This was a busy weekend. Busier, in fact, than I thought it would be. We had group activities which seemed to have clear begin and end times. For example, we began Saturday with a walking tour of Barrio San Miguel that was scheduled for 10:30 but we did not get started on time. [Think “herding cats.”] so that ran late, which would have been OK, except for the wine tasting which was supposed to begin at 12:00 but we did not get there until about 12:30. Which would have been OK except for the lunch which was scheduled for 2:30.
The first part of the day felt a little rushed, in other words. The lunch, at Taberna Jerez, was good but lunches here are not rushed at all. Yesterday’s lunch took a little more than 2 hours. Food appeared magically on the table and wine glasses (not for me) were refilled automatically. There was a lot of conversation around the table, but we were so spread out it was difficult to speak with all but the closest companions.
The Barrio San Miguel is known for the number of flamenco artists who were born there such as Lola Flores and La Paquera de Jerez. Flamenco really is embedded in the culture here.
The Lustau bodega (primary meaning of “bodega” here is “wine cellar”) dates back to the 1890s and the brand name is well known here and around the world. Much of its product is exported, which is not unusual for sherry producers. Our tour included sampling 5 varieties of sherry and a vermouth. Unsurprisingly, there are rules for the characteristics of each type of sherry so you might think that all “finos” would taste the same, but that isn’t the case at all. Over our visits to Jerez, Patricia and I have been to several bodegas and even I can now taste differences. I could not tell you if one is better than another, but I can tell the difference.
After lunch—which is often the main meal here—Patricia and I came back to the hotel for a short rest. Then we took a short walk to the Sala Compañía venue for a 6:30 show. We thought the show would last an hour or a little bit more. Our seats were in a great location and very comfortable, and we paid little attention to how the time was passing. The show was a series of short pieces from young winners of a competition in Turin and before we knew it, it was 10 after 8 and our next performance was scheduled for 8:30 and was 15 minutes away. You probably just did the math in your head and figured we had 5 whole minutes to spare. Seems reasonable except you could not know that every square foot between Sala Compañía and Teatro Villamarta was occupied by a man, woman, or child (or some combination of the 3) celebrating the Carneval. [Think giant party.] Needless to say, there was no quick path through the revelers.
We did manage to get in Villamarta before the lights went down. Performances seem to start 10 minutes after the scheduled time and people know that, so they show up late. I bought tickets for the Gemma Moneo show late and the only tickets I could find were for the first row, up and off to the side of the stage. I thought they would be terrible, but we were fortunate. Her show on the Villamarta stage was actually on quite a small scale. We were perfectly positioned to see everything. It was a great show and we really enjoyed it.
Even though we had tickets for an 11:00 show we decided we were tired and did not go.
Here would be a good place to mention the dire weather forecasts we had been seeing since before we arrived. I am happy to say that, so far, the predicted rain and cold have held off. It has been chilly in the mornings, but we have had bright blue skies and pleasant temperatures.
On Sunday morning we met with the group for a tour of Barrio El Salvador. We visited the area around the cathedral and spent most of our time in the Alcázar.
The cathedral (El Salvador) is not all that old for a Spanish city is was built in the 17th century over a period of about 80 years. It is a mix of gothic, baroque, and neoclassical styles. But up until 1980, it was just another church in this city which has several really old churches. There was competition—in a political / religious sense—for which one would be designated “cathedral.” The group did not go inside, but Patricia and I have spent time inside and it is quite interesting.
The Alcázar was a Moorish fort (for lack of a better word) originally built in the 10th century. It has been re-built and re-purposed over the years. Its purpose as a fort was to protect the area and I suspect that it would have worked well. The exterior walls are quite high and the interior housed many people had a protected water supply, food sources, and housing for soldiers as well as administrators. Eventually taken by the Christians during the Reconquista, it gradually fell into disrepair before being refurbished (?) and made part of the heritage of Jerez and Spain. Our guide did a good job of guiding us through the site. On previous visits Patricia and I have attended concerts inside the Alcázar.
Our meal was at Bar Juanito. It seemed to me that everyone had a good time. More people from the group came to the meal than went on the walking tour so it was a lively meal. There were many choices on the menu, many of them traditional dishes, and people agreed that the food and service was quite good.
Patricia and I had planned to go to a performance at a peña Sunday afternoon, but that did not work out so we got last minute tickets to see an early performance at Bodega Gonzalez-Byass. We saw “Perrate” (Tomás de Perrate / Tomás Fernández Soto) who comes from a famous flamenco family. The show was a mix of cante tradicional and fusion music. I like the cante traditional.
On the way back to the apartment we broke with tradition and, instead of gelato, we had ice cream. I know: it is a shocking departure from the norm, but they have really good ice cream here as well as really good gelato.
Below are maps of where we walked on Saturday and Sunday.