Monday, May 6, 2019

Remembering my visit to the Feria de Abril in Seville, Spain (II)

La Giralda, the tower of Seville's cathedral

The rest of the week in Seville was spent finding activities to fill our time. It wasn't necessary to spend every day at the Feria per se, as there were other activities that were just as worthy of our attention. Julia had plenty of friends of Seville and was indispensable in introducing us to Juan Iglesias, who was our contact for a caseta dedicated to flamenco called "Peña Flamenca Torres Macarena." He and I had an interesting conversation discussing whether or not flamenco could be considered "folklore." Juan didn't consider flamenco in the same category as folklore, and preferred to classify it as more of an art form, which meant that it could be subject to more innovation and individual shaping than folklore would. Of course, this is a topic that could be debated endlessly, depending on one's definition of folklore and what fits within its realm.

I learned that although flamenco dancers do perform sevillanas, flamenco and sevillanas are not one and the same. In fact, the Feria is usually not the best time to find the best selection of authentic flamenco, with a few notable exceptions: the previously mentioned caseta, and a wonderful place called "Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus," a small venue in the heart of Seville that presents flamenco in an intimate setting: a courtyard with a canopy high above to protect from any rain. Nancy and I attended one such performance and were blown away. If you go to Seville, do not miss this. Reserving tickets at the Casa de Memoria is an absolute must, as the place is small and tickets sell out quickly. The website is . The Casa is used to accommodating English-speaking guests, so you will have no difficulty there.

Tom would take flamenco lessons during the day with friends in the city. Nancy and I would tour the city either together or separately. We decided that we would reserve a trip to Granada on one of those days to see the Alhambra, that marvelous palace from the medieval era when the Moors dominated Spain. We learned that only guided tour groups are allowed into the Alhambra, and they are moved through quickly due to the demand. Our tour group was divided into Spanish speakers and English speakers, so while Nancy and I were together on the bus, she went off to the English group and I went with the Spanish group. We convened again for lunch and met a delightful Irish couple, discussing the politics of the day. US foreign policy is always a hot topic for discussion, and while we didn't disagree, we still tried to tread lightly in that area.

There were two comforting routines that we fell into during evenings that we didn't go to the Feria grounds: a cafe that was convenient to our apartment, and a restaurant not far from there, where we could sit outdoors and take our time. Dinner was served very late. It would get dark at 9:30 pm, and our dinner would continue leisurely until midnight. I was hooked on paella and had it almost every time, along with a delicious dessert consisting of a large ball of vanilla ice cream with a crispy chocolate coating.

We absolutely had to go back to the Feria on Sunday night for the big sendoff before we returned to the States. The Feria grounds are absolutely packed as people waited for the finale at midnight, when the lights of the Feria gate are turned off in stages, followed immediately by a fireworks show. It was the perfect way to cap off a wonderful week in Spain.

You can learn more about the 2019 Feria de Sevilla, which is taking place now, having started on May 4 and continuing through May 11, at the website .