Seville, Spain is only two hours away from the area of Portugal we're visiting, so we decided to book a tour and see Seville in the quickest way possible - on a bus with a guide. The drive to Seville was wonderful - winding through orange groves. peach groves, and strawberry fields. Along the way we listened to Dominique, our knowledgeable tour guide tell us about the city we were about to visit. Seville is a port city in the south of Spain and has a fascinating ancient and modern history (Columbus and other explorers departed from here on their voyages).
We started our tour with the group and walked through the city center - the streets were busy and the sun was shining. We went first to the Seville Cathedral, the third largest cathedral in the world and spent an hour seeing the amazing interior which took over one hundred years to build. We climbed the cathedral's Giralda Tower (35 ramps that circled around and around to the top) and caught our breath as we took in the city views. In the sunshine the buildings and spring-blossomed trees sparkled. We visited the Alcazar Palace and then took off on our own to explore the 'old town' section of Seville. Scott had a book that took us on a walk through narrow streets past art shops and tiny sidewalk cafes. We grabbed a sandwich and kept going. Walked and walked til we got to the main shopping area and then noticed that (huh?)most of the stores were closed. We asked someone why the stores would be closed on a Friday afternoon, and they explained that everything closes on this weekend for the "fair."
Dominique had briefly mentioned the fair but we had no idea it was such a big deal. Scott got a taxi to take us there, because it must be the place to be. As we got closer we started seeing women in the beautiful traditional Spanish dresses - the kind that are tight through the waist, hips and legs then flare out into rows of deep ruffles around the bottom - with ruffles on the sleeves. With only a half hour until we had to meet at our bus, we stumbled onto the most delightful cultural experience...a classic Spanish festival. We walked into a huge area that had a carnival on one side and rows and rows of food tents on the other side - and these tents went on for blocks and blocks. The tents were sent up like cafes and each one was filled with people laughing, eating and drinking. There was music and dancing. And so much laughter.
Down the roadways between the tents was a parade of horse-drawn carriages that were circling through the fair. In the carriages were women in their beautiful dresses and men in suits or more traditional clothing. Some buggies just had one couple in it and others were filled with whole families - you could tell that this was a time for the extended family to be together. Everywhere people were lined up watching the promenade which also included men and young men on horses. The men were dressed in tight riding clothes with flat-brimmed hats. They would ride in formation or just alone in front of and behind the carriages.
Scott and I were both taking pictures. The dresses were breathtaking - some looked like they were very old, maybe handed down within the family and some were brand new made from modern fabrics. The costume was more than just dresses...they also wore lace shawls with long fringe, high heeled shoes, and in their hair a type of comb that stood up and also a huge rose. Did I say that nearly every woman, teenager, and little girl was dressed up this way. The little girls were darling and many of their dresses were made of polka dot material and you would see little families with many mothers and daughters in matching outfits. The grandmothers also - the dresses seem to flatter every figure and age. These Spanish women are beautiful and I've never had so much fun "people-watching." I posted some photos but our connection here in the hotel is slow, so I'll add more when we get home.