As lazy as it might be to quote someone else in a personal reflection, it’s hard not to be drawn back to The Lonely Planet’s description of Jerez as Andalusia. (The Lonely Planet, Andalucía, 8th ed., 2016) If what they claim is true, then thanks to four days in the area, Andalusia is a place I like a lot.
As the presence of casks around the city centre advertise, Jerez is the city of sherry. There’s plenty of opportunities to visit the Bodegas and to sample the various types of fortified wines and Jerez is proud of its Sherry tradition. But if a tipple isnt your thing, Jerez has other charms to offer.
For one thing, it is pretty. The centre is largely pedestrianised with plenty of shopping and cafes. There are a handful of charming squares populated by Tapas bars, the level of busyness seemingly determined by which are showing the football. They all offer a similar and wide selection of dishes, everything from Spanish omelette to pig’s cheek, allowing you to be as traditional and adventurous as you’d like.
Alongside the food, the rhythm of the city is what I can only presume makes Jerez so typically Andalucian. The morning sun, hot but bearable, sees the streets teaming with people. The atmosphere is friendly, welcoming and relaxed. The place feels alive. Then, after late lunches, the crowds disperse almost as if a sign undetected by the tourists sends them all off at once. The siesta is no misplaced stereotype; the harsh afternoon sun drives all the life from the street, giving the place a ghost town atmosphere.
Then, as the sun and the temperature go down, the noise and the chatter bubble up again as shutters reopen and the squares and patios fill up. Jerez comes back out to play, refreshed and revived from a few hours out of the sun.
You won’t feel inundated with things to do in Jerez, but with a sherry tour, a nosey around the cathedral and a visit to the Alcázar, you needn’t be bored. (Not as grand as Seville’s Alcázar, Jerez’s is still beautiful and provides more information and context as you wander around.)
In Jerez, it seems you get a lot more hotel for your money than in nearby Cádiz, whilst still being able to reach the peninsular in half an hour by train. (Providing of course you don’t get off two stations – and two kilometres – too soon..!) Thus, Jerez makes a perfect base, being well connected, cheaper and well worth a visit in its own right.
Cádiz has it all: beaches, ruins, grand squares, narrow streets, sea air, and, not to be underestimated in summer, breeze. The city’s museum might be understated, but the relics illustrate the long and full history of a city inhabited for over 3000 years. It has the makings of a long holiday destination and a thoroughly enjoyable day trip.
A day in Cádiz is just time to scratch the surface, but it’s clearly a diamond of a place. Yet, back in Jerez, it’s still easy to feel like you’ve found a gem. It’s a lived in city, a place where you can see how Andalucians go about their days. It’s life at a perfect pace – lively and social, welcoming and buzzing, with respect for everyone’s need to shuffle away for an hour or two every day to escape the bright lights – all set against a lovely backdrop.