From Algarve to Espanha

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I mentioned in my Portugal A to Z post last week how much we like the simplicity of popping over the border to Spain for a change of scenery. Well, last weekend we did just that.

Tempted by a ludicrously cheap Travelzoo hotel offer, we set off in the car to spend a weekend in the city of Jerez de la Frontera – the place where all the sherry comes from.

I’m ashamed to say that we returned home yesterday without having visited a single sherry bodega. A combination of one of us driving and another suffering a mild case of “tapas tummy” meant that sampling a range of different sherries seemed an unwise decision – and there’s always next time.

We did, however, have a pleasant and relaxing weekend with weather that was bright and sunny despite being rather cold for this part of the world.

From Portugal to Jerez
From Portugal to Jerez

This may sound odd, but going to Spain always makes realise that we’re not doing too badly in terms of settling into life in Portugal. An example: Lack of a menu in a Portuguese restaurant is now no problem to us – we know what’s likely to be on offer and how to ask for it. (In most cases, this just involves us saying “tem ameijoas?” which means “do you have clams?!”)

Put us in a Spanish tapas bar with no visible menu however, and we’re in all sorts of bother. Over the weekend, it became something of a running joke that our lack of language continually resulted in our sitting and eating something we didn’t particularly fancy, while the locals unknowingly taunted us with delicious plates of cuisine we didn’t know how to order! Perhaps this is how tourists feel when they see us eating clams in Portugal?

Anyway, we did still manage to have our fill of paella, tortilla and, for our sins, a pair of Dominos pizzas on Sunday. We just won’t speak of the whole meatballs-in-strange-fishy-sauce incident.

Lemur at Jerez Zoo
Lemur at Jerez Zoo

A highlight of our trip was a long wander round Jerez zoo. This was a very pleasant way to spend a morning, and we were particularly impressed with the low cost of entry (9€) and the almost total absence of the in-your-face commercialism that pervades UK tourist attractions. It actually took us a little while to even find somewhere to have a drink and a snack, and attempts to separate tourists from their money with gift shops and tat were almost non-existent.

Less pleasing was the fact that all the children in attendance seemed hell-bent on tormenting the caged animals as much as possible with noise and taunts. It turns out that a “do not feed the animals” sign means NOTHING in a Spanish zoo, as you will see from this photograph of someone holding their child up to hand-feed a giraffe, right next to the sign!

Do Not Feed the Animals!
Do Not Feed the Animals!

We also saw someone dangling their toddler, Michael Jackson style, over the walls of the hippo enclosure. It was actually pretty disturbing, and highlighted some major cultural differences when it comes to raising children. While it was refreshing to visit a child-friendly attraction and not witness a fierce bollocking every five minutes, as I imagine we would have done at London zoo, we didn’t see so much as a mild telling off in all the time we were there. And believe me, some of those children, and indeed their parents, badly deserved one!

The rest of our time in Jerez was spent wandering and enjoying our bargain priced hotel – no big nights out, no hangovers, just a perfect, relaxing weekend. Just what you end at the end of January.

While I was in Spain, I finally finished an eBook I started reading some time ago (I really need to start charging my Kindle more often!) I thought I would give the book a quick mention here as “Conquering Babel” is a great little read about tactics for learning languages. It has really helped me to motivate myself to accelerate my learning of Portuguese, and I’ve enjoyed reading something that is more fun than the essential but depressingly difficult “501 Portuguese Verbs.” If you’re trying to learn Portuguese, you probably need both! Links are below:

Conquering Babel: A Practical Guide to Learning a Language

501 Portuguese Verbs (Barron’s 501 Portuguese Verbs)

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4 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Glad you prefer Portugal!!
    I like Spain, but Portugal’s a way of life, inst’t it?

    grtz from a Portuguese-Flemish girl.

  2. Hi Danique, welcome to the blog!

  3. Did you have to pay the new A22 toll and if you did, how easy is it for tourists to pay?

  4. Hi Matt,

    Yes, we had to pay the toll but we have a transponder on our car and an account. Tourists have various ways to pay including paying at the post office or hiring a transponder – it can all be rather complicated.

    Best wishes,


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