Travel diary: New Year’s and second Christmas in Jerez

It seems like Christmas never ends in Spain — although it’s January, the lights are still up, the nativity scenes are on display, and this week we went to two Christmas parades. All this after a fantastic New Year’s Eve with Fede, Lien and Fede’s mum Charo.

Monday 31/12: Getting out of bed proved a little more difficult than we’d have thought, but we eventually managed it, and started the day with a German class. Neither of us felt like cooking, so we had lunch at 100 Montaditos, a chain tapas store — the food was cheap and reasonably tasty.

Delicious New Year's meal.

Delicious New Year’s meal.

In the evening, Fede picked us up and took us back to his place for a New Year’s dinner with him, Lien, and his mum — it was amazing. After snacks of roasted almonds and Iberian ham, we had crab and prawns, followed by delicious steak and tasty Christmas sweets.

Just before 12, we moved into the lounge to watch the countdown — except that it was more of a count-up. On each of the twelve strokes of midnight you have to eat a grape, which is actually quite difficult to achieve — there’s not enough time! I ended up with a mouth full of pulp and juice running down my arms as I laughed hysterically — Craig kept elbowing me and saying, “Say Happy New Year, say Happy New Year!”, which was a physical impossibility.

We’d planned to head into town for a botellon (basically an outdoor booze-up), but it was raining so we stayed at Lien and Fede’s and did our drinking inside. Several of their friends arrived and eventually we did make our way into the city, where we spent several hours at a bar called La Libreria, dancing and enjoying their early-nineties soundtrack.

Pestiños are delicious.

Pestiños are delicious.

The place got busier and busier and Craig and I called it a night at about 6.15am — unforgivably early by Spanish standards.

Tuesday 1/1: Since we went to bed at a time normally regarded as “the morning”, we slept in spectacularly late. Craig brought me breakfast (lunch) in bed and we lounged around until early evening, when Lauren and her husband Alejandro arrived. We met Lauren at TBU in September, and they were visiting Alejandro’s family in a nearby town. After a glass of Oloroso, we took them for a walk around a scarily-empty Jerez, stopping in at the cloisters to see the nativity scenes. They couldn’t stay long as they had to be back for dinner, so we walked them to the train station to say goodbye — which turned out to be a great idea, as there was a kebab restaurant right by the station with our names on it.

Over kebabs, we started our year-end ritual, where we talk about everything we’ve done in the previous year. The conversation lasted through dinner, along the walk home, and for a fair while back in our living room — we’d had a pretty amazing year!

Wednesday 2/1: I started the day on Skype, talking first with Oliva and then with Mum. After a bit of administrative work (yawn) we headed over to the Archaelogical museum, which was free for us because we’re residents of Jerez (score!).

Archaeological dig in the archaeological museum.

Archaeological dig in the archaeological museum.

In the morning, I’d visited the Jerez website to find out the museum’s opening hours, and I’d noticed that there was a parade going on that evening. I forgot all about it until it was almost too late, but at about 7.15 I suddenly remembered and dragged Craig out of the house to see it. It was a pretty low-key affair, with just one float at the very end; all the rest of the participants were on foot. It was hilarious how the spectators would barge right into the parade so that they could take photos of their children with various cartoon characters.

Marching band.

Marching band.

Thursday 3/1: Fede came over in the morning for an English class, and in the afternoon Craig and I headed out for a long walk around the city. We discovered all sorts of places we’d never been before, it was great.

Friday 4/1: We spent the morning working, or in my case, trying to work out how to get to the Canary Islands cheaply — we’re thinking about visiting for a week after we leave Jerez.

After lunch we headed to a cafe for a final read-through of the Las Vegas guide over churros and hot chocolate, then rewarded ourselves with a glass of sherry in La Cruz Blanca. It was very nice sherry, but the bill came as a surprise — Craig’s wine cost three times the normal price! Looks like we won’t be ordering Palo Cortado there again.

Saturday 5/1: It turns out that the parade we went to on Wednesday was but a shadow compared to the “real” Three Kings Parade. We headed out at around 7pm, and it seemed like everyone else in the city was already lining the streets of the parade route. We filled our waiting time by following a family through the open door of a school, to find out what the attraction was — we’d actually been in once before but had chickened out, unsure of we were allowed to be there. The family crossed a courtyard and disappeared through an open door, then ducked behind a curtain. We followed… And saw was a nativity scene. Awesome.

Back on the street, the parade was starting to arrive. There were several marching bands and groups of teenagers in odd costumes, as well as the obligatory cartoon characters. There were also several floats pulled by tractors, and the three most impressive of these held the three kings Kaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They and their lackeys threw out a LOT of sweets, as well as some tacky toys that caused small riots wherever they landed.

I should know which king this is. I don't.

I should know which king this is. I don’t.

We weren’t quite ready to go home when the parade ended, so we headed to a bar in our local plaza that boasts a beer museum (glorified decorations, really), and sat upstairs out of the crowds with reasonably-priced glasses of sherry.

Sunday 6/1: We’d been a bit disappointed by Christmas, so we decided to buy each other a cheap gift or two to be opened on the morning of Three Kings Day, as per the Spanish tradition. Among the gifts was a Connect Four game and a Chinese Checkers game, so we spent half an hour playing before we even got out of bed.

Fede and Lien gave us presents! You guys rock!

Fede and Lien gave us presents! You guys rock!

Fede’s mum Charo had invited us over for lunch, so Fede picked us up at around 2pm and took us to her place — where we proceeded to eat very well and drink even more. Charo had made a delicious paella, after which we had the traditional dessert of roscón de Reyes.

The sobremesa is an important part of a Spanish meal, where you sit around the table and chat (and drink). Today, this went on for several hours — eventually Charo decided we must be hungry again and made a Spanish tortilla for dinner. We finally left at around 10.30pm. Fede and Lien offered to drive us home, but we we’re keen for a walk after so much eating and drinking.

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