CAPTIN (pretend) CRAZY JOSE SKALLY-CROW
(CPTN C.J S.Crow)
Veritas Numquam Prohibere Bonum Fabula.
A pirate and vagabond’s guide to Festival adventures around Europe and how to live like a king on a peasant’s coin.
Dancing, drinking, the imbibing of alchemical vices, gentlemanly wenching, feasting, and the causing of general havoc.
Heat that softens the roads. Grand tents. A whole army of Caballeros. Dust rising from the hooves. Lights and bunting to rival Christmas in London. The Portarda like the gates of heaven. More pork than you can eat in a lifetime. Strong cheap white wine. Flamenco dancers by the thousands. The flowers of Andalucía.
FERIA DE ABRIL
(THE APRIL FAIR OF SEVILLE)
The Fair of Seville, or “El Feria De Seville” as I was verbally introduced to, is held in April in Seville, Andalucía Spain. It is the first of all the big Spanish fairs of the year that all cities, and in some cases towns, hold.
It’s a massive event on the year’s social calendar and plays an important role in Spanish culture. And with this being Spain, it’s one of the most visually spectacular things on the planet. The fair has its own special grounds, within a twenty-minute bus ride from the city centre and these remain unused, guarded, and maintained the other 360 days of the year. This much expense and this much real estate just for a fair may help you understand how seriously the Spanish take there partying. During the festival the official entrance is the Portada.
A huge triple arched basilica, or city gate, covered with lights and decoration. This structure appears solid but is in fact constructed again every year our of wooden boards and paint at a cost of some 500,000 euros with an additional 24,000 euros being spent on the lights. The Feria grounds largely taken up the streets, all festooned with lights and bunting. Permanent structural tents also highly decorated and that people have formal dinners and private parties in. The tents all contain kitchens, bars, and seating and usually a stage were bands and entertainers perform – or, at the very least, a sound system and a DJ. Most of these are owned and run by a society or organization of some sorts – from the matadors to the police and bus drivers, each have their own venue and so do the residents of each of the local areas of Seville. To enter one you must have an invite and usually have booked for dinner. The anarchists and communists have a tent each and they let anyone in so you can eat dinner there as you wish. There’re also lots of food places in the fairground section that you can eat and drink at. There’s still a wild party going on in the streets themselves which are as busy as Oxford Street on Christmas Eve; between 1,5 million people come to the Feria over the five days it’s held for which means about two hundred to three hundred thousand a day. There’re several square kilometres of actual fairground with rides and amusements to put most British theme parks to shame. The Feria is a quite formal event with the guys in suits and most of the ladies in Flamenco dresses but do not let that make you think this is not a wild party. The Seville Feria is the most plush and grand of all the Ferias so it’s a little conservative but it’s worth noting that Malaga’s Feria in August holds the reputation for being the best party. However, you should remember this is the Andalucía’s first big party after winter and people want to shake off the cobwebs and have their spring fun. Given the numbers all this costumery, it is quite a sight. Everyone should get to see a hundred and fifty thousand Spanish women dressed in all their flamenco finery. Many people choose to move around the festival by horse and there are 1400 horse licenses issued. There’re a huge amount of horse-drawn carts and buggies (700) as well as a whole army’s worth of individual caballeros wearing the traditional Traje Camperos suits and gracefully riding their mounts decked with ribbons and bells with mains and tails plated and flanks shining. The whole thing’s a grand spectacle and a wonderful part of Spanish culture and with all the costumes and horses you really feel like you’ve gone back in time. You should definitely see it.
Feria De Abril (www.google the name init)
April 16th till the 21st
The fairground Sevillia, Andalucía, Spain.
Free to enter the site but set formal dinner prices and invitation needed for most venues. You may want to book your place in one as a party if you’re rich an organized.
Not necessary or beneficial. You might be able to blag your way into some venues if you’re savvy enough and speak Spanish.
Security and Police
Fucking loads of ‘em. The security guards have truncheons and look ready to use them. The cops have their own party venue as does everyone. Don’t be a prick. Watch yourself a bit. There’s a lot of drinking going on and you´ll see quite a few fights that quickly get broken up by policemen. Watch whose girlfriend or boyfriend you talk to – the Spanish are fiery and proud.
Venues and Bars (Casetas)
Over a thousand – this party is enormous. You won’t be able to go into most of them as they’re for different groups who are eating and partying together but there’re enough open places and street and fairground for this to not be a problem.
Spanish. Mostly flamenco in all its 60 forms and pop music – some of it European or American. Although if you’re not in one of the tents you’ll have to do with what music wafts out to you. There were no bands in the streets playing to everyone that I saw. The Feria isn’t really about the music.
