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The Flamenco Dress

The Flamenco Dress: The Most Characteristic Feature of La Feria de Abril

When you think of Spain, you think of flamenco. And bullfighting. And sangria. Depends on your frame of reference. One of the first things I would think about when thinking about Spain would be the unbearable heat in summer. And the women in flamenco dresses. In contrary to popular belief, not only flamenco dancers wear them. In Seville, almost every ‘Sevillana’ (a.k.a. female Sevillian inhabitant) owns at least one flamenco dress. These flamenco dresses are actually one of the only pieces of traditional clothing that are still fashionable and fashion-sensitive. They do not wear them to formal occasions, they do not wear them to informal occasions, they don’t even wear them to go grocery shopping. When DO they wear them, you might ask. Well, the only week when it’s socially acceptable to wear the flamenco dress out in public, is during the Feria de Abril, the annual April Fair in Seville.

Now you may wonder what the story behind these dresses is. How does one obtain such a traditional piece? What do they cost? I have experienced the Feria de Abril two times now, and I even bought one of these dresses myself so I can tell you all about it.

The history of these dresses is quite interesting. There are many different stories about the origin of flamenco, but the origin of the flamenco dress is quite clear. It is said that flamenco is a gypsy genre. While we can’t verify the actual origin of the flamenco genre, we do know that gypsy women started the flamenco dress trend. In the 1800’s, Romani women would wear self-made dresses. These dresses were made out of old fabric, but to make them look more appealing they were sewn into nice ruffles at the bottom. The women would wear them to the local fairs and get-togethers in the towns surrounding Seville. They also wore them to the city when the Ibero-American Expo was in town in 1929. This is where high-society women noticed the dresses and had more high-end versions made for themselves, which they wore to events during this exposition. This was when the dress gained its traditional status and when it became the official outfit for the Feria de Abril.

Today, the dress is popular in all of Andalusia. It’s one of the most distinctive features of every feria. The average Sevillana has 3-4 dresses and every few years they will add a new one to their collection. There are different colors that work at different times of the day. For example, you don’t really wear a black dress during the day, and a bright yellow dress during the evening. The really fashion-forward women change their dress every day of the feria, sometimes even twice a day. They usually won’t wear the same dress two days in a row.

The dresses are not cheap either. Prices range from € 300 to over € 2.000, the price of the average wedding dress! Can you imagine, having to buy a wedding dress every year? The price depends on the type of fabric, style, and adjustments needed for the perfect fit. As I said, these dresses are fashion sensitive, so if you want a fashionable style, you’ll have to spend a bit more. The cheapest dresses are often from earlier seasons, or not of very good quality. When buying a cheap one, there is the risk that you’ll see at least 5 other people walking around in exactly the same dress. This is something you want to avoid.

There is a difference between the traditional flamenco dresses, and the dresses flamenco dancers wear. The traditional style is quite hard to walk in because they are tightly fitted until the knees, where they flare out. The flamenco artists wear their dresses in a different style that allows more movement. Still, women at the Feria dance in their traditional getup as well. Not as elaborately as flamenco dancers, but their style of dancing is somewhat similar to the flamenco. It is called the ‘sevillanas’, a simplified version of the flamenco that almost every Sevillian knows.

Feria de Abril 2017 Robin Custers
Feria de Abril 2017

The Feria of 2017 was my first-ever Feria. My mother-in-law lent me one of her dresses and even adjusted it for me so it would fit me perfectly. At first, it felt a little weird and uncomfortable, simply because I had never worn a dress like that in my life. Later I got used to it and I felt like a true Sevillana.

I loved it so much that in 2018, I decided I wanted to buy my own flamenco dress. Curious about how that went? You can read about my experience here.

