Friday, February 11, 2011

Day Trip to Sherry Country

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).

Our first stop was Jerez, one and a half hour bus ride from Sevilla.  We hit the ground running by passing through the old town on the way to "Sandeman" bodega.  Once we arrived, we took a private tour (in Spanish) of the bodega.  Our guide was phenomenal, able to adapt to our level of comprehension.  We walked through the open-air barns of "botas" (barrels) of aging sherry as our guide explained the process.  The tour culminated in a taste test of Sandeman's three most famous sherries, each aged at least five years: (1) Palomino Fino (Dry Sherry), (2) Amontillado (Medium (semi-sweet, semi-dry)), and (3) Armada (Cream Sherry).  Each pairs best with different types of food: Fino with fish, Amontillado with cheese, and Armada with dessert.  My favorite was the Amontillado, but as a rank amateur in wine, I have no authority.  Considering the private tour and tasting together was roughly $7.00, it was well worth the experience.

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

1 comment:

  1. You just added this as I was catching up! Clearly you sensed my presence through the internets!