Seville Snapshots: SIMOF and the Moda Flamenca Industry

A few years ago, I had this moment where I had to pinch myself – I was sitting seventh row at a flamenco fashion show. I couldn’t tell you anything more than it’s name in Spanish, let alone rattle off the colors, fabric, cuts and even the numerous ways to style those ruffles.

SIMOF, short for Salón Internacional de Moda Flamenca, is one of the world’s greatest flamenco fashion shows. Showcasing more than 50 designers (including kids!), Seville’s convention bureau rocks to bulerías as the year’s top designs go down the runway.

When I went three years ago to a Friday afternoon to see Loli Vera’s designs on show at SIMOF, I was drawn into a design world, Tim Gunn style. Even though the models looked like they couldn’t have been more bored as they strutted (well, it’s hard to strut in a traje de gitana) in front of fashion bloggers and video cameras. I began to take interest in desginers – not just of dresses but also shawls and accessories – and giddily begin planning my Feria look a few months before the big event.

The Reyes Magos came a bit late this year, but they left me a fantastic present – money to go towards a new flamenco dress for the Feria de Abril, which I started designing last week with a modista. It was both nerve-wracking and exciting!.

If you go: SIMOF 2014 takes place from this Thursday to the following Sunday in the Convention center of Seville, FIBES. Entrances to the fairgrounds and stands, where you can buy fabrics, trajes and accessories, is 5 and each fashion show costs 10. You can find all the information you need at FIBES Sevilla’s official site for the event.

Have you ever been to SIMOF, or own your own flamenco dress?

Seville’s Best Terrace Bars for Summer

When the days in Seville heat up (which should have happened, um, six weeks ago), the streets empty out. Buildings are hugged for shade, gazpacho and cold beer are chugged by the gallon. Sevilla literally becomes a ghost town in the summer months, and those of us unfortunate enough to be here have only one option (unless you count day-long showers while eating popsicles as a feasible option, which I totally and shamelessly do):

Terrace bars, called terrazas.

Seville is nestled in the Guadalquivir River valley, one of the flattest parts in all of Spain. This means that all of the hot air sits in right on top of the city, creating an effect called er borchorno. During the evening, the Guadalquivir is just about the only place where we can get some relief, so many of the discos take their booze bottles down to the banks and take advantage of the breeze. I have tons of great memories of nights where I’d roll out of bed at 8pm when the night was finally cooling down, grab some drinks with friends and head to the discos.

Here’s a few of my top picks:

ROOF: This concept bar opened in Spring 2012, staking claim on a multi-storied roof in the Macarena neighborhood. An acquaintance was in charge of the set-up and social media, so I took advantage and dragged La Cait along with me. The design is part-sevillano-bar, part-Moroccan-bungalow, and ROOF serves up imaginative cocktails along with pretty decent food. Just be aware of the long lines for a drink, and bring your camera – the views are incredible. (ROOF is located on the top floor of the Hotel Casa Romana at Calle Trajano, 5. Cocktails will run you 6-8€. Open daily from midday.)

Terraza at Hotel EME – The hip hang at a terrace bar that’s right next to the Giralda, making it a perfect place to watch the sun go down while having a gin tonic. Electronic music pulsates at pretty much any hour of the day, and cocktails are wildly expensive, but treating yourself to an overpriced mojito when your best friend visits it acceptable, right? (Calle Alemanes, 27, on the 4th floor of the Hotele EME Cathedral).

Hotel Inglaterra – I was introduced to this bar when Gary Arndt, the blogger behind the successful Everything, Everywhere, had tapas with Sandra of Seville Traveler and me. The terrace doesn’t have a ton of character, with fake grass and plastic chairs, but it does have some of the best views of the center of town and a bird’s-eye view of Plaza Nueva. (Plaza Nueva, 7. Open from 5:30pm daily).

Capote – having a beer at Caopte takes me back to my days as an auxiliar de conversación, long before adult responsibilities like a full-time job and master’s. Nestled just below the Triana bridge, the open-air bar has great parties and promotions, and it’s often a good place from which to start the night. Famous for their mojitos, the bar’s always full of an eclectic mix of people, and they offer cachimbas and ample seating. They’ve even done a huge re-design this summer. (Next to the Triana Bridge, open from 1om until 4am from Semana Santa until mid September)

Embarcadero – I wasn’t clued into Embarcadero until a few summers ago. Crammed between two riverside restaurants, a steep staircase leads right down to the water, and the bar has a nautical feel. Embarcadero actually means pier, so lone sailboats rock gently with the current of the Guadalquivir, and heavy ropes are all that separate the water from the wooden planks of the floor. Live music, good service and unobstructed views of the Torre del Oro make this bar one of my favorites. (Calle Betis, 69. Open daily from 5pm until around 2am)

Alfonso – When the summer months get too hot to bear, two discos open at the foot of Plaza de América in María Luisa Park. With the dramatic backdrop of the lush green space and its museums, Alfonso’s breezy terrace rocks into the wee hours of the morning. This is a place to see and be seen without feeling so stuffy, and it’s as close as my friends usually get to my house! (Located at the South end of Plaza de América in María Luisa park, just off Avenida de la Palmera. Typically open mid-June to mid-September from 10pm).

