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When talking about Jerez everyone thinks of sherry. Vineyard surround the city in Andalusia in the southwest of Spain, and sherry and brandy is produced in over thirty bodegas. Yet Jerez is not just about sherry. The city is also the birthplace of flamenco and the famous Andalusian horsemanship, it has a beautiful historic center and is situated in beautiful surroundings.
The Phoenicians already discovered that the calcareous soil near Jerez was extremely suitable for growing grapes. When the Romans conquered the area, they refined the wine production, but it is thanks to the distillation techniques of the Moors that Jerez nowadays also produces excellent Spanish brandy. Sherry became hugely popular in England, after Francis Drake had looted the port city of Cadiz in 1587 and brought back almost 3000 barrels with sherry on his trip home. Many of the sherry bodegas were founded by rich British families, which explains the occasional English names. A guided tour through one of the bodegas is really a must when you are in Jerez. Well-known bodegas include Domecq, González Byass, Osborne and Sandeman. Obviously each guided tour ends with a tasting session where you learn to detect the difference between 'fino' and 'oloroso'.
As in many places in the south of Spain, the Moors also built a fortress in Jerez, the Alcazar. Within the walls of this fortress you'll find palaces, particularly beautiful gardens and restored Arabic bathhouses (hammams). It also includes a mosque, which was converted into a church with the minaret serving as bell tower following the Christian Reconquest of Spain.
The La Cartuja de Nuestra Señora de la Defensión monastery was built in late Gothic style in the fifteenth century, to which Baroque elements were added in the seventeenth century. During the eighteenth century, the monastery's monks began breeding horses. This is where Andalusia's elegant horsemanship originates. Only once a week a performance is given, the Sinfonía a Caballo, at the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre (Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art).
If you are interested in antique clocks, you should visit the Museo de Relojes inside the neoclassical Palacio del Tiempo (Palace of Time). Here you can admire over 300 clocks, predominantly from the seventeenth until the nineteenth centuries. Many visitors to Jerez skip the Museo Arqueológico, which is a shame, as the museum houses a beautiful collection about the region's development as of prehistoric times.
In Jerez de la Frontera's ancient gipsy district you'll find the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco, where you can learn more about this type of music, combined with the singing and dancing. Here you'll also find many flamenco schools and of course there are many places where you can attend a flamenco performance. Every year, at the end of winter, the Festival Flamenco de Jerez is held. During the festival the city is steeped in flamenco, with performances and various workshops for which you have to sign up in advance.
East of Jerez lies the village of Arcos de la Frontera, one of Andalusia's most beautiful towns and the first one on the so-called White Villages Route. This route from Arcos to Castellar de la Frontera is about 250 kilometers long and allows you to discover the real Andalusia and the region's overwhelming scenic beauty.
The port city of Cádiz is one of Europe's oldest cities, founded by the Phoenicians. In the Archeological Museum you can find out more about the city's origins. Here you can also see finds from archeological excavations, including two Phoenician sarcophagi. Cádiz' main attraction is the impressive cathedral.
There are many parking garages, mostly underground, around Jerez' center, where you can often find a free space for your rental car. Parking out on the street is more complicated. Fines for parking incorrectly or too long are high and as a foreigner you also need to pay on the spot.
The international Aeropuerto de Jerez is located 10 kilometers north of the city. You can easily reach the airport by rental car via the A4 freeway (exit Jerez Nord).