Thanks to my clumsy tendencies, my Macbook Pro has been out of commission for a few months. I took it to the Apple store in Gibraltar, but because we live in the middle of nowhere, part replacements are only shipped down here from the UK every three weeks. Then, the “trusty” technician failed to mention the first time around that the airport card was faulty (he admitted he guessed that when he first examined it), so I had to wait an extra three weeks for that part to come after the computer was fixed. Oh the joys of Gibraltarian processes! Though it was frustrating to be without my computer, I’m just so grateful that it could be fixed and that I didn’t have to buy a replacement – and I didn’t lose any of my files.
Many of the files I was afraid of losing were my pictures from the past year and a half. I have everything from my first visit to Dublin to my best friend’s wedding. I would have been utterly depressed if I had lost those (trust me, I now know how important it is to back-up your files and plan on doing that as soon as possible!). One file in particular I’d forgotten about was our day trip to Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. I’d planned this trip as a surprise for Matt because of his love for horses. When I first found out we were moving to Spain, I picked up a few travel books and started studying up on popular cities in our area. Jerez was mentioned for it’s equestrian show at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art and as the capital of sherry wine. I went ahead and bought tickets to the equestrian show and then surprised Matt with our first true Spanish cultural experience.
The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art is famous in Jerez for preserving the traditions of Spanish horsemanship, educating and preparing riders/horses for dressage competitions, and teaching the fundamentals for taking care of the horse in all capacities: saddlery, care and breeding, etc. Over the years, it’s “dancing stallions” show has become very famous for Spaniards and tourists alike. I thought it would be interesting to see what the Spanish have doing been for ages and since Jerez is within easy driving distance, we could make a day-trip out of it.
I was glad I purchased our tickets ahead of time because when we arrived, the gate was packed with tourists hoping to secure a ticket to the show. The grounds of the equestrian school were absolutely stunning. Colorful and classic Andalusian architecture adorned all of the beautiful buildings; oranges, whites, and stunning blues made for a visually appealing facade. The gardens were also manicured to perfection and crystal clear water flowed from the many fountains. The show itself took place in a oval-shaped building where there was really not a bad seat in the house. We found ours and settled in for a long presentation. The positives of the show? The horses were absolutely beautiful and majestic, the riders wore traditional Spanish garb, and the show was set to traditional Spanish music. The intricate footwork of the horses was impressive and I especially loved when the rider walking alongside their horse would get them to raise and hop on their hind legs. The negatives? The show became very repetitive. While I have much respect and admiration for what the riders were able to do, there was not a lot of variety throughout. Also – and to be expected – the commentary was completely in Spanish, so Matt and I were at a loss when it came to the detailed history and description for each section of the show. All negatives aside, it was truly a wonder and my first experience with horse showmanship other than racing.
Following the equestrian show, Matt and I wandered over to the Sandeman sherry exhibition for a tour. Jerez is famous for being the capital of sherry and they take the culture very seriously. The Sandeman company established itself in Spain in 1795 and was the very first company to brand a cask. It is now a worldwide brand and is distributed to more than 75 markets. The Sandeman bodega in Jerez de la Frontera is very popular and we were more than happy to learn as much as we could about sherry. It wasn’t a long tour, but the tour guide was full of information and at the end, we all sat at picnic tables surrounded by casks and tasted their most famous sherries. Unfortunately, I learned one major thing about sherry: I don’t like it! This doesn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate it and give every variety they presented us with an honest try. The darker sherries were the closest to something I might like, but for the most part, the taste of sherry is too strong and not something I’d willingly order. I certainly appreciate this aspect of Spanish culture, but I think I’ll stick to Sauvignon Blanc. 😉
We had a really beautiful day in Jerez and it certainly jump-started our interest in Spanish culture. I’m so glad I flipped through the photos on my newly recovered laptop, because this was certainly a small trip that I’ll fondly remember.