádiz is such an amazing city.  There are so many good places to eat or grab a drink, our personal favorite is going to the central market for all the various food and drink stalls, just be aware of opening/closing times.  We also like Monkey Bakery Cafe for their fancy coffee drinks and milkshakes, usually a rarity in Spain.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Life Lately Round 3

Wow -- didn't mean to take such a long blogging hiatus!  But life got in the way...

So let's catch up, shall we?

We've done a lot of traveling lately, both day trips {SevillaSetenil de las Bodegas, The Alhambra in Granada, and Cadiz} as well as a long weekend away in Madrid -- blog posts are in the works for Madrid and Cadiz.  I have so much (and so many pictures) to share!

If you've been reading for a bit, you know that my parents were here for a few weeks -- they spent some time with us, went to Portugal and then came back to us.  I am pretty sure we are all going through Gram Gram and Grandpa withdrawals.  It was wonderful having them visit -- showing them our new town, the surrounding area and of course just hanging out.  They are so wonderful with Serafina -- building many block towers, reading book after book after book, taking her to the park and more!  And they allow both myself and Trevor to get some "us" time (and let us sleep in each morning, taking Serafina when she wakes up while we go back to bed)!  We can't wait for them to come back -- get planning Gram Gram and Grandpa :)

We all were sick right before my parents got here (I was at the tail end of it when they arrived) and it hit us HARD.  Our first Spanish cold was rough -- all of us were sick for close to two weeks!  Then Serafina got sick again, poor thing.  Since she's been going to daycare a few mornings a week, she is picking up all sorts of germs.  I know it is inevitable (and not necessarily a bad thing to boost her immune system), but it doesn't make it any easier, but I do love all the extra snuggles.  And she absolutely loves going to daycare and I love the time to myself.  

When we weren't sick (and it wasn't raining -- seriously, we had some AWFUL weather the first week of May), we spent a lot of time at our favorite park.  It has the amazing baby swings and a duck pond (that also has turtles) and Serafina just loves it.  

I think we are finally settled.  There will always be things "to do" around the house -- like setting up the millions of baby gates we now own since Serafina has learned to climb our stairs (and go down).  And we are working on a healthy mix of staying home and traveling.  But we are in a good routine with our day to day activities; I know my way around fairly well (even in the next town over!) and I am feeling more and more comfortable talking with my limited Spanish -- I am really good at ordering food.  And to make our lives here even more official, we just got our Spanish license plates for the car.  

Things are going well and I can't wait to tell you all about our most recent travels.  So check back in the next few days!  

Friday, May 13, 2016

Day Trip {Sevilla #2}

We are having unusually nasty weather right now -- rain, wind, and thunderstorms, but we decided to brave the weather and head to Sevilla for another day trip with my parents.  We actually got very lucky and anytime we were inside it would be pouring rain, but when we were outside it was clear (well, at least not raining).

This time we started at the Real Alcázar -- a Moorish palace built in the 10th century.  It was redone in the 14th century and is still used today as a royal palace (the oldest in Europe).  The palace is decorated in a style called Muejar, a mix of Islamic and Christian elements.  The layout is very confusing but this was to make it more exciting and surprising apparently -- me, I just found it confusing!  

The Alcázar is also not very stroller friendly (this must be a Moorish trait!) but since Sevilla is stroller friendly, we brought our stroller.  We would take turns watching the stroller and going into the various rooms.  Serafina wanted nothing to do with staying in the stroller because she wanted to jump in the rain puddles and climb ALL THE STAIRS which she had just learned how to do!  So someone was on Serafina duty, someone was on stroller duty and the other two would go to look at exhibits, then we'd switch.  It worked because we had plenty of adults -- so be prepared if it's just one or two of you with a kiddo!  

