Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Christmas Season Jerez 2016

December 7, 2016

Also, you might want to head to Europe to see Black Jesus because the USA doesn’t have any.  Just the other day the jury responsible for determining the guilt of Walter Scott‘s killer was deadlocked in a mistrial.  Apparently, Black Jesus isn’t going to save anybody in South Carolina any time soon and there is still no semblance of justice.  Click on the link for Exhibit A.  I get the feeling that there are going to be a lot more martyrs for the Black Lives Matter movement to proselytize.

Enjoy my family video to help take your mind away from all the madness.  There will be no Christmas cards this year because we are terrifically poor, but at least they aren’t filming Black death on the streets and allowing the murderer to go free.  Check out an article here in ColorLines by Kenya Rankin about the mistrial of Michael Slager. Yeah, so then there’s that.  Merry Christmas everyone.

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Sherry Education All Stars In Jerez

September 7, 2016

This is a special bonus post to capitalize on all of the recent information that I have discovered in my personal, Jerez sherry education.  It is worth stating here that sherry has also managed to play a prominent role during the courtship of my beloved wife.

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Vendimia Jerez 2016 Pisa de la Uva

While we were still just dating my wife was on exchange teaching English in the United States and she confided in me that she missed the wines that the Jerez region is famous for.  Her lamentations led to my eventual acceptance of the challenge to find and present her with a case of fino.  The rest, as they say, is history.

I was in love.  I was immediately launched into a new world of understanding about the intricacies of wines and the wine industry.  Seriously, my wife had me at “fortified wine,” but by the time I discovered what a ‘rebujito’ (* see below) was I knew that I was in over my head.  I had to get a better sherry education and also figure out how it was possible that I didn’t find this old liquid gold in my life beforehand.  I immediately set about on a course of research that directed me towards several fabulous people that have a presence in the sherry industry in Jerez de la Frontera, and on the internet.

The first super sherry aficionado that I found was right here on WordPress, completely by accident.  Sherry Sips was a pleasant surprise to find on the internet because the principle author Seana Yee’s adventures are documented excellently.  Seana’s strategy is proven and the native Oregonian employs honest words and great pictures in her Sherry Sips social media.  If you are the type of individual that can see yourself trying to obtain the very best education in sherry, then you would do well to study the method of Sherry Sips.  Her websites outline a clear path towards achieving that goal and she is in the process of completing it.  These are exciting times to check out her work because of her recent travels to Jerez de la Frontera and her bravery in attempting what can only be described as complete sherry cultural immersion.

[Photo courtesy of Sherry Sips Twitter]

People that might be in wine production in Jerez can be a little aloof and foreigners are looked at with both interest and suspicion.  Producers in the wine industry are typically family owned businesses and they have long been wary any foreign interference.  Sherry isn’t exactly an industry that the average international business person can break into.  It can take years to get on a first name basis with established sherry professionals.  Fortunately, Seana Yee introduced me to the awesome Roció Urium who not only blogs extensively but she is also deeply entrenched in the wine industry in Jerez.  If you are ever fortunate enough to come here and engage Roció in conversation you will note that the potential exists to rapidly increase your base of sherry knowledge in a short period of time.  The next best thing might be her extensive internet media because Roció Urium is fluent in English and very easy to follow.

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A photo posted by Rocio Urium (@rociourium) on Sep 6, 2016 at 12:03pm PDT

 

[Photo courtesy of  Rocio Urium (@rociourium) by Mario on Sep 6, 2016 at 12:03pm PDT via Instagram]

Lastly I would like to draw your attention to our fantastic friends across the pond that have been steadily filling the annals of sherry lore as the world’s biggest importers -almost since the beginning of recorded history.  Great Britain and Scotland have had a very long relationship with sherry producers in Spain and the legacy is continuing in a modern way with Criadera.  The sheer volume of the work in the blog there will take even the most avid oenologist quite some time to digest.  There is a terrific diversity in the topics covered by Criadera and so it is very difficult to get bored.  The Criadera team is comprised of my two new friends Helen and Stuart that turned a quick holiday into an obsession that blossomed into Sherry Boutique. It has often been said that ‘way leads on to way’ and that it is the journey that should be cherished and not so much the destination.  I hope my readers take the time to really get lost in the sauce during their free sherry educations.

[Photo courtesy of Criadera Twitter]

In just one day during the ‘Pisa de la Uva’ I met people from all over the world that have an interest in one of the world’s oldest and most famous wines.  To embark on this odyssey, you need a very open mind and plenty of stamina but the rewards are also great.  A sherry education is valuable and you might find yourself on a slightly different course in life because of it.

* Rebujito – a mixed sherry drink consisting of relatively equal parts 7-Up and fino typically served over ice on hot days in Spain.

