Christmas in Spain 2019 – Days 9-12: Jerez and Cordoba

You know when you wake up and you have a little tickle at the back of your throat that sort of hints that you’ve got a cold coming on but you’re not quite sure… Yeah. Never got that… Instead I woke up with a raging sore throat and no doubt whatsoever that a doozy of a cold was on its way. So much for whisky being a cure for what ails you…

We’d packed some of our stuff the night before but still had some fridge food and drinks to pack and the kitchen to clean… two things I sort of muddled my way through while Caitlin and Marie finished packing their stuff and getting themselves ready. We left the apartment more or less on time and made the short walk to the train station… we were a few minutes earlier than we needed to be but the train was already at the platform and we were able to climb on and get settled for the 45 minute ride to Jerez.

The trip passed uneventfully and we were soon shouldering our bags and following google maps towards our apartment… It was only supposed to be an 800m walk but for all of us it felt much longer. This was probably a hint of what was coming but we just figured we’d been doing a lot of walking and were a bit stiff and sore… Eventually we reached the Apartmentos Jerez. It turned out to be another great booking.com find. It was a quirky two bedroom unit in the attic of an almost 400 year old building right on the edge of Jerez’ old town and within walking distance of pretty much everything… About the only the downsides were it was very cold at night and in the mornings and the mattress in the master bedroom was pretty much a box spring… there were also a couple of large rings bolted into the roof beams but we figured there was some innocent purpose for those… but other than those little quirks, it was very comfortable and cozy… Which turned out to be a very good thing…

We dumped our bags in the apartment and Caitlin decided to have a shower and spruce herself up while Marie and I made the short trek to a grocery store to grab something for lunch. We stocked up on the usual meat and cheese and water and made our way back to the apartment… And that turned out to be pretty much it for me for the next 24+ hours.

The cold I’d woken up with had mutated into something much more potent and I curled up on the couch and slept while Marie and Caitlin went out and did some exploring. I managed to rouse myself long enough to go out and grab something to eat with them around 7pm… but it was a definitely a chore… which was unfortunate as Caitlin had managed to find another great little restaurant – that kid’s got built-in radar for good food I tell you – and Jerez’ old town seemed to be hopping with post-Christmas and pre-New Years revellers. I sort of sleepwalked along with Caitlin and Marie for a little bit and made it through a small meal before throwing in the towel and heading back to the apartment where I loaded myself up with cold medications and hoped whatever had hold of me wasn’t going to get any worse.

It got worse. Despite the cold medications, I woke up throughout the night alternating between bouts of fever and chills along with deep hacking coughs and a pounding sinus headache. In the morning, I asked Marie if she could find a pharmacy and see if they carried something like Otrivin sinus spray and some cough syrup because the Tylenol Complete stuff we’d brought with us was having no effect whatsoever. I was genuinely impressed when she returned in short order with a bottle of generic dextromethorphan cough syrup and a sinus spray… Google Translate and a patient store clerk along with Google Maps had come through aces! Considering Marie had gotten her and Caitlin spectacularly lost in Cádiz walking a route we’d walked dozens of times, I’d actually been a little concerned that Marie might end up in another city while looking for cold meds for me… So to have her reappear in a very reasonable period of time with the requested items was something of a Christmas miracle in itself… I dosed myself up with the new meds and promptly fell back to sleep while Marie and Caitlin went out to explore more of Jerez.

I drifted in and out of consciousness while they came and went a couple of times to check on me and let me know where they were heading to next. I seem to recall them saying they visited the Cathedral (very impressive) and tried to visit the Alcazar (also impressive but closed) and did some shopping. I think they also grabbed a taxi to a local mall to do some more serious clothes shopping and I seem to remember them making a late night trek to a kebab restaurant to get chicken nuggets for me (which I couldn’t even bring myself to consider eating). I did rouse myself at some point long enough to watch part of an episode of a new Netflix series but otherwise, I spent about 90% of the day out cold on the couch in the living room… I was very grateful for the extra wool blankets they’d provided as the apartment was very very cold and I was still alternative between chills and sweats… Caitlin and Marie have promised they’ll write up their adventures in more detail but it could be a while before they get to it… My day could be titled Adventures in Jerez – City of Plague. Or Travels with Snot… I’m joking now but at the time I was downright miserable…