Love,

Robin

 

My Experience with AirBnB Rental Scam & How to Avoid Getting Scammed

When my boyfriend and I were looking for an apartment in Seville, we found many online that looked too good to be true. And most of them were. We encountered numerous listings that turned out to be a scam. This is the interaction we had with one of the scammers. (translated from Spanish to English)

We found a listing for a big apartment in one of the most popular districts of the city, for only 400 € per month. This looked too good to be true, but I thought it would be a good idea to send a message anyway. Call it wishful thinking. So my boyfriend contacted the owner and told him we were interested in the apartment and would like to arrange a viewing. This is the reply we received.

Hello
Thanks for contacting me,
I am Fabio, with regard to the rent of an apartment in Calle Jesus de las Tres Caidas, Seville (400 € / per month). I’m the owner of the apartment.

I want to rent to some nice and responsible people and to be able to do it, I have to know some details about you, how many people think to live in the apartment, for how long, if you have a constant income, etc.

Besides everything else, here is some information about the department and myself so we can get to know each other.
I am an architect (I have my own company) in Lisbon, Portugal. I worked in Seville for the last 5 years, and this apartment was bought while I was working there, in Spain, now I think it would be a better investment, to rent. I am the sole owner of the apartment, it is paid in full and has no legal problems. The apartment is not inhabited since I moved to Portugal.
The rent for 1 month is € 400 (for the entire department) including all services (water, electricity, Internet, cable). You can rent the apartment for any period of time (open-end contract) but not less than 1 month.

You can move into the apartment, the same day when you receive the keys. The only problem is that I am already in Portugal, but I hope that, together, we will find a solution.

I appreciate your interest in my property, and I am looking forward to a future collaboration and friendship.
If you need photos of the apartment, please let me know
Can you send me your phone number? Use Whatsapp?
Do you speak English or Portuguese?
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask me
Thanks and sorry for any inconvenience!


At first glance, it looks good. But, of course, I wasn’t going to pay for an apartment I hadn’t seen with my own eyes, not before I knew the apartment was real. This was our reply.

Good morning Fabio.
We would be 2 people, my girlfriend and I are working, we have renewable contracts and enough savings to face the rent of your apartment, which we liked a lot.
Could we arrange a visit to the flat with someone you trust?
Thanks for answering.

Note how little information we give about ourselves, and the first part of his reply.

Hello
I just read your email, you seem to be a very nice person!
I’m not in Seville at the moment, I work (as an architect) and I live in Portugal, Lisbon.

Of course, you will have to see the apartment before analyzing more details.
I am willing to send you the keys so you can visit it and see if it suits your needs. The handing over of the keys and the viewing permission (signed by me). We can use the Airbnb booking process (www.airbnb.com), they will provide assistance to handle the payment and delivery of the rental package.
The monthly rent is € 400, you must also pay € 800 for the guarantee deposit, which ensures the minimum damages that may occur during your stay. The deposit is symbolic since I have many things on my property much more expensive than that, but we must respect it since it is included in the Airbnb booking process. Your deposit will be refunded in full after your payment.

Are you familiar with the Airbnb booking process? I will explain the procedure if you are interested, so let me know as soon as possible because I really need to take care of this matter.
I sent you pictures of the apartment.
Thank you!
Fabio

This is when I knew it was a scam. He mentioned that the entire process would be on the AirBnB website. This is when I remembered a similar story I read online. Someone had found an apartment online and the ‘owner’ sent him an AirBnB link to handle the payment. This happened to be the same amount of money as Fabio mentions in his mail (€400 plus €800 deposit, so €1.200 in total). This person was redirected to a fake site that looked exactly like the Airbnb site, only there was one letter off in the web URL. This was a fake website, the money was transferred directly to the scammer and the victim never got his money back.

Even though we already knew it was a scam, we decided to ask him to explain how this AirBnB process would work.

Great Fabio.
The truth is that we like the apartment and we are interested. I know Airbnb as an application, but I have never used it, perhaps out of mistrust. If you explain it to us, it would be great. Anyway, could we see the apartment before using Airbnb? After seeing it, we would not mind adapting to the means of payment you prefer.

I await your response, regards.

