Oh it went so quickly, our weekend break in Spain – and well done to Jenny who was the first to guess our destination of Jeréz. We decided on this trip on our wedding anniversary in February when we were looking through the ‘wallpaper roll of dreams’ that we made when we were first married. Amongst other things it lists all of the places that we hoped to travel to and because we’ve spent so many years choosing destinations that were easy with the boys, we haven’t ticked many of them off. However now that they’re less keen to come along we’re making some progress. Last year we made some inroads with a return to my student city of Valencia and this time we decided on a long weekend in Jeréz. We both love sherry – in fact as a toddler I was known for glugging my mum’s glass of Bristol Cream on a Sunday if she left it unattended so my palate developed early. I had another reason for wanting to visit too – but I’ll tell you more about that as we go along.
A long weekend in Jeréz
Here we are at the airport last Saturday afternoon. As you know I ordered this dress the moment that I saw it in the new drop and it’s even better than I expected. It was such a lovely thing to travel in and I was stopped countless times at the airport – and on the plane – by women asking where it was from which hasn’t happened before. I wore it with trainers for comfort but as it keeps on getting colder, I’ll add a layer underneath and wear it with boots and tights. In terms of sizing I’ll just say that it’s a perfect fit so if you’re going to wear thick layers underneath, size up.
I’d booked us into a studio apartmentand we arrived just before sunset. It’s part of an old sherry bodega that has been turned into apartments and I’d expected them all to be for holidaymakers but in fact they were mostly residential which meant that we immediately felt as though we were part of the city. You can see the layout here.
The owner was waiting for us and it was well designed and immaculately clean. There was a small living area with a smart TV so if we’d been staying for longer we’d have been able to access Netflix or Amazon Prime…
… a little kitchen area that was fully equipped…
… and behind that, the bathroom and sleeping area.
In the gardens outside we had our own allocated terrace area and there was a mêlée of friendly Spanish families sitting together, enjoying their Saturday evening.
We were starving and so we headed straight out for dinner, getting hopelessly lost on the way. Eventually though we found a tapas bar in a pretty square so all was well. We forgot to take any photos but we had a few dishes washed down with a bottle of wine before heading back to bed.
The next morning we were up early and in the mood to explore. Mr MC hated the fact that we’d been lost the night before; he’s a man who likes to know where he is so he was on a mission to map the city. Thankfully I’d dressed for comfort again with a navy satin skirt (currently a great price in the sale but showing very low stock) paired with one of my own ‘je ne regrette rien’ t-shirts.
We wandered through the streets in the sunshine, passing different sherry bodegas…
… and found a flea market where you seemingly you could buy anything, even piglets!
I’m not going to include all of the photos we took because I’d bore you to death but after we’d clocked up 15,000 steps, I declared it was time to sit down for lunch. Here we are with salmorejo which is the local version of gazpacho…
… followed by steak for him and fish for me (you can see that he has my pen by his plate because he was still busy mapping where we were!)
After some persuasion I managed to get him to put the map away and we moved on to a tabanco for a glass of fino. Tabancos are the old working men’s bars that are dotted all over Jeréz and as you’d expect, they’re dedicated to sherry. Sunday is such a lovely day in Spain and everybody was sitting at tables in the sunshine with extended family and friends relaxing and laughing together and that bonhomie was extended to us too and we were very warmly welcomed. It always helps that I speak the language but there really weren’t many tourists in Jeréz at all. I think we came across fewer than 20 couples while we were there and, would you believe that Mr MC bumped into not just one but two men he knows at different times while we were there – it’s impossible for us to get away.
Anyway here he is enjoying his birthday…
… the locals took a shine to him – they even had him serving behind the bar with the added excitement of a Jerezano cap for him to wear.
Before it all got too wild we made our excuses and headed back to base – I’d promised that I wouldn’t plan out every minute of our time before we went but I had tracked down a highly recommended tabanco that has flamenco shows and booked us one of only seven tables for later.
As soon as I saw this skirt I knew it was going to be perfect for this particular evening, it isn’t available to buy yet but it will be soon. You’ll notice a lot of tulle coming through for winter partywear, mostly as a result of the impact that Molly Goddard’s pink tulle dress had when it was worn by Villanelle’s character in Killing Eve. This has a wide elasticated waistband and it’s great for travelling because it doesn’t crease. You can tell that it made me feel good – this was just a quick picture that Mr MC took of me messing around on the walk into town so I hadn’t changed into my heels but it sums up how carefree I was feeling.
Tulle skirt coming soon to Hope Fashion (gifted AW19); Uterque silk camisole SS19; Jigsaw clutch and sandals SS18
I paired it with a silk cami that I’ve had in my wardrobe for a while, just waiting for the right skirt and an old pair of velvet heels that I’d changed into by this point. As you know, Mr MC enjoys analysing graffiti when we’re out and about and the thing we noticed about Jeréz was that it’s all about love – te quiero here…
Tulle skirt coming soon to Hope Fashion (gifted AW19); Uterque silk camisole SS19; Jigsaw clutch SS18, Boden velvet sandals – ancient
… and lots of other little hearts and messages dotted around the place. It must be the sign of a happy city.
I didn’t get far on the cobbles in those heels before I had to change them again!
Our apartment was just a fifteen minute walk from the heart of things so it was easy to get around on foot if your shoes weren’t too daft. And here we have Tabanco El Pasaje, our destination for the evening where for 23 Euros we were served seemingly endless plates of tapas with little bottles of sherry (and if you wanted extra sherry it was 4 Euros for another bottle).
As we ate we watched the dancing which was passionate and incredibly intimate. I think flamenco is my favourite dance form, I love the way that nothing is held back.
