|September 14, 2000
|Arcos to Sevilla
Same breakfast, but I focussed on the fruit. A slice of melon, and an excellent yellow plum (ugly blemishes cut away to reveal fine fruit).
A little over an hour out of Arcos, we're in Jerez de la Frontera. We see two items for which the town is famous: sherry, and horses.
We tour the Sandeman sherry bodega. The building is filled with barrels of aging sherry, stacked three high. It's over 100 years old, and smells like sherry (duh!). Here's the deal. Make some wine; boost its alcohol content to 17%; decant 1/3 of a barrel of sherry to make room for the boosted wine. What do do with the decanted sherry? Move it into an older barrel (better make room for it!) or sell it. Don Fino has the least sugar content, and neither of us care for it much. Amontillado has enough sugar to make it drinkable. PX is essentially made from raisins -- it's a dessert beverage. They serve our three samples with a selection of tapas/snacks: Spanish tortilla (you remember, a potato fritata/omelet); three kinds of ham; a very nice hard cheese; olives; bread; and fruit. We gain a taste for sherry, but not enough to want to lug bottles back home. Brig buys a tee shirt, and we walk across the street to the Andalusian horse show.
This is one of these "proud Spanish tradition" experiences. Elite riders (the associated institution only accepts 3 or 4 students per year) take their horses through various gaits and precision formation maneuvers. Horses are led by their trainers to perform various gaits, and to stand on their hind legs and/or jump into the air. The costumes and rigging are elaborate. Brig enjoyed it. I tried to get interested, but failed, and resorted to my Science News.
We arrive in Sevilla to find that Arcos was cool by comparison. It's in the mid-90s (F). Later, we would be told that in July, it gets into the mid-teens (i.e., 114 F)!
On the bus, we are given our room number, and the desk gives us our key upon arrival. We go to the room and insert the electronic key. The lock just beeps at us. A few more tries, and a hotel cleaning staffperson comes over, and looks at the key, verifies that it's for the right room, and tries it with the same result. She shrugs her shoulders and lets us in with the passkey, telling us to fix the problem at the reception desk. We walk into the room, only to find an open suitcase, shoes, ... in short -- this room is already occupied. Whoops. We find the guide who told us the wrong number, and straighten the problem out. I wonder how often strangers have walked into OUR rooms!
Susan gives us a brief orientation between Hotel La Rabida and the old town ("Jewish" quarter). We wander around the maze, just browsing. At a leather goods store, Brig finds a nice wallet (after inspecting a couple dozen of them). We stumble upon a grocery store, where Brig finds cans of soda for 53 pts (30 cents) apiece, and I buy 5 grapefruit for 153 pts ($1.70). We start trying to get back to the hotel, and encounter a nice A/C deli with a coffee bar and helados (ice cream). We buy a 275 pts cup with pistachio and lemon ice cream. So refreshing!
Eventually, we find our way back to the hotel for a brief siesta.
Dinner is on the air-conditioned, riverside rooftop of a restaurant (Maria Angeles) on the west side of the Puente de Isabel II. It starts well, with a seafood salad (a shrimp, lots of "crab" surimi,and tomatoes, onions, and peppers in a vinegrette). The wine (blanco, only) is "flabby," i.e., insufficient acid. The main course choice is between fried fish and a "steak with mushroom sauce". The fried fish is okay, similar to what we had at El Rincon de Juan (1st night in Tarifa), but nowhere near as good (ah, the dilemma of raising expectations).
The "steak" turned out to be a pork cutlet, and the "mushroom sauce" seems to have been an apple/sherry sauce. It was served with nearly unrecognizable potato slices. All in all, rather odd. Dessert was neapolitan ice cream.
Tooraj then announces that he needs three volunteers to "take a ride with him". I join another couple of folks down the stairs, as everyone else is invited to follow. We all (except, due to bad timing and a misunderstanding, Jack H.) end up in hansome cabs, for a surprise horse-drawn tour of Sevilla. This was a lovely finish to the evening, as we trot through the balmy streets.
Side note: The streets of Sevilla are lined with "bitter orange" trees. These trees are very pretty, and produce significant amounts of fruit that remain on the branch until picked. Nobody picks them to be eaten, because they are, after all, bitter. However, once a year they are harvested and shipped to England to be made into marmalade!
Time for bed...