Spain


In one of the ante-rooms we passed through on our way to the brandy cellar at Bodegas Fundador, there were a few mementos from the Domecq family over the years.

One of these was a motorbike owned and (according to the photo hanging nearby) used by Jose Ignacio Domecq Gonzalez (1914-1997).

Mr. Domecq’s dog was apparently a regular passenger in the crate on the back, so we decided that this must be a new form of two-wheeled Dog Cart:

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The next stop on our group’s first full day in Spain — after the Real Escuela — was Bodegas Fundador, maker of sherry and brandy. The winery and building complex is one of the oldest bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera and was started by a branch of the Domecq family. The facility and its various brands and labels are now owned, along with other sherries and the famous Harveys Bristol Cream, by Beam Global.

We started our visit with a short movie that taught us about the importance of climate and soil conditions to the grapes used in sherry production, and that the sherry-making “triangle” in this part of Spain — from Jerez down to El Puerto de Santa Maria, and over to Sanlúcar de Barrameda — has these necessary qualities in abundance.

From there, we left on a guided tour of the sprawling facility …

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… and we were acquainted with the unique way sherry is made and aged.

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our tour guide pointing out the various types of sherry, while explaining what makes each one unique

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From there, we walked into the brandy cellar, where we learned that the now-famous Fundador Brandy began as a mistake when someone(s) forgot about some barrels of sherry and left them to age for far too long. When they found and opened the barrels, they decided that their “oops” was actually quite tasty. This brandy was first marketed by the Domecq family in 1874, and it’s now Spain’s largest export brandy.

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our tour guide explaining how the bodega's brandy is made

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And then, finally, we were allowed to taste a few of these libations!

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before the tasting (our tour guide explaining the four types we would be trying) ...

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... and during the tasting (why, yes, they were all quite tasty!)

… Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre — the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art — was the first visit on our recently concluded CAA trip to Spain.

So I think it’s a good place to start with the stories, additional photos, and photo captions that I’ve been promising to post.

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At the start of our trip, nearly everyone arrived and gathered for a lovely welcome dinner on a Wednesday, and then we met in the hotel lobby at 8:30 the next morning (jet lag be damned!) to drive to Jerez de la Frontera, which is about an hour south of Sevilla.

We were welcomed at the Real Escuela by Maria Angeles, who is in charge of the foundation’s museums, and she ushered us into the theater to see a movie about the school and its horses. Before the trip had even started, Kathy and I had been practically taking bets on which one of us would tear up during this particular visit. I don’t know about her, but I was almost undone by the movie … and we hadn’t even seen any real horses yet at that point!

From there, we walked through the park-like setting to the property’s original palace:

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… which we toured. But not before noticing the (gorgeous, of course) Spanish horse standing outside the palace. The horse and its traditionally dressed rider are what have captured the attention of the CAA members in the lower right corner of the photo above. It turned out that he was standing there so that visitors could get an “official” portrait of their visit. Such as, say, this one:

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standing in front of the Spanish horse and rider are (left to right) Raimundo Coral Rubiales, me, Maria Angeles Mata Lagomazzini, and Pepe Carmona

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inside the palace

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From there, we toured the foundation’s museum. It’s packed into a small space, but the museum’s interactive (and holographic!) exhibits provide quite a lot of interesting information about the property, the palace we had just seen, the riding school, the Spanish horse, and various types and styles of riding and driving. We even learned about the differences between the area’s traditional livery styles from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, both of which are still used today. Needless to say, this tour provided the perfect background information for much of the rest of our trip.

During the noon-time performance showcasing the school’s horses and riders, we weren’t allowed to take photographs. But, rest assured that it was beautiful and awe-inspiring. If you ever find yourself in Jerez, you won’t want to miss out on seeing these gorgeous, talented horses.

During the intermission, Maria Angeles invited Vicki (as our highest-ranking CAA “VIP” … she’s a past president), me, Raimundo, and Pepe (who was our “local” guest) to take a quick tour of the stables. What a treat! Vicki was introduced to all of the riders, and then we had our photo taken with them:

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Maria Angeles, Raimundo, me, Pepe, and Vicki with the Real Escuela's riders; third from the right is Rafael Andrade Soto and on the far right is Ignacio Ramblas Algarin, both of whom have represented Spain in major international dressage competitions

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Then we were given a quick tour of the tack room. Although it is undeniably lovely, we were assured that it is also functional and used daily.

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this photo is a bit fuzzy (the person using my camera was focused on the background instead of us!), but I have to include it because it was a treat to be introduced to one of Spain's Olympic dressage riders, Ignacio Ramblas Algarin

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As we left the stables to head back for the second half of the performance, I was finally able to take a photo of horses!

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even just standing still: what beauties

… and the beautiful tile work at the Plaza de España.

On the Saturday before Easter, I wandered through the peaceful (enormous) public gardens surrounding the equally enormous complex of buildings known as the Plaza de España.

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And then I entered the main plaza itself, which is always an impressive sight … no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Even, in fact, when you’ve seen it masquerading as something else. If you’ve watched the 1962 Lawrence of Arabia movie, you’ve seen these buildings standing in for British government buildings in Cairo.

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After having made several visits here over the past ten years or so, I was pleased to see water (and boats!) back in the canal that encircles the plaza. Let’s zoom in, shall we?

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I’m back home in Kentucky now, and sorting through all the photos I took while in Spain. Over the next several days and weeks, I will be posting many of them here on the blog. But I thought I’d go ahead and begin with one that several people on our CAA trip and several other of my friends and family have demanded asked that I post here.

This may or may not be me, dressed to go to the feria:

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is that me? (outfit, styling, and photo courtesy of mi amiga Maria Jose)

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