Spain is well renowned for its colourful and noisy fiestas and during the summer we take every opportunity to experience them at first hand. Although we had been to some carnivals that were wonderful, our very first fiesta was special to us as it was held in our own village. Having just moved into the village and being relatively new to Spain, we were unsure of what was expected of us and what, if anything we needed to contribute. Using what little grasp of the language I had, lots of body language and some ‘pidgin’ Spanish, I managed to glean the fact that the events started with fireworks and when we heard them we had to go into the centre of the village to join the festivities. What they didn’t warn us that the fireworks would sound like a bomb going off, would go off at the start and finish of each session, and that there would be food and drink both at lunch and in the evening with only a couple of hours between!! Together with the late night dancing and games that went on until 3 or 4am, it turned out to be a four day feast which will remain in our memories for a long time.

On our first evening we had a lovely three course meal complete with wine and beer in the church square. At around 1.30am, the band came on and we all danced until late into the morning. That is some of us did, as after the meal, my husband Karl disappeared and never returned for quite some considerable time. When he did return he was totally inebriated and barely able to stand. When questioned as to where he had been, he said he had been invited into the home of some of our neighbours for a drink. Such is the hospitality of the Spanish, they gave him brandy and beer. As he doesn’t drink brandy he thought it prudent to drink it down fast and then wash the taste from his mouth with the beer. Unfortunately, each time he drained his brandy glass, they kept refilling it! Karl didn’t speak very much Spanish at this point and so he didn’t know how to say ‘no more’ or ‘my wife will be wondering where I am!!’ That’s his story anyway and he’s sticking to it.

The next day, there were fireworks at 8.30am to greet the new day, and I assume to wake everyone up, and then again at 1.30pm to go for lunch. Tables had been set outside the community centre and we were served a delicious gazpacho. I am not very brave at trying new food but as it was the only food on offer, and of course when in Spain……Apart from the snails it was delicious, as was the paella the next afternoon. Beer was available and free for all so we just copied the Spanish and filled our jugs at the bar. A wonderful afternoon was spent chatting and getting to know our new neighbours. By 6.30pm we decided that we had had enough beer and had better go home to prepare for the night ahead. We knew there was a band that evening but were unsure whether there was food so we decided to have a bbq for our guests and friends that were staying with us. Just as everyone was seated and the food was ready, a Spanish neighbour appeared at the door and said we had to go for dinner. Apparently, she had invited Karl and I the night before, but of course we couldn’t remember! I tried to explain that we couldn’t go as we had guests and were about to eat but she said she would come back in 10 minutes for us. Sure enough she returned in exactly ten minutes, complete with reinforcements and we had no choice but to go and leave our guests and friends to look after themselves, with instructions on where to find the wine and to lock the door when they went to the church square for dancing before we got back! After a very enjoyable meal, albeit struggling to converse, we returned to our house with said neighbours in tow to find a party in full flow and one of our friends daughters holding court and keeping everyone entertained.

After another night of dancing and drinking and playing games until the early hours (4.30am!), we were glad to retire to our beds. Of course we forgot about the early morning fireworks that again welcomed a new day!!

Sunday arrived and we had the paella at lunch, again with free wine. Once again we retired home at around 6pm for a rest before returning to the open air church service at 8pm. Ours is only a little church but there was a full choir and a solemn procession around the village with the local town band and dignitaries. After an inspection of the tables by the local mayoress we were invited to join in a buffet with wine, beer, soft drinks and more food than you could ever imagine. At the end of a very lovely evening, we found ourselves standing with a group of friends, idly watching the world go by. As it dawned on us that they were clearing the tables we all seemed to focus on two men who were carrying a bucket between them collecting wine and beer bottles. We watched as full and not so full bottles were simply thrown into the bottle bank and before I could turn around to comment on this, all the men in the group were off grabbing bottles of wine off the tables before they were thrown away!!!

And as it was still quite early and we had all got used to late nights, we suggested we all went back to our house for more drink and partying, and so once again it was around 4.30 before we went to bed!!

Monday came around with the usual morning fireworks and this time there was no food in the afternoon but another sit down meal at night. Whilst talking to people we had met during the weekend, our local restaurant owner came along and asked had we enjoyed ourselves, and what did we think of the wine as it came from our local bodega. I commented that it was very good but I was normally a white wine drinker and asked did they not drink white wine in Spain. ‘Of course’ he replied and promptly went off, to return with a bottle of white in each hand which he said were for me. ‘If you need any more, just tell me’ he said. Well I never had chance to tell him because every time I refilled my glass, he brought another bottle!!! At the end of the evening he came to join us, bringing a few bottles of sweet Moscatel wine, filled everyone’s glass and raised a toast to us, welcoming us to the village. At around 3am, everyone was served with hot chocolate and Toña, a sweet bread-like confection and fireworks were let off to end the fiesta.

We went home very happy and replete and gratefully climbed into our beds, only to be woken at about 4.30 am by the road sweeper cleaning the streets!!m

We had a very wonderful experience and one that will remain in our memories for ever. Many of our guests now book each year for the fiesta weekend as it is so much fun