Jerez and Seville, two artistic towns in the south of Spain, make for ideal travel postcard memories. Of Sevillians, someone rightly said, “To whom God loves, he gives a house in Seville.” Perhaps that’s why Woody Allen shot portions of Vicky Christina Barcelona here. Enjoy the travalogue of the charming Andalusia in Spain.
The view from La Giralda bell tower (former minaret of the mosque) at the gothic cathedral in Seville
The art of holidaying isn’t solely about being the luxurious traveller. Sometimes, it’s amusing to be a quick-witted novice without clinging to a travel book and a concierge. However, do stick to the maps as they are of great assistance when you are stuck in the midst of sporadic showers, lost in the bylanes and, to make matters worse, are loaded with tons of shopping bags. Yours truly learns from experience. We were in Jerez, a charming town in southwest Spain; a place that welcomes you to sip the world-famous dry sherry, tap your feet alongside flamenco dancers and visit the world’s second best equestrian school to witness a fascinating show of unique dancing horses. You bet we were eager to see it all, but the rain was a big spoiler.
Thankfully, we weren’t glued to our travel guides. And anyway, our downtown residence, Hotel Barcélo itself was a paradigm of glorious heritage. A former convent run by nuns back in 1925, the hotel opened in 2006 with all its historical fecundity intact. The water well-preserved in the lobby is worth a mention. The nippy weather made for a pleasant walk for shopping in the Calle Larga. Plaza del Arenal gleamed with a string of tapas bars, and just a few blocks away the buildings around the San Miguel Cathedral stood synchronised in white.
Jerez is picturesque and soothing, singularly different from the liveliness and baroque architecture of Barcelona and Madrid. The locals here are religious about their sherry and siesta. So when they indulge in their pork chops and fino sherry, the shops remain closed until evening. An absence of madness may irk you a bit, yet the city’s sanity could spring up surprises. Like itdid with us when an old lady on her usual trip to the market was so ecstatic to spot me that she crooned an Indian patriotic song in Spanish!
The traditional horse fair in Jerez is held every year in May, attracting thousands of Spaniards to the town. The world’s second best equestrian school is also in Jerez.
A signpost at Jerez’s shopping area Plaza del Arenal that is lined with great restaurants, tapas
bars and small boutiques.
The Real Alcazar, built in the 15th century has intricate alleyways, expansive courtyards, manicured gardens & several rooms with the upper floors reserved for the royal family
A tram passing by in the metropolis area of Jerez
On the evening of our first day, we dined at Churchill’s Restaurant owned by British couple Philip and Cherie Payne. Philip, an ex-Vodafone hotshot, first visited Spain in 2001 on a business trip. After he retired, the couple opened Churchill’s in Madrid in 2004. They opened the second Churchill’s in Jerez in 2007 and sold the first one. “We enjoyed the atmosphere so much that we bought an apartment here. We preferred Jerez because of the climate, lifestyle and people,” Philip told us. Over the next few hours, we heartily tucked into the delicious food and sipped on the wine served with assorted pickles made by Cherie. The French waiter at our service initially a bit stiff loosened up slowly when he found an audience to listen to his Indian backpacker tales.
The famous Churchill’s has got rave reviews on Trip Advisor too!
Enjoying Tapas at Churchill
The next morning, we drove to Seville. Even then, the monsoon mêlée refused to leave us. We were at Puerto de Jerez, when the clouds finally dissipated. Seville or Sevilla in Spanish is the capital of the Andalusian state in Spain. The small city has a big heart that beats on an exciting potion of art, history, culture and fashion. The Sevillians, young and old, love to dress up and party. They say it’s a flirtatious city where wanderers feel as though love’s in the air. The city is miniature in a way that it’s enjoyable to walk rather than drive around. Seville is the fairyland of Spain. It is fresh and dewy, unblemished by the snarls of modernity. The tram in the metropolis area passes by at Puerto de Jerez, while we warm up with a stroll towards the Alcazar.
Horse drawn carriages outside the cathedral are symbolic of the vintage charm of Seville
Seville was under the Moorish rule from 712AD to 1248AD. Later, when Seville was governed by the Christians, the royals retained the Arab architecture. However, future monarchs continued to trim the structure extravagantly to what we admire at present. The real Alcazar, built in the 15th century, has intricate alleyways, expansive courtyards, manicured gardens and several rooms with the upper floors reserved for the royal family. At the Alcazar, every corner evokes a furtive story. For example, civilians would queue up to meet the king at the Patio de las Doncellas (Courtyard of Maidens), a name that strangely concedes the legend that Moorish kings demanded virgins from the Christian kingdoms at this very fiefdom. It was here that Christopher Columbus planned a journey to the New World. The haughty sailor never commissioned any portraits of himself. Though the chapel in the palace houses La Virgen de los Mareantes (Virgin of Seafarers) painted by artist Alejo Fernandez during 1531-1563; it’s the oldest piece of art that portrays Columbus in a gold cape with his brothers and other sailors in sanctification. The landscaped gardens draw close to a patio that leads towards the Jewish quarters of the Barrio Santa Cruz. The labyrinth of streets in the quarters dates back to the 13th century, when Romans, Arabs and Jews resided in Seville. The Santa Maria gothic cathedral flanks the Alcazar on the east. This landmark structure draws its foundation from the relics of a 12th century mosque destroyed by an earthquake. Christopher Columbus and his son rest in peace here, along with other nobles of Spain. The view from the cathedral’s bell tower La Giralda is spectacular and reveals Seville’s beauty.
Believe it or not, the city has the lowest crime rate in the country. A terrible year may register just about 20 criminal cases. Is that why Woody Allen shot portions of Vicky Christina Barcelona here? Perhaps. Although Mission Impossible 2 has been filmed here. A few years later, the famous Indian road trip movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was shot here too! Its said that tourism to Spain from India saw a 30 percent rise after this movie.
The Sevillians are surely God’s favourite, and as someone rightly said: “To whom God loves, he gives a house in Seville.”
The famous 2011 road trip Bollywood movie ZNMD that was filmed in Spain
The famous Woody Allen Movie shot in Spain