Al Andalus Luxury Train Tour Day 2: Jerez and Ronda

November 7, 2015

Itinerary for Day 2 of our Al Andalus train tour

Itinerary for Day 2 of our Al Andalus train tour

The second day of our Al Andalus luxury train tour was filled with iconic Andalusian experiences:  sherry, horses, and flamenco.

Jerez de la Frontera, one of Spain's white villages

Jerez de la Frontera, one of Spain’s white villages



“Every building in Jerez is washed with lime, and in the sunlight the brilliancy is dazzling. . . . Jerez is like a white banner floating under the cloudless sky.”
— William Somerset Maugham, The Land of the Blessed Virgin: Sketches and Impressions in Andalusia

Bodegas Gonzales Byass

Bodegas Gonzales Byass


This region of Spain is known for its sherry.

” . . .[S]herry is a fortified wine aged in above-ground cellars called bodegas in three main towns within the Andalusian province of Cadiz — Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria.”
— Talia Baiocchi, Sherry: The Wine World’s Best Secret

I learned that all sherry is blended, thus there are no vintage years attached to a particular bottle.  And all are fortified with extra alcohol.  We were taken on tour through the bodega, saw hundreds of barrels of stored sherry, and ended in the tasting room.  My favorite part was seeing the barrels signed in chalk by famous people, like Cole Porter, Esther Williams, Chelsea Clinton, etc.  (They do not own the sherry inside the barrels, however!)

Signed sherry barrel

Signed sherry barrel



Tasting room, Bodegas Gonzalez Byass

Tasting room, Bodegas Gonzalez Byass

The bodega grounds

The bodega grounds

Then we were back on the bus for the drive to The Andalusian Royal School of Equestrian Art where we saw a show featuring the dancing and meticulously choreographed horses of Andalusia.  I was disappointed that photography was not allowed during the performance because the fluid, graceful horses would have provided scores of spectacular photos.


Arena, Andalusian Royal School of Equestrian Art

Arena, Andalusian Royal School of Equestrian Art





The day’s Andalusian delights were not yet over.   That evening after dinner, we drove into the town of Ronda for a private flamenco performance.

Flamenco performance, Ronda

Flamenco performance, Ronda


“Pain and joy, pena and alegria, are the two emotional motors of flamenco . . .”
— Giles Tremlett, Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past

The performance was amazing.  The dancer was electric.  The following quotes capture perfectly what it felt like to watch flamenco in person:

“A man draws the first few phrases of a song out from deep inside him, and suddenly friends are tocando palmas, beating out a complex, staccato, machine-gun rhythm with their hands.  This, along with a dancer’s stamping feet, is the traditional source of flamenco’s percussion.”
— Giles Tremlett, Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past

“Whatever the performance, whether the curious strangled notes of the cante jondo are being torn from a falsetto voice or whether the crisis of the dance is achieved and dissipated, there are grace and insolence in the women, cruelty and mastery, absolute male conceit and dominance, in the men.”
— V. S. Pritchett, The Offensive Traveller

“She stood for quite a while in her long, white-spotted red dress, her eyes half closed, waiting to begin while the guitars thrummed in the background.  The audience began to clap and stamp their feet in time to the music, still the girl remained motionless as if in communion with far-off spirits.  Then suddenly up went her arms, click went her castanets, and the music rushed after her as she moved into a dance which, it seemed to me, had the rare flavor of antiquity. . . . She had tremendous vitality and personality and passion.  There was hardly a sound now as she danced, only the guitars and the rapping of her high heels; and to me her dress had become the many flounced dress of the Cretan snake-goddess, whose altars were strewn with cockle shells, perhaps the first castanets.

There were moments when her body was stationary except for a slight tapping of her heels; but her arms and hands were still dancing, weaving slow patterns in the air.  Then she would plunge into her corybantic frenzy again, bending, shuddering, turning and glancing over her shoulder.  All the time, above her head, at her waist, in the air around her, like cicadas on a summer day, was the sharp rattle of what Madrid called the Boetica crusmata.  With a swirl of her dusty skirts she had abolished the modern world . . . Then, when I least expected it, the guitars broke off, the girl stood as still as coloured marble, hardly breathing, and a volley of Ole‘s rewarded a living visitor from a world that we are told died three thousand years ago.”
— H. V. Morton, A Stranger in Spain

One Response to “Al Andalus Luxury Train Tour Day 2: Jerez and Ronda”

  1. Simon Pielow Says:

    This is how a blog should be written – a true master class.

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