If you’ve never been to the South of Spain before, these words might mean nothing to you. But if you like fine wining and dining, then you might remember something like this.
A “feria” is what Spanish people wait for the entire year and it is basically a fair where the women wear beautiful flamenco dresses, the men get their fancy suits out of the closet and the children get hyperactive thinking of how well they’ll be spending their time skipping school.
What is Manzanilla?
To understand this party you need to know first what manzanilla is. This term is used for both chamomile tea and for a soft, white wine produced only in Sanlucar de Barrameda. Imagine my surprise when I came here and I saw all these buildings with manzanilla written all over them. I thought these people had dedicated their lives to tea. Silly me!
Feria de la Manzanilla
Short history – the initial fairs had a commercial purpose and they were meant to encourage trade and livestock sales. In 1295, king Sancho IV granted Sanlucar two fairs per year and later on religious motifs were added into the mix. The feria that we know today was shaped in 1972 when it was organised along Avenida de la Calzada, one of the most important streets in town.
Feria posters – every year there is a new poster designed specifically for this event. In each poster you can see symbols of the Spanish traditions or way of life. This year’s poster celebrates the sea life, shrimps and manzanilla. What else could you wish for?
When is it?
No need to panic. If you want to taste a bit of these Spanish delights, you still have time to book a flight, bus, train, etc. because this year the fair will take place from the 29th of May until the 3rd of June.
I suggest you arrive somewhere on the 28th because it will give you a chance to settle in and to catch the alumbrado. This is the wonderful inauguration of the fair when they turn on the lights of the main doorway or portada, as it is known. The legend says that you must enter through the portada hopping on your right foot if you want the rest of the year to be blessed with good luck. And if you don’t get any good luck that year, at least you’ll have a funny photo of this embarrassing moment to keep you company.
Each year, the portada is beautifully decorated with colorful lights but the most exciting moment is when you see it for the first time. The impact is amazing and if you are lucky and the weather is good, it will make a fantastic shot.
So what do we do now?
Well, once you get to the feria, don’t worry. Even if it is your first time, you will get into the rhythm quite quickly. The first thing that you will see around the town are women dressed in gorgeous trajes de gitana.
If there is something I am sure I will never get enough of, it’s this. The fashion changes annually, so you will not see women wearing the same dress two years in a row. This might not mean much to you, but for the credit card that has to pay up to 600-700 euros for a dress it might make a big difference. I am not saying that credit card belongs to the husband/partner :).
However, if you are a one-of-a time kind of gal, then buying a second hand dress is a good idea. You can find them all over town and the prices are significantly lower (starting with 20 euros).
Casetas – once you get your dress on (together with accessories and a big flower), you are ready to go. Where exactly? Well, the casetas are where everyone you know (or just haven’t met yet) is. These are types of big tents, nicely decorated, where people can enter and buy food and drinks. You can also show your dance moves since there normally is traditional live music, as well as the latest hits (I’m looking at you Shakira).
Carriage rides – these are the perfect way to flash your gitana traje and get to see the lively city while you are sipping a glass of manzanilla. Depending on the day and the carriage chosen, it might cost you around 5-10 euros per person for a 20 minute ride. But it’s definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. Unless you go on carriage rides every day.
What to drink?
The obvious answer is manzanilla, but you can also try rebujito, a combination of manzanilla with Sprite or Fanta. Don’t look at me, I didn’t invent it.
The good thing about it is that after a few glasses, you won’t see it as the worst thing in the world. The bad thing about it is the next day.
You only live once, they say. So buy yourself a pitcher of rebujito and let the Andalusians show you how it’s done.
Where to stay?
That’s a good question. Although not that famous, Sanlucar can get really crowded especially during these types of events. So if you haven’t booked accommodation yet it’s time to get going. Airbnb is a good option because there are plenty of affordable places. You can rent spacious apartments, close to the center and with all the necessary features.
If that option doesn’t work and you are willing to throw in the big bucks for your holiday, you can always try booking a hotel. They will cost you a bit more (especially during feria) but you are sure to feel treated as royalty.
That’s all folks! For the moment. I’ll let you take in all the details about this wonderful event while I go get myself ready. See you there!!