Have arrived safely in Andalusia (in southern Spain), the home of beautiful horses, music and dance. I am so happy to be here. Staying tonight and tomorrow in a grand town called Jerez which on the internet claims to be one of the homes of the beautiful Andalusian horse. There are certainly plenty of horse statues about, but I have not seen a real one yet. maybe tomorrow.
Had an early morning connection through Zurich – that was quite spectacular to fly in past the Alps glowing in the pale pink morning light. Swiss Air dished up a beautiful creamy buttery omelette followed by as much chocolate as you would like. No complaints on the service, food or view! Next connection was through Barcelona but unfortunately the ongoing flight to Jerez was brought forward and I did not have as much time in Barcelona as I would like and did not get to see the Gaudi sites.
This morning I had lemon yoghurt for breakfast. It was sweet, and refreshing. Then I set off with camera and spent a delicious morning wandering the streets of Jerez.
“City of Statues” I call it now. Statues everywhere, some larger and more ornate than others. Plenty of statues of horses. The little streets are cobble stoned and narrow and wind off everywhere like little spiders legs, but they all converge repetitively in little common areas called “placas” which are decorated with pavements, seats, statues , flowers and gardens, and many are lined with cafes. Lots of little nooks and crannies that are just waiting to be discovered and loved. Beautifully manicured orange trees lining the streets, with bundles of fruit at different levels of ripeness. Quite a few jacaranda trees too. Where are jacarandas native to? I vaguely thought they were Australian. Anyway, they look nice here.
I must admit I wondered why so much effort had been put into these public areas because the place was a ghost town, I pretty much had it all to myself. I took photographs of these empty places. I was thinking it was really sad that economic times had hit so hard that a whole city had emptied. But it turns out I was just out early (midmorning) because after an hour or so the place sprang into life with people suddenly materialising out of thin air.
Great atmosphere. In the main square there is a huge carousel, and I mean huge. I have never seen one so large and so ornate anywhere, not even at the movies. It was gorgeous, if you were a child you would be fascinated with it, and there are kids on it constantly. So beautiful, double story, gorgeously painted horses and detailed decorations, very very fairytale. That stands next to an impressive looking statue of someone important on a horse, surrounded by fountains and angels, and gardens and cafes. The pigeons like sitting on the important person’s head; it gives them a good view of the placa.
There has been a big to do on here this morning – it is all in Spanish – but it involves very loud cheery music – dozens of people on exercise bikes in full gear giving it their best, a fellow ‘comparing’ on a microphone, cyclists and onlookers cheering gustily , and a stall with a sign for Oxfam and people handing out leaflets and taking photos. I wondered if it was some kind of charity contest but now it has turned into air boxing aerobics. I am starting to think it is a public outdoor gym right here in the main placa next to the statues the cafes and the carousel. Great idea for lazy women like me, they can recline in a coffee shop, yawning, stretching their toes, taking the morning air, watching their husband pumping away in lycra to the left and their kids bobbing away on the carousel to the right. …. Actually the women here wear the wildest shoes! All sorts of colours, designs, heel heights, fabrics, matched with jeans and casual gear. Seems like it is just “not done” to slob around in your best “going-out thongs” (or flip flops) like I am. I can’t believe I am being “out-shoed”. Actually now everyone is grooving along to “you can keep your hat on”. Before that they were running back and forth systematically. What on earth is going on? I am fascinated. fellow in the coffee shop does not seem to know.
You girls will be amused that my weirdo-attracting-powers have not diminished. As I was wandering the laneways with my camera this morning a small car sidled alongside and the village prankster (or deviot perhaps) waved his appendage out the window at me – not sure if it was his or not – I didn’t stop for another look.
Actually for some reason it amused me, because it reminded me of this time at a young age in school when my friend acquired a little plastic dog poo that was delightfully ‘lifelike’ – and we spent a whole day in fits of giggles as we gradually discovered which of our teachers were scared of dog poo and which weren’t. Then in the afternoon our maths teacher reminisced fondly that he used to have one of these himself when he was a child – and I suppose it is part of growing up to realise that what is show-stoppingly hilarious to you is just yesterday’s joke to someone else.
So perhaps this is what Mother Duck was alluding to at the Bangkok Temple, “what you do comes back to you” – example – spend a day artfully placing fake dog poo on schoolroom carpets – and then twenty something years later, in the laneways of Jerez, the village idiot waves a plastic penis at you.
Anyhow, I have otherwise had a successful morning, I have found the ‘estacion do autobuses’ and discovered that there is only one bus to Tarifa (my next destination) and it leaves at 21.20. Given there are people about who think penises are funny my task for the afternoon is to see if I can find other transport options. I don’t want to be hanging around ‘estacions de autobuses’ at all hours of the night.
Don’t get me wrong about the people here, they are friendly and helpful even though we have no common language. I feel very safe. Three men just now jumped out of their seats to save me from a falling table umbrella (too windy), a publican fed me generously last night and nearly fell over when I tried to leave a tip. Would not agree to keep the change under any circumstances. The taxi driver from the airport was very helpful and genuine. A random fellow at the ‘estaciaon de autobuses’ kindly stopped and translated for me this morning as I was not getting far at the enquiries counter. Complication seems to arise because I am going to a town called “Tarifa” and the word for bus ticket is “tarife” (or something along those lines). The other problem was that my questions about what day the train left continually received a one-word response, ‘manyana’. I could not find ‘manyana’ on the list of days of the week written on the timetable, and so this word did not tell me anything. (‘Manyana’ means ‘tomorrow’ …). Confusing for all concerned, so thank goodness for the random interpreter. Plus noone seems to understand why on earth I am bothering to go to Tarifa. Apparently Tarifa is extraordinarily windy because it is on the absolute very southern tip of Spain and is a favourite destination of wind surfers, worldwide. You may be surprised to learn that I don’t know a thing about wind surfing.
Hopefully I can still proceed with my beach-bunny-plans provided the wind does not whisk me all the way back to Australia.
Due to what I guess was a translation error I asked for cold meat and cheese for breakfast but instead was served a large glass of beer. I didn’t know what to do so I just drank the beer and left, trying to pretend it was normal, and I meant to do that …… !!!. I felt so alive and merry. Here is a photo of me frolicking in the main fountain of Jerez after breakfast.
Later I had some chocolate.
The chocolate shop was the only other place open in town ‘that early’.
I have solved yesterday’s transport dilemma, I will catch a bus to a place called Algericas – and then a taxi to Tarifa. Much cheaper.
And I found out that I just missed the annual Jerez Horse Fair – it was last week.
19 and 20 May 2012, Jerez, (Andalusia) Spain
postcript – this post is a compilation of three emails from Jerez – and I have included some photos