Stomping Grapes In Jerez For Vendimia

September 6, 2016
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The Cathedral in Jerez de la Frontera during the official opening of the Vendimia Festival.

The ‘Pisa de la Uva’ or the stomping of the grapes is the most important Vendimia Festival in all of Spain. Xerez may be the city of horses but the name is literally translated as sherry. The wine is amazing and unique; and the city of Jerez has a history with wine unlike any other city in the world.

Let’s recap: sherry = Jerez = Xerez = famously fortified wine.

I met some friends on the steps of the Cathedral in order to witness the Blessing of the Grapes which is the traditional start of harvest events as sanctioned by the City of Jerez.  In fact, on this particular occasion the government became the central story in 2016.  Apparently there were some disgruntled workers that took it upon themselves to protest the mayor during the proceedings.  Loud horns and blaring sirens were directed at the officials conducting the ceremony.

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These guys really know how to clear out a grape harvest festival.

The desired effect was achieved and most of the attention went to former government workers that had the audacity to hold a politician’s feet to the fire over one of her campaign promises of reinstating them.  Flyers littered the ground as tourists and locals alike traversed the steps of the Cathedral to hear the words from the priest.  Anyone within 500 meters of the protesters would easily hear the tumultuous din that they were causing, but none of the audience could even hear a word of the blessing.  The protesters showed the world that they were adamant by not only drowning out the voice of the church, but they also completely distracted what looked to be school aged children performing in the band.

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Vendimia is normally festive.

Spain is a wonderful place full of character.  There is no way to factor that unique aspect of the culture into an event, such as this.  Of course in the front rows that were carefully partitioned ahead of the rabble the gentlemen in suits or women in fine dresses didn’t even peer in the direction of those protesting for their jobs.  Some people had made it a point not to notice what absolutely could not be ignored.  Others were even more prepared and donned their own earplugs.  Many of the local folks simply gave up and resigned themselves to drink fino, amontillado, and oloroso away from the noise.  The tourists like myself were treated to an extra ambiance of Bronx cheers and chants at an otherwise peaceful, yet abbreviated event.

Protests happen all around the world and the complaints of the aggrieved have never agitated this New Yorker to the point that I lose empathy so I pushed on.  My understanding of the festival wasn’t diminished as much as my hearing but it would have been very nice to see how much my Spanish comprehension has improved.  The only chance to listen to anything at all was the eerie silence of the protesters during one, purposefully elongated, Spanish national anthem during which all stood quietly.  I have to admit that the band was pretty good and that the idea of a national anthem without all the problematic and pesky words might be growing one me.

I had no use for the audio in the video above so rest assured that you will be spared and any offensive sound is replaced with a mellow soundtrack.  The last thing that I will write about this event is that the good people of Jerez did have the decency to pour some wine for the masses.  Maybe I’ll see you next year?

Upcoming Events: Vendimia 2016

August 2, 2016

Click on the Google Calendar link above to add my event to your calendar if you happen to be in the area of Andalusia this coming September.  I have been spending so much time talking about Jerez de la Frontera, Spain that I haven’t had the chance to properly invite you.

IMG_20160629_124236I know that it is a bit of short notice but this is one of the last events of the official 2016 calendar of events for the City of Jerez.  Vendimia is the grape harvest festival and generally folks make a pretty big deal about it here in Spain according to the board of tourism for Andalucia.  The most important Vendimia festival in Spain is right here in Jerez so if you want to meet me directly after the Blessing of the Grapes, then we can can watch the Stomping of the Grapes together.

It should go without saying that we are going to be sipping on something and only those legally allowed to drink can imbibe.  Anyway it will be a really good time.

https://plus.google.com/events/cpj0v1nmkk62jrq8brutppo2p44

 

Epiphany 2016

January 6, 2016

Get out there and share the good news in 2016 that Spain has decided to include actual Africans in some of their parades for Three Wise Kings Day, also known as Los Reyes Magos.  I wrote about my general disgust for the practice of donning blackface last year, but my opinion about this particular Spanish tradition is evolving now.

Largely, I look at the event as celebratory and the incidences of changing one’s appearance to resemble the most striking African features is crude flattery.  My argument to have someone black play Balthazar is still firmly rooted in tact, but the levels of inclusion for the large numbers of Africans that find themselves in Spain is encouraging.   Participation in the parade festivities is a very big deal in Spain, and I was pleased to see cultural sharing and exchange rather than the usual cultural appropriation.

I hate to start out in a new year on a sour note, so Happy New Year to all of you out there.

Spread love!

El Ciclón de Jerez, El Pirata: Juan Jose Padilla Bullfighting Short

May 15, 2015

Juan Jose Padilla is the best bullfighter in the world, right now. He is blind in one eye and is known as El Ciclón or El Pirata de Jerez.  Friday afternoon he won three ears for his efforts while his contemporaries earned no honors. La Feria en Jerez wouldn’t be complete without his amazing performance.

