Thursday, April 28, 2016

Happy Mother's Day in Advance and Birthdays

“Buy art from living people, dead people don’t need the money!” (a saying I thought appropriate)

We are packing up to go to Freiburg and will be "on the road" Mother's Day so just wanted to wish those of you who are Happy Mother's Day!!!!! 

Three friends birthdays this last week, two here in Sevilla and one in Vancouver - Happy Birthday to you!

Our patio entry way
So this picture is what we walk/roll through every day and every day I appreciate it anew!

All for now, "see" you in Freiburg.

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Feria de Abril, April Fair in Sevilla

Just beautiful!

A little bit of history, not much, skip if you wish, later I’ll give you websites if you are interested you can go to, or not, all about choice… The Feria started as an event for farmers and ranchers to sell their animals. The tents acted as meeting places for people to do business and comfortably entertain prospective clients with food and drink. It morphed into other business people, political parties, service clubs, well-to-do folks, well, anyone that wanted to entertain prospective buyers of all sorts. That’s why it is invitation only and some say today that this is part of the tight knit community Sevilla is, some say it’s snobbery, usually those without invitations. 

There is a wait list and expensive fee to pay to “own” one. There are public tents but they get very crowded very fast and the food and drink is not of the quality you get in the private ones.

Ferias in other cities in Andalusia are more open to the public but Sevilla has maintained tradition. Anyway on with our day of it.

The horse drawn carriage drew up and Ryan, Angela, and us sat inside the open top, Ivan sat with the driver. 

Hola Abel!

Information about our ride thanks to Ivan: The carriage type is a Mirlor, Milord in English; our driver’s name is Abel; horse’s name is Jara. She is a lovely white and grey speckled mare, nine years old, is three months pregnant (gestation for horses is 21 months - wow, didn’t know that), she is used for riding as well as carriage so she wasn’t perhaps as smooth as those that are only used in the city but did well. 

Hola Jara!

Took a lovely drive through Maria Louisa Park. Seeing Sevilla through the open “convertible” top is the best way to see the architecture of the city. You can easily look up, directly at without windows and really get a feel for the historical buildings this city is so full of. Then it started to rain, so the driver stopped and put the hood up which only partially covered Ryan and Angela, they had to lean over to get under cover, sorry you two! Arrived at the “caseta city” and took a quick turn through some of the streets, there are thirteen, connecting the tents. The usual lanterns strung across the streets were in tatters due to the rain, they are made of paper. 

We were the first to arrive so we could get good seats and did. 

Ryan, Pepe, Angela, part of Bruce and look at the "tent"

Bar room in the tent, looks like a regular bar!

Now it’s about watching the flamenco dress parade, for me anyway. 

Not your usual picture of flamenco dresses and no horses except next picture...

Pepe joined us, then Ivan’s friend Maria and her friend Suzanna who is visiting from Sweden. We had met Maria before because she has a couple of flats for rent we had seen a couple of years ago but she wasn’t comfortable with pets. Very nice lady and it was good to see her again, we were an International group!

Zorro?! You can see the wet yellow sand.

We had drinks and food, of course. The caseta’s are catered by restaurants in town who close up their restaurants and work 24x7 in the caseta’s. We arrived at about one o’clock and they will be open with partying people until the very wee hours of the morning, all week! Reminds me of Stampede in Calgary but I think here in Sevilla it’s even more crazy. Music, dancing, singing and clapping to the rhythm start around six pm and the party goes from there. 

I did quite a bit of reading from other expat’s blogs because there is no way I was going to squeeze into a proper dress, so found out alternatives. I wore a fringed shaw, held together with a brooch (I read that’s important to show you know the “convention, not tied together” and big, for me, hoop earrings, striped blouse. Guess I did okay because Pepe commented how Feria I looked, he said it was perfect, Thank you Pepe! No one carries a purse to mar the image of the dress, there are pockets sewn into the ruffled skirts, clever! I did have to carry mine, not enough pockets to carry everything, would have looked like a stuffed chipmunk, in the coat pockets.

It rained off and on while we visited and the yellow sand, typical for here, got quite boggy. Women lifted their skirts and there weren’t many high heels visible, mostly like this type coloured to match their dresses. 

Mothers and daughters wore the same dresses and flowers in their hair. 

Mom and daughter - twins!

