Jerez de la Frontera was my first taste of real Spain.
And it tasted like Sherry.
Until Jerez, I’d only ever seen sherry in a dusty bottle, at the back of my parents’ drinks cabinet in our old family home. Occasionally that bottle was opened for a wee Christmas tipple.
Could I have imagined where this drink had its origins? Not likely.
There were also bottles of spirits with exotic sounding names in that cupboard. These were the drinks my childhood self imagined had come from far away places in my parents’ bid to bring the holiday home with them. I always liked the idea of that; being in your living room on a winter’s day and pouring yourself a glass of something that could instantly transport you back to somewhere fabulous.
These days, that’s how I feel about Sherry.
Visiting Jerez was a happy accident brought about by my sister’s year abroad whilst studying for a degree in Spanish. I remember her telling us where home for the next eight months was to be, much to our confusion. We knew about the Costa Brava and the Balearics but I have to admit we had no idea about Andalucia.
I visited Jerez twice while my sister lived there. First, I stayed in a rented apartment in the gypsy quarter of town.It was an atmospheric place to be, and I have a vivid memory of walking in the late morning, hearing the sounds of a Spanish guitar and catching a glimpse of a dancing silhouette through a curtain in one of the areas Flamenco schools.
This was the Spain I always wanted to know.And that recollection still gives me goosebumps.On my second visit, I stayed in my sister’s Spanish home and got to sample genuine local life, off the tourist track. It was an excellent week in authentic Andalucia.
Jerez de la Frontera is the fifth largest city in Andalucia and is well worth a visit should you be staying in nearby Seville (it’s a convenient bus or train ride and a journey of about 55 miles). It’s rich in beautiful architecture and has a wonderfully strong identity.
Influences can be seen all around reflecting the city’s history as a town on the frontier between the Moorish and Christian regions of the country.And of course, the sweet smell of Sherry stimulates the senses as it wafts gently around the city.
Things you should do in Jerez de la Frontera:
#1 Visit the 17th Century Cathedral. A stunning fusion of architectural styles.
#2 See the Alcazar, a Moorish fortress with gorgeous gardens.
#3 Get a 360 degree view from the Camera Obscura.
#4 Explore the Museum of Equestrian Arts where you can learn about the history of the famous Andalusian horses.
#5 Go Sherry tasting. Open your eyes to the many different varieties and find your favourite; from dry and pale, to rich and nutty. Visit a Bodega such as Sandeman for a tour and a lesson in the making of this Spanish wine.
It was such a surprise discovery and a jewel that got hold of me in a way I’ll never forget.
I hope I’ve got you interested in Jerez de la Frontera. If you’ve already been there, please share your thoughts with me…