|SIGHTS AND SOUNDS: Visit town hall and the Cathedral of Cádiz (photo by Peter Adams). Savor calamari with cherry tomatoes (photo by Paolo Nobile). Enjoy street music (photo by Julie Blacklidge). Sip sherry from the Osborne bodega (photo courtesy of Osborne).|
WHY GO: El Puerto de Santa Maria is in the heart of Andalucía, a region in southern Spain stretching from Seville to Granada to Tarifa, known for its exotic gypsy culture and world-famous sherry. It’s a smart home base for people looking to explore the entire area. Tour the bullring, which dates back to the 1880s, or catch the train to Jerez de la Frontera (www.realescuela.org) for an equestrian show that rivals any Cavalia performance. Unless you’re looking for Spanish shawls and flamenco dolls, skip the shopping and take advantage of the historical sights, or relax on one of the local sandy beaches. FERRY PRINCESS: Wear your walking shoes and stroll over to the El Puerto ferry terminal, where you can catch a boat to Cádiz. The ride is less than an hour, which flies by if locals are onboard. It doesn’t take long for a rowdy group to break into spontaneous dance and festive folk songs. Toss your map and wander your way through this tiny city on the Atlantic. You’ll eventually hit the waterfront or downtown. Be sure to visit the Cathedral of Cádiz (Torre de Poniente) and hike up the spiral walkway to the top of the bell tower. Thanks to the 360-degree view of turquoise waters and the labyrinth of old stone buildings and churches, you can plot your way back to the boat. ROCK YOUR GYPSY SOUL: Andalucía is the birthplace of flamenco—an art form that expresses loss through music and dance, created by the diversity of colliding cultures. Cádiz is a center of flamenco life, attracting performers from all over the region. Tablaos (taverns) are not hard to come by but vary in quality. There’s always a ruckus of passion and fire onstage at La Cava Taberna Flamenca (www.flamencolacava.com), a rustic tablao built inside a 16th-century theater, with bullfighting fliers, wine labels, and vintage flamenco posters decorating the walls. LOCAL FLAVOR: You never want the days to end in El Puerto, which is a good thing because dinner is most often served at 9 or 10 pm. Hit Romerijo (La Ribera del Marisco Center, www.romerijo.com) for a casual afternoon bite and a glass of Fino Quinta, a dry white sherry. The seafood is fresh from the sea—langoustine, razor clams, calamari, cod, shrimp—and all you have to do is point to the catch you’d like in the storefront, and minutes later it will appear on your plate. After the sun sets and you’re ready to don that gorgeous embroidered shawl you bought in Cádiz, call for a taxi and head over to El Faro de El Puerto (www.elfarodelpuerto.com) for an elegant meal prepared with herbs and vegetables from the restaurant’s private garden.
|Click here to listen to a short clip from a ride on El Puerto ferry en route to Cádiz. This audio file can be played in any media player.|
Where To Stay
Hotel Monasterio San Miguel
Rates from $150 per night.
How To Get There
Hop a train from Seville to El Puerto de Santa Maria. Transportation is easy in town—by taxi or the preferred local method, by foot. Buses are also available. As an alternative, fly directly into the airport Jerez de la Frontera via Seville or Madrid.
The history and mystique of Andalucía is captured in each bottle of its brandy and sherry. El Puerto de Santa Maria, the southernmost point of the sherry triangle, with Jerez de la Frontera inland and Sanlucar de Barrameda to the north, is home to Osborne, one of the oldest sherry bodegas in Spain, dating back to 1772. In-the-know oenophiles don’t leave the region without a tour of Bodega de Mora and the historical aging cellar where stacks of barrels covered in thick tufts of dusty cobwebs sit beneath arched ceilings dusted with black soot and mold.
The real highlight is the opportunity to taste Osborne’s flight of rare sherry. It is created using the oldest winemaking techniques—the solera system—where new wine is added to barrels as old wine is siphoned out, preserving the color and rich oak flavors of the older sherry. The oldest solera was started in 1864, with just 360 liters bottled each year. One of the most sought-after, the Pedro Ximenez Viejo, is limited to 200 liters per year. All of the bottles are numbered and start at around $100. You will not find these soleras anywhere else in the world. Keep the spirits pouring and head over to Osborne’s Bodega El Tiro and taste the world-famous brandy. Salvador Dali created a bottle for the premium brandy Conde de Osborne Dali. The bottle has an unusual shape and makes a whimsical souvenir or gift.