You’ll see by the pictures, that’s another Feria necessity, I tried to go somewhat authentic without looking totally ridiculous, a flower would have on me. For the men and boys, suit jackets are pretty much “necessary” and older men wear a tie. Ivan wore a suit and tie, he said his mom would kill him if he didn’t, she’s traditional.

I would compare this event to a fancy dress ball where debutantes come out for their season to find husbands and men look for possible wives in the monied class mostly. Romances start at Feria frequently, and it makes sense doesn’t it, young ladies are dressed in their best colourful clothing and young men in theirs. There is dancing and singing, yes, it is like the cotillion style ball.

From what I’ve read the dressing up is done for a few reasons. For Sevillianos it is a party, so why not, it shows respect to the host, it is tradition. For Expats if they don flamenco dresses it allows them to be part of the festivities, many have lived here for years and speak perfect Spanish so why not invest the time, money and effort to enjoy it more. See the link to Sunshine and Siestas blog below.

Our carriage arrived for us to depart and as we were walking to it a lone, unoccupied horse came running down the road, reins flying! Our driver jumped out and caught it, Police were there, they started walking it but stopped to calm it down because it was scared. I don’t know (again, like with the nude fellow) what happened but it was a lady's horse, side saddle which only ladies ride, of course. Much speculation on our part and we hope the rider wasn’t hurt but the horse certainly could have been poor thing.

So, upshot, would I go again, I don’t think so, we missed the display of horse riders and women in dress on the back, and carriages with them in due to the weather but that’s about all really. Loved the day, weather could have been better but you can’t change that so no sense griping about it. Some expats go every year with their dresses and really enjoy, I’m not one of those, but today was special day to experience another ages old Andalusian culture event and it was wonderful! 

Wednesday in Feria week is a holiday for many store owners so they can attend. Thursday we were out and about and many flamenco dresses in evidence. Just saw two little girls dressed up and flouncing about joyfully in their dresses. Bruce commented you don’t see two dresses the same, even when we were at the fair. We think many are custom made, so pretty, every one, I think in a former life I must have liked flounces. When the women walk they move so wonderfully and showcase the colours. I’m really enjoying this fashion show, so different from anything I’ve seen before. Adding the flowers on the hair, combs, shawls and bangles and you get the complete picture, so many dresses are polka dotted and I’ve researched but don’t know why. 

That was our day at Feria! It was great!

Thanks to Ivan for organizing and inviting us to his parent's group caseta, Ryan and Angela for coming in the carriage, making it more fun, Pepe for showing us what is the usual tipple (manzanilla wine and soda) not to my taste.

Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat

Monday, April 11, 2016

Horses and Carriages and Costumes!

Waiting their turn in the ring, note the women's costumes in the carriage.

Big show, Ivan got us tickets to the, hmm, don’t know what to call it (in Spanish the ticket says Exhibicion De Enganches which Google translates to Display Hooks - What?! It was a horse and carriage event in the large bullring here called the Plaza De Toros De Sevilla. 

Look at the pompoms on the horse's head!

It was BIG, full of participants and spectators, colourful and a showcase of skilled drivers and horses. 

Ladies dressed in Flamenco

The carriages were of all kinds, even a mail one from London and several from Portugal. If the owners were driving they wore a suit and tie, if it was a professional driver they wore period dress of the age of the carriage. 

Lone rider, we figured it was a racing carriage, huge wheels!

Carriages contained mostly women dressed in flamenco dresses and mantillas but some had little girls in them who waved at the crowds like pros. It was a big event for Sevilla, streets blocked off and famous people came to celebrate, not that we saw any of them. 

Start of the Processions

The age of the drivers ranged from a lad of twelve to the oldest woman driving in Spain, of course one does not ask how old a woman is so we didn’t learn her age, many drivers were women wearing clothing appropriate to driving a carriage, pants and sturdy boots and hats. 

The horses are another story in themselves, mostly very well trained but did see some near mishaps mostly around the entrance and exit gates. Some almost danced across the arena, if paired, in time with each other in a high legged trot. There were singles, doubles, up to five horse teams and they were tied together in different ways which would make it harder or easier for communication with the carriage driver.