Hello
Look, if I could show you the apartment without Airbnb, I would not use it now …
I’ll explain step by step how the Airbnb booking process will work, just to be sure:

1 – To begin the reservation process, all I need is your information:

– First name

– Surname

– Phone number

– Email

2 – I will send you the reservation notification in your name through Airbnb. I already have the keys to the apartment and the rental contract in Airbnb custody.

3 – At this point, I will send you the link of the apartment through Airbnb, where you must confirm the details of your reservation, the time you wish to stay, the name and address and the first month’s payment and the guarantee deposit.
The agreed amount is € 400 for the first month and a guarantee deposit of € 800, the total amount will be € 1200.
 Airbnb will withhold your payment until you have received the keys and the contract, and have seen the apartment. After seeing the apartment, you will have to make a decision, whether you want to take it or not. I will receive the money only after having seen the apartment and decided to take it.
If the apartment is not as I presented it, you have the right to refuse it. Airbnb will return your money to your bank account within 24 hours of your decision.

4 – As soon as you confirm the payment to Airbnb, within 24 hours they will contact you with the exact location and instructions where you can collect the keys and the rental agreement together with the exact address of the apartment.

5 – After receiving the Airbnb package, you will have 48 hours to go to the address of the apartment and see if you like it or not. In case you refuse to rent it, just contact me or Airbnb and they will activate the cancellation policy and return the money you have paid.
In case you agree to rent the apartment, read and sign the rental agreement and then send it by email.

If you are ready to book and accept the Airbnb booking process, you would need the information requested previously.
If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

P.S. I have sent you a copy of my passport ID. Please check attached.
Best regards,
Fabio

He sent us a picture of a passport, supposedly his passport. When I looked him up on Google, I found no architect by that name. He didn’t appear on any website, not even on Facebook or LinkedIn. Even though it is possible for someone not to have an online presence, it is still a bit odd.

Be careful when looking at apartments online, and be especially careful with the ones that look too good to be true.

NEVER pay for an apartment you haven’t seen with your own eyes or an apartment of which you can’t be sure it even exists.

If you encounter a homeowner who wants to arrange the payment via an AirBnB website, the conversation should take place on the AirBnB page to begin with. AirBnB has its own messaging system which protects both you and the homeowner in case something happens. Use it!

NEVER click on a link someone sends you and make a payment on that page without checking in detail that everything is correct. Check the page’s URL, make sure all links are clickable, for example, the help or contact links on the bottom of every page. There are many articles to help you verify the authenticity of a website.
For example:
AsiaOne: How To Avoid Getting Scammed on Fake AirBnB Websites

Which?: How to spot scams on Airbnb and other letting sites

I hope our experience helps you in your search for an apartment, wherever you are, and remember: no matter how amazing an apartment may seem, always stay aware!

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Travel Safety Tips: Is Seville Safe?

Is Seville safe for a single woman to visit alone? 

Is Seville safe for a single woman to visit alone?

Clients asked me this question more than once, and in my opinion, the answer is yes. Of all the cities I visited in my life, I can say that Seville is the only one of them where I have not felt uncomfortable walking around by myself. As a young woman, I am perfectly comfortable walking around the city by myself both day and night.  The center of the city has a very convivial atmosphere. The days are long and nights even longer, people are out on the streets every hour of the day, so you’re never completely alone anywhere in the center.  However, you still have to be smart. I have some tips that should help if you’re traveling solo to Seville, or really anywhere in the world. 

