An Andalusian Experience


First Port of Call
History, wine, seafood and an original hotel in El Puerto de Santa Maria.

Fresh seafood in El Puerto de Santa MariaFor many years El Puerto de Santa Maria has been a favorite among travellers, for its fine Sherry wines and for its fresh seafood, but more and more attractions have been added to tempt the visitor. Possibilities range from climbing aboard a replica of Columbus’s ship La Niña, which takes passengers on regular tours of the Cadiz bay, to trying your luck at the Bahia de Cadiz gambling casino.

Added to these offers are historical sites including the town’s castle and bullring. Built in the 13th century on the site of an old Moorish mosque, the San Marcos castle is a reminder of the days when this coast was under constant threat from pirates. Among those who stayed here are Christopher Columbus, who unsuccessfully tried to get the resident Duke of Medinaceli to finance his voyage to the Indies, and Juan de la Cosa, owner of Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria. Here in this castle De la Cosa also produced the first world map to include the Americas, in 1500.

The neo-Mudejar style bullring, one of the most attractive in Spain, is of somewhat more recent vintage: it was built in 1880 with seating for exactly 12,816 people - the entire population of El Puerto at that time. The great matador Joselito claimed: “He who has not seen a bullfight in El Puerto does not know what bullfighting is.”

First stop for most visitors is one of the legendary wine cellars of the town. El Puerto de Santa Maria is part of the “Sherry Triangle”, where the world’s most famous aperitif wine is made. In venerable wine cellars such as Terry and Osborne, visitors learn about how Sherry is made, as guides explain the criadera and solera system used to age the wine in the endless rows of Sherry butts, each one containing 500 litres of this liquid sunshine. El Puerto is especially famous for its crisp, bone-dry Fino, the perfect accompaniment to the shellfish served on the Ribera del Marisco, a promenade lined with seafood bars and restaurants.

Another of the landmarks in this historical town is a unique hotel installed in an 18th century Capuchin convent. Aside from providing comfortable lodgings for visitors, the Hotel Monasterio San Miguel has become a choice venue for business meetings, with no fewer than 16 meeting rooms, the largest of which seats 600. One of the halls is the former convent church, and the monastic theme prevails in this magnificent hostelry, with its cloistered courtyards and its gourmet restaurant, installed in a vaulted stone cellar.

CONTACTS
Oficina de Turismo
(Tourist Information Office) - Email: [email protected] Website: www.elpuertosm.es
Hotel Monasterio San Miguel - Email: [email protected] Website: www.jale.com/monasterio

Nearest airport: Jerez (12 miles, 20 km)

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Copyright © 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet  - A Freelance Spain production

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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet