A traveler’s choice: stepping off the tourist path

Where would you go to in Spain if you had a month? We decided to head for Jerez de la Frontera for 3 weeks and spend the last week in Cordoba and Madrid. (We imagine you are shaking your head in wonderment and asking, “Why would you do that?!”)

We wanted a lovely, small city with an authentic touch – a place where we could live in a neighborhood, surrounded by Spanish people and not so many tourists. A little research about where to go off the beaten path gave us some good options. But how would we decide between them? One easy way for us was to find a location with affordable and appealing lodgings. We scanned AirBnB’s site and discovered a very nice apartment with kitchen and a washing machine – and so it was easily decided: we would go to Jerez de la Frontera.

Jerez had charming cafes, like La Parra Vieja. Most restaurants in town served traditional tapas and locally-produced sherry.

We were surprised with a more formal and traditional demeanor than we had anticipated.

We felt the influence of Muslim art and architecture as we walked through the very narrow lanes. The Arabs invaded the area in the year 711 and were not defeated by the Christians until 1264. Five hundred-fifty years is a long time to make an imprint on a city. We strolled through the town along Calle Francos, the main commercial street during the Arabs’ reign. We followed the route on our map where the old city wall had been and were happy to see remnants here and there, including one of the original gates to the city. The 11th century Alcazar remains, originally built as a fortress by the Arabs.

The most prominent buildings in Jerez de la Frontera in the years after the Christians gained control were churches. We were taken aback with just how many churches there were and how many were great edifices – all very different in style and decoration.   ,

Many days we passed the Cathedral on our walks and admired the buttresses. Photographing the exterior changed with the position of the sun so we ended up making many visits and a taking a lot of images.

We always looked for urban art in Portugal but, now in Spain, we frequently saw religious artwork instead – usually in ceramic tile – outside churches or in the plazas.

Occasionally we visit a place for a short time as tourists, we try to stay close to the sites we plan to visit and concentrate all of our energies on sightseeing. Life as a traveler for a longer stay (our preferred style) takes on a slightly more familiar approach. While in Jerez for 3 weeks, we lived in an AirBnB apartment in a building of local people. By day we shopped in the central Mercado with the usual array of fresh vegetables, fruits, cheeses, olives, and the best fresh fish market we’d ever seen. At night we occasionally ate in one of the many tapas restaurants in Jerez. Always a temptation was a stop for a gelato – how about rich chocolate-orange or maybe fig?   On our daily walks we saw very few tourists but occasionally spotted a few in restaurants.

One evening we strolled in a plaza at the Alcazar facing one of the large buildings of the sherry manufacturer, Gonzalez Byass, known for their brand, Tio Pepe. We heard music from a distance and soon, a religious procession came into view.

People of all ages took part in the procession and that included the band members. Contrary to what you might think, the youngest band members played well and with maturity beyond their years.

Our Jerez AirBnB had two bedrooms, and it would have been a shame to let that 2nd bedroom go unused, so we invited some special guests to join us.

Our first guests were our son, Josh, and Tanya – who brought their folding bikes with them from Portland, Oregon.   They spent several days cycling the coast to swim at some of the best beaches in Spain.

Our decision to stay for three weeks “off the beaten path” came down to a decision to enjoy and explore a less well-known area. Jerez de la Frontera had history, culture, good food, and was well located for further explorations in the surrounding area. It was the more authentic experience we had been seeking.

One important aspect of the culture, which we only discovered after we got there, was flamenco. Next up, our discovery….to be continued….


October 2017

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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12 Responses to A traveler’s choice: stepping off the tourist path

  1. Mary Joplin says:

    Thank you both for this lovely piece about the town that made me fall in love with Spain. It’s so interesting to see your take on Jerez!

  2. Jerez de la Frontera looks like it was a lovely little city to discover all for yourselves and your photos made me feel like I was there too. Going off the beaten path lets you find places with few tourists and a chance to just let the days unfold and the city reveal itself! Anita

    • Yes, it was just that kind of city. We wandered all over and even discovered an IKEA store on the outskirts! A walk inside the store revealed products we’d not seen in US stores – or maybe they were just new products – as we’ve not been in an IKEA for while.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for the introduction to a lovely little city – hard to leave places like that!

  4. It sounds like a lovely 3 weeks!

  5. It’s nice to feel like locals for a few weeks.

  6. Looks like a real experience!

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