Yesterday I got the chance to take a cheap day trip out of Algeciras and to go visit a co-worker in Jerez de la Frontera. I'd been to Jerez before, but I'd been by myself, tired, and totally uninterested in walking around getting lost for hours only to have to retrace my steps that night to find my hotel. So I didn't see much.
This time though, Pilar met Eli and I bright and early at 11am to start our walking tour of her city. We saw a church, the cathedral, the food market and main square, some really cute Flamenco shops, and also did a Bodega tour.
Side note: Pilar asked us what the difference was between a Bodega and a Wine Cellar. I couldn't answer because I started laughing as soon as I heard 'wine cellar'. Inside jokes are never as fun when you're the only one who gets it.
But just so you know, a wine cellar is always underground, and a bodega is always at ground level. Interesting!
So normally, for tours, I book them in advance and have time to get really super excited. But this time it was totally unplanned, we walked up to the ticket booth at 2, and bought tickets for the show at 2. No time to get really excited that we were going on a tour of Gonzalez Byass, the bodega that makes the famous Tío Pepe Sherry that is known throughout the world.
Nope, no time to get excited until about 10 minutes into the tour. When I got really excited. (Even though I hate wine.) I love visiting places that have special significance, like the largest/oldest/smallest/etc. places. So to be taking a wine tour in Jerez de la Frontera, the originator of Sherry wine and the only place in the world that it is produced, was pretty special. (Sherry is the English translation. It is called Jerez wine in Spain, just like the city it was created in, Jerez de la Frontera.)
They have a 150 barrels of wine, each with the flag of one
of the countries that sells their wine. The USA flag is
wayyy up at the top.
This was the room used by the founder to create and test wines. After he died
nobody else worked in this room or touched it, and so it's stayed exactly the same
for over 100 years.
Back to the hating wine part. I dislike red wine, but can choke it down. I hate Sherry wine. I hate it's smell, I hate the taste, and I hate that everybody else likes it except me. I think it tastes just like how nail polish remover smells: horrendous.
But I had a great time on the tour, except for the part where the guide passed around glasses of wine at different aging processes, and the part where we got to taste-test.
There was a room called the Rat's room, where hundreds of rats lived. The story says that when the Bodega first opened a worker found a mouse in the building. He was an animal lover and so instead of killing it he gave it a block of cheese and a small glass of wine. And so today, they continue to do that, each day leaving a block of cheese and a small glass of wine for the mice. (Not enough wine to get them drunk of course, just to make them happy.)
After the wine tour we got tapas and met Pili's boyfriend, and another friend. And then we bought desserts and spent a 'Spanish amount of time' getting coffee and talking. It was such a great feeling to be speaking all in Spanish and hanging out with some locals. I finally feel like I'm starting to have a little life carved out for me here, and not like I'm on some semi-permanent vacation.
So all in all, great day trip, and we have invitations to come back whenever we want! (And next time, we already have plans to go to the zoo!)
Pili and I in front of a really cool mural. (Doesn't it look like we're in Morocco?)
Sitting on the steps of the Cathedral.
The main square. There was a carousel set up and an outdoor cycling class! This picture makes it seem like it was quiet and relaxed, but this place was hoppin'!
I love orange trees :)