Review: Jerez & Cadiz
Escorted Tour - Coach
Sherry but no trifle
103 people found this review helpful
While having a long winter stay in Spain to escape the British winter, we took one of the many day trips on offer from our base in Benalmadena, on the Costa Del Sol. We'd previously been on day trips to Seville and Cordoba and had been quite impressed with Rusadir Travel, so we decided to try their day trip to Jerez De La Frontera and Cadiz.
The coach turned up dead on time at 7.30 a.m. at our pick-up point and we set off on our two-hour journey to Jerez De La Frontera, stopping en route for a coffee and toilet break. The route we took brought us along the Ruta Del Toro, which takes its name from the cattle farms in the surrounding country, where the bulls run free for five years until they are selected for bullfighting contests. This latter little gem of information from our guide was met with unimpressed silence from the majority of passengers,most of whom appeared to share our view that bullfighting is an unnecessarily cruel spectacle that scarcely deserves the name of "sport". We did get the opportunity to see some bulls at very close quarters while stopped a the motorway service area where we took our break; herded by a very elderly Spanish gentleman armed only with a stick, they were grazing an area of unfenced land directly adjacent to the coach and lorry park! Luckily for us they were too intent on their grazing to pay us any more than cursory interest, and slow-moving enough for a few of us to get some nice photos.
Once in Jerez, we went straight to the Williams & Humbert bodega (or winery) for a guided tour followed by a chance to taste and buy some of the amazing sherry they produce. Having been previously to Cordoba and seen the Mosque/Cathedral with its 800+ pillars supporting the roof, I was struck by the similarity of the winery, which has over 400 pillars holding up the complicated roof structure, all of which was apparently made of pre-cast concrete off-site and assembled like a huge jigsaw. The winery contains over 50,000 barrels of wine, in various stages of maturation, all stacked in four rows, with the oldest wine at the bottom and the newest at the top. Each time wine is drawn off, it's taken from the barrels at the bottom, which in turn are re-filled from the next layer up, until finally the last topping-up is taken from the barrels at the apex. These are then refilled with the year's new wine. For this reason, sherry (a corruption of Jerez, pronounced "Herr-eth") wine never has a vintage year printed on the label, as it's impossible to tell in which years the wines which make up a bottle were actually grown and fermented.
At the conclusion of the tour we were ushered into an indoor arena inside the winery and treated to a horse show, in which an elegantly dressed Spanish horseman, sometimes described as a "horse-breaker", led a very well-trained and beautifully-groomed Andalusian horse through a dressage routine and a series of movements to music.
After the show we had the opportunity to taste three different sherries, all of which were excellent, and were able to stop in the shop and buy any of the wines that we had tried. We succumbed to the charms of a bottle of "Canasta", which is a sweet dessert wine of 19.5% alcoholic strength, so you don't need too many glasses of that! It is delicious, though!
Once we left the winery we went to the Puerto De Santa Maria, which is Jerez's little port, to board a catamaran for the short trip around to Cadiz. This gave us the chance to see Cadiz from the sea, which on the day we travelled was quite choppy. Having disembarked we were guided into the old town centre of Cadiz, with its very narrow streets and old buildings. Built on a peninsula and surrounded on both sides by the sea, Cadiz can never grow outward, and it can't grow upwards because the sand on which it is built would never support the foundations necessary for taller buildings. Many of the buildings in the older quarters have protected status and therefore are unlikely to be torn down and replaced by newer buildings, so there are parts of the town that probably look as they did in the 17th century.
Cadiz boasts a magnificent cathedral, the cupola of which can be seen from many parts of the town, and it has some fine squares, including the Plaza De San Antonio, which was our meeting point.
Just like any other city, Cadiz has its share of national & regional chains, and we never seem to go anywhere in Andalucia without stumbling across a branch of "100 Montaditos", which offer a range of Spanish fast food for very little money. It was in the doorway of "100 Montaditos" that we encountered a pair of bedraggled English ladies, who were actually fellow passengers on our coach, who were sheltering from the rain and wondering where to go for their lunch. We suggested "100 Montaditos" but they seemed reluctant, so we took them down the street to a small bar restaurant where we had tapas and a drink or two for about 6 Euros each.
It's not far from one side of Cadiz to the other, and it's possible to walk between its two coasts in just a few minutes. We found it a fascinating city and would certainly visit again for a longer spell.
Our journey home took us once again through rolling countryside, with plenty of open pasture land for the famous bulls, and millions of olive trees. We finally returned to Benalmadena at 8 o'clock, tired but happy, and with another set of nice memories to add to the memory bank.
103 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.