So that was our second day in Jerez – Marie and Caitlin tell me the city is actually quite lovely and the old town is quite vibrant… I wouldn’t know but I can tell you the couch in our apartment was much more comfortable than the bed in our bedroom… And that bathrooms with no heat and single pane windows can get so cold that even taking a hot shower won’t warm you up enough to to make it worth the risk…

The next day (New Year’s Eve and our last day in Jerez) saw me feeling quite a bit better. I still had a cold for sure but it had dwindled to something approximating a normal head/chest cold… although my back and chest muscles were screaming from all the coughing I’d been doing. Forget pilates and planks and ab workouts… there’s nothing like a deep hacking cough to really give you a deep ab workout. Other than the pulled ab muscles and the overall malaise, I did feel well enough to try doing the sherry bodega (Gonzales Byass) tour and tasting we’d be planning on… so we headed out to grab some breakfast and to find the bodega. For breakfast we settled on a place Caitlin and Marie had found earlier that served waffles… I wasn’t spectacularly hungry so was willing to go along with whatever worked for them and Marie really had her heart set on waffles… It turned out to be the only breakfast they served and was more the sweet kind – with ice cream and whipping cream no less – than real breakfast waffles. It was the first thing I’d eaten since dinner on our first night in town and was pretty tasty actually.

After breakfast we made our way past the Alcazar (still closed) and the cathedral to the bodega where we bought tickets for the 1pm English tour and tasting. It was very interesting and informative and there’s even a little train to take you to the more far-flung parts of the property. We’d paid a few euros more for a 4 sherry tasting (the usual tour comes with 2 sherries). We’ve tried sherry a few times and Marie even has a nice bottle of Pedro Ximenez sherry from Gonzales Byass no less. I’m being sort of charitable when I say that none of us appreciated the regular fino sherries (Caitlin swears they tasted like pee and I really can’t disagree with her). The sweet cream sherry they provided (a little less sweet than a PX but sweeter than an oloroso or fino) was by far the best of the lot… Being frugal and up for a challenge, we all managed to drink all of our samples… I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of struggle with a couple of them and many people left their glasses barely touched at other tables. I’m guessing the pee sherries are more of an acquired taste… I don’t think we will ever try to acquire the taste…

After pounding our sherries… we headed for the gift shop and stocked up on some bottles of the good stuff. Marie bought two 375ml bottles of good sweet sherries (one PX and the cream we’d sampled) and I bought a 750ml bottle of Nomad Whisky that they finish on site in sherry casks… The whisky was a particularly good deal as it retails for almost $90 back home and it was about half that even with the exchange rate… After checking out the gift shop and sort of wandering a lit bit we began to realize we hadn’t had much to eat since breakfast… there’s nothing like a sugary waffle for breakfast followed by four 4 ounce samples of sherry to remind you that you haven’t really eaten for 36 hours… On our way back towards the apartment we noticed that a lot of the shops and restaurants were closing early due to it being New Year’s Eve so we sort of made our way towards the market Marie and I had stopped at a couple of days earlier so we could buy some sparkling wine to celebrate New Years with… we settled on apple cider and some Doritos… We also stopped to grab something to eat at one of the restaurants that was still open… only to find that the kitchen was closed and they’d obviously run out of drinkable beer because the swill they served Caitlin was the worst glass of beer I have ever tasted in my life… Caitlin, being nearly as stubborn as her mom, insisted on drinking all of it… She hasn’t touched a beer since… I think it broke her…

After stocking up on groceries, we headed back to the apartment. I was pretty done in and needed to lie down and Marie was now fully in the throes of her own wicked cold/flu while Caitlin was basically running on fumes. Back at the apartment we set Marie up on my comfy cold couch while Caitlin retreated to her room and I crawled into the bed (ridiculously hard box-spring mattress be damned) and we all promptly fell asleep… for two solid hours. Whatever bug we’d picked up was clearly not done with us…

Marie never really did regain full consciousness and sort of drifted in and out of sleep while Caitlin and I did our best to make it to midnight. None of us felt like eating anything and our plans of doing something fun to celebrate New Years eventually dwindled to Caitlin and I staying up long enough to walk to the main square just before midnight to say we’d at least seen the festivities… We didn’t make it. Around 10pm Caitlin and I threw in the towel and accepted the fact that we weren’t feeling well enough to make it to midnight. Marie had accepted that fact hours earlier. So our last night in Jerez – and our New Year’s Eve celebrations – ended with all of us tucked in our beds by 10:30pm trying to sleep through the festivities going on all around the apartment.

