Manolo’s bodega. Spot the man bag!
In total we passed a week in La Jara and days passed really quickly. We completed some more bike rides to a pine tree nature reserve just outside Chipiona and along the coast to Costa Ballena. The pine tree reserve is actually a known chameleon habitat and needless to say we did not spot any! A good memory will be the impromptu invite from Alfonso who manages the ‘autocaravanna parking’ to a local sherry bodega. We were promised that the sherry was very good and also very cheap so it seemed like a ‘win win’, to use an old corporate term. So at 11am on Sunday we all traipsed off to what seemed like a local house, but once through to the garden and out the back there was a barn that was full of sherry barrels (40 +). The surprise was though, that the guy who produces the sherry, Manolo, was actually Burt Lancaster’s horse riding stunt double in the 1970’s and the photos on the walls of his mini tasting room proved the fact.
We finally moved on to Sanlucar de Barrameda where again we were able to park for free right next to the sea. Also, by chance we positioned ourselves next to a very friendly Dublin couple (Niall and Christine) who we have since spent several evenings having a pre-dinner aperitif:- we need to palm off Manolo’s sherry which at 45 years of age is a bit of a throat burner.
Wall tiles in Sanlucar
Sanlucar itself is a bustling sea side town with many churches, a castle and a busy fish market just off the main square. Perched on a stool, whilst sipping the local ‘Manzanilla’ I absorbed the market’s enterprising bar. Here you are able to take your fresh fish/sea food and produce that has been purchased within the market hall to the bar and they will season and cook it for you for 3 euro a kilo. This combined with unorganised, and at times, frenzied shouting between the waiter/bar staff made for an enjoyable experience. I spent time wondering if this could work in Birmingham’s famous food markets………
A local bus ride took us to Jerez de la Frontera where we spent a whole day wondering the tourist trail. Jerez seemed quiet to me though and it was not how I imagined the city. I had envisioned many small sherry bars with barrels as tables lining narrow streets with Spanish locals spilling out onto the streets smoking cigarettes. It just seemed a little lifeless, so maybe it comes alive at night but since we had to get the bus back to Sanlucar we will never know on this trip.
View from the van’s parking spot at Sanlucar
Yesterday we day tripped to Cadiz, again using the local buses. We also tied up with Dubliner Donal, who I met in the Sanlucar market bar, who has been frequenting Cadiz over the last 12 years. So after lunch we crisscrossed the old town with Donal as our informal local guide. Cadiz lived up to my expectations and was very vibrant and lively, exactly how I imagined Jerez would be(?). The old town is literally an oval with sea bordering 75% of the perimeter. Inside the oval is a network of narrow streets lined with shops, resident’s apartments and of course busy bars and restaurants. I think we will be putting Cadiz on the ‘return’ list as maybe a few nights there are in order.
Sharon’s highlight of the last few days were the wild flamingos that she spotted in the marsh lands found alongside the roads leaving Cadiz closely followed by the massive mixed fried fish dish that she devoured in the city a few hours before. Mine has been the overall time here in the region, we have been here over 2 weeks now and we have only travelled 4kms in the van. I am slowly beginning to relax and the days are passing by without that niggling thought that I should actually be doing something! This first highlight is closely followed by the sensation caused by the 3rd sherry in Sanlucar’s market 🙂
Local musican ‘Nacho’, main square Sanlucar