Austerity and decadence in Jerez

Trip Start Jul 04, 2012
Trip End Jan 01, 2013

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Flag of Spain  , Andalucía,
Friday, November 16, 2012

We arrived here in the small regional city of Jerez de la Frontera a couple of days ago. Jerez is known for its sherry production industry and Andalusian dancing horses. We're renting the most amazing loft-style apartment in a converted bodega where they used to produce sherry.

This is the first town we have come across where the impact of the dire economic situation and the austerity measures here in Spain are visible and obvious. For example, the owner of this apartment is an architect who used to live and work here and also have a house out on the coast. Since the demand for his work had dried up he's been forced to convert it to a rental.

Secondly the garbage collectors were given an ultimatum that they would have to lay off 1/3 of the workforce or everyone keeps their job and takes a 25% pay cut. They are on strike and have been for a while, so there are massive rotting piles of rubbish growing and growing daily all over the city.

Thirdly, a few years ago there was a construction boom including massive social housing projects just out of regional cities, and Jerez is a good example. We were given a bird's eye view of the city yesterday through a camera obscura device. What you see are massive half-finished apartment buildings and rows and rows of town houses, all sitting there empty. You can apparently pick up one if the ones that are actually completed for as little as 70,000€.

Don't worry, it's not all doom and gloom! The Spanish people seem very resilient and good humoured. And for some people at least there seems to be plenty of euros around. We went to a large (approx 200 capacity) expensive restaurant last night and it was almost full of locals. The shops seem to be very busy and there are plenty of nice luxury cars around. And even for the 'have-nots', they are out and about enjoying life and socialising.

We stepped into a lively flamenco bar a couple of days ago and it was absolutely packed. Free entry and a 1€ glass of wine, beer or sherry and they will take the opportunity to catch up with friends, enjoy the entertainment and solve the world's problem in a lively group discussion! One thing's for sure, the Spanish people (especially the women) have PLENTY to say!

The queen of Spain was here yesterday with leaders of several Latin American countries who are meeting down in Cadiz, a short drive away. Big headlines were made the other day when the Brazilian president's jet landed at the otherwise seemingly-disused airport! The queen and several of her close dignitaries were apparently having a lunch and doing a tour of the massive Tio Pepe sherry factory.

She thwarted our sherry tasting plans yesterday but never fear we are going along today! We stood around to see if we could spot her but no luck, but we did see a merc with blacked out windows whizz past in a motorcade so maybe that was her.

Before Jerez, we were in beautiful Granada for a few days and explored the amazing Alhambra. Before that, it was Cordoba, where we walked through the largest Islamic monument in the Western world, the Mezquita. Interestingly, the mosque was "converted" into a cathedral when the Moors lost control of the region in the 15th century.

Next: Cadiz, and a week of sun, resort living and beach on the Costa del Sol before heading to Morocco on 1 December.

¡Hasta Luego!

Stu (and Pete)

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