Jerez, Sanlúcar and Zahara – April, 2011

Morning ride at the mouth of the Wadi Kabir
Morning ride at the mouth of the Wadi Kabir

Early one morning we left Córdova, the richly complex and cultured capital of Moorish Spain from the seventh to the eleventh centuries (see my post on Córdova). We drove our little Eurocar rental about 2.5 hours to Jerez in the southern province of Cádiz, visited Jerez then went on to Sanlúcar de Barrameda in one, hectic day in April, 2011.

Sanlúcar de Barrameda is a city on the Atlantic at the mouth of the Wadi Kabir, as the Moors called it – the Great River – which the Spanish spell Guadalquivir. It is one corner of the “sherry triangle” and here a pale, dry sherry with a faint salty taste is made. It is called Manzanilla wine.

But first, Jerez:

We arrived in Jerez from Córdoba just in time for the 10:30 AM Sandeman Bodega tour. We were told about Sanlúcar’s unique drink by Velia, a semi-retired Melbourne, Australia teacher whom we met with her husband Ron while tasting several of the famous Sandeman sherries. She and her husband travel (backpack only) from Feb ’til July every year. We then attended, with our Aussies-well-met,  the incredible Royal Andalusian School of Horsemanship show in Jerez.

The world-renowned Horse Show put on by La Real Escuela Andaluza Del Arte Equestre featured Andalusian horses doing what seemed like dozens of dance steps in time with Spanish music. The costumes, braided manes and tails and ornate halters and saddlery were varied and beautiful. this is not the best show of horsemanship in the world it certainly must be as good as it gets: absolutely stunning – visually, musically and emotionally. Continue reading “Jerez, Sanlúcar and Zahara – April, 2011”

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Ronda the Beautiful

Bernese and owner
Bernese and owner – both beautiful…

On April 9, 2011 we set out from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, not on Rick Steves’ list, but one of my favorite towns in Spain. Our destination was the historic cliffside town, Ronda, famed for its style, its bullring (“the largest and most interesting in Spain”), its gorge and its women. The above photo, taken in Ronda, is of a foreign woman from Northern Europe, judging by her accent. I didn’t get her name, but it was very likely not Ronda or even Rhonda. I stopped her mainly to take a photo of her dog, a beautiful Bernese, explaining that our friends in Kitchener are Bernese owners and go nuts over any of these big, lovely mountain dogs. I think she believed me… I’m not sure Anita did, but the rest of our day went marvelously.

Ronda’s most famous matador was Pedro Romero Martinez, who was the first bullfighter to develop it as an art form. His statue is in Ronda’s Alameda del Tajo park.

Every year since 1954, fourteen Ronda ladies are chosen to be the official representatives of the city.

No. Not Pedro. This statue honours Las Damas Goyescas, a Ronda tradition since 1954. Every year 14 Ronda women are chosen to represent the city officially at all important functions. Many of them, like the one represented in this statue opposite Pedro’s, are gorgeous.

We stayed one night at the Hotel Reina Victoria, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite place in Ronda. They gave us a corner suite with a balcony overlooking the deep valley. We bought local fare and dined on our balcony.

On the way to Ronda we stopped at Zahara, a “radiant” hillside town of unparalleled beauty, marred only by two of the smallest WC’s in the world. The first two gallery photos are of Zahara, which is on Spain’s Ruta de los Almorávides y Almohades, named after the two strict sects of Islam who came as mercenaries from North Africa and stayed. Their presence began the decline of Andalusía’s golden age, when its Islamic civilization, based in Córdova, was the most enlightened in all of Europe. Why this name choice for the tourist route? Beats me.