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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