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Livin’ it up in Spain

“Small is beautiful” pretty much sums up the essence of Jerez. The quaint town of Jerez de la Frontera presents a side of Spain not many travellers know about, writes Kirti Mehta.

india Updated: Apr 22, 2009 14:01 IST
Kirti Mehta

Think of Spain and the first few places that are bound to pop up in your mind are buzzing Barcelona, historical Madrid and sizzling Ibiza. But there are places in southern Spain that are as yet unfamiliar, unexplored and untouched, and which promise an equally enthralling, if not a better, experience. Jerez de la Frontera is one such place. A quaint little town in southern Spain, Jerez (pronounced Kh-erez, not J-erez) is best known for its fantastic flamenco, tangy potatoes and sinful sherry. In fact sherry, the famous fortified wine, got its name from this town.

“Small is beautiful” — this phrase pretty much sums up the essence of Jerez. The town has beautiful squares at every nook and corner, with almost every important landmark being within walking distance of each other. It’s best to start your trip at the heart of Jerez, which rests within the remains of 12th century Moorish walls. Here, you’ll find the main shopping street Calle Larga, which runs through the city and houses some of the biggest fashion brands like Zara, Bershka and Mango. Next, head south to the streets around Plaza del Arenal and seek out a snack at some of the best tapas bars in town. From there, take a stroll through the patios and gardens towards the 12th-century Arab baths.

While in Jerez, make sure to take a look at how sherry is made and processed at Tio Pepe. It takes an hour for a tour of the same, after which you can enjoy some tapas and Iberico ham with the alcohol. If you’re lucky, you may be witness to a small band of musicians performing in the town square.

The town is also famous for the fast bulería dance, a style of flamenco, that you can learn at the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco. And for explorers looking to go beyond the city walls, the nearby beaches or perhaps the motor racing circuit where the Moto GP and F1 testing are held twice or thrice every year, are good options.

The mesmerising town of Seville, best known for its typical Spanish architecture, is an hour’s drive from Jerez. This city is famous for the best bullfighting rings in the country. Horse drawn carriages with bright yellow wheels are a common sight here.

The city boasts the world’s largest Gothic cathedral and is also home to the great Christopher Columbus’ grave. The Giralda minaret is a vantage point from where one can have a bird’s eye view of the city. In the vicinity of the cathedral is the 1000-year-old Alcazar, which is still inhabited by royalty whenever they pay a visit to the city.

Here, evenings are best spent shopping at exquisite stores or drinking at one of the bars along the river bank. If you’re looking for some action, you can head to the Santa Cruz district and enjoy a show at one of the hole-in-the-wall flamenco venues.