This photo recalls a dreamy evening in Seville on a warm October night. We flew in late, around midnight, from the cool region of Santiago de Compostela in the northwest of Spain, to a vibrant night scene just getting started. It was almost startling to see, at this time of night, people of all ages walking around in the park, reading on a bench, and to see families with small children dining next to us outdoors. Our local friend informed us that due to the density of the city and small living quarters, residents do all of their socializing and entertaining outside. We enjoyed a leisurely dinner of seafood and dry Sherry until the early morning hours in the mild temperatures.
Our trip continued on south to Jerez, the home of the “real” Sherry, where we were graciously hosted by Gonzalez Byass with an excellent seminar on Sherry wines ranging from dry to very sweet given by the winemaker, followed by appetizers and formal lunch. Its flagship winery, Tio Pepe, is open to the public and gives comprehensive tours about the history and production of this very unique and vastly under-appreciated wine. Later in the evening, we experienced our first flamenco performance. My own notions of flamenco were formed by watching exaggerated and cliched performances on old comedy re-runs. As we discovered, they have no connection with the raw emotion, power and vitality of live flamenco, which kept us mesmerized for the entire evening. The lunches and dinners we enjoyed in Jerez were a celebration of the incredible fresh seafood and D.O. (Denominaciones de Origen, regulated quality) Sherry wines. Many people do not know that Jerez is also famous for its brandy and D.O. vinegars, and there are many opportunities to visit these producers while in the area as well (sherry.org). The visit to Southwest Spain was a lesson in authenticity and life’s pleasures.