I have written before about high summer in Jerez and the concerts which take place in the town’s ancient monuments, like the Alcazar and the Cloisters of Santo Domingo. This year, however, the Ayuntamiento has gone one step further and sponsored musical performances in the squares of the old town. It’s a familiar sight, during Vendimia and on festival days, to see different types of performances, of music or dance, in the old city squares, but not on ordinary weekends. Yet this year one stumbles across music and musicians everywhere ( see right, outside the iconic Gallo Azul ).
If the aim is to bring people and their Euros into the centre then, as you can see from these photographs, it’s working. Most of these were taken last Friday night. the bars, restaurants and ice cream parlours are full ( getting a table after ten o’clock without a reservation is almost impossible ). People are spending money, a good thing. There are many empty shop fronts in Jerez, some in the old centre too and youth unemployment ( 25 and under ) is running at over 50%. Yet the Jerezianos still know how to enjoy themselves and el paseo, serenaded by music, from tabanco, to tapas bar, to heladaria is certainly one way.
As always in summer here it is HOT. Folk become semi-nocturnal, especially at weekends. Out in the campo for lunch on Sunday we drove past fields of sunflowers, shrivelling on their stalks in the unrelenting heat. The owner of the venta where we lunched ascribed our desire to sit outside, albeit in the tree-lined, breezy shade, rather than in the air-conditioned interior, as an Anglo peculiarity. The food was simple, fresh, well-cooked and astonishingly cheap.
Ventas are the Spanish equivalent of the French auberge or Italian albergo. Usually close to an ‘A’ road, but down a side-road from it, they attract diners from the small villages which dot the countryside, as well as folk from town who want a trip to the campo. They are especially popular when it is hot, as the city tends to be stultifying during the heat of the day, whereas it is fresher in the country. Ventas are not to be confused with mostos, eateries attached to vineyards, which serve simple food as well as the mosto itself, a wine resulting from the first pressing of the grapes before it is turned into sherry. Mostos are closed in summer, but will re-open with the grape harvest in September and stay open through-out the winter and spring. Incidentally, it was at a mosto near Jerez that I first saw people arriving for lunch on horseback. Just like in the old western films they hitched their horses to the rail ( in the shade of a giant prickly pear, naturally ) and sauntered inside to eat. Forty-five minutes later they emerged, unhitched, mounted up and rode away to the horizon. I could almost hear the title music – a male singer laments over plangent guitar and clip-clopping rhythm.
If you enjoyed reading this article you might enjoy others about southern Spain. Use the From a foreign field tag to find them, or try Vendimia Vendimia II Andalucian Spring – the Feria Cadiz in the rain Festival de Jerez