Fri 05/23/08 (day 24)
Day twenty-four: Today we drove from Carmona to Jerez , about 80 miles south west, almost to the southern coast line of Spain . We cane to Jerez for two destinations the home of Sherry wine and the home of Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. The equestrian school is devoted to conserving the ancestral abilities of the Andalusian horse, , maintaining the classical traditions of Spanish horsemanship, preparing horses and riders for international competitions, and providing education in all aspects of horsemanship, coachdriving, blacksmithing, the care and breeding of horses, saddlery, and the manufacture and care of harness. The school is comparable to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria which Nita and I visited several years ago. Like the Spanish Riding School, the Royal Andalusian School is well-known for its “dancing stallions” shows for the tourists. Sherry is a fortified wine, made in and around the town of Jerez, and hence in Spanish it is called “Vino de Jerez,” in fact the word “sherry” is an Anglicized version of “Jerez.” According to Spanish law, Sherry must come from the triangular area of the province of Cadiz between Jerez, Sanlucar and El Puerto de Santa Maria. Sherry differs from other wines because of how it is treated after fermentation. After fermentation is complete, it is fortified with brandy. Because the fortification takes place after fermentation, all natural sherries are dry; any sweetness is applied later. In contrast, port wine is fortified halfway through fermentation, stopping fermentation so not all the sugars are allowed to turn into alcohol and so leaving a sweet wine. I must admit, I was the only one of our group that got into the tasting; Nita, Ron and Avie didn’t really have any desire to aquire a taste for Sherry. After the horses and the Sherry we walked Jerez; saw a busy town of 196,000 dating back to 1030. Like all Spanish towns everything closed down from 1:30 to 5:30 pm, but we are exausted and are calling it an early night.
Fri 05/23/08 (day 24)
Day twenty-five: Ronda retains much of its historic charm, particularly its old town. The views from our Parador are fantastic, see the pictures. We are adjacent to the deep El Tajo gorge that carries the rio Guadalevín through the city center. Ron and I hiked to the bottom for the photos while Avie and Nita scouted out the town. Outside our front door is the 18th century Puente Nuevo ‘new’ bridge, which straddles the 300 foot chasm below, providing an unparalleled view over the Serranía de Ronda mountains.
Ronda is also famous as the birthplace of modern bullfighting, but the bullring is used olny once a year at the spectacular Feria Goyesca. Held at the beginning of September, here fighters and some of the audience dress in the manner of Goya’s sketches of life in the region. Legendary Rondeño bullfighter Pedro Romero broke away from the prevailing Jerez ‘school’ of horseback bullfighting in the 18th century to found a style of bullfighting in which matadors stood their ground against the bull on foot. In 2006 royalty and movie stars were helicoptered in for the Goyesca’s 50th anniversary celebrations in its small bullring, while thousands jammed the streets and parks outside. Otherwise the bullring, Plaza de Toros, is now a museum, which we did not visit having visited the bullring in Seville.
Across the bridge, is an elegant cloistered 16th century convent which is now an art museum. The cobbled alley to the Mondragón leads naturally on to Ronda’s loveliest public space, the leafy Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, which boasts a convent, two churches, including the toytown bell tower of the iglesia Santa Maria de Mayor, and the handsome arched ayuntamiento (council) building. Nita, Avie and I found our way there Saturday night as the parishioners prepared for their celebration of the Corpus Holiday with a precession through the city streets. Like the one we witnessed in Seville it was composed of bands, a Christian display, the church parishioners, but this one centered its attention on the young children dresses in their finest. We ended the day with desert, tee, hot chocolate and a Jack Daniels to celebrate Avie’s birthday; I’ll leave it to you to decide who had what.
Jerez – Ronda Spain
Fri 05/23/08 (day 24)