James & Amelia Gould
Fri 20 Jul 2007 15:49

14 – 20 July 2007: Cadiz


Cadiz is a city of two halves with an old town surrounded by walls and fortifications filling an oddly shaped peninsula and a new town sprawling outside the old city gates.  Our first view of the old town was when we cross the Bay of Cadiz from El Puerto in a ferry and we were struck by the amount of battlements still standing.  A visit to the city tourist office yielded a multitude of flyers advertising the various attractions.  The most useful bit of paper was a guide to 4 recommended themed walks of the city – we chose to start with the 18th century maritime Cadiz route, and headed for the cathedral (I was sold this as a maritime tour and yet A still manages to drag me to another place of worship…not bad for a good Jewish girl…J).


The cathedral was built in the 18th century when it was deemed that the city needed a church befitting its rich merchant status.  It is huge (as all Spanish cathedrals seem to be!) and took over 100 years to build.  The changing fashion while it was built means that the lower half of the building is Baroque, and the upper part is neo-classical which doesn’t look as odd as it sounds.   It was evident in several places that the building had been neglected with damp coming through the walls and plaster falling off the ceiling.  The cathedral is finally undergoing a much needed major restoration, so we could see some parts in all their splendour.  It had the usual collection of saints statues and oil paintings, but it was the make up of the building which was most interesting.



Cadiz Cathedral

Cathedral Disrepair




Cathedral Choir



The next stop on the route was the Tavira Tower that was part of a merchant’s palace.  The tower was built so that a lookout could be kept for the merchant’s ships returning to Cadiz, and was for a while the tallest watchtower in the city (There are over 120 towers built for various merchants!).  The tower now houses a Camera Obscura, and we had a guided tour of the city’s skyline reflected in a dish.  This is the second Camera Obscura we have seen, and we still marvelled at its cleverness and the sharpness of the image.


Tavira Tower

Camera Obscura


The walk then took us on a meandering journey through the narrow streets of the old town.  It was afternoon, so the city was deserted, in sharp contrast to the bustle of the mornings when the shops are open.  We escaped the heat in a coffee shop then hid in the air condition luxury of the Cadiz Museum.  The first floor of the museum was devoted to local archaeological finds, which mostly consisted of broken pots.  I am sure they were very rare/unusual/fascinating but as the blurb was in Spanish they just looked like broken earthenware.  The museum did have two Phoenician sarcophagi, which were delicately carved and remarkably preserved.  The other impressive objects were statues from Roman Gades (Cadiz) including the obligatory big (good looking, distinguished…J) bloke in a toga.


Roman Bronze

Big Bloke in a Toga

Cadiz Museum


The top floor of the museum had a cool collection of puppets and sets from the Spanish equivalent of Punch and Judi.  The scenes depicted including a bull chasing a little old lady and what looked like Humpty Dumpty chasing Pinocchio.



Cadiz Museum Puppets


The second walking route we vaguely followed was around the Cadiz fortifications.  Thick walls surround most of the city and we joined them near the marina where Rahula was berthed.  Walking along the walls gave a very different view of the old town – this area had clean paved promenades and wide two-way roads circumnavigating the narrow maze of the city within.  The promenades led to beautifully kept gardens with benches by shady fountains.  One of these gardens had the oldest trees in Cadiz – two rubber trees brought over from America in the 18th century which have grown to be enormous.



Cadiz Fortifications and Parks


The fortifications route ended at the Puertas de Tierra which is the old main gate to the city.  The tower now houses a 3D show of the building of the fortifications that was fun to watch if a little spooky when things jumped out at you.  There was also a small museum showing what the gate looked like after it was fortified to prevent an Anglo-Dutch invasion.  The fortifications were huge, and arranged in a maze so that soldiers had no chance of finding their way in.  Unfortunately most of this was destroyed to make way for traffic and the new town.  The central tower and bastions remaining still provide an impressive city entrance.


Puertas de Tierra


While we were in Cadiz Alan and Judi, James’ parents, came to visit for a long weekend.  We had a lovely time with them seeing some of the sights mention above and eating in the many restaurants in the old town.  Grilled fish is the regional dish here, and we were not disappointed by the several dishes we tried.  The steak normally came big and with chips, though quality of Tapas seemed to be potluck.  In some places we’d get a huge tapas dish for 2 Euros, while in others a dish costing 7 Euros would include only a few morsels.  Language was also a problem in some of the back street bars, and I ended up ordering Tripe by mistake in one place (yuck!). (It was great to see my Parents and they were on good form, Dad was particularly taken with our folding bikes and was riding around the pavement within 10 minutes of us meeting them!  I was also impressed with their fortitude whilst being exposed to A with a guidebook.  I hope they enjoyed seeing us as much as we enjoyed seeing them. J)


We berthed Rahula at the marina in Cadiz that is situated right on the end of a long promontory which houses the city’s docks.  It is not a particularly nice marina and was a long walk into town through the less salubrious part of the city.  (This was where the bikes proved their value again!).  We were grateful for the offer to have a night in Alan & Judi’s hotel during their visit.  During the afternoon siesta time we made full us of the room – I sat in the bath for hours and James watched TV!  It was like being on a holiday inside a holiday, and we appreciated sleeping somewhere different and having air conditioning.


We leave Cadiz today, and tomorrow we set sail for our second long (ish) passage heading for the island of Madeira.  Finally we are leaving mainland Europe!