If Spain means red wine and black olives, lamenting guitars, flamenco dancers on a slow burn and matadors risking life and limb in the face of raging bulls, then Seville's Feria de Abril is the quintessential Spanish celebration.
Feria simply means "fair" as in, "my cow won top prize at the state fair," but in Spain it has come to signify the biggest communal party of the year -- a week of revelry marking the end of Easter, the start of spring, and the opening of bullfighting season in Andalucía, the sport's second-most important locale after Madrid. Feria began in 1847 as a livestock show, but now the whole city turns out in traditional flamenco dress for all-night drinking, eating, and dancing. The party takes place under canvas tents in Barrio Los Remedios, over the Guadalquívir River, whose white-tiled banks at this time of year are redolent with orange blossoms. And foreigners are welcomed into most of the festivities.
Feria is always two weeks after Easter; this year it runs from April 12-17. Expedia (tel. 800/397-3342; www.expedia.com) is running some good package bargains at this time. We plugged in seven nights for midweek travel, from April 11-18, and came up with packages as low as $930, taxes included, for airfare on Delta/Iberia and seven nights in Nh Viapol, a 3-1/2-star hotel. Seven nights in the four-star Sevilla Center Hotel are $1,010, including airfare on Delta/Iberia, taxes, and fees. For the most traditional Spanish experience, stay in Las Casas de la Juderîa, a former duke's residence, with Moorish-influenced architecture and an interior courtyard, in the Jewish Quarter, the neighborhood best known for its genuine flamenco music in bars and on the street. It's $1,548 a person for the week, including airfare, but it's worth the splurge if you want full cultural immersion in old Seville. To boot, the place gets rave reviews from users in Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com).
The best airfare-only deals come from Mobissimo (tel. 650/577-2306; www.mobissimo.com). For the same travel period, New York to Seville is $524 on Delta; from Boston it's $612 on various carriers; from Chicago it's $475 on Iberia; and from Los Angeles it's $689 on Iberia.
The rest of Andalucía -- Granada, Córdoba, and the surrounding countryside -- are gorgeous at this time of year, so you might consider a fly-drive getaway, rather than a full week in Seville. Call Idyll Ltd. (tel. 888/868-6871; www.untours.com) for farmhouse stays in Andalucía that would allow you to drive into feria for a day or two, from a few hours away, through magnificent mountain scenery. Accommodations, round-trip air from New York, and two week car rental are $1,899 from New York. Other destination cities are available.
For more information about Seville, including details regarding Feria de Abril, see the Seville City Guide (www.sevilla5.com).
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