Monday, March 19, 2018

My favorite taste of Spain

Chocolate-Chocolate! Apple tart is optional.

Chocolate-chocolate. That’s what I say in the cafes to I make sure I get the real thing and not chocolate drink powder added to frothy hot milk (which is good but not, you know... indescribable). 
This is a much better photo. It shows the rich, deep goodness of this hot drink. It is almost too thick to sip. If you let it cool (as I did here), you'll need the spoon.

Not all cafés are equal. My favorite is Cafeteria-Bar La Plaza across from the market building (the one for fruit, veg, meat, fish). 

When the brothers that run the café for their mother and father see me coming, they shout greetings, point to the best outdoor table and begin to make my chocolate-chocolate. They are my new best friends. 

Funnily, the family came from Bolivia and run a café there, too. It’s on my travel list. Gotta have that chocolate! 

I’m still trying to find how they make it. The spoken instructions I’ve gotten so far don’t translate well using my phone app. It’s probably best for my waistline if I don’t know how to make this at home but I’ll keep trying. This drink alone is a good enough reason to come back to Jerez every winter!

Next post - England in spring.


I chose to visit Jerez in late February so I could experience the world famous Flamenco Festival. I attended three foot-tapping flamenco shows at the Guardian Angel Theater (the large white building behind the English ‘stop’ sign).

“The Festival de Jerez attracts some of the most famous flamenco artists in Spain. Performers and students also come from around the world to take part in specialized workshops and classes taught by some of the best flamenco instructors. For the casual observer and fan, the main attraction has always been the outstanding list of shows.” (tourist brochure)

There were two flamenco international dancers (Indian and Italian) living in the other apartment of my Airbnb house. Here they are (with another dancer) on the night we all went out to the performance of a highly-admired Japanese flamenco dancer. 
El Duende is the term for the passion expressed by performers who capture the essence and history of true flamenco.

Side story: Where I lived in Spain...

My Jerez home is the upper apartment of this lovely building with two little balconies (left-dining, right-bedroom and a big center window for the living area). The apartment entry is above a central courtyard with potted plants and tiled seating areas. The interior decor is a mix of Spanish and Moorish (reflecting the region's history).

Jerez had my heart and soul for nearly three weeks. Before that, I was in love with Alicante on the Mediterranean. That apartment was decorated in authentic Art Nouveau and Art Deco style. 

Back to Jerez...

How to shop like a flamenco dancer…

Skirt (check), shawl (check), shoes without 'nails' (check)...


How to buy wine, tapas & memories

Begin with wine. End with wine.

In southern Spain, regional white wine is fortified and aged into sherry. There are dozens of bodegas (wine cellars) in the region. On the recommendation of my Airbnb host, I booked a special tour of Bodegas Tradicion, famous for producing very exclusive, small-batch sherry aged 20 to 30 years!

The family has a famous 2-room art gallery open to the public and a collection of tiles painted by Picasso in their tasting room. Yes, Picasso's. I was very impressed. I bought a wooden box for my 2 bottles; one dry and one sweet to enjoy a taste of Spain when I return to chilly England in March. 

How to shop for memories.

Jewelry first. 
Find a pretty cobblestone street washed clean by rain. Enter the corner shop with colorful fans, imported lanterns, silken scarves and shelves of souvenirs. 

Select something that makes you smile – like this black bead necklace and make the shop owner smile by filling his counter with lots of little things that will make smiles for friends and family back home.

Now art…

Promenade in your new necklace around an ancient castle hosting an arts and crafts market. Pick a painting that fits in your suitcase. 
Stroll around the castle and return to ask the artist if he has more like it. You’ll be delighted to discover that he will gladly paint exactly what you want. Accept the business card for his on-line store with options for mailing to your home. When you get home, send him a photo of the painting you bought and ask for something to go with it. You go to Spain. Spain will come to you.

New necklace, new work of art. Empty tummy? 

Walk to a Spanish plaza framed by an ancient building flanked by her 200-year old little sisters dressed in white and gold with their parasols unfurled over pretty tables. Sit at one or ask for a seat inside. Order dry sherry and three things from the tapas menu you haven’t tried yet. Eat, drink and enjoy the laughter and smiles of the lively Spaniards and holiday-goers at the tables around you.

Tip sweetly and treat yourself to a carriage ride in the sunshine.

Pose for some photos. Give the driver the carrot you tucked in your bag for his horse.

Stroll the narrow cobblestone streets to your bnb; big smile, swinging bags of booty, full tummy.
Pour a glass of sherry.

Review the dozens of photos on your camera. Pack your suitcase. Dream of chocolate. 

One more Spanish post. I've saved the best for last.