Christmastime in Jerez is quite magical — there are nativity scenes in every window, carols are played in the main square, and Christmas lights illuminate the narrow streets. It’s a lovely place to be at this time of year. Our own celebration was quite muted, but pleasant, and we made sure to spend a few days relaxing in honour of the season.

Monday 24/12: Although Bodegas Romate don’t usually conduct tours of their cellars, we’d been invited to visit by their tourism representative, Miriam. She met us in the office and took us around the complex, explaining the different types of sherry with the aid of diagrams chalked on the front of the black barrels. The tour was quite unlike the other tours we’d done — mostly because Miriam gave us tastes of the different wines straight out of the barrels. She used a long metal tool with a cup on the end called a venencia, which she plunged through the hole at the top of the barrel, and then emptied its contents into our glasses. Our first tasting, of Fino, had bits of flor floating in it — it was awesome!

Miriam explains the wine.
Miriam explains the wine.
We spent an hour and a half or so in Romate, during which Miriam gave us five generous tastes of sherry, as well as two full measures of brandy and one of rum. When we left, we were more than a little merry — but that seemed appropriate, given that it was Christmas Eve!

Ana and Diego had invited us over to their house for dinner, and what a dinner it was! The goat cheese and caramelised onion starters were just the beginning — we also had prawns, a thick steak cooked to perfection, and a raspberry cream dessert. Diego was quite right — Ana is an amazing cook. After dinner we played a few games of Forbidden Island, and the time passed so quickly that it was 3am before we knew it.

Back at home, we called the family back in New Zealand to wish them a merry Christmas and finally got to bed at around 5am.

Ana is a magnificent chef/
Ana is a magnificent chef.

Tuesday 25/12: We’d planned to go to the cathedral to attend a Christmas mass, but after our late night the night before, we slept in too late. Craig brought me scrambled eggs for lunch, and we spent most of the afternoon relaxing and playing games on our computers.

We wanted to have a nice Christmas dinner in a restaurant, but almost all the restaurants were closed — we wandered around for almost an hour before finally heading to a crowded bar in the main square. The food was nice enough, but it wasn’t what we’d been hoping for.

Tastings at Williams & Humbert.
Tastings at Williams & Humbert.
Wednesday 26/12: Since it’s a public holiday back in NZ, we decided to take Boxing Day off as well. I spoke to Oliva in the morning and Craig spent most of the day playing his new computer game. We met Tanya in the afternoon for a German class and Ana and Diego stopped by in the evening for a couple of drinks.

Thursday 27/12: After a short sleep in, we headed out to Bodegas Williams & Humbert to meet with their press contact — who seemed to have forgotten about our appointment, as she wasn’t there to meet us. Instead, a nice woman called Maria José showed us around the winery, which is immense, and explained what they offer to tourists. She also showed us a spectacularly cheesy diorama which stars the famous “Sherry Girl”, the symbol of the winery, and invited us to taste several of their products.

Williams & Humbert.
Williams & Humbert.
In the evening, we walked over to La Porvera to see if the Thursday evening language exchange was going on, but nobody was there. Instead, we headed to a tabanco bar for a sherry.

Friday 28/12: We were back into work on Friday, and I decided to head to the library in the late afternoon for a change of scene. However, it was inexplicably closed (holiday hours, I discovered later) so I wandered around for a bit, then stopped for a rest on a bench in a shopping centre called Los Cisnes. There were a few small children running around with plastic bags, which I thought nothing of at first — but more and more kept arriving until the whole open space in front of me was packed with kids and their parents. I got up to leave, and as I was walking out I noticed a sign which read: “It snows in Los Cisnes at the following times…”. I was intrigued, and decided to hang around to see what would happen.

Soon afterwards, there was a joyous shout, and a cloud of small polystyrene balls was emitted from three pipes near the ceiling three stories above. I travelled up and then down on the escalators, watching the children hold up their bags to collect the balls to be played with later. It was really quite nice.

Saturday 29/12: We spent most of the day inside, though we did head out for a long walk in the late afternoon. In the evening we watched a couple of movies and went to bed really late.

Sunday 30/12: I had a goal of reading 100 books this year, but was only up to 96 and had to do something about it — so after a sleep-in I spent the late morning and early afternoon devouring some of the shorter classics on my iPod.

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