10 Days in Andalucia: Flamenco in Jerez de la Frontera

After spending the afternoon in Cadiz, we continued north and a little inland to Jerez de la Frontera. Many towns in this area have a “de la Frontera” in their name because it was the border between the Christian north and the Islamic south for centuries.

There’s some tourism in Jerez, but not nearly on the scale of most of the places we visited. One big draw though are the sherry bodegas, which I’ll tell you all about in my next post. I knew I wanted to do a tour of one before we arrived. I picked our hotel based on the bodega I wanted to visit, and stumbled onto a real gem. Many hotels have words like “palace” in their name, but the Palacio Viserny was a real life palace! It was built back in the medieval period, though today it is all done up in 18th century decor. Most of it is a museum, but there are a few guestrooms overlooking the garden.

And what a garden!

Of course, when I say “garden” I don’t mean the typical model of a garden in North American and England. Gardens in southern Spain have a lot fewer flowers and a lot more geometry, tile work, and water features. I regret that I didn’t take a better pic of the pool because it was definitely a highlight. We arrived at the palace intending to take a siesta after the sun and surf in Cadiz, but we took a refreshing dip instead. Magenta flower petals fluttered down from the vine covered walls, and the scent of mint wafted from the beds planted next to the pool. Fabulous.

We had some time to kill before our flamenco show, so we grabbed some ice cream and sat in a plaza near the venue. It had a fantastic carousel to watch while we swapped spoonfuls. I especially loved this carousel because it had it’s hot air balloon, submarine, and old timey plane all tickled my Steampunk fancy.

Now that we’d had our dessert, it was time to go eat tapas. I’d found us a flamenco show with a pre fixe menu that included a bunch of different delicious meats, chilled artichokes, tortilla (which is not at all the same as what you wrap around your taco) and a few drinks each. We weren’t sure if we’d also need dinner afterwards, but there was SO much food, we were very happy. (Sorry foodies, it was my birthday so I was being “off duty” when it came to obsessively taking pictures.)

There were the normal thin sliced sausages and Iberico ham (which seriously, y’all, is WAY better), but we also tried one that was totally unique. At first, we couldn’t even tell what animal it came from. We thought for a little while that it was turkey because of the color, but it also had a slightly pickled flavor and had a crust of coarse salt. We learned later that it was both pork and something the region is known for.

I’d seen a flamenco show when I was in Barcelona back in college, but this was a very different experience. The Tabanco (which means “cigar” but is a sherry bar) had maybe enough seats for 12 people, and a stage just barely big enough for the show. The wall behind the bar was dominated by HUGE barrels of their house sherries embedded right into the architecture.

The performers were also a lot younger than the previous show, which was really cool to see. Don’t get me wrong, the 50-somethings who often are the stars of the show are phenomenal in a way you can only get from decades of practice. But seeing that trio of 20-somethings gave me hope that the tradition will continue in their capable hands. They also had a more light-hearted vibe than the often passionate-yet-serious shows done by their older counterparts. I also loved the vintage bull fight posters all over the walls.

One important thing to understand about flamenco. Seeing pictures or even hearing the music is not at all close to the experience of actually watching a performance. The rhythms are complex and intense, the singers are full of passion, the guitarists are incredible, and there are so many moving parts you can’t really appreciate it without being there, glued to your seat. We enjoyed this show so much, in fact, that we decided later in the trip that we just HAD to see another one before we left. So stay tuned and I will share a video from that show to help give you more of a taste of the experience.

Well, that brings us to the end of the day Aug 3, which means there’s still a whole week left of the trip to share with you! If you missed any of the earlier posts, you can check them out here. Until next time, stay splendid!

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