Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Final Frontier (Frontera) Blog Post

Apparently the concepts of left and right are not the same in Spain as they are in the USA.  Or at least that's what Jerry would like me to believe.  The man who can usually find north when he's in the middle of the woods had a hard time getting his bearings in Jerez.  Monday afternoon he insisted that although we had clearly turned left and again left when we exited our hotel and headed to the center of town, we couldn't possibly have done so because the old town was to the right and again right.  He made his confusion as clear as mud, however, when he explained that he had thought the hotel was on the other side of the street.  As they say in Spain, vale!  OK!

HOTEL CHANCILLERIA.  ONE OF THEIR OWN PHOTOS... MINE ARE STILL ON MY CAMERA.

Our hotel, the Hotel Chancilleria, was a jewel.  Dinner in their restaurant, Restaurante Sabores, both Monday and Tuesday nights, was a true highlight.  Ham croquettes, langostinos in a curry sauce that we could eat by the bowlful, solomillo (aka beef cheeks), bacalao (cod).  And Nora Jones serenaded (we can pretend it was live).  To take advantage of the stunning menu selection, we ordered small portions.  We started off with glasses of local sherry.  I finished with cafe Jerez — coffee and local brandy.  Delicious.  And all beautifully and graciously served.  On top of that, amazingly affordable!  So we can definitely recommend THE place to stay ... and eat ... in Jerez.

We had big plans for exploration Tuesday morning.  So, we set the alarm.  Yes, we agreed to get out of bed before 11 in the morning.  At 8:45, we awoke to a singsong British voice on my Spanish phone telling us: "Time to get up.  The time is 8:45."  And, if that hadn't been annoying enough, she repeated it five times.  Then a minute later the charmer decided to start again, "Time to get up.  The time is 8:46."  Fortunately, I was able to find my glasses so I could press the correct button to shut her up before she completed the entire cycle a second time.

THE ALCAZAR IN JEREZ, ONLY ABOUT 1,000 YEARS OLD.

We went downstairs to a sumptuous, buffet breakfast that started with a bowl of fruit — papaya, pineapple, apple, banana, and kiwi bathed in orange juice.  I finally had my breakfast yogurt.  I have really missed my morning yogurt and fresh fruit.  Of course, there was the cafe con leche.  And any kind of pastry we could think of.  Jerry finished off with a chocolate chip muffin.  We then had enough energy for our three-hour stroll around town.  The historic center of Jerez is mildy busy and very picturesque.  It's a small city, a bit hilly in spots, and ancient.

PLAZA ARENAL IN JEREZ.

We headed over to the bullring because we had seen an apartment advertised in a brand new building there.  It was just a few minutes away from the center of everything, but seemed liked a different town.  Much less populated; actually felt even a bit deserted to me, but still very safe.  I'm sure it's also very nice, but it didn't "sing" to us the way the historic center did.  So, we headed back for a bit of an uplift.  We had lunch at a cafe on one of the main plazas (Arenal) and then headed back to our hotel for a siesta after which we headed out again to a local bookstore to pick up a Spanish-English dictionary.  We left our 7-pound Oxford Spanish-English dictionary at home in Irvine, and our little Spanish phrase book has left a lot to be desired (since 9 out of 10 words we need cannot be found inside).

We then walked a bit more, past the 1,000-year-old Alcazar (the moorish fortress), and down the hill by Tio Pepe's bodega.  The wine maker is huge and we could see over the walls into beautiful gardens and a small vineyard.  Earlier in the day, we discovered the public market.  Amazing, inspiring, and exciting.  The huge central fish market made Jerry want to run and find a local seafood cookbook.  Some of what I saw made me want to run the other way.

I DON'T CARE HOW HE COOKS IT.  I AM NOT GOING TO EAT IT.

We have mixed feelings about Jerez.  It's beautiful and very different from Sevilla. We thought Sevilla was a bit too big for us.  Now we think Jerez may be a bit too small for us.  Our minds are meant for changing.  The charm and beauty of Jerez are magnified by its narrow, winding streets and hills.  But, it also makes it more difficult to navigate than Sevilla, which is flat and, being so much bigger, has so many more large and open streets and plazas.  We thought of my mother, when she visits, battling the crooked paths, uneven stones, and confusing warrens in Jerez.  We took the train back to Sevilla this afternoon and talked some more about our options.  Jerry and I LOVE to talk about our options!  Anwyay, when we arrived back in Sevilla, we felt like we had come home.  So, we think we're going to go back to the plan (plan 3 and plan 6?) to settle in Sevilla. 

Having learned our lesson on our train ride from Sevilla to Jerez, I made a point of requesting two seats that faced the direction we were going for the ride back.  I was so proud of how easy it was to make my request in Spanish and to be so clearly understood.  What a relief.  Jerry would not have to stand by the vending machine for an hour.  We got on the train and found our seats... facing the wrong direction again! Jerry bought a Pepsi... and another chocolate for me and it was hasta la vista.

We went grocery shopping, finally, this afternoon and had our first dinner at home.  Jerry says it was our first home-cooked Spanish meal.  I say it was our first meal cooked at home in Spain.  We had spaghetti, tomato sauce (or the closest we could get), ground beef, and mushrooms.  Spanish meal or cooked in Spain?  You decide.  In any case, it was so relaxing to eat at home.  And we even have breakfast stuff (yogurt, fruit, cereal, bread, jam), so we can have a nice relaxing meal in the morning (or afternoon, which is when we will probably get up).  We arose to my English-accented friend on my alarm clock again this morning.  Two days in a row at 8:45 is enough.  

Now we have to learn everything there is to know about European futbol.  Betis ("our" team, one of two in Sevilla) was playing Barcelona tonight and we got to watch a bit while we were out having coffee (and chocolate napolitanas).  We had to wait for someone to score to know what "color" we were supposed to be cheering for.  If you're interested, Betis is green and white.  That's the extent of our local futbol expertise at this point.

Buenas noches!

3 comments:

  1. You probably already know this but "jerez" means "sherry" -- this from a guy whose name "ron" means "rum". I don't get futbol. AND, the goalies wear uniforms with colors that differ from their teammates. Sometimes the goalies leave their posts; sometimes the opposing team runs all the way into the other's net. Hey, ¿qué rollo? (Keh rohyoh, what gives)

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  2. my partner and I just returned from a 23 day trip to Spain and loved it. It was not our first visit, I can relate to what you are saying.

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    1. Laurent (or should I call you Larry Muffin?):
      Thanks so much for finding me (and therefore introducing me to your blog). I look forward to getting caught up. We've now been living in Andalucía for nearly 2-1/2 years. Not one moment of disappointment. It's a truly wonderful life. We haven't had a chance to do much travel around the country -- just little day trips here and there. (You covered more ground than we have.) So glad you had such a good trip. I'm going to start reading your posts!

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