Friday, February 11
After starting my regular course schedule this week, I was ready to take advantage of an open Friday. Although I am no drinker, I set out to try the wine for which Southern Spain is known: sherry ("jerez" in Spanish, pronounced "HAIR-RETH"). Fittingly, the town full of sherry wineries is Jerez. By going to the "pueblo blanco" (white town), I could also get a connecting bus to Rick Steves's favorite Andalucían village, Arcos de la Frontera.
Wanting to ensure access to Rick Steves's recommended "bodega" (winery) in Jerez, I decided to be brave and make a reservation (in Spanish) via my cell phone. I was told that I could not tour the bodega solo. Therefore, my next challenge was finding a travel buddy. It turned out to be easier than I expected. Alisa from Alabama had been in my Intensive Spanish class. Her primary goal here is to learn Spanish. Since I have the same desire to practice Spanish, I knew I would be shielded from a day of English. When I pitched the plan to Alisa, she was on board (why not, no planning necessary).
We made our way back to the bus station for our second activity: a side trip to Arcos de la Frontera, thirty minutes away by bus. Arcos, unlike in the planes of Jerez and Sevilla, is situated atop a cliff. Alisa and I experienced the Rick Steves Arcos walking tour together. We were most interested by the city's effort to secure the buildings' foundations following the earthquake of 1699. Throughout the old town you see arches connecting buildings. In the case of the Church of Santa María, separate external flying buttresses tethered it down. Thanks to the foresight, the buildings survived the earthquake of 1755, which destroyed Lisbon.
Alisa and I caught a connecting bus back to Jerez, where we did some extra sightseeing before heading back to Sevilla. We found a spectacular church (San Miguel) at the last minute, making the trip back to the bus station a little stressful. But, it was worth it, and we made it. I enjoyed practicing Spanish the whole day, and was happy everything fell into place. (To make everyone jealous, it was 68 degrees F today).
For pictures of this day, click "Jerez, Arcos 2-11" at http://picasaweb.google.com/bradleywilliams39