Perhaps he is the best bullfighter in the world, today.

El Pirata fights the bull from his knees and puts on a spectacular show in his home town, Jerez de la Frontera.

La Feria Lighting to Tio Pepe: Gitanas Edition

May 13, 2015

La Feria in Jerez is definitely worth a long form article.  But I think that I am going to have to try that article at a later date.  You see, right now, La Feria is in full swing.  I can’t miss too many of these moments because you never know when you are going to be able to live them.  The video above doesn’t due the production value of La Feria proper justice because there are so many things that go into this event besides the massive construction tour de force that took place to squeeze an entire city into a park.

Let’s start with the lighting ceremony, or rather two weeks before.  Some gitanas or gypsies basically took over the tree stump hangout behind the parking lot where I live.  I am not going to make some grand claim of understanding gypsy culture but these guys were basically drinking all day and playing backgammon.  They weren’t even loud with it.  Then on Sunday when La Feria kicked-off, they started working and shit got real.  You see normal Spaniards aren’t really for all that working crap during La Feria so it was a little suspicious when the folks known for never working started to work in overdrive.

(Only New Yorkers will appreciate these analogies: La Feria is like Saint Rocco’s Feast or San Gennaro’s Feast multiplied by Las Vegas.)  Incredibly gorgeous gypsy women came out of nowhere selling flowers or balloons.  Gypsy men were busying themselves with charging people to park in illegal parking spaces around La Feria.  Then the old gypsy ladies roved La Feria grounds like gangs pushing flowers and romero on anybody inexperienced enough to make eye contact with them.  The transformation was total, complete, and mind-altering.

I had to seek refuge in a caseta operated by the Jerez de la Frontera City Hall, and guess who was on the stage?  Gitanas with jobs, again.  Gypsies get their music on, and if you have ever heard sevillanas then you will understand what I am talking about.  Never mind how the City Hall partnered with one of the most well-known sherry makers in Spain.  That isn’t important right now.  After all, we are in Spain and we have to live somehow.  La Feria only comes once a year so forget your woes, get on a horse, and just watch this video.

Pregaming La Feria in Jerez de la Frontera

May 10, 2015

This was certainly something.  Samuel and I keep it real and show you how it is about to really go down at the biggest event of the year in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.  Again, the thing to remember is that La Feria hasn’t officially started yet but stuff like this has been going on for at least a week…

Party in the Street: Andalusia Edition

April 11, 2015

I am told that in all of Andalusia people like to party in the street.  Andalusian people are festive and they don’t need much reason to throw down at a moment’s notice.  Dancing in the streets is common and the Flamenco style is apparently in their blood.

My family and I were walking down the street, minding our own business, and this elderly gentleman just started playing the guitar.  Another stranger started to bang out a beat on a box that he found.  Two ladies that were having lunch nearby started dancing.  My wife joined in but I pretty much started filming like a tourist, even though the entire scene was reminiscent of African cultures.

People all over the world aren’t really that different, I suppose.  If you are ever travelling through Spain, you might want to take part.  The next big party in Andalusia is La Feria in Jerez and Seville in May.  The people have been warming up since March, when this video was taken.  The orange blossoms are filling the air with a sweet smell and the weather is already quite warm in the South.

We are going to get with you at a later date.  You have got to come to Spain!

My son, Samuel, and I.

We stay on the primrose path at Jardín Escénico, Jerez De La Frontera.

Domingo de Ramos 2015 en Jerez de la Frontera, España

March 31, 2015

Well I finally got the wide angled HD shot that I was looking for in the procession of the Holy Virgin, Mary during the first procession of Semana Santa.  Everybody wants more Samuel, anyway, so peep my best effort below.  I told you that I was going to get with you at a later date…

I am not a professional photographer, folks.  I got really distracted by my beautiful wife and cute son, but I managed at least one close-up of the statue of Mary.  In addition to a solid silver platform you can also make out the rich gold embroidery in the long shawl covering the back of the statue.  You can probably tell from my previous post on the subject that I am not a big fan of mixing materialism with religion but I also realize that Catholics aren’t the only one’s.  (Reverend Creflo Dollar recently made headlines by asking his Baptist congregation to foot the bill for a brand new jet that costs somewhere upwards of $65,000,000.)  You have to be really careful out there, people.  Plenty of meaning is lost on folks when they get caught up in the almighty dollar and I am pretty sure it is irrespective of denomination.

Money isn’t everything, folks.  I can think of plenty of things that are more important.

Samuel eats his hand and mom watches.

My wife and teething son await the procession of the statue of the Holy Virgin Mary -for free.