I was a little underwhelmed by the Alcázar but I think that was mostly due to the fact that we had just seen the Alhambra which is hard to beat when it comes to Moorish Palaces and also because the gardens at the Alcázar were closed due to the weather.  We have been told the gardens at the Alcázar are just spectacular and with the little that we were able to see out the windows, we agree!  So I would say that the Alcázar is a "if there's time" sight -- if you have many days in Sevilla, then yes, go for it -- but if you are strapped for time then stick with the Cathedral and other sights!  And also make sure the gardens are open.
more gorgeous details and carvings

We also went to the Cathedral again -- which I am glad we did.  I saw things I hadn't seen the first time.  Serafina slept through this visit to the Cathedral which is a great place to take a nap because it is dark and quiet(ish) inside.  Plus it was really fun seeing my parents's reactions to this massive and gorgeous church.
A quick note about tickets for the Cathedral and the Alcázar -- both places have online ticket sales that allow you to purchase advance tickets and get into a shorter line.  For the Cathedral, the website is only in Spanish so I struggled to find how to exactly buy tickets.  Best I could find was being rerouted to a third party sight that made me create an account and then purchase tickets.  This made me a little nervous, so we opted to just wait in line once we got to Sevilla.  The ticket line for the Cathedral is mostly in a courtyard so it is easy for babes to run around (and this time around the line was pretty long but we still only had to wait no more than 30 minutes).  For the Alcázar, the online sight is much more user friendly (and in English).  You pick a time that you want to enter and how many people you are purchasing tickets for -- remember to include the kiddos!  While you won't pay for their ticket, most places still require babies to have their own ticket.  We didn't know you could buy tickets in advance for the Alcázar, but the line moved quickly and it all worked out!

{I should also note that many of my pictures for these places turn out blurry -- you aren't allowed to use a flash in most of these places to protect the old (old) items.  And when most of these places are dark already, no flash can cause for some tough scenarios to take pictures, but hopefully even the blurry pictures can capture just how gorgeous these places are!}

We also walked along the two main shopping streets and I was pleasantly surprised to find that most stores were open during the lunch time break!  Sevilla has wonderful shopping, especially for shoes -- Spanish shoes are just gorgeous and I have been eyeing a few pairs...  (To get to these streets from the Cathedral, you will exit the church in the orange trees courtyard and basically just head straight away from the church towards city hall/Plaza San Francisco and you will end up at the beginning of the shopping area.)

Sevilla is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities and I can't wait to continue to explore some of the lesser known areas in the future.  If any of you have been to Sevilla -- let me know where we should go on our next trip up there!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Day Trip {Setenil de las Bodegas}

Setenil de las Bodegas is another white hill town (there are many in the province of Andalucia).  However, most of the hill towns lived on top of the hills for protection, the people of Setenil did the opposite -- they burrowed into the caves beneath the cliffs of the nearby river.  It actually worked since it took the Christian armies 15 days so remove the Moors that were living in Setenil in the late 1400s.  Most of the original cave houses remain, although today they are most likely restaurants.

We stopped at this adorable little town on our way home from Granada which was a perfect way to break up the 3+ hour drive home.  Sadly, we timed it all wrong to enjoy tapas or the stores being open (thanks to the Spanish schedule) but it was still fun to walk around and see many of the buildings built right into and under the cliffs!

I would recommend stopping by Setenil on the way to other white hill towns in the area -- many of the guide books have routes that drive you through the hills towns and include Setenil.  Most of these towns are incredibly small (1-2 main roads) and you don't need a lot of time to walk around, enjoy the scenery and take pictures.  But the views and quaintness of these towns are worth a day trip to a few if your schedule allows it!  Plus many of these towns have incredible olive oil and wine, so they are great places to stock up.  Also, because these towns are small -- it is typically a safe(r) place to allow the littles to run around; there often aren't many cars going up and down the narrow roads.  We hope to get back to this area soon to explore more of the white hill towns!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Day Trip {The Alhambra}