Marie probably slept the best of us as she’d taken something to help her sleep while Caitlin and I did our best to sleep through the increasingly raucous celebrations… there was clapping… I do not understand Spanish people’s obsession with drunk clapping… it’s been a feature in every town we’ve been to on every night… far be it for me to judge other cultures but it’s weird… and uniquely annoying…Of course there was also the ever-present shouting. Again, I don’t get Spanish people’s approach to conversing while drunk. Whatever they’re saying must be important because they need to shout it at each other at ear-splitting volumes… while sitting 18 inches away from each other. I have yet to figure out whether they’re arguing, fighting, placing an order or flirting when they’re yelling at each other… There was also drumming. Drumming. WTF is up with the drumming? And then there were the fireworks before, at, and after midnight. Some were the usual firecracker and Roman candle drugstore sorts we’re accustomed to back home… others sounded like flash bang grenades and mortar rounds… It was hard to tell whether the neighbourhood was celebrating or being invaded… By about 3am I couldn’t have cared less what was actually happening as long as the invaders were willing to be quiet about it… Caitlin and I did not sleep well at all and woke up feeling worse the wear for it. Marie, despite sleeping fairly soundly, woke up feeling even worse than she had the day before.

Despite the lousy sleep and Marie’s worsening condition, we had tickets for the train to Córdoba that were going to cost us a hefty sum to replace so we packed our bags, called a taxi (something we’ve never done for a walk less than 2km while we’re traveling) and made our way to the train. Marie found a spot in the sun to pass out (I’m sure anyone who saw her just assumed she’d had a very rough New Years) while Caitlin and I did our own thing until the train arrived. We piled on, found our seats and settled in. Marie slept on and off for most of the 2+ hour trip while Caitlin read a book and I worked on trying to get caught up on the blog after letting it fall by the wayside since we all started feeling lousy.

We arrived in Cordoba around 2:30pm, grabbed a cab (there are definitely upsides to €7 cab rides compared to humping backpacks for 1.5kms) to our apartment that would be home for the next two nights and got Marie settled into bed straightaway. Once Marie was bundled up tight, Caitlin and I went out to find something to eat. Many places were closed due to it being New Year’s Day but we managed to find a place where we were able to grab some tapas (I most heartily do not recommend the patatas miura… it was basically cold boiled potatoes drowned in thick, pink spicy mayonnaise-like stuff) and then we wandered around a bit afterwards before heading back to the apartment. While Caitlin and I had rallied a little for the afternoon we were also pretty wrecked by this point and Marie was definitely not feeling well at all. In the end, Caitlin and I had a few crackers and digestive cookies for dinner and I made a couple of trips to the one shop that was still open to grab some bottles of water and some iced tea but that was about the extent of our first night in Cordoba. Caitlin and I watched about 30 minutes of the great sci-fi classic Serenity before turning the lights out and joining Marie in slumberland… I don’t think we made it to 10pm… I was definitely feeling better than I had a couple of days ago but was far, far from 100% and Caitlin has been battling hard but is feeling pretty lousy as well so hopefully an early night and a decent sleep will help us salvage the last couple of days of the trip.

This has become a trip of firsts for us. In all our trips, we’ve never had one or more of our bags not show up with us on the way to our destination (we had one bag delayed on the way home on our first trip if I remember correctly) and have definitely learned a few things from being without some of our stuff for 3 days at the start of a trip.

We’ve also never had a bug lay us all out like this one has… We’ve had times where one of us hasn’t felt that great and has stayed back while the others went exploring or we’ve had trips where we’ve all started to feel a bit rundown after five or six weeks of travel… But we’ve never had any sort of illness that has made it impossible for one or more of us to get out of bed or that has made us all this sick. Neither Caitlin nor I have had our flu shots but Marie has… this bug doesn’t care at all… whatever version of the flu (and any jokes about the Spanish Flu don’t seem so funny when you’re feeling like you might actually have been run over by a high speed train) this is has hit us all hard. So far Caitlin has managed to stay upright but it’s definitely knocked the wind out of her sails and Marie and I haven’t been this sick in many, many years.

So that brings us up to the end of our first night in Cordoba. We’ve got one more day and night in Cordoba then we’re on a late afternoon train to Madrid and then back home on Saturday. At this point we’re hoping we rally enough to be able to explore Cordoba a bit – especially the Mezquita which is one of the most amazing places I have even been but we’ll see what happens.

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