This is the second time we’ve been here for La Feria de Abril, Sevilla’s annual horse fair. Begun in 1847, and chartered by Queen Isabel II, it was originally a livestock fair, more aimed towards farmers showing their wares than the party it has become today. But shortly after its inception fair organizers got the idea of including casetas, little tents where people of some social affiliation could gather for food, wine and dance, and the fair transformed into a giant party. At the start there were 3, last year there were 1048.
It’s been held at a large open space just at the end of Triana, across the river from where we stay. But the beauty of it is that its influence extends throughout the city with women in flamenca dresses, men in traditional ranch-wear, and beautiful carriages appearing on just about every street corner, throughout every day and into the evening. Sevilla is a horsey city to begin with – there is a thriving carriage ride trade here in the tourist district. But La Feria takes it to an entirely different level. The first time, we stumbled on it – this time we planned to be here.
We woke up again this morning to bells, pealing loudly from the cathedral. I even managed to get out on the balcony for a short video that captured their majesty quite nicely.
(click on video to hear them)
After breakfast we went in search of coffee which lately is becoming more difficult to find before noon. The place we used to love – Los Milagritos – is never open before midday, and the only ones we find are aimed strictly at tourists, offering shiny laminated multi-language menus and food that appeals to everyman. So in the morning it’s Starbucks, since there are three nearby and they tend to be empty. Today we chose the one on Constitución down towards the further bridge across the river. We ordered and discovered that my name had been rendered as “Debbie.” We sat outside and watched the stream of tourists and locals heading off to parts unknown. There was even a little middle-aged Segway group that met and departed from the square across the street. The guy bringing up the rear thought that riding his while texting was a good idea. Green Parrots squawked and whirled about in the orange trees by the Archivo de Indios, the national collection of documents from the Age of Colonialism.
Having nothing better to do we decided to cross the river and walk along the promenade through Triana and down to the beautiful iron bridge, Puente Isabel II. The big avenidaalong the river – Paseo de Colon -was blocked by the police, for no obvious reason since there didn’t seem to be anything going on. I chuckled to see people standing at the crosswalk waiting for the green signal on a street with no cars. We crossed the bridge, taking a few moments to watch the scullers on the Guadalquivir with a tinge of envy- we always say how wonderful it would be to be able to indulge in that sport. But living in the desert, well, not likely. The old royal treasure house, El Torre d’Oro and some modern skyscraper off in the distance bookended the river nicely.
(click on photos to enlarge)
Triana is a far grittier district that the Barrio Santa Cruz where we stay. Much more regular life and some fun restaurants along the water where we often head for a dinner of the regional specialty pescaito frito, breaded fried fish. It’s also nice to get away from the fanny packs and selfie-sticks and stroll along the water with neighborhood people doing the same. A group of men in racing kayaks flew past us on the water, and we saw our first little girl all dolled up in a pink polka dot flamenca dress walking with her parents.
Crossing back to the Santa Cruz side we saw a big crowd of people down towards the bull ring, La Plaza de Torros de la Real Maestranza. Being naturally curious we took a right turn and walked up the still-closed avenue and stumbled into a big procession of horse-drawn carriages winding its way through the Arenal neighborhood. Now the funny thing is , we’d asked Macarena if there were any parades associated with La Feria and she had emphatically said, “No.” Not “I don’t know” or I’ll find out” but rather a “no” that made me feel like a rube for asking. Yet son-of-a-gun here we were right in the middle of one. Lightning has actually struck twice for us here in Spain because on our first trip to Barcelona in 2009, we got up on our first morning there and walked out the front door smack into a horse parade.
This little bit of luck turned out nicely for us. Lots and lots of photo opportunities out in the middle of a wide open street. Every type of carriage – two horse, four horse, six horse – in all sizes, shapes and colors, many carrying women in traditional dress and driven by men in the same. Even a large contingent of mules and the local police color guard. They were coming up the street, passing the bull ring, turning and continuing around the block to enter the ring from the opposite side. When they petered out on the main thoroughfare we went down a side street and waded into the crowd to watch them make the turn into the stadium. The crowd was deep enough that I had to hold my camera over my head and shoot blindly, still managing to get some decent shots. The line of carriages was pretty backed up here – it was a hard right turn into a narrow street and a lot horses didn’t want to do it.
Fifteen or twenty minutes into it I started to hear people say, “Uh oh” and at first I was worried there had been an accident. It turned out to be rain, and it came down hard. MLW and I tried to duck into a doorway but the people behind us were faster and we ended up hiding inside a small orange tree planted in the sidewalk. It kept our heads dry until the shower passed and we decided to brave the walk home, choosing a side street since this one was still clogged with horses and spectators.
Before going out today the Wi-Fi in the apartment had been dodgy so I sent a note to Macarena to ask for help. When we got back she answered, informing me that it was a problem in the district and that I’d just have to be patient. I thanked her and told her I understood. She replied a second time and mentioned that there was a big horse carriage parade at the bull ring starting at noon (it was now a little after 1) but that since it was happening now, we’d have to hurry over there to catch it.
I thanked her and told her our story.