The mightly Jerez de La Frontera
So the journey to Jerez and Jerez itself...
For some reason I have been quite excited and looking forward to going to Jerez..not really sure why as I didn't really know much about it. Perhaps it was more about going to the big city again, though I don't have the same feelings about going to Seville. Lonely Planet sums it up as being the best of what is Andalucia..and if I had loved what I had seen so far of the area then this had to be good right?
Excitement meant I was up very early chomping at the bit..or the cycling equivalent..leaving Ronda just after 8. Downside to this enthusiasm was it was fricking cold!!! Arm warmers and gillet donned and it was about bearable (and these were worn for most of the day!). I did consider stopping and digging out my winter gloves..but that would just be daft right?? The first section of the ride was the descent out of town then up to Grazalema, which I had done on the day I struggled. It's amazing the difference your frame of mind makes! This time was so much easier and I barely noticed the climbs or the time. It does, of course, help knowing what was coming but still! The final sign of settling in the miles is losing track of time.. No let me rephrase that..time becomes meaningless which when you are on the bike for hours is a must. The moment you think about time it drags. I did catch myself thinking..'ohhh its nice to be cosy and warm' after which I had to stop myself as seriously the last few days had been in the 30s! Anyway after Grazalema there was a steep section to the peak but after that a massive descent and then undulating all the way to Jerez. No real excitement though on a couple of occasions my heart stopped...but this was more to do with bad positioning of my heart rate monitor . *
Oh before I forget. I passed by/under/up Arcos de la Frontera. Wow. I wouldn't be far off the truth if I said I nearly fell of the bike when I saw it! There is no adequate way of describing it but basically the whole white town sits very high atop a cliff with vertical drops on the side. So my first view of it was a huge cliff face then you notice that the houses and cathedrals on the top right on the edge! And even windows in the cliff face. That would be a place I would like to go back to..just to make myself vertigous by peaking over the side!
Anyway plan was to take a couple of breaks by my legs were on a mission (am putting this down to rice pudding power from the night before) and so I didn't stop until 20km before Jerez, and this was only because I wanted to pull myself together and get my wits about me for the city riding. Time also to try my garmin's sat nav to see if that made life easier.
It did. However it was still tricky, reading the garmin, working it out and also avoiding /keeping an eye on traffic etc. It also gave a bit too much detail..telling you the seconds til you reached a point..then getting stuck on those seconds when you just weren't going fast enough. I felt like apologising to it for being slow! But all in all it was good and will def use it for the cities again. Cities all seem to follow this maze like pattern. Jerez more so as it turns to cobbles and bounces your brain around..especially if you are a little dehydrated.
Anyway made it safely to 'home' for the next 2 nights. Home is this beautiful tiled and courtyarded Andalucian house. Lovely place and very central - if you don't get lost. As I said Jerez follows suit and is a maze..unlike Malaga though, in this maze you can get lost. And this is what I have been doing pretty much for the lat day or so. Malaga followed a kind of grid, but here..no such logic, the streets twist and turn so you quickly lose direction of where you are. My most used thought these few days has been 'oh...I have been lost here before!'. Am just getting to grips where every everything is now.
So after a quick shower, I headed into town and did exactly what I just said..got lost. Not a huge issue but was desperate for food and had my name down for a sherry tour at a set time so wanted to eat in that area. An hour or so later I found it and finally sat down for some food..the tiniest sandwich ever but with no real time to sort something else out over to the sherry tour I went!
