Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Alcazar in Sevilla

We have read that one should see Sevilla's Alcazar after visiting the Alhambra.  The reason?  The Alcazar is one of the best surviving examples of the Mudejar style (Muslim architecture), but much of it was built well after the Muslim Emirs were defeated in Spain, and so a lot of the beautiful color on the decorations remains.  At the Alhambra, much of the color has faded away.   If you see the Alcazar first, the reasoning goes, you may be disappointed in the Alhambra.  Okay, so we saw it in the proper order.  The Alhambra is stunning.  The Alcazar is glorious.  Here are a few pictures of the Alcazar:

A beautiful place!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Alhambra

We took a day tour out of Sevilla to visit the Alhambra, the castle/fort of the last Muslim kings.  It was packed with tourists, but was still worth the trip.  It's about 3.5 hours from Sevilla and we took a small group tour to get there. 

Here are some pictures of the Alhambra.

See that white building in the background of the above photo?  That's the Generalife (Jannat al-'Arīf in Arabic, which means The Architect's Garden), the summer palace of the Muslim kings.

Here are a few picture of the Generalife:

These were beautiful places to see.  After walking through the two palaces, we had about an hour in Granada to have lunch.  We had one of the most delicious Indian meals we have ever had in a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant we stumbled across.  Then, back on the tour van for the 3.5 hour ride back to Sevilla.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Spring Fair

All over Spain in the Spring, there are fairs.  The biggest, and best known is in Sevilla.  We were lucky enough to be there during the first couple of days of the fair.  It runs for about 10 days in April.  The general gist of the fair is this:  rich families and various organizations have spaces for casetas - tents where they have food, drink, music and dancing, and where you have to be invited in order to join in.  In Sevilla, there are hundreds of casetas that line the streets of the fair grounds.  The fair grounds is huge.  There must be 500 or more casetas of all sizes.  Needless to say, we were not invited into any casetas because we didn't know anyone.  There are a few "public" ones, but they are very crowded, and pick-pocket havens.  So we didn't go into any casetas.  But they are open to the street, so you can see inside.

Everyone dresses up -- the ladies in their best flamenco style dresses, and the men in either fancy riding outfits if they have a horse, or suits or sports coats and ties.  They go to the fair to strut and to party all night.  There's also a carnival with rides, etc.

The dresses are amazing.  There are lots of stores in Sevilla that cater solely to the fair, selling dresses and all of the accessories that go with them -- fans, plastic combs for the hair, mantillas, shawls, bracelets, flowers for the hair, etc.  Many of the women have designers make their dresses for them, and they can be extraordinarily beautiful.  But, they are all in the flamenco styles.  The cheapest dresses for women that we saw (other than the tourist souvenir ones that, of course, no self-respecting Sevillana would be caught dead in) cost 190 Euros.  That's about $250.  And those dresses looked cheap.  Most dresses probably cost between $500 and $1,000.  Of course, some are well over $1,000, especially if they are designer made.  Then, by the time you finish adding all the necessary accessories, you've probably spent another $300 - $400 at least.

In one of the department stores where I was buying flowers for my hat, I asked a sales lady if the ladies bought a new dress ensemble each year.  Well, yes.  But not only that, they buy a new ensemble for every night of the fair every year!  Gobs and gobs of money go into attending the fair.  But, it is the social occasion of the year.  From babies in strollers to quite elderly grandmas, the ladies are dressed to impress!

Anyway, here are some pictures of the Sevilla Feria de Abril (April Fair.)

The Feria during the day:

The gate to the fair grounds

One of the casetas

Horse & buggy "taxis" that take people around the streets of the Feria

A lovely senorita flirting with two horsemen

Senorita on the back of her beau's horse

Beautiful young senorita

Another beautiful dress.  Note how the flower is worn on top of the head.

A buggy full of beauties

Strolling to be seen

  Nuns and their baby?  Do note the baby is dressed to impress in her flamenco dress.

Everyone gets into the act

Just a few pictures of the very large and colorful carnival portion of the Feria.  We took these during the day before the carnival had really come to life:

The Spanish are night time people, and the activity really picks up after dark.  The Feria at night:

The gate lit up at night

Huge crowds strut their stuff during the night

Out to be seen

Inside a private caseta the party is just getting started

Some of the stores that provide the special Feria attire:

We felt very fortunate that we were there to see the Feria de Abril.  If you didn't have to stay up all night, it would be fun to go and get all dressed up in the beautiful dresses.  Maybe someday!