The Alhambra, a Moorish palace, is located in Granada, Spain.  My parents are here visiting and we decided this was a great trip for us to take together since none of us had seen the Alhambra.  The Alhambra reminds me a little of Versailles -- large grounds with many different sights to see once you are inside.
First, a little background -- the Alhambra was the last Moorish stronghold in Europe.  While the Christian Reconquista was taking most of the cities in Southern Spain, the Moors in Spain held out in Granada (at the Alhambra) until 1492.  The Alhambra is part palace, part fort, part World Heritage sight and part lesson in medieval architecture.  It's first palace was built in the 11th century, but most of the work in the area was done in the 13th and 14th centuries when the Nazarids (Spanish Moors) built the Alhambra into the fortress-palace-village that you see today.  {However, what you see today has been heavily restored due to a lot of it being destroyed over the years by Charles V and Napoleon.}

Now that you've had your brief history lesson, a little about getting to the Alhambra.  Typically, most people spend the entire weekend in Granada because there is lots to do and see, besides just the Alhambra.  But you need to plan your trip to the Alhambra pretty far in advance (upwards of 8,000 people a day visit the Alhambra).  Our original plan was a weekend in Granada with my parents, however when we went to look at tickets for the Alhambra one month a head of time, they were all sold out for the next three months -- eek!  So we had scratched the idea of Granada and had planned other day trips instead.  But Trevor and his coworker looked again last Friday and saw that they had tickets available for the next day, so we went for it!  So instead of our long weekend in Granada, we took a day trip to see just the Alhambra.  It was a lot of driving (roughly 3.5 hours one way to Granada from our house), but it worked for us.  You'd want to plan a whole day for the Alhambra even if you were in Granada for the weekend.  We moved through everything pretty quickly (and also didn't see it all) and were there for 4+ hours....

[Side note about Alhambra tickets: there are four main sights within the Alhambra that you can visit (Palacios Nazaríes, Charles V's Palace, Generalife Gardens and Alcazaba).  The best ticket to get is the Alhambra General ticket which allows you access to all of these places and it is the only ticket that gets you into Palacios Nazaríes during the day which is a MUST see if you are at the Alhambra.  The general ticket allows for a 30 minute time slot for you to enter the Palacios Nazaríes -- you can only enter during this 30 minute time slot, but you can stay as long as you like!  Make sure you buy a morning time slot (meaning before 2pm) because then you can get into the Alhambra when it opens, go to the Palacios Nazaríes during your time slot, and then keep exploring the Alhambra.  If you have an afternoon time slot for the Palacios Nazaríes, you can't get into the Alhambra until 2pm.  I know that is confusing so just remember -- Alhambra General ticket with a morning time slot for Palacios Nazaríes!]

Anyways -- before I get to the massive amount of pictures we took throughout the Alhambra, another note... The Alhambra is NOT, I repeat NOT active toddler friendly.  The grounds are large and filled with trees, plants, and water features that were a toddler's (or at least our toddler's) dream come true -- so many things to touch, play with and water to want to jump in...  However, everywhere we looked there were signs telling us "do not touch" -- made for a not so happy toddler a few times!  So the stroller was great to allow our babe to munch on some healthy snacks and still see what was going on, us to move through the grounds/gardens at a much faster pace... Everyone was happy.  Except the stroller is not allowed into any of the sights within the Alhambra.  This is frustrating, but it makes sense -- so many stairs and so many people that a stroller just would not work.  Which means you need to wear your babe (you also have to wear your babe (or a backpack even) on your front when you go into the Palacios Nazaríes).  But if your babe is anything like our babe, she can only handle being worn for a little bit at a time.  She wanted to run around and play in this fun new place.  It was frustrating for all of us.  We got very lucky that our time slot for the Palacios Nazaríes was at her nap time, so she slept in the carrier the entire time we were in the palace which was perfect for everyone.
However, with all that said -- I still highly {HIGHLY} recommend the Alhambra.  You can check your stroller in a very secure area AND they even let you rent a baby carrier if you need one (seriously, how cool is that?!).  So if you happen to be in Granada with a toddler, then please still go to the Alhambra, just be prepared.  We will happily go back but probably wait until Serafina is a little older!

With all my tips out of the way, let's get to the good part.  The pictures of this gorgeous and insanely unreal historical sight.  I am a huge history nerd and could spend hours learning about all of this, so seeing everything in real life is my happy place.  It just boggles my mind the amount of intricate details carved into the marble and ceilings and how everything was laid out with purpose and meaning.  And how the Moors knew enough to use lead in the pillars holding up parts of the palace to allow for flex in the case of an earthquake.  And standing in rooms where Christopher Columbus asked Ferdinand and Isabel for money to make the passage to the Orient...  In my mind, it just doesn't get any cooler that seeing history come alive.

First we walked through some of the gardens to get to the more main sights of the Alhambra:

Next up the Alcazaba which was the fort of the Alhambra.  While it was very cool to walk around, we made the mistake of letting Serafina walk through as well and there were a lot of steep stairs, drop offs and just not safe places for her to get into.  The Alcazaba is a quick stop (in my opinion) but still go to see the amazing views of Granada and the Alhambra (since the tower is the highest point of the Alhambra and it allows you to overlook the grounds and Granada).

We wandered around to a few more sights (not really picture worthy but still cool to visit if you have time -- like the Charles V Palace and the church on the grounds).  It was then our turn in the Palacios Nazaríes which was so incredibly worth every minute of the long long day!  The Palacios Nazaríes is the Moorish royal palace and it is breathtaking.  It truly shows that while the majority of Europe was living in the Dark Ages, the Moors were living large!  The Moors considered water to be the purest symbol of life, so everything throughout the Alhambra was decorated with water in some form and the Palacios Nazaríes was no exception.
yes, those are extremely intricate carvings in the marble

this room is a perfect cube from top to bottom (and it was also in this room where Columbus made his final plea to Ferdinand and Isabel to attempt to find a sea voyage to the Orient)
seriously, this ceiling was insane

my adorable parents
Finally, we went to the Generalife Gardens which was at one time the sultan's fruit and vegetable garden.  This place was gorgeous and the gardens were just plain amazing -- we were very fortunate to visit in the spring when just about everything was in bloom!

While it was a long day (we left our house at 5:45am), seeing the Alhambra was so worth it -- I think everyone should put this place on their bucket list!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Spanish Life {Feria de Primavera}

Feria de Primavera (or spring fair) happens in Rota at the end of April, early May every year.  Almost every town in Andalucia has a feria.  Sevilla starts off the feria season which goes throughout the summer and into early fall.  Rota's feria is specifically a spring fair (whereas some ferias celebrate saints, horses, bullfighting and more).  The Spanish ferias are short by American standards, lasting only four days to a week.  But everyone (and I mean everyone) comes out for feria.  The town takes a holiday on the first Friday of feria and then often takes "hangover Monday" as a holiday as well (feria typically ends on a Sunday).
There is no real comparison to the state fairs in the United States and the ferias in Spain.  Both have street food and carnival rides and games, but in my opinion, that is where the similarities end, because even the street food and carnival portions are very different.  Spanish ferias have casetas (tents) that are set up on one part of the fairgrounds.  Some casetas are permanently on the fair grounds and are much more like buildings (called a peña) -- these are used throughout the year for parities, weddings and other various events as well as during feria.  Other casetas are built within the weeks leading up to feria and look more like fancy tents, but I should clarify that these tents are large and can hold a lot of people.  Each caseta or peña is run by different people or groups and some are invite only.  All serve drinks, some serve food and many have dancing.  The other part of the fair is the carnival games and rides along with street food.  Feria also doesn't get going until mid-to-late afternoon -- the rides don't even start going until later in the day.  However, nothing closes down until the early early hours of the morning (our friends who live close to the feria grounds said they heard the music going until 6-7am)!

The drinks -- people mostly stick with beer, wine or a white wine cocktails called rebujito.  This is the typical drink served at feria.  It is made with sherry (specifically manzanilla sherry) and sprite.  It is dangerously delicious!  Each caseta makes their rebujito a little different, so it is a must to order at each caseta you end up in!

