Jerez de la Frontera

Jo’s Monday walk : A soggy ending, in an Alcazar

“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 :

Waterfall walk

It’s not everybody who can take a walk without talking.  Enjoy the peace, with lovely Meg!

Wordless walk: 1080 to Tilba Headland

And if you want to share some knowledge too… :

Never the same place twice : Pooles to 1080

Naughty George and adorable Flora accompany Gilly along the canal.  Watch out, ducks!

Beside the Grand Western

Suzanne is a housesitter who likes to get about a bit.  Join her in Turkey :

Neighbourhood Walks – Iztuzu Beach & more

Fabulous falls in a gush of swirling water, from Drake.  Must be all that rain!

Falling water

Sunshine after the rain.  Thanks, Irene!

Ended in Sunshine

And just a reminder, in case you needed it.  Magical snow in NYC, with Susan :

The Magic of New York City : Central Park in the Snow

Not actually a walk but it’s walk related.  Thanks for sharing, Denzil :

23 Ways Hiking Makes you Healthier

And a gentleman hiker I discovered at Denzil’s place.  Meet Guidowke with an interesting look at Belgium :

GR5AZ Rupelmonde – Branst

Or travel through history with David in a beautifully peaceful French village :

Village of Azincourt

What will I do when Jude runs out of Garden Portraits?  Give up blogging, I suspect :

Garden Portrait : Dunster Secret Garden

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?

Six word Saturday

Determined to finish what I started!

No, seriously!  I need to finish sharing my visit to Jerez.  The Cathedral is magnificent.  Originally a Collegiate Church, it wasn’t granted cathedral status until 1980, by the grace of Pope John Paul II, though the church itself dates back to the Christian conquest of Jerez, on 9th October, 1264.  Briefly the sky was blue, but I was eager to see inside.

Just inside the mighty portal, I was surprised to find a model of an industrious looking Jerez, and close by, not so surprisingly, an altar to John Paul.

There was a wealth of beauty wherever you looked, the cathedral extending theatrically in a sequence of rooms behind the main altar.

My only disappointment was climbing the tower.  I never can resist, but the spiral staircase led only to a grilled window, with a limited view.

Slightly more than my allotted Six Words, I agree, but I do hope Debbie finds this Joyful.  Wishing you all a blessed and happy Easter.  And, heaven’s above, Becky’s March Square is finally over!  Let’s eat cake!

Jo’s Monday walk : A rainy day in Jerez

Today I’ve got my map out, and am trying to make some sense of my collection of photos of Jerez.  Not always easy when you’re a ‘follow your nose, snap everything that catches your eye’ sort of person.  We were staying very centrally, in the historic quarter, and initially I thought this a poor choice.  Especially as we rounded a corner, to a row of houses propped up with giant sleepers, almost next door to our hotel.  Just how safe, and how scenic, was our ‘close to the cathedral’ accommodation going to be?  But I needn’t have worried.  La Fonda Barranco was warm and welcoming, and perfectly placed.  History was right on the doorstep, even if some of it did need a little shoring up.

As always, it was a case of orientating oneself, something I’m not especially good at.  I’ve usually just about got the hang of a place when it’s time to move on.  But I can tell you that we had a superb Ayuntamiento, and the stunning cathedral at our backs, along with a small army of sherry bodegas.  A myriad of narrow streets encouraged wandering, with seemingly an equal number of churches.

The hues are all beige, citrus lemon and ochre.  In Plaza del Arroyo, just around the corner from our hotel, I was already dumbfounded by the architecture, a crick in my neck as I gazed upwards at the elaborate twists and curves.

You might remember from my previous Jerez post, we arrived on Andalusia Day.  Entry to the museums was free, and we sought shelter from wind and rain in the Flamenco Museum.  Filled with art and music, the arresting courtyard at its heart is a shining example of many that I saw in Jerez.

Back on the glistening streets, it wasn’t long before we had to seek shelter again, this time in a most convenient cake shop.  Naturally!

There are always compensations.  We were caught out in the rain numerous times, resulting in a second visit to that cake shop.  The skylight at the rear of the cafe was leaking copious quantities into strategically placed buckets.  Undaunted, we tackled more cake!

More wandering brought us to the Santiago quarter, well known for its flamenco.  The ravaged umbrella dangling from a dustbin summed the weather up succinctly.  The Clock Museum would have provided an hour’s dalliance, with multiple tick-tocking, but the timed visits were for mornings only.  We’d missed the last performance at 13.15 so, with a wistful look at the grounds, we settled for an atmospheric bodega nearby.  I did stop to wonder who kept the heroic looking warrior supplied with crocosmia.

I could quite easily have entitled this post ‘Lost in Jerez’.  We had a tendency to make a 20 minute walk take an hour, but Jerez is a muddle of fascinating, if sometimes scruffy, streets.  The weather definitely played its part.  A Lonely Planet recommend had us seeking sanctuary in the church of San Miguel, where the huge wooden doors rattled as the wind howled outside.  Built during the 15th and the 18th centuries, its altarpiece, the work of Martinez Montanes, is among the most important works of the Golden Age of Seville.

A drum roll now for a sequence of March Squares, for Becky.  They should take me to the end of her challenge.  The Tinotto de Cielo, with a nod to sherry trifle, was particularly delicious.  The interesting menu at La Cruz Blanco included very tasty shrimp fritters and seafood lasagne too.

I still have the cathedral and the beautiful Alcazar to show you but they’ll keep, for the moment.  It’s time to put the kettle on, so you can settle down to read this week’s shares.

Many thanks to all of you who read and contribute to Jo’s Monday walk  It’s very much appreciated.  You’re welcome to join me any time.


Almost certainly a step too far for most of you, but there are some beautiful photos here, from Arundhati :

How to turn One of Britain’s Best Walks into an Adventure

You don’t need photos so much as a little imagination, to walk alongside Susan :

Walking the “Sea Glass Festival”

And if you like a good time you can’t do better than to accompany Lady Lee :

Lovely weekend in Dusseldorf

Geoff has chosen to share a last bit of snow (I hope so!)  Keeping mine to myself :

Snow Doubt About It

We had joy, we had fun, we had… snowtime, with Drake :

Season in the sun

Eunice finds sunshine too.  And happy ducks!

A dog walk to Turton Tower

Smiling with Irene!  Reminds me of a Chuck Berry song, but that’s showing my age :

No place to go

Pauline is a lovely lady who likes to chat.  Wouldn’t you love to walk beside her!


And talking of lovely ladies, here’s another of my favourites.  Eloquence and history always mingle with Tish :

The Little Church By The Sea

Jude produces yet another garden from her bottomless archives!  Her flower galleries are exquisite :

Garden Portrait: Hergest Croft

And Carol dazzles with a beautiful display of abundance :

Two Gardens

That’s it for now!  I don’t have an Easter plan at present, and the weather looks uncertain at best.  Hopefully I’ll still be here with a Monday walk.