Where is Sanlúcar de Barrameda? To be honest, it wasn’t a name I’d heard of before, let alone be part of my itinerary. Until, that is, I got bored of Jerez just a few hours after my arrival (although later that night I ended up being invited to a local Flamenco Scene which was far from boring). Feeling a desperate need to escape Jerez, with only a few sentences’ worth of description in the Lonely Planet guide, I decided to make a trip to what turned out to be an adorable fishing town with beautifully preserved buildings.
Bodega visit in Sanlúcar
Having obtained a map and a list of bodegas from the Tourist Information Office (it’s on Avenida Calzada Duquesa Isabel), I headed to Bodega Barbadillo. At only €6.00, it’s a bargain, and was one of the most informative bodega tours I’ve been on anywhere in the world. I joined the Spanish tour, but the guides seemed to speak really good English as well. Sanlúcar is at the northern point of the famous “Sherry Triangle”, and here they produce a special kind of sherry called “Manzanilla“.
Manzanilla is a is a very pale dry wine, a type of Fino Sherry. Located near the Guadalquivir Estuary, the humidity and the cooler climate helps produce a thick layer of yeast called Flor, under which the wine ages. And the resulting taste? Well, I’m no expert in sherries – it’s very crisp, and has the tiniest hint of sea water. OK, I’m not selling it, am I?
How to have the Best Seafood Lunch in Sanlúcar for €10
After a taxing morning learning about and tasting Manzanillas, it was time for lunch.
I left Bodega Barbadillo slightly tipsy, and headed towards the beach where I was told were several good seafood restaurants. But I never made it there to the beach-front restaurants-with-views.
The reason was that I stumbled upon a municipal food market (it’s right next to the Tourist Information office). Despite the temperature inside bordering the “unbearable” category, I walked around, wide-eyed like a true tourist, admiring the fruits and vegetables that painted the market in vivid primary colours. Why do fruits and vegetables look so much more appetising in Spain? or Italy? In fact, they look a lot sexier pretty much anywhere outside of the UK.
Seduced by the smell, following my nose
Then, the smell. The smell of grilled prawns! How could I not be seduced by it? In one corner of the market was the source of this incredible, irresistible smell of grilled seafood. I saw people eating huge plates of big prawns. Others were eating crayfish, all sorts of fish, squid, and shell fish. I looked around for a menu, by then convinced that this place was going to feed me.
There was no menu.
Instead, a sign on the wall read: “Buy your own fish / seafood and we will cook for you. Price €3 per kilo”.
The system was simple – go and buy whatever you want from the market, and they will grill, boil or steam it for you.
Fishing for my lunch
So off I went, 10 metres down the aisle to choose my lunch. I decided to buy some tiger prawns and a medium-size Choco (a type of cuttle fish), which came to just under €6.00 (if you do this, tell them you’re going to get it cooked at the bar, and they will clean it up for you).
Returning to the bar, with The Goods
Having successfully completed my shopping errand, I proudly handed over my plastic bag of seafood and took a seat at the counter. With a chilled glass of Manzanilla in my hand, I munched on some olives, getting drunk on the continuously evolving smell of grilled seafood.
To start with, some Tiger Prawns, grilled to perfection.
Followed by my first ever Choco – makes me drool now just thinking about it!
120% satisfied that I’d made the right decision by coming here, I paid the bill, which came to just over €4.00.
The beach in Sanlúcar
From the market, there is a “just finished” looking avenida that takes you straight to the waterfront.
The beach looks like this. You’re actually at the river mouth here, so the water is kind of muddy. Didn’t exactly make me want to go swimming.
Walking away from the river, the beach starts looking a little more like a beach. Still, I hardly saw anyone. A few fishing boats scattered along the beach, and that was it.
Looking for a spot to swim
Just beyond the fishing boats, I decided to test the water – it was hot, I’d been walking for 45 minutes, and I’d been wearing my bikinis since I left Jerez that morning. I was going to swim, and that was that. As I took about 5 steps into the brown water, a fisherman shouted from a little boat, telling me to be careful as there are sharp rocks and shells. He also said the beach was much better further along.
OK, what’s another 10 minutes?
I came to this spot, and decided this was as far as I was prepared to walk, bearing in mind I would have to walk back.
The Dangers of swimming..
Immediately as I stepped into the slightly-lighter-shade-of-brown water, I felt something sharp on my foot – and at the same time remembered the fisherman’s words. But I wasn’t going to let a little cut stop me from having my swim, and decided to ignore my throbbing foot. After a few more steps kicking rocks and stepping on sharp bits, I could no longer kid myself that this was enjoyable in any way. I dipped my body in the water just to prove to myself that wearing a bikini underneath my clothes all day was actually worth it.
Back on dry land, I saw blood dripping from my big toe.
It was worse than I had thought, necessitating some self-administered First Aid. I splashed some water, and poured some anti-bacterial hand gel onto the wound which hurt like crazy. And that just had to do. I had nothing else.
The local fishermen (and women) were setting up their fishing rods all along the beach by then.
Walking back, wounded
As I started retracing my steps, I came across a little old man pacing up and down the beach, with a walking stick, but walking really, very fast. He came over to say Hola, which was nothing unusual, but before I even had a chance to respond, he continued,
“Wouldn’t you like to make love to me?”
I laughed in his face (because…well, how else was I supposed to react to that?), “With you? NO!!”
He shrugged his shoulders, and marched away into the distance…as I stood there in complete disbelief.
What just happened?
It was definitely time to head back to town.
The Town of Sanlúcar
In contrast to the ghost-town like Jerez, Sanlúcar was actually buzzing. And it’s pretty, everywhere you look.
A reminder of Sanlúcar’s importance as a trading post with the New World during the 15th and 16th Centuries.
Relaxed, warm and colourful all around.
Late afternoon in Plaza del Cabildo
I love the quasi-psychedelic tiles of doorways in this region.
There are so many bodegas in Sanlúcar.
Did I mention Sanlúcar was pretty all around?
If you are basing yourself in Jerez for a few days, Sanlúcar is definitely worth a day trip. In fact, I think I’ll be telling all my friends to skip Jerez altogether and go straight to Sanlúcar.
Have you been to Sanlúcar? Please leave a comment with any tips you might have for this adorable little place.
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