Rather than brave the hurly burly of Cadiz for our accommodation, we went to Puerto de Santa Maria. From there it is a ferry ride to Cadiz across the Bahia de Cadiz. It was a 20 minute walk from the campsite to the ferry terminal and a 30 minute journey across the bay. The cost, as ever, was far less than the 4 minute trip across Portsmouth harbour! However, it was not as interesting.
Cadiz has a 3000 year old history and is said to be the oldest city in Europe. It is situated on a peninsula and was founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 AC. Next came the Carthaginians and then the Romans. It was always a prosperous place. The Romans and Visigoths left their marks and then from 711 it was Moorish territory, until King Alfonso the Wise took it back during the second half of the 13th century making it part of the Kingdom of Castile. This province contributed to the colonisation of America during 15th century. Christopher Columbus and other illustrious seafarers used the ports of Cadiz to sail to the New Continent. The 18th century was the golden age of Cadiz and the overseas trade gave the place a cosmopolitan chracter. Today you can see how the different influences have shaped the character of the city, and it makes it an interesting place to explore.
We spent 2 days in Cadiz and there was still plenty to see. As usual we enjoyed the atmosphere of the different areas and selected a few places to visit that particularly piqued our different interests.
From the ferry, the first place we came to was the Plaza San Juan de Dios. This is a main square with fountains, restaurants and the Ayuminiento. We stopped there for coffee and were entertained by a belly dancer.
As ever, I was quite keen to see the cathedral and we enjoyed wandering down the narrow streets until we arrived at the Plaza de la Catedral. The square is home to other striking buildings such as the Iglesia de Santiago. Throughout the city there are splendid buildings to appreciate and we managed to see more that we could photograph. Often the streets are so narrow that you can’t get back far enough to take a picture.
We had been quite organised for a change and marked the places we wanted to visit on the map of Cadiz. I read that the Oratory of the Santa Cueva was decorated with paintings by Goya, so that was on the list. It cost 3 euros each to go in and at first we were disappointed with the dark and dingy interior. Once we got up to the upper chamber, the beauty was striking. The oratory has two chapels and it is a monument within the history of Spanish art and the most important piece of work of Cadiz Neoclassicism. The building has been used since the discovery of a subterranean cave in 1756 when it was cleared up and used by the members of the Brotherhood of the Santa Cueva.
This was a hard act to follow but, I bravely scaled the glass steps up to the top of the Tavira Tower. The views across Cadiz were worth the fear (i am not good with heights, spiral stairs or glass floors and the ascent involved all three!). The tower is one of several watchtowers in Cadiz and has now been turned into a focal point. It is situated at the highest lookout point in the old town. At the top of the tower is the first Camera Obscura to be installed in Spain. I had a time slot to attend a presentation in English and it was a fascinating 360 degree view of the city with commentary by one of the guides.
We strolled along the promenade towards the old town entrance which now houses an exhibition, we were too late and it was closing, and the puppet museum. We went in the museum and were impressed by the variety and quality of the many puppets from different countries.
There are so many lovely squares and features down the narrow streets, such as the curved corner decorations. I quickly dashed along to look at the Plaza De Espana and found more elegant buildings.
We had covered a lot of ground during our two day visit and still had more to see but we decided to call it a day and we will probably come again on another Winter visit.
Puerto de Santa Maria
When we booked into the campsite at Santa Maria we had no idea that there was a lovely old town just up the road. Having exhausted our enthusiasm for Cadiz, we thought we had better check out the delights closer to home. We were certainly not disappointed, although we were not able to visit the impressive looking Castillo de San Marcos. The Castillo is privately owned and you can only visit on certain days. When we were there it was hosting a Harry Potter event so was closed to the general public.
We walked down to the main church, the Basilica Menor Na Santa de Los Milagros. It is very ornate and sports a number of storks nests complete with storks. We were quite surprised!
For a reasonably modest sized town, there is a large bullring with a very attractive statue outside. There is also a fountain complete with bullfighter and bull.
A beautifully tiled building caught our eye as we passed by
Another grand building impressed us as we turned away from the Basilica.
By now we were saturated with wonderful buildings of all ages and styles. We spent the next day catching up with some “housework” before setting out for pastures new. Next stop, Jerez.