Travel Safety Tips

  1. Use your common sense. Don’t wander off into lonely dark alleys at 2AM, don’t leave your bags open or unattended and don’t carry your wallet or phone around in your back pocket. Basically, don’t draw unwanted attention towards yourself. 
  2. Try to not look like a tourist. Walking around with a camera around your neck, a map in your hands and an I Love Sevilla T-shirt will just make you an easy target for people trying to take advantage of tourists.
  3. Stay aware of your surroundings. It’s good to know where you are, so you won’t accidentally wander off into the bad part of town. When out on the streets, I’d recommend carrying your bag in front of you at all times, and move away if someone gets up into your personal space a bit too much. I once had my phone stolen out of my bag because I was not aware of what was happening around me. While looking at some clothes in a shop, a woman was standing right next to me, looking at the same rack of clothes. She was standing quite close to me, so close that it made me feel uncomfortable. My first thought was that this was probably because she wanted to look at the same blouse I was looking at. So I moved out of her way, but every time I moved away she moved with me. This should have made some alarm bells go off in my mind, but unaware as I was, I didn’t really think that she would be trying to steal something from me. I just walked away after I got too uncomfortable, and 5 minutes later when I went to the cash register, I opened my bag to grab my wallet and realized that my phone was gone. When I tried to call it it was already turned off, and nowhere to be found. Ever since that day, I always carry my bag in front of me and immediately grab it when someone gets into my personal space. 
  4. Don’t be alone all the time. This might be difficult as a solo traveler because you don’t always have someone around you. Let other people (maybe your family at home) know where you are and what you’re doing. Whenever you feel uncomfortable, talk to the people in your surroundings and let them know that you’re traveling solo. Even though this might sound weird, it will often make the other person look out for you. Whenever I have a solo traveler on my tours (since I work as a tour guide in Seville), I always tell them what parts of town they should avoid, and try to give them helpful tips on where they can go and maybe meet other travelers or locals. So chat with local service people such as waiters or tour guides. I would also recommend going on a tour on one of your first days in your new destination. Not only will you learn about the place and get a lot of historical, cultural and culinary insights, you might also meet some other travelers you can meet up with later on. 
  5. Don’t be too friendly. If your gut tells you that a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to say no. Sometimes, if you’re too polite or shy, people will walk all over you and that way you might be forced into a situation you really didn’t want to be in. So don’t worry about being impolite, because if somebody doesn’t respect you, they are not worth your time. 

Have you ever traveled solo to another country? And do you have any advice for other solo travelers? 

Tapas in Triana: Casa Gago

There are so many amazing tapas bars and restaurants in Seville. Someone once told me there is one tapas bar for every five inhabitants of the city. Seville has around 700.000 inhabitants so you can imagine how many bars that will be. So many, that choosing a place to go for lunch or dinner might become an overwhelming task. That’s where I can help.

The Triana district in Seville, on the ‘other’ side of the river, is an amazing barrio that not enough people visit during their stay in the city. This district has so much to offer, from amazing restaurants, beautiful markets, and a rich and complex history. One of my favorite bars in Triana is one of my most recent discoveries, Casa Gago. My favorite typical Sevillian dish is Solomillo al Whisky, and I was told that Casa Gago makes a mean Solomillo. Of course, I had to go check it out.

Hidden between houses, in Calle Lucía de Jesús, you’ll find Casa Gago. A calm, cozy neighborhood bar that has been open since 2016. Even though it’s so young, it has already made quite the name for itself. It was my first time visiting and seen that I had heard so many good things about this place, I went in with high expectations. Safe to say, I was not disappointed.

Solomillo al Whisky in Casa GagoThe Solomillo al Whisky in this restaurant was exceptionally good. I find that many Spanish dishes do not look appetizing at all, but once you take a bite, there is an explosion of flavor in your mouth. This is what happened with this plate as well. As you can see in the photo above, it does not look that appealing, but the garlic, lemon and whisky flavor came together beautifully and I can definitely recommend Casa Gago if you want to try a good Solomillo al Whisky.

AfterlightImage (3)Another very successful dish we tried was Secreto Iberico. This is a special piece of meat, from the Spanish Black Iberian pig. This is also where the famous Spanish ham comes from. These pigs have a very special diet; they only live on acorns. Because of their diet, they have a lot of intramuscular fat, which is why their meat has such unique, rich flavor.
The Secreto is the part of meat between the shoulder and neck, and can only be found in the Black Iberian pig. People see this as the ‘best-kept secret’ of the Iberian pig, hence the name.
Casa Gago serves this delicious piece of meat with some mojo picón, a spicy sauce made of paprika, garlic, oil, salt, pepper, cumin, vinegar, and other herbs. Again, this dish looks quite bland, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had never tried this dish before, but upon trying it in Casa Gago I realized I missed out and I’ll be sure to order it more often in the future.

