How do you measure a summer? In the U.S., summer is bookended by Memorial Day and Labor Day, the unofficial beginning and end of summer. In Spain, our season is opened, locally, by our town’s festival in Torrejón de Ardoz, and closed, just an hour away, at the festival in Yebra, the village where Angel was born.
In summer, there is always a festival in Spain. You just have to ask where. In the bigger towns and cities, you may find a festival marked by the wheel in the sky. In the pueblos, villages, just find the church, in the center of the town, and there you will find a pop-up bar (or several, depending on the population).
It was our joke, for quite some time, that I would mark the position of my approach into Madrid by flying over “the town with the church in the middle.” It didn’t take long to understand the funny look Angel would give me to that remark - nearly every town has a church in the middle! More than two years later, while taking a route less traveled, we realized that the town is Ciudad Real, with a church on a hill in the center of town, just under the direct path of many airplanes!
Many of the festivals in the larger towns resemble a traveling fair that moves from city to city in the U.S. There are amusement rides for the little kids, amusement rides for the big kids, sweet stands, cotton candy, carnival games, and more. Yet, still, they are so different from across the pond.
“There is no night life in Spain. They stay up late but they get up late. That is not night life. That is delaying the day.” - Hemingway
Well, he was almost right. At the festivals, bedtimes go to bed. Daylight extends well past 10pm in the early summer and the children stay up with the parents. There are no babysitters. The festivals are designed for three to four generations to enjoy, together. By about 0300 in the morning, however, our own mortality often kicks in, and the teens and twenty-somethings remain until dawn, while the rest of us try to catch a few hours of sleep before being renewed by a home-cooked meal the next day.
While American popular culture has certainly permeated the Iberian peninsula, it, thankfully, has not altered the festivals. It is not a place for hot dogs and fried chicken (though peritos calientes are not entirely missing in some cities). It is a place for slow roasted ham, lamb, chicken, paella, loaded potatoes, and eggs. It is a place for olives and stuffed eggplant and for washing it down with wine out of a communal boot, before taking your next beer or mojito.
In each part of the country, the festival takes on its own culture. In Pamplona, the bulls are center stage.
In Ronda, too, and history comes alive.
In Malaga, mothers and daughters match in Sevillana costumes, all with flowers in their hair.
And when the crown says, “Olé,” you must respond!
Festivals, in Spain, are for everyone. It’s like a family reunion meets a high school reunion meets a college football tailgate, 24 hours long for three to seven days. Go out the first night, follow a marching band around town, stay out till dawn, sleep till dusk, wake up to the cooking of the mother of the house, then try to go out again. Then you can say you’ve lived in Spain.
Christine & Angel
Aisle or window
He likes the window; she likes the aisle. Match made at FL350. Here are some other travel preferences. Full disclaimer: These are affiliate links, meaning the authors are rewarded for referrals (usually in the form of a credit to use more of the product/service themselves). Pinky promise: Recommendations are simply the best.
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