August 22, 2007
Our original shore excursion for today was cancelled a couple of days ago because they didn't have enough people signed up. It was supposed to be Jerez & Arcos De La Frontera.
So, we chose the closest thing on the list of remaining excursions A Taste of Cadiz, Jerez. The only time available though was 12:45. We usually like to do our excursions in the morning then have the rest of the day in the port to look around and do some shopping, especially in a port we've never been to, we like to get a feel for where everything is situated during the excursion before heading our on our own.
Having extra time this morning gave us a chance to go to Parrot Cay for breakfast, this is still a buffet with an omelet station like Topsiders and has basically the same food but you have a server to bring your drinks and clear the table.
The port is in Old Town Cadiz so it's an easy walk to the shopping area. I really wish I had taken more pictures here. We walked down a tiny alley way to get to one of the main streets that was very quaint with it's different balconies. I did take some pictures of a cat asleep on the seat of a scooter parked along side the street. I'm a cat person and Paul says I have pictures of cats from every vacation.
We walked around a bit but didn't really do any shopping, thinking we'd come back into town after our excursion. We were back onboard well before our 12:45 meet time.
Our tour guide Carmen taught us all the proper way to say Cadiz (Caadith) and we headed out on our bus for a tour of Cadiz then on to Jerez (Hadeth) to visit a bodega, that's a winery for us Americans.
On the way we passed the Cadiz Cathedral, drove along the beach, saw the castle where the Havana clips of Die Another Day staring Hallie Berry and Pierce Brosnan were shot and drove along the beach. The beach here has little areas of restaurant and bars built right out on the beach, and interestingly a kindergarten, also right on the beach. Her description of the kindergarten sounds like what we would call a daycare, as you can just drop off you children there. On the way out of town we passed their soccer stadium, every European city has one.
On the drive to Jerez we passed salt ponds, where you could see mounds of salt along the sides and flamingos walking in the water. The flamingos looked white, unless they were flying, they are pink under their wings. We were also driving past rolling hills that were all empty and beige, they were the sunflower fields, had we been here in June this would have been a beautiful sight. There would occasionally be a large patch of green with a building in the center, these are the vineyards. Most grapes here grow on the ground unlike home where most of them grow on trellises. We also saw a few cotton fields along the way, interesting for a southern girl who grew up seeing cotton fields to find them in Spain.
Coming into Jerez we drove along a Moorish wall that has been here since the 12 century. Here again the streets were very small and some cars were double parked, definitely not meant for tour buses. We passed by a couple of bodegas that I recognized, Harvey's, makers of Harvey's Bristol Cream, and Sandeman makers of Port before we reached our destination Gonzales Byass makers of Tio Pepe Sherry and Lepanto brandy.
Gonzales Byass is located on what seems to be the edge of old town Jerez our bus really had to do some maneuvering to get us to a safe location to disembark. Here again we heard the history of the bodega and how sherry is produced. We boarded a train that took us to another building on the grounds where we saw the brandy distillery.
Their facility takes up several city blocks and is house in very old brick buildings. At the brandy distillery there is a room that I fell in love with, the walls are all old stone walls and it appears that is was once a courtyard, now however the ceiling is made of grapevines. They are growing up the walls and form a very lush shady canopy. There were iron lanterns hanging overhead and what appeared to be an old well was the center piece of the room. I could imagine many parties in this room and tried to convince Paul to build me a room just like it.
Further in our journey we passed through rooms where barrels of wine are stored and heard about the sherry making process, many of their barrels have signatures of famous people and many are very old. They also have barrels of wine reserved for Spain's royal family and many of those have signatures on them as well.
Tio Pepe was the original winemakers 'Uncle Joe' and he had a small private cellar, it's still intact and holds about 30 barrels of wine. Next we were headed to the tasting room, to get there we walked down what used to be streets between the buildings before Gonzales Byass owned all of the buildings, now these are planted with grapevines and they also form a shady canopy over the street. This is a beautiful winery.
The tasting room was set up in a very large open building with what appeared to be large tents inside, the small tables were set up for 4 people each. On each table we had a half bottle of Solera 1847 oloroso dulce sherry and Tio Pepe Palomino Fino Muy Seco.
The Palomino Fino was very dry and went well with the green olives and crisps that were also on the tables. Let me pause here to say that local Spanish olives are much fresher and a lot less salty than what we get in America, I wish I had bought jars to bring back home. The sherry was what I assume is typical semi sweet sherry, we're not sherry drinkers. They also came around and poured each of us a glass of Croft Original Pale Cream Sherry, which was light and sweet.
They have a nice large gift shop here that I would have liked to spend more time in. Those of us who wanted to could taste the brandy here, but after all that sweet wine it just taste like alcohol to us. They also make and sell sherry vinegar, Mike & Vickie bought some and now I'm wishing I had too. We got a bottle of the 1847 sherry to drink on the ship since all of the bars onboard are out of port and I picked up a tapas cookbook. If we had more time I'm sure I could have a found lot more to buy here.
We got back to the ship around 4:30 but everything in town was closed for siesta until 6:00. Apparently I needed one too after all that sherry, and since there wasn't a 6:30 show tonight I took a nap until time to get ready for dinner.
On the nights that there is a stage show they do them both during dinner times. If you have the late dinner seating like we do you go to the first show and vice versa if you have the early dinner seating. A little different than other ships we've been on and a great set up as it allows people with late seating to see both the stage shows and late night acts.
Some nights there are deck parties and those are usually around 10:00 so that everyone can come. Tonight we were sailing at 10:00 and they had Latin Music Under the Stars. Here the Captain backed out of the port then turned after we were out in the channel. You could see people standing along the sea walls to watch the Magic leaving port, and hear her sound her very distinctive horn.
Where other ships just have one big bass horn the DCL ships have 7 that play the first 7 notes of "When You Wish Upon A Star, it's incredibly loud and always takes my breath away. When we reached the channel I could see motoring out ahead of us a 3 mast sailing ship that had been anchored across from us in the harbor. We're under way and it's time for bed.