June 4th, 2012
They love to dress for a party in Spain. Fiestas are full of folk flouncing around in fabulous outfits. It is not always clear what the costumes represent, but I always admire the outfits i see on men and women come party time all over Spain.
Here are just a few sights i have witnessed and photographed.
In Jumilla i came across Roy Orbison and his friends. I know. Roy Orbison has been dead for years. But his lookalike looked good on his scooter. And Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz was there also, though seemingly without her dog.
Jumilla is in the province of Murcia and was once the foremost region of Spain when it came to the production of wine. In mid August the Fiesta de la Vendimia culminates in a final night of revelry during on which wine is thrown around like confetti.
They were there at the time of the wine festival in Jumilla when, to my delight, the fountains run with red wine and not water. Now that is a clever and refreshing fiesta. Jumilla is a long way from being the most famous vino location in Spain. Of course, areas such as La Rioja and towns such as Haro are famous for producing wine on a grand scale.
But i really liked the wine of Jumilla. The young and the old varieties.
Monastrell is one of its better known varieties. Bodegas such as Silvano Garcia have been producing fine red wines in Jumilla since 1925. Today they also produce Moscatel together with young White and Rose wines.
In Cadíz the carnival sees people dress up in all kinds of outfits. Wierd and wonderful. Colourful and cool. Like Cadíz itself, which is a very cool place to stay for a holiday, and one with lots of good quality accommodation.
It was not so cool this month when temperatures reached a record high. But there are always ways to chill out in Cadíz.
Collette Rafferty lives further down the coast at Rota and loves the time she spends in Cadíz.
She told me: “Cadíz is very much the product of its history. Shipping has been its biggest trade for centuries as it has always had ties with the old world. This is very evident in the architecture of the city. Cathedrals, towers and cobbled streets with beautiful plazas make up classy Cadíz.
“The people of Cadíz are very warm and jolly and they don’t tend to take life too seriously. They are renowned for this throughout Spain. One can feel this friendly atmosphere on the streets. They lived for centuries very much on top of each other and it shows in the way they go about every day chores. Foreigners are nothing new to Cadiz and the attitude of ‘live and let live’ is very much alive in this part of the world.”
Dressing up come fiesta time comes naturally to them.
In Valencia the Queen of Fallas looked lovely when i met her when we were both taking a break from the noisy celebrations outside. She looked stunning in an outfit of many colours.
She loved being Fallas Queen and seemed far less perturbed by the noise that is an inevitable ingredient of the celebration of fire, the annual staging of Fallas. It was not the easiest of dresses when it came to sitting down, but she managed and looked so cool in doing so.
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and for too long was overlooked by tourists. Not now. Sailing and motor racing changed all that. Now it is popular city in which to rent an apartment for a weekend break or longer. I think the Spanish cities by the sea offer the very best of what is on offer. Valencia is one. Not far away, Alicante is another.
I asked Tim Birch, who lives in Valencia, about other colourful attractions in the city.
He told me: “Valencia is a compact city and is consequently easy to get around. It is a great city to explore on foot. The historic centre is a fascinating maze of tiny streets and plazas around the Cathedral.
“As for hidden gems, they are myriad. One of our favourites is the Convento del Carmen, a wonderful cloistered gallery space. It was once a Convent and is part of the Museo de Bellas Artes.”
Even the Spanish royal family are not adverse to dressing up. All part of the duty, i guess.
I witnessed a huge crowd of cheering Spaniards who waited hours in the city of Motril on the Costa Tropical as they cheered the arrival of the Prince and Princess of Asturias.
Motril is a great city in which to base yourself if trying to see cities such as Granada or if you want to make a day trip to the mountain villages of La Alpujarra.
Princess Letizia, once a television presenter, was wearing the traditional mantilla. They are made of lace or silk and are worn over a high comb called a peineta. On certain occasions the veil is drawn across the face.
But Letizia showed her smiling face to the throng of cheering spectators at Motril port. A location now used by the cruise liner companies and from where you can take a ferry to Melilla.
The Prince and Princess get dressed up for such royal visits and special occasions. But some Spanish people need little reason to show off their latest fancy dress or colourful costume.
But, of course, a Spanish wedding is the ultimate free fashion show to be seen anywhere in the country. My, my, the sights I have seen at a Spanish wedding. From the sublime to the ridiculous. And that’s just the bridesmaids!
If you are lucky to witness a wedding, such as the classy Murcia affair i photographed above, then stand back and do what comes naturally. Judge the dresses and pick your favourite. Ask yourself why so many of the men wear orange ties with green shirts. Or green ties with orange shirts!
A gathering of those attending a Spanish wedding is just one free show you can admire when you find yourself on holiday in Spain. Failing that, be sure to attend a carnival or fiesta. Admire how the locals throw themselves into party mood.
And how they like to dress in impress. It’s just one wonderful facet of everyday life in a country that never fails to impress.