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Dreams of Cadizfornication

We don’t often toot our Spanish claxon, but we are proud of the corner of Spain from where we plan trips to the Iberian Peninsula.  Home of sherry, flamenco, and the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, here’s 5 reasons why our lovely little province should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Cádiz (pronounced: CAH-DEETH). Drenched by the Andalusian sun (the area around here is known, with no exaggeration, as the Costa de la Luz,  the Sun Coast) and washed by the waters of the Atlantic, this ancient city at the end of an isthmus (love it when I can use words from 4th grade geography) was first settled in 1,000 BC. And they never left.  Why would you?  The city grew in importance as a mix of Mediterranean cultures marched through, eventually becoming the Royal Port for trade with the Spanish colonies in the Americas. Littered around the city are signs of Cádiz’s long past, not the least of which are the city’s famous observation towers, and its symbolic gold-domed Cathedral.  If you love Havana in Cuba or Cartagena de las Indias in Colombia, you’ll love Cadiz: both were designed to look like Cádiz.

Vejer de la Frontera (pronounced: VE-HAIR). A true diamond in the rough, this hilltop fortress village is a picture-perfect Andalusian outcrop with some of the best beaches in Spain just a few minutes away, and on most days, fantastic views over the straits of Gibraltar to Morocco.  When the Reconquista came knocking and the town’s Moorish residents were expelled, the Chrstian womenfolk of the village continued to appear in public fully veiled, a tradition which persisted well into the 20th century.  The veils have been retired to anthropological curiosity, and today Vejer boasts a couple of excellent small hotels, and a lively gastronomical scene. The two stars of the local culinary firmament are the excellent tuna, still fished artisanally in the almadraba (hand-made nets used since Roman times), and vaca retinta, the locally bred, pasture-fed beef. Surf-n-turf?  Por favor.

Sanlucar de Barrameda. What other town so small can claim to have had such a wide-reaching global impact? Magellan sailed from Sanlucar on his fateful voyage around the world, and a little later Columbus himself departed from the same port on his third voyage to the Americas.  In the meantime the locals kept busy developing what is today a gastronomic goldmine, with some of the best tapas and seafood in the country.  Tell a northerner in Spain you’ve just come from Sanlucar and watch their eyes go dreamy.  Sanlucar is also part of the Sherry Triangle, and is famous for its delicate, dry white manzanilla wine.  The perfect pairing is with the town’s famous langostinos de Sanlucar, gorgeous jumbo prawns fished out of the mouth of the Guadalquivir river where it empties into the Atlantic, just in front of Doñana National Park, Europe’s most important migratory bird reserve.

Los Pueblos Blancos. These are the so-called White Villages of the Cadiz mountains, just over an hour away from Seville.  Time grinds to a halt here and there’s a real feeling of remoteness and discovery, as you explore such delights as Arcos de la Frontera, Zahara de la Sierra, or Setenil de las Bodegas, each with a millenary history, charming architecture and iconic whitewash houses.  A few days at least could be spent exploring the villages, going for excellent hikes in the mountains around Grazalema, cycling the Via Verde, or creating your own gastronomic circuit to learn about the region’s olive oil and cheese production.

Jerez de la Frontera (pronounced: HE-RETH). Ah, home sweet home. You’ll have noticed the common moniker “de la Frontera”, unique to Andalucia, which during the times of the Reconquista described the villages which had been reconquered from the Moors, and which lay at the border (la frontera) between Muslim and Christian Spain.  At once the fulcrum for the region (Jerez has the province’s only airport) and an understated player in the area’s history, Jerez is of course also the principal sherry-producing town. With its sizeable gypsy population, it is furthermore one of the birthplaces of Flamenco, so it should be no surprise that the town hosts some of the best celebrations in Spain, Semana Santa (holy week) and Feria, the town’s colourful horse fair in May.

Sebastian plans Trufflepig’s Spain trips from his office in Jerez, where he keeps New York hours, between a bodega on one side and a tapas bar on the other.

Tell a northerner in Spain you’ve just come from Sanlucar and watch their eyes go dreamy.

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