Desperate to get out of Antwerp, I looked at nearby airports to see what the cheapest flights were that’d be leaving in the next day or two. I had no preference of where I’d go, my only requirement was sunny weather. The cheapest flight I saw was for a place called Jerez that I’d never heard of before. After a quick Google search, I realised it was in my favourite country – Spain! As if I needed any extra motivation, I booked the super cheap flight and was on my way in no time.
A comfortable flight where I had the whole row to myself again, I landed in the tiny airport of Jerez. Within 15 minutes I’d left the plane, grabbed my bag and was walking to the train station to catch the train into Jerez de la Frontera. I didn’t even have to go through passport control! Before I knew it I was walking through the city to the hostel, and felt a little uneasy that there were barely any people around. Was this why the flight was so cheap, because I’d come to a ghost town?!
I checked in to the hostel I’d booked for the next couple of nights, and made my way straight out again as the hostel was really basic and not really a place to chillout. The streets of Jerez, while charming and typical of the Andalucia region, were empty. I saw barely another person and figured this must be the reason the flight was so cheap, because this wasn’t a place for tourists. It had been a while since I’d eaten and it was really hot so once I spotted an open cafe I nabbed a table in the street – it wasn’t hard, I was nearly the only person there – and had a bite to eat.
Come evening, as the temperature dropped a touch and the sun started to dip, the streets came alive with people. I realised this was a town with a real siesta culture to avoid the heat of the afternoon, and as groups of people filled the bars and families wandered up and down, I realised I was going to like it here.
The next morning, I woke up fairly early after a not so great nights sleep. The dorm I had was so cramped that you couldn’t have fit a double bed in there, yet they still managed two bunk beds. There was air con, but evidently the preferred method of keeping the room cool is window open, door open. There was no locker to leave my valuables and I couldn’t open my bag unless it was on my bed. And the bathroom, well…it had 2 showers with partially frosted screens next to the sinks. Being taller than the average girl, the frosted part of the screen didn’t totally cover parts I would like to not flash a random lady using the bathroom, so I had to try and hang my towel over the screen while I had a quick shower. Needless to say, I wasn’t in love with the hostel set up, but that just meant I’d spend more time out seeing Jerez.
Being up and out fairly early, the square outside the hostel that had been absolutely deserted the day before was now full of life. A market overflowed from the nearby indoor market space, cafes had their tables and chairs spread out in the square and the smell of churros wafted close by. After perusing the outdoor market stalls, including one which just sold snails, I ventured in to the market hall. The heat was already rising, and being indoors was less than ideal, so it was a quick tour of the market, finding much of the same kind of stalls you’d find at any Spanish market.
Plaza de Arenal sits in the centre of the city and is a great spot to watch people going about their day. Finding a cafe, I ordered a cappuccino and had a moment of mild horror when I realised I had fallen victim to not specifying which cappuccino I wanted. Yes, there are different kinds. No, I didn’t realise this before coming to Spain. This was a filter coffee topped with whipped cream and cinnamon, none of which I like. I couldn’t drink it, and I sat for longer than I should working out how I was going to pay and leave when I hadn’t even touched the drink. Well, I had scooped the whipped cream off so I could attempt to drink the coffee underneath, but it had melted and now sat in a puddle on the saucer. Probably worse than if I’d just left it to be honest. Leaving a few euros, I quickly dashed off to the cathedral.
As there aren’t many tourists in Jerez, and even fewer who venture out in the hotter hours of the day, there weren’t many people in the cathedral. It’s always cooler in a church or cathedral than it is outside, so it was a welcome respite from the heat, and I enjoyed a quick tour. The coolest thing in this cathedral was the nativity scene, that was so intricate and detailed, and even had running water in the fountain.
Next up was a visit to climb the church tower. Usually this would be accessed from within the church or cathedral, but in Jerez it’s a separate building on the other side of the path. Up the narrow and winding staircase, and I was soon at the top soaking up the panoramic views of the city. Thankfully there was just me and another person at the top as it’s single file to get round, and so tight that you couldn’t pass another person. Views seen, photos taken, church roof admired, on to the next stop.
The Alcazar of Jerez is one of the main sights in the city, and its history dates back to the 11th century. Once a fortress, it also served as a residence and these days is open to explore while also used as an events space. It’s just round the corner from the cathedral and after resting for a bit in the shade out front, I bought my ticket and started my tour.
As is typical in the south of Spain, the architecture has strong Moorish tones, and there’s even a mosque on the grounds. Making the most of there being just a couple of other people around, I was able to explore and stop for photos every 2 minutes without getting in the way of anyone. It also meant that when the heat got to me, I could sit down in a shaded doorway without worrying about blocking the way.
The alcazar had a few of the typical sights I expected to see, but also a few interesting surprises. It had been designed as a fortress, but in a way that it would be like a small community inside the walls. This meant that along with the prayer rooms, residences, Arab baths and defence features, there was also a small supply store complete with machine to grind crops, and a water tank so that people could survive here for a time if being invaded.
After finishing my tour, I was really starting to feel the heat. I took refuge in a nearby cafe for a slice of tortilla and a cold, refreshing drink. Thinking I was ordering just a slice of tortilla in my broken spanish, it turned out I ordered a whole one. I was settled in for a while anyway as I needed to chill out and relax but also didn’t want to go back to the hostel to do so, so tucked in and enjoyed the delicious tortilla. And no mum, I didn’t eat the whole thing!
Back to the hostel, I had a few things to sort on my laptop, then got chatting to some of the other people staying there. It was a real boost for me, as although the conversation started in English it soon turned to Spanish and I was still able to keep up. As most people speak English to me even when I try Spanish, it’s not often I get to put my skills to the test and see what I can really understand and contribute. I loved it, but still had to make my excuses to leave as there was a flamenco show in the alcazar and I wanted to join the queue to get myself one of the limited tickets.
As it turns out, I’d spent too long sitting chatting and as I arrived, the queue was being dispersed. Never mind, so I went back to the hostel, caught up with the people I’d left and ended up going for drinks and being introduced to my new favourite – Tinto de Verano.
Another early morning after a late night last night, as I had to be up and checked out. I thought it was by 10 so I rushed a little, but actually turned out to be 11. Never mind, so I sat in the lounge of the hostel and relaxed until it was time to catch the train. It was so warm, and I really wanted to grab a coffee, but I hadn’t prebooked a ticket for this train so wanted to get there in plenty of time to buy it. As it turns out, when I arrived, the train was fully booked and I had to wait around 2 hours for the next one. It was more annoying that I had thought about buying the ticket the night before but thought there was no point.
I took a seat and hung out in the train station to wait for the next train, ticket already bought, and dreamed of the coffee I’d grab when I got to Seville. I didn’t want to venture out to find a coffee shop to wait in, as it was so hot I couldn’t bear to carry my bag in the heat any longer. As I got up later to head to the platform, I saw that just around the corner from where I’d been for 2 hours was a coffee shop. Mere steps away. Today wasn’t really my day. But, I was on the train, and taking the short journey back to one of my favourite cities – Seville!
If you’re after some inspiration to visit Jerez de la Frontera, check out this post.