Empty for most of the year, the little town of El Rocío becomes flooded with millions of people and their horses, caravans, and guitars during the romería de el Rocío.It feels like you’ve gone back in time, or have somehow stumbled upon Andalucía’s Wild West. Flamenco can be heard from every porch, and you have to keep your wits about you lest you be run over by a horse.I was in the town in October when it was sleepy and dusty and could hardly believe the difference when we were there last Sunday. Next time I live in Spain I’ll have to get a proper dress…
Rainbows of skirts, flowers, and snapping fans. Horses. Fiery flamenco and fried fish. Blazing sun, frosty rebujitos. Tradición. Welcome to la Feria de Abril de Sevilla! With a week of singing, dancing, drinking and showing off your finest Sevillana moves (and outfits), la Feria de abril is just one giant party. The atmosphere was contagious and for me, seeing all the amazing flouncy skirts was reason enough to go! With horses and carriages taking over the streets, and everyone dressed in their traditional finery it felt like another era. To be honest, it all seemed a little bourgeois, but the feria de Abril in Sevilla certainly dresses to impress, and I loved it. Spain does it again!
Despite a bout of conjunctivitis that was a real aguafiesta (party pooper), Las Fallas was an amazing thing to see. I already knew it to be true, but after experiencing Carnaval and then Las Fallas, it’s clear that Spain just really knows how to party. I’m impressed. (And, after seeing everyone from babies to grandparents partying it up late into the night it makes me wonder why this cant happen in city X, Y, or Z in North Amercia?!)
Every barrio makes their own mezcleta, larger than life figures traditionally made of papier mâché that are today made of some kind of plastic(?). The festival revolves around the judging of these amazing creations and their subsequent burning at “La Crema” (“The Cream”, which I wasn’t able to stay for), along with the amazing displays of fuegos artificiales — night and day. I’m still not too sure what the point of day time fireworks are; the noise is incredibly impressive on its own, and it certainly is something to see people put up umbrellas to shield themselves from the falling fireworks’ cinders, but it doesn’t really compare to the beautiful colours that fill the sky at night.
At night, everyone who is in Valencia during Las Fallas gathers in the streets to see the amazing display that seems to make the whole sky sparkle.
Then there are processions of “falleras” through the streets; men, women and children in traditional dress followed by marching bands. They bring flowers to the huge statue of La Virgen in one of the main plazas, La ofrenda. Over the course of Las Fallas, the statue is ‘flowered’, what seems like a time consuming process, but with gorgeous results. I was in awe.
I was feeling pretty rotten, so I was really lucky to be traveling with a good friend (thank you, Matt!!) and staying with such considerate hosts (muchas gracias y obrigada Daniela y Marcelo!!). Marcelo made us breakfast every morning and Daniela showed me around the beautiful Ciudad de las ciencias y artes (the city of arts and sciences) and the old barrio Carmen. So, despite struggling through the celebrations at times, I am so grateful I was with such friendly people and am so glad I got to see this amazing festival. Spain knows how to party (por supuesto).
I arrived in Cádiz tired from the work week and thinking maybe all this Carnaval business was a little overhyped…
Yes, it is basically just a huge street party and yes, the streets are soaked by everyone’s pee (disgusting, I know. But one of Carnaval’s unique charms?), but it is so much more than just a street party (am I making sense?). Everyone is in costume. There is music everywhere; choirs being driven through the streets on wagons, and chirigotas (ensembles of singers) performing at every street corner, plaza, and on church steps. Everybody comes out to play. And I mean everybody: children, grandparents, families, students, belligerent young people– people from Cádiz, from all over Spain, and from all over the world. The sheer amount of people is impressive, but what struck me the most was just the joy in the streets. Everyone is out to have a good time and you’re bound to make new friends by the end of the night.