The Plaza de Toros de Sevilla bullring was built in the 1700’s and has been meticulously maintained for bull fights since. It is so very large, irregularly shaped, not round, not oval, three tiers. We were on the top and my fears of being squished between hordes were alleviated when we arrived, seating was hard benches but roomy. They rent cushions for the seats and if one was there longer than we were would be appreciated and needed. 

It started to rain and it was funny to see the sea of umbrellas that came out instantly, from seeing heads to umbrellas, all colours of the rainbow, only a shower. 

Sea of umbrellas and horses and carriages

Lots of horses and carriages, sometimes coming a bit too close to each other!

Ivan talked to some children, and helped them over the railing to get seated under the roof now seated in front of us, ages five to seven and in English because they are obviously learning in school. Here children are revered and sacred, no difference in other cultures, but here there children have more freedom and learn to talk to anyone, strangers, like adults do, more trusting atmosphere would be a better way to say it.

After the display we went to a traditional place for lunch called Restaurante Las Piletas meaning by Google, the pools, but we figured out it was troughs for horses to drink at.  Wonderful meal but large, no tapas here, being close to the bullring it had bull heads on the wall, jamon on the ceiling and a very long bar which was packed, Ivan had to reserve a table for us. Horse and carriage drove up for the participants to have lunch, waited, so we heard the horses neighing once in a while, a bit unusual for us, horses neighing? while on one of the major streets in Sevilla?

Another unusual experience to be filed away in our memories.

Wet day but we go out anyway, being from the West (wet) Coast and all. Open the door to find this little fellow, now how did he/she get to the second floor? Well it climbed the stairs of course, doubt it came up the elevator. Research told us it's  called a house Gecko, harmless, with sticky pads on it’s feet. As long as it stays outside our flat it’s okay to live here.

Awww, just please stay outside, Lexi would play with you and possibly hurt you!

All for now, off to Feria tomorrow, Sevilla's Spring Fair via horse and carriage - Just wait for the next blog!

Cheers, Bx2 and Lexi Cat

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Road Trip to the Aljarafe and last bit of Semana Santa

Nazareno, love the colour and drape of his gown

Maundy Thursday and women are dressed in black dresses and black mantillas mounted on high combs in their hair. The lace is gorgeous and they fall as a cape over the dress. I should have taken a picture of three young ladies all dressed but was a bit shy to ask. Shawn wasn't, here's her version.

Ivan suggested a driving tour of the Aljarafe, a mountainous area close to Sevilla, through small towns and white buildings. 

Church Steeple

Pine trees as we’ve seen before in part of Donada Park, we were in part of it, and lovely cacti which produce fruit people eat.

Pine trees
Lush patio flowers

Getting there and we came across an absurd incident none of us have an explanation for. Car stopped in our lane, naked man standing in front of it, honestly not a pretty picture, his clothes a few meters up, two smashed cars one on either side of the road, one in a ditch and people just seemed to be getting out. Huh! Don’t get the naked guy at all, and won’t speculate.

Rice is a huge crop in this area and there are man made streams and rivers which are dammed to control the water flow. Rice is planted in May and harvested in September which would be very hot work. Ivan compared it to the Everglades in Florida although I don’t think rice is a grown there, but the waterways. Rumour has it there is a lot of drug smuggling in this area due to the ability to hide behind the tall reeds, we would call them a type of pampas grass, and the maze of channels of water, roads are a maze as well. Lots and lots of storks in their large nests, even a stork “condo”. 

These two were along the road to the Visitor's Centre, nest was low to the road

Ivan used his GPS he named Sophie. Sophie is really handy and worth her weight, what ever it is, in gold, those few times Ivan doesn’t know his way. While he knows the areas around Sevilla very well she still comes in handy sometimes. It’s an app, but helpful and fun he’s named her Sophie.

Stopped and had lunch at a locals bar which had rice dishes mixed with turmeric and pheasant, chicken, duck or rabbit. Bruce would have eaten the sauce and rice, no meat because the meat was not the star in this dish the sauce and rice were, heavy on turmeric and other spices.  We dined outdoors under bamboo reeds made into a canopy. Local cat came running as soon as food was on the table and while she was so very cute we didn’t feed her, others did.

Pleeeeease feed me!

The whole day was really a treat, to get away from the City since we haven’t for a while and hadn’t thought we needed to but did really. Just to get into quiet places was lovely and green spaces too. 

All for now, 
Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat