April and May are wonderful months in which to visit southern Spain, from whence I have just returned. The orange blossom was over, though there are still trees carrying last year’s oranges, like the one at the top of my street (right). The jacarandas are not yet flowering, though the buds are forming. In Jerez there is a street named Porvera, running alongside the ancient city walls, which is lined with jacaranda trees, creating a tunnel of purple blossom in May. Their perfume comes in two waves, first when the flowers bloom and second when the blooms fall and are crushed by the passing cars. It is intoxicating.
As in most towns and cities at this latitude, much of life is lived outdoors, so there are plenty of well cared for, and well used, public spaces. In Plaza Arenal (see below) at the moment there is a science fair and I saw several crocodiles of school children being shepherded through the winding streets towards the wooden kiosks which currently line the square. The pupils were entirely oblivious to the orange trees, jacaranda and pomegranate trees and gave not a glance to oleanders and palms, but then, this is just what they are used to. Even the police station in Jerez has a garden, situated in an old palace in Plaza Arroyo, around a central courtyard. The gun-toting police guard at the entrance has become used to tourists who want to see the garden and is quite happy to allow people in and for photographs to be taken (though not of him). Police motorbikes can often be found propped up against the plinth of the benign Madonna who watches over the garden amidst the lilies.
The science fair kiosks will disappear soon, when the Circuito de Jerez hosts its annual Moto GP and bikers come to town in the week leading up to the Grand Prix. The GP itself takes place on the May Day weekend and it attracts motorcycle enthusiasts from across Europe, who travel down to Andalucia in great convoys of motorbikes along the motorways. People stand on motorway bridges to photograph the phalanxes of bikes and bikers, processing at speed towards Jerez. The town is always noisy on the weekend of the Moto GP and, needless to say, the influx is not universally liked (especially vocal opposition seem to be from the local cab drivers, but isn’t that to be expected). Nonetheless, it is good for trade and, the post-crash economy being what it is, will be most welcome to many of the businesses in the town. As early as 27th April there will be a parade of antique motor bikes from the Circuito on the edge of town to Arenal in the centre, steered by their, sometimes equally antique, riders. It’s free to watch and to walk through the bikes on display in Arenal and interest in the machines is welcomed by their proud owners.
There is another event in May, however, for which the town is already preparing. This is the Feria del Caballo or Horse fair which, this year, runs from 10th to 17th May and is all consuming and quite remarkable. But that deserves a blog entirely to itself. If you want to read more about life in southern Spain try