“Is the weather always like this?”, I asked the smiling receptionist, as I shook the drips from my hood. “Never!”, she replied, with an adamant shake of the head. My lucky day, then. But there was no other option, as I was determined to see the Alcazar of Jerez, and soon we would be homeward bound. The video playing in the background displayed wall to wall sunshine. Salt in the wounds, but it was a magnificent sight. ‘Alcazar’ derives from the Arab word al-qasr, meaning a group of buildings, surrounded by walls, used both as a fortress and a palace. Built in the 12th century, this was the seat of political and military power ruling the city.
A sprint across the courtyard brought me to the shelter of the mosque, or mesquita, the only one still to exist from the 18 of the Islamic city. Dating from 12th century, it has all the usual elements- the minaret, for calling the faithful to prayer, and an ablutions courtyard with central fountain for purification before entering the prayer room, itself presided over by the Mihrab, a small niche in the wall facing Mecca.
Tucked within the walls, the biggest olive press I ever saw. The oil mill was added in the 18th century, when growing olive trees was of great commercial importance to Jerez and the surrounding countryside.
Swiftly crossing the Parade Ground, where military formations were once assembled and reviewed, I beheld the sorry sight of the drowning garden.
Beyond it the Royal Pavilion, designed for reclining beside the pool, and the Octagonal Tower. Part of the original Islamic fortress, situated at its highest point, it makes a superb watchtower. And you know that, weather or no, I was going up there.
Happily I’m not the only one with a careless disregard for the weather. Climbing the tower behind me, a Frenchman declares that all is simply ‘magnifique’. We agree that in bright sunshine we’d have to share it with many others. From the tower you can see the scale of the Alcazar, the walls originally 4 kilometres long. An area under excavation dates back to the 10th century. It includes a pottery kiln , water wheel and reservoir.
However exhilarating the views, rain dripping off your nose can become tiresome, and I was not sorry to scurry back across the courtyard to the palace. In 1664 Lorenzo Fernandez de Villavicencio inherited the Alcazar. He undertook much restoration work, including this beautiful piece of baroque, over the ruins of the old Islamic palace.
A dark wood staircase and superbly carved doorway dominate the space. Lofty rooms filled with beautiful pieces. And the ‘piece de resistance’, a remarkable pharmacy, with carved original wooden shelving, flasks and jars.
A Camera Obscura on the top floor of the palace seemed like a bad idea in such murky weather. The Hammam, or Arab Baths, might have been a better experience. In the event, I slipped back out, past the still smiling receptionist.
That concludes my couple of days in Jerez. This Andalusian city has neither the grandeur of Granada nor the unique beauty of Cordoba, but it has a charm and character all of its own. I enjoyed it very much, and I hope that you did too.
With Easter behind us, I hope you’ll take time to read the walks I’m sharing this week. Many thanks to all my contributors and to those who just enjoy a bit of a ramble. Please join me at any time with a walk of your own. Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Kettle on, and let’s go!
Spectacular scenery from Pauline to start us off this week :
It’s not everybody who can take a walk without talking. Enjoy the peace, with lovely Meg!
And if you want to share some knowledge too… :
Naughty George and adorable Flora accompany Gilly along the canal. Watch out, ducks!
Suzanne is a housesitter who likes to get about a bit. Join her in Turkey :
Fabulous falls in a gush of swirling water, from Drake. Must be all that rain!
Sunshine after the rain. Thanks, Irene!
And just a reminder, in case you needed it. Magical snow in NYC, with Susan :
Not actually a walk but it’s walk related. Thanks for sharing, Denzil :
And a gentleman hiker I discovered at Denzil’s place. Meet Guidowke with an interesting look at Belgium :
Or travel through history with David in a beautifully peaceful French village :
What will I do when Jude runs out of Garden Portraits? Give up blogging, I suspect :
We drove home from Jerez in tumultuous rain, crashing against the windscreen, that old adage ‘the rain in Spain…’ drumming in our ears. And now, on an English Bank Holiday Monday, it’s much the same. Stay dry, and cheerful, this week, won’t you?