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I can’t say that we were over impressed with Jerez.  Sadly, because I had built up a fairly high impression of what it would be like, I was quite disappointed. I expected a gentility that simply wasn’t there (imho).

Jerez de la Frontera is:

  1. Home to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, which, according to Wikipedia, is one of the four greatest schools of horsemanship in the world.
  2. Host to an International Grand Prix circuit, used for MotoGP, F1, F2 and World Superbike championships.
  3. Home for most of the world’s sherry producers and the spiritual home to one of the biggest producers, Gonzalez Byass.

 Yet, despite all this, it appeared to me to be run down and dirty.

I accept that Jerez is a very old city, with a rich and varied history, but, despite the prestige and money those international events/producers bring into the city, along with tourists, it wears an air of neglect.  We have visited several old cities in Spain with equally rich and varied histories but they have been cleaner and their buildings have, to a large extent, been or are being maintained. I’m thinking here of Salamanca, Avila, Toledo, Cordoba and Segovia – none have the aforementioned air of neglect and yet, all have similarly long and unique histories.

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unpleasant tapas

The old town’s main square and streets off it, house the restaurants and bars that provide food and drink for tourists and locals alike.  Certainly, the town comes alive at night with tables popping up where none were to be seen at lunchtime.  We chose badly at lunchtime; presented with what were probably the worst tapas we’ve ever eaten: Over vinegared Ensalada Rusa (why vinegar? Why?), Queso that began to sweat in the heat, tab-end sized Croquetas (with soggy fries for garnish) and a fairly tasty piece of ‘Lomo’ in sherry sauce – covered with soggy fries again.

Our evening meal was better.IMG_1823 copy

Sharon had spent a bit of time on Trip Advisor and had come up with a number of options for us to dine at.  I put the first one (top of the list) into MapsDotMe and off we went.  Sharon saw something on the menu that she liked and I knew I would find something, so we stopped there – there was no point dragging ourselves around the town. Bar Juanito looked to be a nice place, and it was – see my review on Trip Advisor.

Before eating lunch, we’d decided to take the tourist bus-trip (City Sightseeing Jerez) which for €17 also includes a tour of the Bodegas Tio Pepe, the home of Gonzalez Byass in Jerez.  The bus trip itself was interesting enough, and explained much of Jerez’s history.  One fact that stuck with me was that many years ago (perhaps hundreds?) the city fathers allowed people to erect buildings alongside the more ancient city walls.  The idea being that this would help to preserve and protect those walls.  However, as we were driven past, I noticed that the buildings that had been erected are also falling into disrepair.  It’s sad that a city of this note and with this heritage cannot be better looked after.

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Our trip around Bodegas Tio Pepe was interesting and by far the more entertaining time of our trip. It is followed by a tasting of Tio Pepe itself and of Croft Original.

Our hotel had been chosen for its position, its price and its description on Booking dotcom.  Although we’d booked and paid to visit the Jeys Catedral Jerez, the hotel seemed to be called Hotel Belles Artes (as well?) – see my review on Trip Advisor.

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To celebrate my birthday this week, Sharon booked us into one of the venerable old ladies of British Transport Hotels1 (BTH) – The Queens2 in Leeds.

Built in 1937 for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company3 (LMS), it stands proudly outside Leeds railway station as a testament to art deco4 architecture. I’ve been aware of this hotel for more than half of its life – and not all of that awareness has had the respect I can now give it.

As a child, my parents took me to Leeds by train once or twice each year, to visit the big shops in Leeds (C&A, Lewis’s etc.) for new clothes. Passing the Queens, I could see it was quite posh and that it knocked Huddersfield’s own Queen’s Hotel into a cocked hat. (The Huddersfield Queens is long gone). As I grew older and entered the catering industry I begun to realise how tired it really was. I worked in several old West Yorkshire BTH hotels in the late 60’s/early 70’s and they had all begun to fade badly by then.

As a catering teacher years later, I used to take students along to the Queens Hotel as well as other city centre establishments and when asked to compare, they invariably said that the old lady was quite tired, old fashioned and not certainly not a patch on the more modern hotels.

What a difference £10m+ has made since QHotels5 took over in 2003.

Without losing any of the grandeur, a tasteful revamp has made it a warm and welcoming place to visit. The staff are superb and unlike many other city centre hotels, they are not surly, forgetful or in any way superior. During our visit they were helpful and informative, they couldn’t do enough to help us. And it’s no longer draughty, because despite still having the original steel frame windows, the secondary glazing means that is retained. The décor and furnishings complement the hotel’s age and architecture.

Well done QHotels.

1http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Transport_Hotels

2http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queens_Hotel_%28Leeds%29

3http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London,_Midland_and_Scottish_Railway#Hotels

4http://www.decodevotion.co.uk/art-deco-information.htm

5http://www.qhotels.co.uk/hotels/the-queens-leeds-yorkshire.aspx

http://www.queenshotel.org.uk/

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