Sticking to my unofficial goal of trying to travel two weekends every month for the rest of my time here, this Saturday I went on a day trip to Jerez de la Frontera with the other auxiliar who lives in my town. There are trains from Sevilla to Jerez just about every hour, and at just under €18 for a return ticket, it would have been silly not to take the opportunity to visit Jerez at some point during my stay here.
We had a stupidly early start in order to catch the bus from Alcalá into Sevilla at 8:40, but we thankfully made it with plenty of time to catch the 9:45 train to Jerez. Having taken the same journey before (en route to Cadiz), it was nice to be able to see the view this time because I was travelling by day. The journey itself passed by very quickly and we arrived in Jerez within an hour. After asking the guy at the ticket office for directions into the city centre, we set off. A word of caution for those maybe planning on spending a weekend in the city, it really isn’t that big. Don’t get me wrong, it was the perfect size for a day trip, but I think you’d run out of things to do fairly quickly if you wanted to go for a whole weekend (unless you like churches, of course, which seems to be a theme here in Andalucía).
After having successfully navigated our way to the tourist information centre to ask for some recommendations and pick up a map, we sat on a bench and planned out a vague idea of what we wanted to do and see. We also swiftly devoured the kilo of strawberries we’d picked up for €2 in the Mercado de Abastos which were delicious – not too sweet, not too sour, just right. The abundance of good quality fresh produce here is fantastic!
First on our agenda was the Alcázar. Based on what we were able to see (almost the entire interior and parts of the exterior were closed off, presumably for renovation works), it was neither as big, nor as interesting as the Alcázar in Sevilla, but still worth a visit. The entrance fee for students (minus ticket for the Camera Obscura) was only €1,8, so it wasn’t overly expensive either. And there were hardly any other people there while we were so we were able to explore in relative peace and quiet. The highlights for me were the Arabic Baths and the views from the walls and towers. Next up was the Cathedral which was only a stone’s throw away from the Alcázar (told you Jerez was small). The entrance fee for students was €2,5 this time, so still not overly pricey. The Cathedral was built in the 17th century in a mixture of different architectural styles (Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical) and it was probably the most well-lit cathedral I’ve visited so far.
By this point it was around 2pm and we were getting quite hungry (even after all the strawberries), so we walked a bit further back into the town to scout out some lunch. I’d done a wee bit of research beforehand and found a restaurant I quite liked the look of called La Cruz Blanca, so we went there for some tapas. We had four tapas and a media ración between us (ham with a sherry sauce, prawn and leek croquettes, toast with goat’s cheese and honey, tortillitas de camarones, and pork meatballs with chips). Really tasty lunch and not overly pricey either once we’d split the bill between the two of us (€26).
Suitably fed and watered, we were now ready for the main motivation for the trip to Jerez: a tour of the Tio Pepe sherry factory. For €15 (think it’s cheaper if you reserve online beforehand but we weren’t that organised), you get an hour and a half long tour of the sherry bodegas (available in Spanish, English or German) and the chance to taste two of the wines. There was also a slightly fancier option which included tapas and two more wines for around €18, but we decided that the basic option was enough. I really enjoyed the tour and learning more about the sherry making process and the differences between the different kinds of fortified wine they make (but I won’t spoil the tour for you here, you should go yourselves 😉 ). Unfortunately, I’m still loaded with the cold and unable to breathe properly through my nose, so I’m not sure I really got the full wine-tasting experience, but it was definitely fun and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in learning more. And on top of learning about the wine, we also learned a little about Jerez itself, for instance, the name ‘sherry’ comes from the Arabic name for the city: ‘Xerés’. The more you know.
After the wine tour, it was time for us to head back to the train station and catch the train to Sevilla. We stopped off en route to pick up some pastries from a local bakery (which were delicious, by the way) because we knew we’d not get back to Alcalá until at least 9pm. Fortunately, or not as it turns out, we also had time to grab a quick cafe solo in the train station caff. Worst decision ever. Now granted, I’m a bit of a coffee snob, but it’s no exaggeration when I say that this was, without a doubt, the worst cup of coffee I’ve ever had. In. My. Life. Slightly blackened dishwater would probably be a more accurate description. Generally the coffee I’ve had here so far has been pretty good (and the fact you can get a pretty good coffee almost everywhere is great in itself), but this one was awful. Would definitely not recommend train station coffee from Jerez to anyone. Slightly sour note at the end of a great day trip.