The food -- in the casetas it is typical Spanish/Andalusian food -- tapas, seafood, fried food (very little vegetables or fruit), but perfect for drinking!  The street food is not what you would find at an American state fair, no fried Twinkies or corn dogs.  It is pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers but still very different from what you'd expect in the states; my pizza was basically a baguette with tomato sauce, cheese and toppings.  But most importantly, it is churros with chocolate -- my new personal weakness.  I could eat churros con chocolate every single day!  The chocolate is a hot chocolate that is simply that.... a chocolate bar melted, not like the hot chocolate you drink in the states.  Then you dip warm, hot, sugary churros into the chocolate and it is divine. [No pictures because I'd always eat them too fast to even remember to take a picture!]

And finally the dresses -- you can't go to feria without a feria dress (well, you can, but you better be dressed up in your Sunday best and still wear a flower in your hair).  Feria dresses seem to just scream "Spanish" to me.  The colors, the flowers, the skirts that are perfect for dancing.  The dresses are worn very tight; it does not matter what size you are or how old you are, every dress is worn tight and it is worn proudly.  Feria dresses are very similar to mermaid style wedding dresses.  I noticed that many (easily 80-90% of the women) wore their dresses for the afternoon, early evening but then changed into something more comfortable (and easier to move in) for the later evening.  This year I borrowed a dress from a friend (and wore mine much looser than the norm), but I am already on the hunt for my feria dress for next year!

We thoroughly enjoyed feria -- it was so much fun and if it didn't require so many late nights, I would definitely want feria every weekend.  We went with many of Trevor's coworkers to the first day of feria (Thursday) to a peña for lunch and a flamenco show (this was more typical feria dancing which is called sevillana rather than true flamenco).  We had a wonderful lunch and Serafina was absolutely in love with the dancing.  She stood there transfixed and would get very frustrated if anyone got in way while watching the dancers.  Sevillana is the dancing that everyone does at feria and the Spanish are brought up with it -- little kids know the hand movements and songs then eventually learn all the different sevillanas.  After watching Serafina watch the dancers, we know for sure we will put her in sevillana classes when she gets older!

When the lunch and dancing was over, it was close to 6pm and time to really get the party started.  We changed into more comfortable clothes (feria dresses are very difficult to walk, bend, anything in) and we continued to eat, drink and people watch our way through the entire fair grounds.  We had the babes go on a ride or two and the adults went on a ride too!  I was struggling to come up with the right words to describe the rides and Trevor and I had this conversation:
me: "how would you describe the rides at feria?"
Trevor: "carnival rides"
me: "yes, but wouldn't to describe them as more sketchy carnival rides?"
Trevor: "yep, Romanian carnival rides!"
Exactly.  The ride the adults went on was the typical pirate ship that just goes back and forth really high without actually going over.... However, no one sat in the seats and instead stood in a cage that was on each end of the ship.  When your side of the ship went up, you jumped -- not exactly sure why but oh man, was it fun and scary and so totally crazy!  Again, sadly no pictures because we were too busy laughing and enjoying ourselves to even think about taking pictures.

Next thing we knew it was past 11pm and we were all exhausted (when the sun doesn't even go down until 9:30-10:00 at night, you sort of loose track of time).  We all took a recovery day on Friday and went back to feria on Saturday for more food, drinks, people watching and of course churros con chocolate.  We again had another late night and just stayed home to rest on Sunday.  We both had to laugh because on the walk home each night we were the only ones leaving the feria grounds -- everyone was just getting started at 10-11pm and heading to feria!  I still can't get over how everyone (babies, kids, parents, grandparents -- everyone) is out so late -- Serafina was wonderful both times at feria and even slept in the following mornings.  While it sucks that in general we have a terrible sleeper, I am very happy that she can be fairly flexible so we can enjoy events like these.

It was such a fun weekend and I cannot wait for next year!  Here are some pictures of our days at feria:

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