This will be a relatively short post. We have been very busy for the last couple of days.
On Monday we had a good walking tour of Jerez with our guide, Margarita Lozano. We spent time at the Alcazar. The Alcazar had fallen into ruin when it was purchased by and Englishman in the 1920s. He did a lot of archeology and funded a lot of restoration before the Alcazar was given back to the city. A lot of the outer walls are now restored and we walked along them to get views of the city and the interior of the Alcazar.
Inside the walls we visited the old mosque. It is not large and there are no decorations left, but it is nicely constructed. We also visited the partially restored Arab baths (hammam) which comprise several rooms and are similar to other baths dating back to Roman times.
Margarita told us that Jerez is not an old city. It wasn’t built until the 8th century in contrast to Cadiz, which was founded by the Phoenicians sometime around the 5th or 6th century B.C. And, to us, the city doesn’t have the “old” feel that some of the other places we have visited do.
What Jerez does have is lots of twisty, narrow streets that are fun to explore. We walked some of those streets and I think we can now make our way without getting [too] lost. Of course, if we do get lost we won’t starve because the other thing Jerez has is places to eat. From tourist traps to nice places to holes in the wall, the old part of the city has something for everyone.
On our walk Margarita pointed out a number of places for us to go back and visit. We appreciated that because had we gone into every interesting place we would still be walking tonight.
At the end of our walk, Margarita took us to the Fundador bodega. A bodega is both a warehouse for wine/sherry and the business that produces and sells the sherry. We had a good tour with a small group of people and I learned a lot about the process of making sherry. Fundador has acquired a number of sherry ‘brands” over the years. You might recognize the Harvey’s Bristol Cream brand. I’m sure someone at Fundador knows how many barrels they have in their vast warehouses, but my conservative estimate is “zillions.” The rows stretch for hundreds of meters. Famous or important (they aren’t the same) people are sometimes invited to sign (inscribe?) a barrel. We saw lots of names we recognized but one barrel, signed by Antonio Gades, caught our eyes. He is a flamenco dancer we like a lot.
Sunday, at midnight, we went to see Melchora Ortega’s show (A La Memole) at Sala Paúl (a performance space about a mile from our apartment). We walked there and back. Patricia liked the show a lot. I liked it less. If I had to describe it, I would say that it was like a cabaret. In fact (de hecho), the introduction to the show was right out of the movie Cabaret. Instead of just the traditional guitar, cante, and dance that I expect in flamenco, there were wind instruments, people popping up left and right, and some very (to me) non-traditional dance.
Last night we saw two shows. Early on we saw two cantaores (singers) in a small venue inside the Alcazar at Palacio Villavicencio. Both José de Los Camerones and Manuel Fernandez brought real emotion and power to their singing. The guitarists who accompanied them were dazzling. To make the concert even better, we got there early enough to talk to some of the people sitting near us. They were from France, Denmark, and California. The people from France have been coming to the Festival de Jerez for the last 12 years.
After that concert, we hiked over to Teatro Villamarta to see Patricia Guerrero’s show called “Catedral.” Again, Patricia liked the performance more than I did. I think that we both agree that the larger shows, which seem to have themes, are a different style from what I think of as flamenco tradicional.
Today (Tuesday) Patricia and I got ourselves to Cadiz by walking to the train station and buying tickets on a train heading in the right direction. We didn’t have to worry about getting off at the right station because Cadiz is the end of the line.
We met Margarita for a short tour of Cadiz. There was a lot of energy in the city today because their annual Carneval was going on AND it is a holiday in Andalucía. There were lots of people in costumes and regional dress.
Margarita did another good job of giving us basic information about Cadiz and showing us points of interest. Lots of places were closed because of the holiday, so we will have to add Cadiz to our list of places to revisit.
Instead of taking the train all the back from Cadiz, Margarita took us to Puerta Santa Maria by ferry. That gave us a chance to see Cadiz (ka-dee-th) from a different perspective. Puerta Santa Maria was a nice place to see while walking. There is a restored fortress there that would be interesting to explore. Puerta Santa Maria is a fishing port and has lots of restaurants. It is just ramping up its appeal to tourists.
Back in Jerez (don’t ask about how we missed our train by 30 seconds), we had a nice meal at el Gallo Azul, a famous eating place. Patricia ordered squid, and when it came, it was just that: an entire squid. It filled the plate. When Patricia cut into it, the squid fought back and squirted her with something. But in the end, only the squid’s tentacles remained.
Tonight we went to a performance at Gonzalez Byass. That is a nice facility and we got there early enough to get reasonable seats. That means we got there 45 minutes before the performance. There are no reserved seats so unless you move quickly you may not be able to see the stage very well.
Tonight’s show was an homage to a well-known Jerezano writer named José Manuel Caballero Bonald. I could not follow all of the tributes to him or pick up all of the song lyrics and poetry. The line-up of performers was stellar, including Paco Cepero, Manuel Moneo, Vincente Soto “sordera”, Tomasa Guerrero Macanita, David Lagos, Alfred Lagos, and Rosario Montoya. Rosario Montoya accompanied Tomasa on the piano and it was really, really good—if non-traditional. The entire performance was a treat. I was also able, because of where we were sitting, to watch 4 palmeros. It furthered my education.
Tomorrow we may get a chance to re-visit some of the places we had to see quickly. We don’t have any music scheduled until 9:00.
I put pictures on the Jerez picture page, but there are many more to curate.