Spring in Sevilla

{Locals dressed in their finest having an afternoon drink before heading to the Feria}
Yesterday's Sunday Times article on Semana Santa got me nostalgic about my lovely trip to Seville last April when I was living in Paris. I had always wanted to go to Spain, and Andalucian history and culture was right up my alley.  After nearly getting my flight cancelled due to the Icelandic volcano, I finally arrived and it did not disappoint.  I was there during Feria de Abril, so hotel prices skyrocketed and I ended up staying in an apartment rental during the first three days, and switching to a hotel after the conclusion of the fair.  

The Feria de Abril began as a cattle trading fair in the mid-1800s but is today  a week-long massive celebration that concludes Semana Santa, or Easter Holy Week.  Women and children dress in their finest 'flamenco' dresses, their hair done up in beautiful barrettes and flowers, and the men pull out all the stops in their finest suits.  The men of Seville were some of the most well put-together I have seen during my travels.  Hundreds and hundreds of decorated tents line the fairgrounds; we were not able to enter some as they are privately owned so we had to find municpal tents which were less exclusive but just as fun.I was also able to visit my friend K., who was wwoofing in the Andalucian countryside.  Here are my favorite things about Seville and Spain.  
{Inside one of the many tents, or casetas, at Feria de Abril}
{Adorable girl mid-twirl}
{Seville's finest}
{Fairgrounds at night}
Where to stay: I recommend a vacation apartment rental (I used FlipKey through Trip Advisor), otherwise there are many hotel options.  I stayed in Hotel Becquer, Calle Reyes Católicos 4, for the second half of my stay.  There is a nice, small rooftop pool, and it is only a ten-minute walk from the Catedral and all the main sights.  
{Rooftop pool at Hotel Becquer}
{Late night ice-cream in front of Hotel Becquer}
Where to eat: Dos de MayoPlaza la Gavidia, 6 , my absolute favorite tapas-style restaurant located in a quaint residential square filled with neighborhood children playing street soccer and grandmothers pushing strollers.  I stumbled upon it by chance and the boisterous servers behind the bar as well as the delicious food and cheap Rioja brought me coming back for more.  I was far too early the second time as they don't even open for dinner until 8pm staying true to Spanish form of late-night dining.  
Bar la Estrella, c/ Estrella 3, another tapas-style favorite where I had a late lunch on the patio across the street from the restaurant.  What to order: langostinos con aguacate (avocado stuffed with prawns), camembert frito (fried camambert cheese topped with raspberry jam).  The prices can't be beat at this place.
{Amazing fish kebab with roasted peppers from Dos de Mayo}
{Delicious plates at Bar La Estrella including fried camembert}
{Outside dining at San Marco Restaurant, set in a former 12th century Arab bathhouse}
What to do: See the famous Santa Maria Cathedral and the Moorish Giralda Tower.  Stroll the gardens at the Reales Alcázares.  Enjoy a lovely late-afternoon experience at the Aire de Sevilla, c/Aire, 15, an Arab bathhouse in the old Santa Cruz district.  Stand at a bar for an afternoon snack of churros and hot chocolate.  If you are in Seville during the Feria de Abril, you can't miss it.  Follow the crowds across the river until you see the bumper-to-bumper buses shuttle everyone to the fair.  You will know when you have arrived.  Wander the fairgrounds and pick a tent that suits you.  Inside the tents, tables are hard to come by, but once you snag a spot, do as the locals do and have the specialty fino (dry, white sherry) or a glass of manzanilla wine.
{Traditional drinks inside the caseta}
{Inside thReales Alcázares}
{Exterior of Aire de Sevilla, Arab baths}
{Courtyard at Aire de Sevilla}
Where to party: The Feria de Abril has a nightlife of its own, but if you happen to be there another time of year, Disco Catedral, Cuesta del Rosario 12, is a nice bar and lounge with a good DJ, comfortable cushions, and an international, young crowd.  You don't have to be a guest to whisk yourself up the elevator at Hotel Doña Maria, c/Don Remondo, 19, and have a late-night drink on the rooftop terrace while taking in a magnificent view of the Cathedral.

{View from rooftop bar at Hotel Doña Maria}
{Couches at Disco Catedral}
{Interior, Disco Catedral}

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