Booze and Prices
If you’re in a fancy tent it’s quite expensive for Spain. Between three and five euros I think for your usual bar drinks. Buying booze and drinking on the street is the way forward. Or the anarchist and communist tents – they’re cheap. There’s a lot of this Spanish white “Marquise” wine going round. Talk to people and your glass will get filled .They drink it mixed with “seven up”. You have to, it’s fucking hard work to drink it otherwise, it being oily and very dry, but y´ know, when in Rome…
As well as the aforementioned dinner tents there are an abundance of places in the fairground area serving food and drink. Mostly it’s based on pig – there’re massive legs of the stuff being sliced for ham or cooked whole everywhere. It’s cheap and good if you like meat with a few vegetables on the plate for decoration. There’s also a ridiculous amount of food people buying and then leaving food barley touched lying around in the bigger tents: plates of steaks, fried fish, whole chickens, baskets of bread, etc. etc. Basically, if you’ve got no shame like me, don’t buy food. Vegetarians and vegans and people with wheat intolerance, be warned. You cannot survive here.
Hard to say. I’ve been told by two Spanish people all the girls have a pocket in their dress with cigarettes, money, a condom, and drugs and all the young guys are sniffing something. But it’s formal and there’re fucking cops and security everywhere so people are pretty discreet. Availability would be down to you speaking to people, so Spanish language skills and probably connected friends are necessary. I’d also decide what you want to take and get it well in advance. I tried to buy weed in Seville through friends. It took five days to turn up. Mañana mañana mañana. As for variety, coke, speed, MDMA, maybe quite a few spliffs going round in the streets. No one was tripping as far as I could see. Although if you can handle it, taking some acid there would be pretty fucking spectacular – lots of stuff to look at but it’s horrifically busy.
(Stuff to find.) Pretty good place. Two to three hundred thousand people a day means lots of stuff: money, drugs, cigarettes, etc. get dropped – keep your eyes on the floor and you could probably pick up a shawl or a coat if you’re lucky. Food and booze also easy to just pick up – drinks and plates of meat lying around everywhere.
Probably quite high, but no one speaks English. Learn Spanish. And if you’re a guy who can dance flamingo, you’re in there mate. The women and men are all pretty damn amazing. Andalucía runs a close second to Sweden in the most-attractive-race-scale in my humble opinion.
Toilets. There are enough. There have to be. They’re pretty good.
I arrived at the Feria with two friends in a car packed with Spanish women all in their flamenco dresses and one fluffy hippy who kept stroking my leg in a friendly yet overly tactile way. Some people just have too much love to give. I have to say I wasn´t on best form for this party. My body was aching and my spirits were low.
The journey from my cave in Portugal had included several nights sleeping rough and a 125 kilometre walk completed in 36 hours that had led to me either having a religious experience and seeing gods and fairies or going temporarily mad, depending on how you choose to look at it. But more about that in another article one day.
As soon as we got out of the car the scale of this thing started to hit people everywhere, bunting crisscrossing the streets between huge tents. Caballeros and horse-drawn carts parading past us. Hundreds of beautiful women in flamenco dresses and the low roar of hundreds of thousands of voices engaged in revelry.
After a winter almost bereft of females in the Portuguese campo I was reeling at the sheer volume of attractive ladies. The Andalucían females are simply exquisite with nine out of ten looking as if they could easily model for a magazine, and at the Feria. They were all looking their very best. Unfortunately for me hardly anyone in this region of Spain speaks English so I knew from the start that my chances of scoring an exotic lover were slim.
Our group walked through the Feria towards the tent where our friends had been invited to have dinner. It was the biggest, most decorated, exclusive, and expensive tent at the whole Feria. They hadn’t been able to secure me a ticket to sit down with their group so I hung out at the bar for a while. I was definitely underdressed in jeans, shirt, and shoes and the Sevillian attitude towards beards is “Your no good if you don’t shave.”
Realising that pretty much everyone was looking down their nose at me and that no one spoke English so I couldn’t talk to them even if they were friendly made things simple. “Fuck ‘em,” I thought. Half of these bourgeois bastards probably were on Franco’s side. And took to seeing how many drinks and plates of unattended food I could snaffle which was quite a lot.
By the time my friends had finished dinner I was as drunk and well fed as they. We left the tent and walked past all the others on our way up to the fairground were all the rides were. On the way we found the anarchist and communist tents and had some cheap drinks and a bit more food, the relaxed atmosphere inside doing something to quell my feelings of resentment from my treatment at the previous tent. The organized chaos and din of the Feria filled our eyes and ears. Horses snorting and whinnying. People shouting, singing, screaming, laughing, arguing, and cheering – all at a million miles an hour. Ambulances making their way past us every five minutes to help the latest victim of party excess. Music blaring out of every tent.
We eventually got to the fairground and my friends took part in a few rides and games. The rides themselves were impressive and I don’t think I’ve ever seen ones so big at a temporary fair. The Spanish know how to do “grande” well. After a few hours of this we made our way home. I still didn’t feel great but my mind was satisfyingly full of amazement of the spectacle of this grand event. Everyone should go to a real Spanish Feria at least once and I think I’ll go back.
The Spanish Ferias are something you must see once in your life, like the pyramids or carnival in Brazil at least and you could easily fall in love with them. I’d say to get the best balance you should do both the Seville and Malaga Feria for that toss up between dignity and flamboyance. Definitely go – you won’t forget it, but learn some Spanish first.