There’s a whole loads of other – Puerto de Cuba, Chile, Ritual, Bilindo, Casino – but I’m too low key to ever go to them (or get into them!).

Have any favorite terrace bars in your city? Please have a sip in my honor – I’m buried under master’s work until July 1st!

Seville Snapshots: The Horses of the Feria de Abril of Sevilla

“Cat, estamos en Feria, ¿vale?”

Luna, the Novio’s god-daughter, is not quite three and already a declared feriante. We were sitting in a horse carriage, her teeny hand stroking the ruffles of my traje de gitana. In Spanish, “I’ve been to three Ferias. ¿Y tú?” Six, I replied, getting a puzzled look. Before I could explain, she drew in a deep breath and pointed at the team of horses pulling us along the fairgrounds. ¡Mira, Cat! ¡Un caballo!

photo by Hayley Salvo

There are so many things that are muu d’aqui about the Seville April Fair – the drinks, the dance, the dress (not to mention the etiquette). While it’s not for everyone, Seville’s social event of the year celebrates Andalusian beauty of all sorts, including its Jerezano stallions. Horses, riders and their carriages are allowed to circulate the fairgrounds until about 8pm, paying nearly 80€ an hour for the official license plate. Seeing the pale grey stallions, women dressed as amazonas perched on top with their legs dangling off the side and a crisp sherry in hand, adds an air of the past.

The caballos get gussied up for the event – their tales and manes are braided, balls of yarn and bells hang from their  bridles. I actually prefer seeing Feria during the day and admiring the creatures, as my family has always owned a horse and I’ve known how to ride since I was a kid.

Are you a horse lover? I’ll be going to the Feria del Caballo in a few weeks with my guiri friends – a whole week dedicated to horses and sherry!

Trendy Christmas Party: Seville’s Young Fashion Designer Scene

When Seville’s Fine Arts College expanded its fashion design and merchandising department, young designers came to its catwalk and state-of-the-art new building to pursue fashion degrees that extend far beyond the flamenco dresses that have become synonymous with the city’s moda.

An explosion of boutiques, gastrobars and DIY fashion trends have made the Alfalfa neighborhood Seville’s In Place to create and sell, dubbed by the New York Times as Seville’s Sohos. Young entrepreneurs are peddling wares – from vintage to crochet – out of pop up shops around Calle Perez Galdos and Calle Regina. Sevilla tiene una moda especial.

When Kate of Kate Mariela invited me to attend the first annual Trendy Christmas at Grand Luxe Hostal, hosted in part with Sevilla Trendy, I jumped at the chance to browse for Christmas gifts and meet some of the young designers. Grand Luxe, just steps off Seville’s most famous sites, played host to the event, which ran on the 13th and 14th of December. As Kate requested, Camarón came along to document all of the cool stuff for sale and their fun, young designers.

In each of the hostel’s spacious rooms, designers set up everything from brooches to boots, headbands to hangars. No less than 15 young diseñadores were invited by Kate Mariela and Sevilla Trendy to show, and Kate herself ran two workshops on each day, allowing guests to create fun DIY gifts for Christmas. I got there early, able to introduce myself to some of the designers. I debated what to wear, got a manicure (a bad one, regardless) and still showed up looking a fright, but when it came down to it, the showers were gracious and more than willing to help me style everything from what I’m wearing to a civil wedding next weekend to new accessories for my flamenco dress.

Here’s a peek at what Seville’s young, fashion-forward minds have come up with for the season (not all designers are pictured because I wasn’t able to take photos in all of the rooms):

helena moral (winner of the 2012 award for up-and-coming fashion designer). @hemoral. moralhelena@gmail.com.

Giorgia Stramare. stramarefulvia@liberto.it

Motoreta. Children’s line (adorbs!) out this March. moreta@moreta.es

Tocados Victoria Eugenia. tocadosvictoriaeugenia@gmail.com

Maggie Plumcake. maggieplumcake@blogspot.com

Tocados Vanesa Aslan

What’s more, Kate offered four talleres for excellent Christmas gifts. From Christmas cookies to decorated napkins, I chose to make a simple bracelet with enough sheen and texture to dress up even jeans.

After checking out all of the rooms and chatting with designers, my mission was clear – to find a statement piece for my dress for Alvaro’s wedding. Thanks to Kate Mariela, I’ve had tons of inspiration lately. I spotted a snazzy black beaded necklace from Designs for M and tried it on. The gorgeous piece was the right price, and I was helping a local designer who looked to be younger than me do what it is she loves and get paid for it.

