On Friday we were still in tourist mode, setting off once again on the train to Seville, but this time only going a few stops down the line to Jerez. We were looking forward to looking round the palace there, which has a camera obscura, there was a stable of Lipizzaner horses and John wanted to visit one of the sherry bodegas. As things turned out we just managed the sherry tour, the afternoon disappearing into a warm sherry glow. It was an excellent tour.

The station building in Jerez is most attractive, but the way into the centre of town was not obvious. We started by following road signs. That did not go so well and we were back on John’s data roaming, to find we had been heading in the opposite direction. The phone brought us out on a large square with fountains, statues and flocks of pigeons. We sat and had a glass of earth shatteringly strong coffee watching a small girl with her grandma feeding the birds. Across the square was the tourist information office, so off we went buzzing with caffeine. A very helpful girl gave us a map and marked it up with places of interest. The horses, the flamenco museum, the three sherry houses, the palace, she said, was shut, all day. Outside we wandered up to the palace to have a look at the exterior. It stands on a rise, the front shaded by a grid of trees. Through the huge gates we could see vans and workmen moving about setting something up. We sat on a bench and looked at the opening times of the other sights. The horses were about to perform their last show and would clash with the English speaking sherry tour, which would start in half an hour. A bit disappointed with how things were panning out we sat on our bench and waited outside Gonzales Byass.

We were amongst the first through the door when it opened and waited in a large reception area where big black and white photographs along the wall showed a variety of celebrities signing sherry casks. People just kept on coming until the room was filled with people chattering in a variety of languages. A girl in a red dress made an announcement in Spanish and a chattering throng shuffled obediently further into the building. Then came an announcement in English from another girl in a red dress with a cut glass English accent. We headed towards her and found there were to be just four of us for the tour, John, a Belgian couple and myself. We had a lovely time of it riding round in a six seater electric buggy driven by our quietly spoken, but very informative tour guide, who turned out to be from Dumfries and Galloway and on her gap year.

Eventually we came to the signed barrels and John spotted one from his hero, with the very special date 1966. There was also a Picasso with an accompanying small sketch of a bull that must be worth a bob or two. Then it was on to the sherry tasting. The sherry warmed it, stimulated and it slightly inebriated. We had ordered tapas to compensate for this and our new Belgian friends quickly ordered some too. They were keen to try some wine they had been drinking in their hotel and insisted on buying a glass for us too. He thought the bottle had been opened a tad too long to be at its best, but it was still good. We readily agreed, at which point he bought the rest of the bottle and we were in for another glass. By this time our guide had to leave us to take on another tour, so we continued with our wine and tapas, exchanging stories and looking at their photos of black pigs on an i-pad (they had toured a pig farm the previous day). Afterwards, we bade each other fond farewells only to meet up two minutes later in the gift shop, where we bought a large and small bottle of sherry and a bottle of their recommended wine and they bought two boxes of said wine. We think they had a car, but hopefully were not planning to drive it. For those wishing to know the wine is Moncloa, which to me sounds like a small Hawaiian island.

In a sherry haze we emerged from Gonzales Byass and wandered down the high street looking to buy lunch to soak up some of the alcohol. Then came a surreal moment when we were accosted by three people each sporting an owl, asking if we wanted photographs with said owls. Wary of being stung for cash, I refused so assertively that I think they thought I was afraid of owls. Next thing we knew John had a glove on his hand and an owl on the glove. I am not sure which of the two looked most fed up with the situation. I felt most sorry for the owl, which looked hot and stressed at being awake and took a photo just to end the affair. At which point the owl people were all smiles, took the owl back and went on their way. Further down the street was a café with tables outside and we had lunch and drank water and coffee. Then we wended our way back to the station, which took no time at all and thence home, where the band played on.

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