Published: February 23rd 2008February 14th 2008
Our annual winter trip (Joe Hellawell, Andrew Whyte and Gerry last year and Joe, Andrew, Gerry and Mike Maybury this year) headed for the Sherry Triangle of Southern Spain. A cheap Ryanair flight to Jerez (last year we went to Lamezia in Southern Italy) and 4 days in nearby El Puerto de Santa Maria on the coast. We stayed in a restored 1700's aparthotel called Casa de Los Leones. A good choice as it was very clean, well kitted out, beautifully restored, and central to everything we needed.
The trip started at Joe's house in London and we made the mistake of taking up Mike's generous offer of taking his car to the airport! It was a tiny, clapped out Peugeot which hadn't had any workable suspension in the last 10 years! We got approximately 30 yards when Joe remembered he had forgotten his European Health Card. Shaken but not stirred we arrived at Stansted Airport and boarded the coach to the terminal, when Mike remembered he had forgotten his camera, so we all jumped off so that he could run back to the car for it!
After an uneventful flight we caught a taxi to the hotel and
were fleeced 40 euros. We discovered that the Carnaval (street festival) was in town (we thought it was only in nearby Cadiz) so we hit the town for the night. Various singing groups dressed in different costumes were performing on mini-stages throughout the old town. After a while we realised they were all of a similar style, a sort of folk opera, mainly men who reckoned they were Jose Carreras, only more demonstrative. Being a bit peckish we popped into a tapas bar for a few snacks and a drink, and were swiftly fleeced of 90 Euros, much to the consternation of Andrew who had turned a pale shade of his surname as he thought of what his wife would have to say if she ever found out (sorry Andrew).
The night was still young and tender so we wandered around looking for some safe stimulation and were rewarded with a night club dedicated to all things salsa. So 4 slick young movers from London fitted right in! There was me (Gerry) with my Scottish woolen jumper, Andrew and his coca cola, Mike with his overlarge fleece, and Joe being the only remotely cool one with his sunglasses perched
Carnaval 2008 in Cadiz
on his head! The four of us sat on high stools all night intently watching the passionate couples gracefully swirling round the dance floor.
After a thrilling evening we retired to our aparthotel. Joe had a double bed and a room to himself, Andrew and Mike shared a room (2 single beds) and I had a single bed in the living room. I could hear Andrew and Mike talking for hours before they fell asleep. This was to be a theme throughout the weekend!
Sunday morning and we awoke with a breakfast pang in our stomachs so we went in search of a suitable fuelling venue. We found a very suitable cafe 20 yards from our hotel and had freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee and tea, and bread and jam which was as cheap as chips. I thought I was ignorant when it came to learning languages but my 3 compatriots took ignorance to an altogether higher level, even after 4 days Andrew and Mike hadn't ventured one word in Spanish and Joe hadn't quite grasped the fact that 'Gracie' is Italian not Spanish!
We decided to stick to our original plan and head into Cadiz to
see the Carnaval, which is supposed to be the biggest one in Spain. We caught a boat across to the peninsula. We wanted to take a bus tour round the city but we couldn't find it so we just walked. Although Cadiz is a busy industralised port it has a very interesting old town and has hundreds of narrow streets and alleyways to explore. All over the place there were more singing groups, all of a similar style but each one in a different distinctive costume. I was amazed to see one group on a trailer pulled by a tractor, they were all dressed in Scottish national costume, kilts, sporrans, the lot, except they were over-the-top kitsch style! The tassles on their sporrans, for example, were made from paint brushes! We stopped at a little cafe for ham and cheese toasties (the only 'food' words I know in Spanish!). We got back to Puerto de Santa Maria in the evening and went to the local famous seafood cafe for dinner, Mike and I had swordfish and chips. Later that night we watched some telly, bull fighting to be specific, and Joe was most upset (he's a sensitive soul!). The hard
Carnaval in Cadiz
core pornographic adverts were also a bit shocking!
Mike was up sick all night!
Monday dawned and after we found a pharmacy and bought Mike some immodium we left him behind, hired a car, and headed for the hills! We drove to Archos de la Frontera which is a lovely place with great views from the top near the Cathedral. From there we visited the 'white villages' so called because they are white. We climbed up to the top of the mountain at Puerto de las Palomas and encountered some wild mountain goats, then we drove back and found Mike wandering the streets. As Mike was still unable to eat anything, Andrew, Joe and I went out for a scrummy lamb stew.
Joe was sick and I had diarrhoea all night! At one point, about 4.30am I came out of the toilet, after yet another exhausting purge, to find the hotel security guard going into Joe's bedroom! I was too tired to even wonder what was going on! I later discovered that Joe couldn't get to sleep because of a banging door in the empty room above him, so he had gone to find the security guard
In El Purto de Santa Maria
to ask him to go up and close the door but Joe didn't speak a word of Spanish and the guard didn't speak a word of English, so Joe had remonstrated with the man to come up to his room where Joe tried to communicate through an ancient form of charades! The guy had no idea what was going on and when he saw me coming out of the toilet in nothing but my boxer shorts I'm sure he thought it wasn't going to be his lucky night! The smell which followed would have confirmed his worst fears.
Tuesday morning, the boys headed off for breakfast and I had to follow so I could order something for them. After finishing off in the toilet and checking out of the hotel we decided to drive down the coast as we had all day before the flight in the evening. We found ourselves back in Cadiz by mistake then got lost and ended up miles away from the sea. We were ready for lunch by this time so we stopped at the next town but everything was shut. We drove round and round and eventually found one place which was open,
we stopped, but just before going in I noticed the word 'ninos' above the door which I remembered was 'children', turns out it was a school dining room! Fortunately there was a cafe nearby that was open, we had a right palava trying to order something from the waitress who spoke no English. Joe and I still couldn't eat anything.
From there we drove back to Jerez as we wanted to visit a sherry bodega (where they make sherry). We drove round and round looking for the Gonzalez Byass bodega which we knew had an English tour, we kept getting lost and Joe who was still feeling sick was getting somewhat frustrated. Andrew and Mike carried on chatting about the age of the earth or some such theological conundrum, completely oblivious!
We eventually found the place and had an enjoyable tour which ended with a sherry tasting. Andrew woofed his down and was soon seeing double!
We dropped the car at the airport and boarded our plane. I sat next to Joe, but soon regretted it when I heard him ask the stewardess for a sick bag! Fortunately he didn't need it in the end! My bum was
still sore from my endless trips to the lavvy and I still had to endure the last hour's drive in Mike's suspensionless torture machine! Still it was a great weekend and next year we're off to Morocco!
There are more photos below