A sherry tour in Jerez is the equivalent of the Guiness tour in Dublin, it has to be done. My knowledge and even drinking experience of sherry is absolute minimal..its what old grannies drink at the pub right? Also the old family tale that me and my sisters, when we were babes, were given sherry to help us sleep. It might explain a few things, eh?.. anyway I digress..sherry tour..right so Bodegas Gonzalez Byass. Otherwise known as Tio Pepe or as I later found out Crofts original! Who knew that old ladies staple came from a proper sherry background!! So the tour was well it was fine, very beautiful setting in the town and some interesting bits too..particularly the signed barrels. As you probably know they keep the barrels for years and years to add flavour. What they also did here was if they had a famous visitor they signed a barrel. So most of the Spanish monarchy had 'signed' up, as had our UK monarchs, then there was even, Ayrton Senna, Keith Floyd, Steven Spielberg, Maggie Thatcher.. Endless signed barrels. And then the best bit..Sherry tasting! I had of course asked for 4 types and some tapas. First 2 were Tio Pepe and Crofts, dry and sweet respectively. Then the extra two were darker dry and sweet ones. I have to say the dry was quite odd, not that it wasn't nice just not what to me sherry should be. On chatting to a German couple sharing my table..they weren't sherry people but shared my philosophy..'when in Spain...' . When the tapas came..that also came into play..some macheago cheese, Serrano ham and some roast beef tostado. As much as I would like to say I wavered, I was starving and had just had 4 large sherries! Whommpf! All gone in seconds..though I did have the manners to ask the German couple if they wanted some before it was inhaled.
Back on the streets, I headed, hopefully, in the direction of home. It was here that I had the best find of the holiday..And it will taker a lot to beat I can tell you...rice pudding ice cream!!! With extra cinnamon on top. Never seen it or even heard of it before but pure heaven I can tell you. I feel I must just say I don't have a rice pudding problem, I never have it at home, but it is THE best thing to have after cycling, no idea why but it just is. I tried to have it again today but the place (the one place I can find here!!) was shut..maybe I will try again on the way home...
The evening was just a sorting myself out and watching a bit of the procession, oh and eating. If you miss any of the procession on the streets they show it on about 5 TV channels live and repeat afterwards....
So that brings us to today! What I have most been looking forward too!! OK so yes there was a lay in..but am not very good at those, woke at 6 and did silly things like re-measure my resting HR as my %max seemed very low yesterday, and yes it has dropped 5 beats to below 50pm*, and listen to music and write emails... Anyway..digressing again! Big excitement for the day was going to see the horses! So stupidly excited about that, again have no idea why. I guess Andalusian horses are just something you just know about and the epitomy of being here, specifically here. Added plus was that my walk there was a reccy for my cycling route out the city tomorrow (sorry I never fully get away from cycling)..cobble cobbles cobbles, then someone at the city hall , who I will love forever, added a tarmac cycle route! Bless them! Anyway..horses..ah man..wow..I mean well and truely wow. It is in the most beautiful settings, house and grounds, and you can watch them warm up in the school beforehand, before going into the big arena for the show. Unfortunately no pictures allowed when they were performing which was a shame. But really it wouldn't be able to capture it anyhow. I know its basically dressage, but its not, really it is so not. The horses were so beautiful and majestic, add some rousing accompanying music and it really was quite an emotive experience. Could be just my tiredness but it really really was. If I keep talking about it I'll probably start welling up again
Last plan for Jerez is to try to catch some flamenco tonight but I think that plan maybe scuppered by the processions. But will see.
At the moment I am quite contentedly, for the first time since the horses, sitting in a plaza in a quiet corner with a beer watching the world go by. People watching is awesome, and this is a great spot. You can tell the tourists as they sit with their kindles and phones or tablets and don't talk to each other...when with kids or without. Spaniards usually in big groups (especially with the celebrations, I get the feeling its a time of year when everyone comes home). You do see single Spanish men sitting alone, but never a single woman. Watching the Spanish also there is very much a routine as to what place you go and for what. They descend upon on place and not next door when to me they look the same..then half hour or so they are in that one next door or across the street only. I tend to be a bit early with the where..but as I like to think..I am ahead of the game..'where I go people follow' aka I like to go to places that I can sit with my back to the wall and watch.
Days off are funny, as I said before the Spanish day is very long, and without cycling on the morning even more so. Added also your body just kinda goes bleurg..my legs felt the stairs at the hotel earlier, weirdly my arms are tired now. Also hungry without having the deserving reason to be. Its not too bad tho, its great being here..I just might not have the same feeling tomorrow morning! Rice pudding ice cream might just fix that though**
- yes I am a data geek..I don't really do much with my ride data aside from checking my HR is not going through the roof, uploading to strava to keep track of distance, hill categories and of course the all important Queen of the Mountains
- *found the ice cream place again but had a moment of panic when I realised it was the other side of the mile or so long procession! Luckily the Spanish aren't so daft and have 'crossings' when it all stops for rests. Phew!!