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

Looking for a place to stay in Seville? Grand Luxe Hostel offers premium accommodation with excellent services and Seville’s best terrace view. Just off the main tourist road, you can expect a pleasant stay with all of the amenities for a great price.

I was a gracious guest of Kate Mariela, Sevilla Trendy and Grande Luxe Hostel, but all opinions expressed are my own. You can check out photos from the event by following the hashtag #trendyXmas, or follow the sponsors of Trendy Xmas: @katemariela @grandluxehostal @sevillatrendy.

Seville Snapshots: Bartering at the Plaza de España

The first (and one of very, very few) feeling I ever had of notoriety was from one Cassandra Gambill, who started following my blog way back before I knew theat people were actually reading. Naturally, I was thrilled when she chose to come to Spain a few years ago and blog about, so I gladly accepted her submission from her most recent trip to Seville.

Rediscovering Sevilla after a brief trip south in 2007, I had to rectify my image of this Andalusian town. When I had originally visited, preparations for the subway system left the city dirty and dusty. Whenever I saw photos of iconic Sevilla, I couldn’t recognize them as anything I’d seen, including the beautifully tiled Plaza de España.

Even though the day was overcast when I finally made it back to Sevilla, I immediately appreciated the grandeur and color of this sophisticated square. Speaking of color, there were plenty of local characters who also made the place a feast for the eyes and ears. In this corner alone there were lovey-dovey locals, backpacking-toting tourists, a scarf-and-abanico vendor, and a wandering woman hoping to plant rosemary sprigs on unsuspecting sightseers.

——–

Going on her third year in the Spanish capital, Cassandra Gambill is now working towards a Master’s in Bilingual Education at the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares. Her motto? Where there’s a will there’s a way, and where’s a puente, there’s a trip in the making.

 

You can follow Cassandra via her blog and twitter:

Blog: www.geecassandra.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/geecassandra

Details and Street Art in Porto

“Maggie?” I had to run to catch up with our fast-talking and fast-moving guide. “What does this mean?”

Showing her a photo I’d just snapped, she held her head back and roared with laughter. “Why, Rui Rio is the mayor of Porto, and this person has said he’s a son of a bitch!”

Lauren and I arrived to the Sheraton Oporto hotel in the city’s business district, Boavista, only a few hours before, running to catch a taxi and check in before the free tours and workshops started at the Travel Bloggers Unite conference. She got into a photo editing workshop, whereas I was rushed through the Oporto Cool tour. I imagined I’d have time in another moment to see the UNESCO World Heritage sites that crown the Duoro River, but blog conferences offer little time for anything more than social media.

No matter, though, as our tour of Fundação Serralves and the artsy backstreets of one of Iberia’s hippest cities provided the glimpse into tripeiro life I was looking for – the graffiti and details of urban living said it all.

Maggie, a native Angolean who has resided in Oporto for the better part of her life, had us disembarking in front of a stone house, once used as a farm house for a wealthy family. This was the Portugal I already knew – the exploration that gave way to commerce and a small yet fiercely proud people.

Thankfully, a quick pivot to our left and we were on Rúa Miguel Bombarda, a street with galleries every two steps and graffiti resting in between them.

Elders silhouetted the bright graffiti, hunched and making their way to nearby Alimentação for onions and water, and we followed suit. The stuck out just as much as we did, clustered next to graffiti depicting poetry and Oporto’s famed heart symbol. The warm day’s morning clouds had cleared, making us squint as we moved along the rúa.

The tour led us to a small mall, the Centro Comerção Bombarda, with bonsai gardens, chalk drawings on the floor and windows and artsy cafés. Used to the regal districts of Lisbon, seeing a city so alive with art and off-beat culture was refreshing. Named for a revolutionary who led a resistance against the long-standing monarchy, Rúa Miguel Bombarda is slowly starting a revolution of its own.

The street art even took the form of laundry, which Maggie pointing out as a way of life in Iberia: “We even think our garments are art. can you see? No secrets here. We are starting something new out of something old.” For someone who hangs her own laundry out to dry (both literally and figuratively), I had to laugh.

The rúa is also home to a number of interesting shops, displaying everything from rare sports cards to out-of-print books and even a curious shop with recycled goods. We sifted through old tiles, shoe horns and corsets. Hidden treasure was just begging to be found, but Maggie moved us right along, up towards the university and its nightlife hot spots.

Maggie led us past bookstores and bars carved out among government havens, speaking of the students’ revolution and their quest for all things bohemian. We tucked inside one of Porto’s oldest shops on Rúa Galerie da Paris, converted from a textiles mart into a gift store. I ignored everything on the tables and instead ran my hands along the worn wood of the old postal office and admire the crown molding on the second floor before being hurried out and onto a franchesinha sandwich. Old meets new when it comes to food, anyway.

Have you ever been to Porto? What were your impressions of the city?

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