Jerez - the Feria del Caballo
The Feria del Caballo - (Horse Fair) which is held annually in early May in Jerez was a highlight of our holiday. If you want to see a real Andalucian festival with flamenco dress, equestrian pride and passion, and the sheer, almost hedonistic, enjoyment of life of southern Spain, come to the Feria.
We were joined by Carmen and Stace and Hansi and Lori on one day which was great fun. The dates for 2007 are 6th-13th May and for 2008 slightly earlier - 27 April - 4 May.
The event is held in the Parque Gonzalez Hontori, on Avenida Alcalde Alvaro Domeque, to the
north east of the city, about 2 km from the centre. There are plenty of buses which go from the centre of Jerez out to the Park, and there is some car parking near the ground although you would need to get there early. The showground is laid out into “streets” with over 250 Canestas (stands), many of which are taken by companies and businesses. It is, however, not like a trade show, but a party – as the canestas are really bars !
The main thoroughfares cross through the middle of the show ground, and it is here that the daily equestrian parade takes place, from around 1.00 pm or so until 7:30pm. There is no entry fee, but the "hunting down" of a not too costly hotel room for two nights in Jerez was a feat in itself. On a practical note, there is not much shade, and even in May, Jerez will be hot, so it is wise to dress comfortably. In order to sit down you need to go into the Stands, and that, means having something to eat or drink. Even the most fascinating events can be quite hard on the feet !
I must credit Andrew (alucas) with most of these photos and Carmen (Carmela71) with information relating to costume.
Whats on the menu in Jerez
On a typical Jerez menu you will find :
Fresh fish dishes, oysters, squid, sea snails, shrimps and cockles.
Andalucian specialties including gazpacho (cold tomato soup) local papayo cheese,
Tapas may include: Spanish Tortilla (potatoe omellet, Salmon Ahumado (smoked salmon), snails (very cheap local dish costs about 1 euro for a tumbler full),
You'll find many meat dishes - lamb and oxtail stews, sautéed steaks, kidneys and tripe - are generously soaked in the wines of Jerez.
Mulleta : an inexpensive breakfast dish of fresh bread rolls with a layer of jamon serrano, liberally spread with the local olive oil
Alcazar and Arab Baths
Within Jerez, you must visit the restored 11th century Alcazar and Arab Baths. The Alcazar is worth a visit and so is the small but useful Archeological Museum in the Plaza Mercado. The alcazar has a superb octagonal tower (Torre Octogonal).
Even if you aren’t interested in pre-history or the Roman and Moorish remains, or even the 7th Century Persian helmet, just savor a perfect building that completely recaptures the spirit of a Roman villa with its internal courtyards and cool marble floors.
Alcazar is close to the Cathedral lined by the rests of an Arab defense wall that founded this building.
The Alcazar de Jerez was built in the 12C when Jerez was one of the major cities in the area.
Much of the original Islamic fortress is preserved: One can see the original two gates, the mosque, the Arab baths and the octagonal tower. The mosque includes the fountain of ablutions, the paryer hall and the mihrab niche. In 1264 in was made into a church by King Alfonso X.
Sadly when I visited most of it was closed due to renovations. All of the furnishings have been removed to the Museum of Archeology, which is currently closed because it too is undergoing renovations. The inner garden and the bare walls, the original architecture and some of the original baths can be seen.
The Camera Obscura is located in the tower of the Villavicencio Palace built within the Alcazar in the 17C. It is not open on Saturday although the Alcazar itself can be visited on Saturday.
Entry: Euro 3.00 plus 2.40 Euro additional for the Camera Obscura.
Discount for Seniors: Euro 2.40 for Alcazar and Camera Obscura together.
La Cartuja, is a monastery called also El Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de la Defension (The Monastery of Our Lady of Defense).
It belongs to the Cartesian Order and no one can enter but everyone can see the exterior and garden, which is well worth the trip
The monastery was founded by Don Alvaro Obertos de Valeto in 1453.
He was a noble of Jerez and the construction started in 1478. The basic plan of the monastery was Gothic, but the construction took a long time, and is a mixture of styles.
Timetables: 9.30-11.15am and 12.45-6.30pm. Closed: public holidays.