Change of place and pace: Festival De Jerez una vez mas!

3 Mar

My soundtrack today is the mesmerising voice of Ezequiel Benitez. He’s the Meatloaf of Flamenco, an other worldly pure spirit trapped in a morbidly obese body. With his wavy, red blonde long hair, gold hoop earings and a beautific smile he is nothing like most cantaors I have seen. I mention his weight because I selfishly hope that he can bring it under control as I hope to hear him decades to come.

I heard Ezekiel for the first time in concert at Sala Paul last night. Walking in I spied Brisbane friend, David H who knows Ezequiel. He told me how outstanding Ezequiel is but hearing him live is believing. Three songs in and I was awash.

This morning I downloaded his album ‘Sobrelleve’ and haven’t really switched it off. That’s one reason I will always return to Jerez. To hear and support astonishing local artists. Do look him up on you tube.

It’s less than 24 hours into my fortnight in Andalucia and a break from snow, snow and more snow. I’ve seen two shows and witnessed a flash mob of flamencas take over Plaza Arenal. More on that later.

This the end of the first week of the Festival de Jerez and unsurprisingly it seems a little quieter than usual in the bars and restaurants and we’re experiencing the same cold snap as the rest of Europe.

I popped in to see Monika and Lola at Hotel Casa Grande and over coffee Monika confirmed it’s been a tough winter. The austerity measures of Rajoy are biting hard but in typical sardonic Jerez style the graffiti is defiant.

For the traveller the low cost of living in southern Spain means fifty euros goes a long way. That’s my daily expenses for a clean and comfortable San Andres Pension single room with bathroom and three bar/cafe meals. I forgot to ask for a non-smoking room which means I smell like a secret smoker but that will be remedied for my return next weekend.

Three, maybe four shows, are on my agenda for tonight if I can last until the early morning peña, then a train up to Seville tomorrow to start daily classes with Andres Peña at Manuel Betanzos’ studio on Monday. I’m sub-letting a flamenco friend’s apartment in La Macarena which means I have a kitchen for the first time in three weeks. Huzzah! Vegetarians get a rough deal in France and Spain.

Back to the flash mob. This was the first of two planned for the Festival. Mercedes Ruiz posted her Tangos online some weeks back so people could prepare and it looked like a group had rehearsed together. I positioned myself on the risers set up for Semana Santa in Plaza del Arenal with a clear view of the dancers but in typical continental fashion late comers barged in and raised their phones and cameras above their heads obscuring my view. Nothing to do but sigh and stretch on tippy toes to capture what I could. You can make out Rafaela in the photo towards the front of the group – she’s wearing a big grin and has a mass of wavy, dark hair.

Well, it’s 2am and I didn’t make the peña but the Festival shows at 7pm, 9pm and midnight were all wonderful and I am saturated with flamenco for now. The reviews can wait for tomorrow but you can see two sneaky photos of curtain calls, first of Maria del Mar Moreno and Company and then Macarena Ramirez and her musicians. Two very different artists but both wonderful in their own way.

I even managed to squeeze in a birthday drink and tapas tonight at Tina’s annual Cruz Blanca birthday bash so I have earned my bed! Buena noche!

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Plaza Angustius

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So cold the seafood doesn’t need ice

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I may have done a little shopping in Rita’s store…

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Teatro Villa Marta, the nightly venue for large productions

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So much happening off festival too

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This is how I know I am in Spain, I look up and see oranges!

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My translation, ‘Minus business it’s quieter’

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Plaza San Andres- someone stole the bronze plaque

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Lobby of my pension

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Hardy locals still eat and drink outside despite the cold

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Some things never change

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Rafaela’s flash mob Tangos

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Maria Del Mar Morena and her company

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Macarena Ramirez and musicians

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2 Responses to “Change of place and pace: Festival De Jerez una vez mas!”

  1. Merryl March 3, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Thank you for transporting me to Spain for a un momento…me gusta mucho! good luck with your classes and happy staying in La Macarena…Lee and I love that part of town…yummy breakfast tostada con tomate y cafe con leche on calle feria – cafe bar la tostaita veloz. 🙂 xo

    • Sharon Tickle March 3, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      Thanks for the tip Merryl, I will def try them. Besitos, Sxx

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