Jerez De La Frontera, Spain
Famous for its wine - sherry - made from grapes grown in the area's chalky soils, Jerez is also Andalucia's horse capital.
In former times, during the Muslim occupation of Iberia, it was called Xerez or Xeres. Frontera in its name refers to its location on the border between the Moorish and Christian regions of Spain during that period. The name of the famous fortified wine, sherry, which originated here, is a corruption of the city's Arabic name, Sherish. The drink was already famous in England in Shakespeare's time.
5 May 2005 - Jerez De La Frontera, SpainWith a spare day in my calendar I scoured the internet for cheap flights and found such a flight heading over to Jerez.
Foolishly I arrived with no money, trusting instead that the cash machines in the airport would meet my needs but forgetting that small, provincial airports are often very basic. Never mind, the airport is only about 6 miles from Jerez town so I began the walk; after all, I've covered similar distances before on foot with the TA in quick time and whilst carrying a load.
After about a mile walking alongside a dual carriageway a car pulled up and an English bloke asked if I wanted a lift into town. Fine I thought so I hopped. It turned out he is pilot trainer and has been living in Jerez for a number of years. Its amazing who you end up meeting when on your own abroad.
Once into Jerez I thanked him for the lift and proceeded into the centre where the tourist information is and did the usual site seeing and sampling of the local eats.
Jerez - The Alcazar mosque
Alcazar is a Spanish word for the Almohad fortress built in the 12th century and the name comes from the arabic word qasr thus betraying this part of Spain's Islamic heritage.
Islamic architecture can be very beautiful and harmonious and this is evident within the fortress' buildings such as the bath house with its star shaped skylights although these are not unique to Jerez.
Jerez - The Alcazar
From the outside the Alcazar is a formidable structure with its high walls and towers. From the original islamic alcazar the following elements still exist: the two gates, the mosque which was converted into a church after the Christian conquest, the Arab baths, the octagonal defensive tower. The Vilavicencio Palace was built in 1664 over the ruins of the old Islamic palace and with the great views it provides over the city is worth a wander.