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11th November, 2016

Mystery Cruise. Port No.1

I’m pretty well sure that they hadn’t got a clue, apart from the fact that it has become suspiciously warm over the last 24 hours. I had been walking around conspicuously with different destination books under my arm, but I gave up after I was only getting shaking heads and sympathetic looks.

So in the darkness we picked up our Spanish pilot, whom I believe must have been told of our ‘themed cruise’, as his boat came out without pilot lights and we almost went straight past him. The old harbour of Cadiz was tranquil and a beautiful sunrise beckoned the new day, which was chilly initially on the bridge wing, but soon began to warm up. The coaches were already on the dockside ready to embark the first ‘half’of the passengers (second half in the afternoon) so Mrs R and I joined the one and only complimentary tour, ‘Essence of Andalusia’.

A drive into the rolling hills of the country side was preceded by a short journey through the city and alongside the ocean, the sandy beach stretching for miles to the south. Our destination was Jerez de la Frontera, and as the name implies, a certain amount of sherry tasting was essential for the ‘experience’(something our Saganauts always seem to report favourably upon). So when arriving at the Gonzalez Byass Wine Cellars the group was first shown into vast buildings full of massive oak barrels stacked four high, the all-encompassing odour of ‘Tio Pepe’was quite delightful. There was a brief potted history of course, but the easy walk along cobbled streets shaded by a covering of vines eventually came to the tasting room. There was almost a reluctance to move again, this time to a small arena lined with more barrels and enough seats for everyone.

What followed was a superb display of Andalusian horsemanship, so spectacular that I noticed one or two of our ladies had tears on their cheeks. The skill of the rider controlling the horse in front of a flamenco dancer was just stunning, and in the end the horse went down on her back legs as she took the applause. Memorable.

Captain Philip Rentell

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