15. Apr, 2017

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SATURDAY 15-4-17

Well, that's now two bad nights on the trot. After we turned in we heard the religious procession still banging the drums and blowing the horns as they continued to make their way around the town until gone midnight. Once that was over the young things took over. We had to endure none-stop pop music blaring out from across the river until 04:15. can you believe it? I think the Spanish have found a way around the aging population problem - kill the old folk off by bombarding them with noise, so that they don't sleep, get run down, contract pneumonia and die.

We struggled out of bed firing on just three cylinders, but we needed to get going as today was our day to visit Jerez.

It was just a ten minute walk from our car park to the railway station. Two return tickets to Jerez, just one stop down the line, was €8. Can't be bad, and such an easy way to get there.

The station at Jerez was quite ornate in that it was covered in decorative ceramic tiles. Another passenger who was also taking pictures told me that many stations in Portugal are decorated in much the same way.

Out in to the town of Jerez we went, armed with our free tourist map I helped myself to when we were back in Guadix, and on which we had marked with a highlight pen the places of interest we wanted to visit. It took us a little while, and considerable confusion, before we realised that the tourist map was orientated upside down, no wonder they were free.

We wandered around coming across a square with a few statues in it and some nearby buildings of architectural interest. Then we came across their indoor market, which is not a patch on Valencia's.

Next we bumped in to The Church of San Miguel with its very ornate facade, which again wasn't being maintained at all. Not too far away it was the Alameda, or fort. Quite impressive from the outside. Just around the corner from it was the Cathedral of Jerez. It was quite an impressive building, but because of its location and being surrounded by trees it was very difficult to get a shot of the whole building. The Chef quite likes to look around inside such imposing buildings, and set off with a view to looking around inside, soon returning to say that there was an entrance fee, and they didn't allow photography.

Having come across it, I quite fancied a look round the Tio Pepe Gonzalas Byass Bodegas. A Bodegas being a storage and processing facility for sherry or wine. There are loads of them in the towns here. The title is a long one, but if I remember correctly from the tour 'Tio' is Spanish for 'Uncle'. The founder of the business was so grateful to his uncle for the help and advice he had given him in setting it up, that he named the sherry after him, thus 'Uncle Pepe', Gonzalas being the family surname, and Byass comes from an English investor in the business many years ago, owning about one third.

We'd only just missed the start of the English-speaking tour and were helped by the Reception staff to catch up with them. All we'd missed was about ten minutes of the introductory video.

Next it was off to one of the wine (they refer to their sherry as wine) storage areas. Our tour guide was Lance, a young man with a very English accent, having grown up in Wales but who was educated in England. He explained how every year they mix the old and new wines together, taking a little out of the bottom barrels containing the older wine and bottling it. The space left in the barrel is then filled with wine taken from the barrel above, then working all the way up until wine from the newest barrels is transferred to the barrels below. Lance explained that sherry was in fact white, made from white grapes, the red sherry we see at home comes about because those grapes are left out in the sun longer to develop a darker colour.

We were lucky enough to see the very end of a Spanish horse demonstration, something which was not on our tour, I didn't even have time to get my camera in the right position to capture it. I assumed it was for VIP visitors, as later in the tour Lance pointed out one of the Gonzalas senior family members, who was himself leading tours, maybe for those VIP's.

Next we were taken to the brandy store, which was also the area where they first created it, then off to the shed where they repair the sherry barrels. They don't make any new barrels, just repair old ones, many of which are hundreds of years old.

There are many barrels of wine in storage which have been signed by various Royal families in Europe. The British pile of barrels had been signed by people like the Duke of Edinburgh, Edward V111 in 1927, George, Duke of Kent 1927, Princess Margaret & Angus Ogilvy and Princess Alexandra of Kent.

There were also many signed by celebrities including Steven Spielberg, Orson Wells, Liz Taylor & Mike Todd, Omar Sharif, the racing drivers Juan Fangio and Ayrton Senna in 1989 with Lewis Hamilton due there in a few days time to sign one. I think it is because there is a link between the company and the Spanish Grand Prix in that they are sponsors.

The grand finale was a wine tasting which consisted of small quantities of 'Tio Pepe', and 'Crofts', which the company bought out some years ago. Now knowing that proper sherry is white, I appreciated the need to chill it. The Chef isn't at all keen on sherry and I found myself drinking hers as well.

Before leaving we tried to see if we could make our way back towards the horse demonstration area, but sadly it was not possible. We walked straight through the shop and out. There was no way I was going to drag bottles of sherry or brandy around in my backpack in this heat.

By then it was time for a late lunch, which, due to necessity consisted of a large bag of crisps, a pack of flaky pastry things, and a large bottle of non-fizzy lemonade, which we consumed outside the shop in a square. It wasn't at all healthy but it filled a gap.

There was supposed to have been a flamenco facility very close by, but we just couldn't find it. We were both tiring of dragging ourselves around on a very hot day, often covering the same bits more than once. We have decided therefore that when we visit Seville, we will buy tickets for those jump-on, jump-off Double Decker tour buses. That should save us a lot of leg work. We don't mind wandering around under our own steam, but in such hot temperatures (28˚C) we feel we need to adapt to the circumstances.

At that point we decided to give up and catch a bus back to the railway station.

We were sad not to have reached the Real Escuela Andaluza de Arte Ecuestre, even though it would have been closed today. It's where they train horses to perform up on their back legs, a trick learned by Spaniards themselves not so very long ago.

This evenings meal was a nice salad washed down with a drop of wine. This evening we are listening to yet more amplified music from across the river, only a while ago I heard Chuck Berry singing 'Let's Twist Again'. I tell you, this is cutting edge stuff.

I am hoping that with tomorrow being Easter Sunday, a holy day, we won't have to endure loud music beyond midnight but we will see.

At this point I am reminded of the story fairly recently where Spanish archaeologists discovered a skull which they claimed was the missing link between apes and man. They were embarrassed when the skull was carbon dated and found to be just fifty years old. Well I think that's what happed anyway.

We have decided that as soon as Easter is over we will make our way to a nearby campsite which should by then be free of Spaniards, and take a day or two to rest after our bad night-time experiences.

Tomorrow we plan to use the train to go in the opposite direction to Cadiz, armed with another tourist map, which no doubt will prove to be upside down.