Our final stops in our Andalusian journey were at Jerez and Arcos de la Frontera. Jerez de la Frontera is well known for its sherry wines, bodegas, its horses and its flamenco. We only spent a day there, taking in the royal Andalusian school of equestrian art, watching the horses train and visiting the stables. We spent quite some time in the stables petting and scratching all the gorgeous horses that craved attention ( they actually leaned over against the door so they can get rubbed), so much that we forgot the closing time and found ourselves left in the stables with the doors locked in. A worker that was taking care of the horses finally noticed us in there and got us out through the back door. Sylvie would have actually loved to stay there for the night perhaps secretly riding one of the horses….nice dream!
Jerez’s beautiful train station (below)
Arcos de la Frontera, a white town 1/2 hour away from Jerez, was our last stop before heading back to Sevilla.
We took the late bus and arrived just after sunset (which was nice viewing from our bus window). We knew it was going to be a bit of a hike to our hotel (about a mile) dragging our luggage, but soon found ourselves disoriented due to darkness and lack of street name signage. Standing on a busy street corner playing the role of tired aimless tourists worked very well in this friendly town as two young (and very good looking) Spaniards took pity on us. They were surprised to learn where our destination (on foot) was, so while one of them stood with us, the other ran off to get their car insisting they would give us a ride. Soon we were speeding through the narrow bumpy streets. They took us as far as they could before being forced to turn from the carless steep street that led to our hotel. We huffed & puffed with our suitcases clicking & clacking till we made it to our hilltop goal. Whoa, not sure how we would have done it without the car ride.
After settling in our room, we headed back out to get some bottled water and fresh fruits. After finding the closest market already closed, we continued back downhill out of the old town looking for anything promising. We finally approached two old ladies where again, we must have played our hapless tourist roles well as one of them latched onto Sylvie’s arm letting us know we were welcome to her home for water, beer, and fruit. How sweet! She was ready to take us home.
They apparently knew of only one market about a mile away that would close in 15 minutes, and we knew, given our little knowledge of the town layout, we’d never make it through the cobblestone street maze in time. We declined respectfully their offer to go to their house , and headed out in the direction they had pointed us in hopes we’d find something. Further down the road it was looking grim, so we thought why not try these friendly locals again, and asked two elderly gentlemen outside a tapas bar. They downed their remaining beer and said “follow us”. OK, we were a bit wary at first, but went along with them anyway as they seemed harmless. After a short walk, they pointed at a dark and closed up doorway, saying something like “crap” and “oh well”. We thanked them and decided it wasn’t meant to be. We ended up buying water at an extortion price back at the hotel, but we were out of options and too tired to care. That night James was given a mean-spirited brush off by the hotel owner when he couldn’t get the fan in the room to operate. This behavior starkly contrasted with the hospitality given earlier by total strangers of the town. We did find out later (from an adjacent hotel owner) that our host was not from Arcos and had had many run-ins with neighbors in the area and was not liked.
The next morning we went just outside town for a horseback ride we had reserved without much research. It turned out to be just ok, the horses were not great (tourist horses) and the path we took not ideal. Nevertheless, our guide was very nice and had apparently won numerous dressage competitions. She demonstrated her skills while on the trail.
In the afternoon, a bit sore from horse-riding, we decided to stretch our legs and hiked down a trail to get a great view of Arcos perched high on the cliff, and then back up the ever winding, steep, cobblestone streets.
Black & white kitties in the white town of Arcos
Manuevering in the narrow streets usually meant finding the nearest empty doorway (above)
Are we lost (again)?
Some of the artsy tiles outside of a residence (above) and art studio (below)
Along the way back, we stopped in what turned out to be the adjacent hotel to our own, where we met a VERY nice couple who, besides their own hotel, run a cute shop full of souvenirs, hand-painted fans (by the owner herself), and wine. She let us sample the wine (James bought one bottle) and even gave us a tour of their hotel. It sat on the very top of the town with spectacular 360 degree views of the town. The rooms were nicely appointed and hung with her artwork – we wished we had stayed here! Her husband spoke fluent French, and so we (Sylvie) had a nice chat with them. Coming back to our hotel, we passed a convent where nuns sell baked goods through a rotating window. We had seen these before in other andalusian towns, but never tried any of their wares, so decided to give it a go and got their chocolate cookies, sold only in boxes of 24 (gee, too bad). They were quite tasty and didn’t last long.
For our last night, we took in a great sunset from our hotel window (it was a bit too cold to watch it from outside).
We loved Arcos and it wins the award for most friendly town on our trip so far! We returned back to Sevilla where we spent a couple of nights before flying off to freezing Paris (they predicted snow for today) where we are taking off from to go to the Seychelles. Can’t wait, we are definitely ready for beach time!!!