So after a Sunday spent just wandering around and relaxing, Monday brought us to the heart of our trip – learning about sherry. As I said at the beginning, I’ve always loved it – give me sherry over gin any day. There are lots of different bodega tours that you can do in Jeréz and there are two other sherry towns in the sherry triangle too – Sanlúcar and El Puerto de Santa Maria. You’ll spot lots of names you recognise such as Tio Pepe and Harvey’s but I wanted to visit a lesser known one – Lustau.
You see when I was at Selfridges, one of my very good friends was the wine buyer. His name was William Longstaff and every year we used to work together to compile Selfridges Wine Guide which was a real labour of love. I had the job of taking all of his knowledge and enthusiasm for wine and translating it into the right voice. It was a tricky balance; I had to make sure that the editorial didn’t feel condescending for connoisseur customers and yet it also needed to help people with less experience of wine to learn a little more.
William and I shared the same slightly irreverent outlook on life. We knew of course that we were very lucky to be working where we were but we were also very aware of the idiosyncrasies of the place. As you can imagine, at times things could veer towards the pretentious and we had to deal with some very temperamental egos. Every so often one of us would have what we’d call a ‘fresh hell day’ and so William would rock up at my office with a bottle of something that he insisted I needed to understand in order to write the wine guide properly. He’d guide me through it, in the name of research… and I still blame him for my expensive taste in wine!
One day he arrived bubbling over with good news; he’d just got through to the final stage of his Master of Wine journey which would enable him to aim even higher in his career. He wanted to celebrate with a bottle of rare port that he’d brought but I had good news of my own – I’d just discovered that I was expecting my first baby and so I wasn’t going to be able to join in. He was the first person at Selfridges that I told and a couple of weeks later I let him down again because first time pregnancy was sapping me of my strength and I had to pull out of a trip to the Champagne region that we’d planned for my Selfridges magazine readers.
On the Tuesday following that trip, I was waiting for him to come to my office to tell me all about it and to do the final sign offs on that year’s version of the wine guide when my boss came through the door instead. She knew what good friends we were and she wanted to be the one to tell me that William had died tragically in a motorbike accident the night before.
He was the first friend that I lost as an adult and so bereavement was very new to me. Although the wine department at Selfridges has moved, I still stand on the spot where it was and think of him whenever I go in. Which brings me to Lustau, his favourite sherry bodega. He used to tell me that the bigger houses spent too much time building their brands and he wasn’t a fan of marketing (which given my role at Selfridges of course fuelled the banter between us). Lustau makes its own sherries but also own-labels for some of the most prestigious retailers in the world. His view was that they care more about making wine than making money and that was what mattered to him.
So, here you see me having a little moment thinking about William – Mr MC knew him too of course so he knew what was going through my head. I do think you can find ways of keeping the people you’ve lost with you and visiting Lustau was my way of saying ‘hello’ to William. I was wondering about his lovely wife Rachel too and hoping that her life has since blossomed.
Boden dress (gifted SS19); Jigsaw sandals (SS18)
So, here we are at the beginning of our sherry education. There were about ten of us keen to learn more and as we toured through different cellars, we were told all about the sherry that was stored there and given a taste of each one.
It was an atmospheric place and as well as learning how different sherries are made, we soon understood how to pair it with different types of food – because of course here it is drunk with meals instead of wine.
These were the most expensive barrels containing very old blends and the East India one that we tried was delicious.
By the end of it I’d picked out my favourite four to take home (I’d deliberately booked hold baggage for the return journey) and I’m now telling myself that I have to save them for Christmas.
After all of that tasting we needed to go back for a siesta before heading out again for the evening. As you can see I found a new red outfit for my trip (it comes in navy too). It’s a top and trousers rather than a jumpsuit which will give me more options – the trousers will be great with white or ivory and the top is quite long with a curved hem so it will work either tucked in like this or loose over skinnies. It’s made from heavy crepe and some reviews are complaining about the tie at the back. The trick is to tie it only once, not in a double knot or bow because that will distort the neckline – it’s been weighted so it won’t come undone.
I teamed it with orange accessories but they look red in the sunlight above so here’s another shot.
Our plan for the evening was to work our way along the ‘ruta de los tabancos.‘ We wanted to test our newfound knowledge by stopping at each one to order a sherry and a tapa in the right order and combination – which we did.
This was Las Banderillas – a simple place but by far the best for food, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten such delicious tapas anywhere – ever. As you can see they even have a list of sherry remedies for common ailments including menopause… which requires two cream sherries to be drunk every hour… over to you!
And so our evening went on, we just got lost in the moment as we wandered through the atmospheric streets of the city that, by now, Mr MC knew like the back of his hand.
And we found one last ‘love graffiti’ – just to put the lid on our romantic break.
A long weekend in Jeréz – would I recommend it?
It isn’t the prettiest of Spanish cities or the most interesting in terms of history. There were things we could have done that we chose not to such as shopping, visiting the beach (7km away) or watching the equestrian shows. We wanted to take time out to relax and reconnect in the sunshine and also to enjoy learning about sherry. Three nights was the perfect amount of time for that. If you were in Spain for longer though, it’s just a short hop to the other sherry cities or to Seville, Cádiz and a little further on to Córdoba or Granada. So yes I really would recommend it, it’s a great place if you want to immerse yourself in the real Spain; it’s friendly, low key and also great value because it’s off the regular tourist track. Oh and the airport’s small and efficient – within minutes you’re through customs and away which makes such a difference for a short break.
And with that I’ll leave you as we head into a more ordinary weekend – we’re having a new bed delivered which has resulted in me planning a complete bedroom overhaul. Time to roll my sleeves up! Hope you’re doing something more exciting…