AfterlightImage (4)Last but not least, I tried the Adobo. This is a typical Sevillian dish, and perhaps one of the most popular. It is dogfish, marinated in a mixture of sherry vinegar, garlic, paprika and more. It has a very strong (and delicious) flavor and scent, which lures you into the bars. The adobo in Casa Gago is definitely not bad, in fact, it’s one of the better ones I have tried so far.

If you’re ever in Calle Tetuan, and you are wondering where the delicious adobo scent comes from, it’s Bodeguita Blanco Cerrillo. Their adobo is one of the best in the city, so if you’re planning on trying adobo, I’d recommend going there.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised here. We were quite late when we sat down for lunch, as it was almost 16:00 o’clock, so we were the last to leave. The waiter was very friendly, however, and we didn’t feel rushed at all. He even offered us a chupito after we paid the bill. If I lived in Triana, this would probably be my go-to bar.

Buying My Own Flamenco Dress!

I Bought My Own Flamenco Dress!

 

After going to the Feria once in 2017, I decided that for the next year I wanted to get my own dress. Just because I was so intrigued and excited by the idea of owning one of these dresses. Finding a dress was quite a process. Almost like buying a wedding dress (even though I have never bought a wedding dress in my life, this is just how I imagine wedding dress shopping would be).

I had been looking at dresses on the internet and shops I passed by on my way home from work, but I never really dared to enter a store because this ‘guiri

Guiri

Somewhat pejorative term for a foreigner, usually a tourist, who happens to be in Spain and stands out as being pretty obviously not a local. The term is usually used to refer to fairer-skinned people from the likes of Great Britain or Germany, but can be extended to any foreigner that is in Spain.

had no idea how you’re supposed to behave in a dress store. I realized I needed reinforcements. So I asked sister-in-law to go with me. She has 4 dresses of her own, and has lived in Seville all her life, thus she is an expert in this field. She explained what different types of dresses there are, asked me what type of dress I liked and based on that, she made some good recommendations. After figuring out – more or less – what I wanted, we went out on the street to visit some stores she already had good experiences with.

The first store had a book with all the available models for that year. We were going through the pictures and I saw some that I really liked, because they had a special type of skirt. My personal flamenco dress expert advised against buying a dress like this. As you probably already read in my last blog, these dresses are fashion sensitive. If you don’t have the funds to buy a new one every year, it’s best to go with the ‘timeless style’, which will be in fashion every year. Even though I liked this type of skirt a lot, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

After looking around in that first store, we found out that it was a bit too expensive. I had a pretty low budget of € 300,- (Yes, I know, € 300,- is a lot of money, but for a flamenco dress that’s a really really low budget) and most dresses there were over € 500,-. So we decided to go to another shop. The dresses there were items from last season. Prices there started at around € 200,- per dress, so that was a lot more manageable. Even though these outlets are great to find amazing bargains, unfortunately, I didn’t find my dress there either.

Flamenco Red Robin Custers

A week later, we went to another shop. Micaela Villa is a shop that I passed by a lot on my way home from work, and I had seen some dresses that I really liked there. There were two dresses I tried on there that I completely fell in love with. A dark red one and a dark blue one. The red number had a ‘fashionable’ skirt and looked really beautiful. I absolutely fell in love with this dress, and I almost changed my mind on the ‘not-fashionable-but-timeless’ policy, but eventually, I decided that € 300,- was a lot of money to spend on a piece I could only wear for one week and then never again.

