Camino Day 1: Cadiz to Jerez de Frontera

Today we said goodbye to Cadiz and officially began the Camino. Although hoping for an earlier departure, the rain that began last night continued until almost 9 am this morning.

Once it cleared, Mikey wanted to get a few last pictures of the city. Above is the Plaza of St. John of God with City Hall in the background. It almost looks like a Carribean colonial square with all the palm trees.

Due to all the rain and high winds yesterday, we weren’t able to climb the cathedral’s bell tower. After a little convincing, they let us use our tickets from the previous day.

Since it had been included in the ticket price, Mikey had to climb the bell tower before we could start hiking. (By the way, did you notice how high the tower is? Talk about a workout.)

Regardless of how tough the climb was, it was well worth the views from the top. This is the central dome that marks the highest unobstructed part of the cathedral’s interior.

One unexpected part was when it turned 11 o’clock. Mikey really enjoyed the women’s reaction! Oh – and it was crazy loud.

Well, with that, it was time to begin the Camino and head to Jerez de la Frontera.

Unlike the colonial look of Cadiz, for the most part, Jerez has a more Andalusian feel to it.

Although much akin visually to the nearby Moorish cities of Granada and Cordoba, Xera was initially founded as a Phoenician city around the same time as Cadiz.

As water plays an important part in this arid inland city, certain parts are reminiscent of Cadiz.

However, the Alcazar or fortress is a purely Muslim feature that was introduced in the 11th century.

Inner courtyards like this one in our hotel lobby are also very common.

Oh, and this is Tio Pepe. Perhaps the best know Sherry brand in the world, the bodega of Gonzalez-Byass (makers of Tio Pepe) is like a Disneyland for wine lovers. Hey, they even have a motorized train that takes visitors around to the different production areas.

While Cadiz has always held importance as a shipping center, Jerez’s claim to fame has always been its Sherry. Predating most wine regions of Europe, the Phoenicians were trading Jerez (then Xera) wine all over Europe 1,100 years before Christ! Even the English name for the Jerez wine (Sherry) comes from the city’s Muslim name (Sherish) since the early Britons were trading with Andalusian Moors as early as the 12th century.

This is a visual of the solera system wherein the old and new wines are mixed prior to final aging and bottling. We won’t bore you here, but check it out sometime.

This is a brandy aging demo. As you can see, the neutral spirits on the left are clear while the 12-year brandy on the right has acquired both the color and (hopefully) flavor of the used Sherry barrels.

The winery has a vast collection of signed barrels. You might know a few of the above.

They also keep a glass of Sherry out for the mice to drink.

Yep, that’s right. They keep a glass of Sherry out with a little ladder so that the mice inside the barrel rooms don’t get thirsty.

Speaking of thirst, following a tour, we got to try four different Sherries with a small tapas pairing. Even better, Mikey sat with an English couple, John and Bobbi, who has a home in Spain. We had great conversation and maybe John will consider walking part of the Camino, too.

Oh, let’s get back to that part. After the Sherry tour and tasting, we had to get the credential stamped at the Cathedral of Jerez.

The interior was quite beautiful, but they didn’t allow photography or even give a pilgrim discount! Ergo, Mikey had to keep it on the ”down low” in order to get his 5€’s worth of this gothic masterpiece.

This is a pretty ornate chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Mikey got really excited when he spotted yet another spiral staircase. It was even labeled the ”Secret Staircase” on a sign. So, up and up we went for quite some time, excitement growing as we neared the top.

It ended in a dead end. Well, it consisted of a prayer bench and a painting of Christ, but the wall was sealed and there was no amazing view like in Cadiz. With all due respect, it’s probably a really nice prayer getaway spot, but Mikey was a bit underwhelmed.

On a positive note, he did sneak behind the altar to grab another shot from the priest’s perspective, so that really cheered him up.

Well, we’d better call it a night since there’s quite a bit of walking to the town of El Cuervo tomorrow. Looks like a lot of rain, but Mikey just hopes to meet a man named Jose! Buenas noches.