And it rained…
Monday and Tuesday in Jerez
Last year when we were here we had less than a day of rain and were hardly inconvenienced at all—if you ignore the inside-out umbrellas. Not so this year. It rained a good bit on Monday and some on Tuesday. Wednesday morning, as I write this, it is still raining hard.
While the rain may prevent us from ambling, it is not a real barrier to getting to the performances. Unfortunately, I think the rain may cause a real problem for today’s celebration of Andalucia Day. The celebration is to remember when, in 1980, Andalucia was formally recognized as an autonomous region of Spain. It is a big deal and, based on the preparation we have seen, was going to include a parade and crowds of people waving flags. Many people in Spain are more attached to their “regions” than to the overall country. That makes sense to me given the history of the country. We were in Cadiz last year on Andalucia Day and it was quite a celebration. [Aren’t you pleased that I resisted the temptation to say “dampen the celebration”?]
On Monday we had a good day of walking around looking at things. We are finding, however, that we aren’t getting particularly early starts after the late-night performances. By the time we get organized, go out for coffee and a pastry or a tosta (bread, lightly toasted with jamón or tomato) it’s already time to think about lunch. Finding lunch should be simple: there are hundreds of restaurants. But no. Each restaurant has to be evaluated separately and in comparison to other places we have eaten. We’ve already eliminated one of last year’s favorites after one try this year.
Monday afternoon I got to choose. My criteria are perhaps less complex than Patricia’s. We found a nice place, called Gabriella’s, in the central district, but a little off the beaten path. Most of the restaurants we look at are set up to eat outside and we sat outside at this one. I did not think the weather looked threatening, but Patricia was a little less sanguine. Sure enough, after a few minutes the maître’ d called out one of the waiters and they looked at the sky, talked, looked at the sky, shrugged, talked, and then went into frantic action to rearrange the umbrellas, bring in unprotected tables and get ready for rain. I thought they were overreacting, but no sooner had they finished than the rain began. We were still outside but they rearranged our table and umbrella and we stayed dry. We had a leisurely lunch—we had no choice—and the rain was mostly done about the same time we were. Patricia thinks that the fried octopus (pulpo) was really good and I enjoyed my Arroz Flamenca (rice, vegetables, in a red sauce).
We walked back to the apartment, which is about 25 minutes from Plaza Arenal (what we consider to be the central point) to get ready for the evening’s performances. [Little known fact: a short nap can be considered “preparation” for people of a certain age.]
Monday evening’s performances were in two nearby locations we saw Diego Villegas at Sala Paúl in a show called Bajo de Guia (which doesn’t translate for me). Three excellent musicians, briefly accompanied by bailaora María Moreno, put on what I would classify as almost a flamenco jazz concert, which doesn’t actually make sense, but Diego played saxophone, flute, and harmonica in a way that made them “fit into” flamenco as well as anything I have heard. The harmonica playing was some of the best I have heard in any genre. Roberto Jaén, whom I think is a Jerezano, and whom we have seen before, was inspired on percussion.
It was a pretty short walk from Sala Paúl to Sala Compañia for the next performance but the rain was already picking up. The Sala Compañia was a new location for us and based on what we saw from the outside, we were not sure what we would find inside. It was, in fact, very nice and we had really good seats in the second row. We saw the dancer Bélen Lopez and her company. She was really outstanding. Her energy and emotion came through very well. I particularly liked the cante and palmas. I have been recording the audio portions of these shows but I wish you could actually see them. The audience for this show could not stop applauding.
It rained all the way home. It rained heavily all night long. It was raining Tuesday morning, but the rain let up. We got a reasonable start on Tuesday, but only because we knew we wanted to be out of the apartment by the time the cleaner came. We went to the local pasteleria for coffee and a tosta and stopped by the apartment for a moment on our way downtown. I left the keys on the hallway table. [foreshadowing]
We went downtown to visit a yarn shop Patricia liked. We got to the right place, but could not find the shop. Many of you know that I am pretty confident I can find my way back to a place, but this time both of us were flummoxed. After closer inspection we discovered that the shop had indeed disappeared. The space that it had occupied the day before, was now being pounded by jackhammers. We found a little sign saying (in Spanish) that the store had moved. It wasn’t far, but when we got to the new location, they were still setting up.
We decided to go back to the apartment. We got back to the building door and…. I had no keys. Fine. Send a message to the hostess. Wait-nothing. Send another message; still nothing. It’s getting colder and it is spitting rain. Ok, I’ll call the hostess. It rings for a while but stops and no opportunity for voice mail. Now this is beginning to look like a problem. Ok, send a message via text rather than the app WhatsApp (which is the preferred messaging app here), but still nothing. Another phone call; still no contact. Now its been well over an hour and we can’t contact anyone and we are wondering if we will need to find a hotel for the night. That called for more coffee and pastry. Finally I sent a message through Airbnb. At last! A response from Isabel’s husband who said that we could certainly go back to the apartment: the cleaner was gone. More explanation and he understood we were locked out but he could not help because he was out of town. And, he informed us, Isabel had an “unworking” phone so he was not sure he could contact her. At long last we heard from Isabel and we were able to get back in after lots of apologies on both sides. Now we will always leave the apartment with two sets of keys, one in Patricia’s purse, rather than trusting to my habits.
Tuesday evening we saw two more performances one of which we both thought was extraordinary, and one we both agree did not appeal to us.
At Sala Compañia we saw José Barrios. What an extraordinary performer! His dance was energetic and expressive. The choreography was well done and the cante, palmas, and percussion were very good. Isaac Muñoz, the guitarra, is someone we have seen before and he did not disappoint. The finish was something I don’t recall seeing before: after the last dance piece, instead of a big finish or a fin de fiesta (where everybody participates), José spoke, Paco del Pozo sang quietly (if I understood, they were talking about José’s journey as an artist) and they exited stage rear arm in arm and the light faded away. Their performance was well accepted.
Later on, we saw a performance called “Vamo Alla” (let’s go there) that was a large production in terms of performers and numbers. The artistic director and choreographer was Javier Latorre. I think he tried to cover a lot of ground in two hours and not everything he tried was successful. For example, most of the standard palos (such as Alegrías, Petenera, Guajira, Buleria por soleá and so on) were performed, but often at a frantic pace and with little subtlety. Individually, the performers had lots of skill from the dancers to the musicians (including a piano player) and singers but taken as a whole neither of us liked the entire package.
We got back to the apartment without getting wet.
I will do pictures, but probably later today.