In the same shop, I found another dress that stole my heart. And this one did have the timeless style skirt. It was a beautiful dark blue color that went really well with my blue eyes and blonde hair (at least, that’s what all the women in the shop at that moment told me). It fit right in my budget, so it was the perfect choice for me. It is definitely the most expensive piece of clothing I ever bought, but I’m so happy I did it. Blue Flamenco Dress

I left the dress there so the women at the shop could make some adjustments to make it fit me perfectly. I picked it up one week later and I was over the moon! However, my feria outfit wasn’t complete without some ‘complementos’ (the matching accessories you put on with your dress). I had to find a mantoncillo (a scarf that flamencas wear over their shoulders which they tie together with a broche), a flower and some earrings.  Choosing the right complementos required an in-depth study of colors and combinations that work well together. With some help of my sister- and mother-in-law I found complementos that fit me perfectly, which you’ll see in the pictures.

When you’re in Seville, don’t hesitate to walk into some of the flamenco dress shops and feel them and try them on for yourself. It’s lots of fun and it gives you the chance to feel like a true Sevillana.

What’s the most expensive piece of clothing you’ve ever bought?

Love,

Robin

 

How Did I End Up Here?

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
William Shakespeare

I celebrated my 21st birthday a few months ago, I just graduated and  I have been living and working in Spain for almost a year now. Since this is my first blog on this website, I thought it best to introduce myself and explain how that happened.

The first time I went to Spain was in 1997 when I was exactly 8 months old. My grandparents moved to Spain just before I was born, and lived there for 4 years, but they moved back to The Netherlands after my little brother and cousins were born. I was their first grandchild, and when more followed, they decided that they wanted to be close to their family and Granada was not exactly right next door. I do not remember anything of my first time in Spain (obviously) and in the 18 years that followed, I never went back there. During summer breaks, my parents usually took us to France and we always traveled by car. France has good food, warm weather, and beautiful landscapes, so there was simply never a reason to drive even further south.

In 2016 I was studying Tourism at NHTV University in Breda (now known as Breda University). In June of that year, we went on a 6-day study trip to Granada and Seville. Our assignment was to prepare a 20-minute presentation on an important landmark in one of those two cities. First, we spent 3 days in the city of Granada. I absolutely loved this city. The narrow streets, the hills, the old white buildings, and the rich history are things that I find really appealing and interesting. Before this trip, I always said that I could never live in a city. I am from a small town, and cities always seemed too busy and modern. However, my trip to Granada and Seville really changed my mind.

After these three days, we drove to Seville. It was a 3-hour bus ride, and on this ride, I only saw maybe three small towns in the middle of endless olive tree fields and mountains. It was a breathtaking scenery until we arrived in Seville. The first thing I saw upon driving into the city was a huge amusement park and a very modern-looking bridge. I remember thinking: ‘this city is way too big and modern for me, I’m probably going to hate it’. Little did I know, that my whole life was about to change.

Upon arriving at our hostel, I had only seen the modern outskirts of the city. After settling into our rooms, we were given some free time to explore the center of the city. Walking towards the center, I was still thinking the same thing. ‘This looks more or less like Granada, but slightly bigger. Not a fan.’ And then I walked out of the big shopping street onto Plaza Nueva, and the sight took my breath away. When I came back to my room that evening, I remember calling my mom and telling her: “I love this city! Yes, I know I said I could never see myself living in a city, but you know what? This one might actually change my mind.” And it absolutely did.

I traveled to Seville again later that summer, this time with a friend, and we stayed there for 5 whole days. On the final day of our trip there, I met a handsome Spaniard who, later that year, would become my boyfriend. (It’s a long story, which I will tell you later in another blog post.) After doing the long distance thing for a little over a year, I moved to Seville to start an internship at a bike tour company. Because I was still a student, and my boyfriend did not have a job yet and was still living with his parents, I moved in with my Spanish in-laws. Five months after moving there, I finished my internship – and my degree – and decided to stay in Seville, working full-time at the same company.

That’s the story of how I ended up in Seville in a nutshell. My life has completely flipped upside down since I moved here, and I’m still adjusting to the cultural differences, but I do not regret anything. Did you move to another country and have any difficulties adjusting? I would love to hear about your experiences.

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see what I am up to now.

Love,

Robin.