We wanted to go to Cadiz, the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, founded by the Phoenicians in 1104BC. We didn’t find anything inexpensive there but on the web we found and booked a hotel for the night in one of the cities of the ‘Sherry Triangle‘ on the southwest coast of Spain. The town was called El Puerto de Santa Maria and was at the mouth of a river on the Atlantic Ocean right next to Cadiz.
We got up early and hit the road. East to Seville, hang a right and south to El Puerto. Crossing from Portugal to Spain is about the same as passing between Canadian provinces or American states. “Look, a sign…well, looks like were in Spain now.” The European Union. What a fantastic idea. One difference we notice immediately was that gas went from €1.33 to €1.05. I can’t imagine that Portuguese gas stations within 20 or 30 km of the border have much luck selling gas at that kind of price differential.
The gas stations were of similar quality to the Portuguese ones with very nice looking restaurants attached. One difference was the amount of ham. They do love the ham in Spain and you will see whole legs of cured ham hanging from the ceiling above the counter so that they can always hack off a slice for a sandwich.
We got to El Puerto and found our hotel. Finding the hotel was easy enough but getting to it was a bit harder and we wound up doing a few laps on one way streets and back alleys before we got turned in the right direction to park. The hotel was very nice with a rooftop pool so we went up to there to catch a look around and get our bearings. The city was on a canal that was very busy with many fishing boats and commuter ferries that take people back and forth to Cadiz. We went out for a walk walk that led us past a castle, through the market and out along the canal out to the ocean. You can definitely tell that you’re in sherry country when you can walk past 2 or 3 bodegas within a couple of blocks.
View from the roof of the hotel.
Castle a block away from the hotel.
Bodega. This was a block away from our hotel. The windows are left open to the sea air to let the sherry age at a uniform temperature.
Marina with spiffy new condos and a sailing ship of some ancient vintage.
We didn’t have a lot of time in the area and we wanted to see Cadiz so we hopped in the car and hit the road. We did a quick tour around El Puerto to see the marina where they have, believe it or not, a bodega and then took the highway to Cadiz which to completely appreciate you almost need to look at the map. Picture a long island or peninsula with a main street splitting it in half with huge hotels and office buildings lining the coast on both sides. When you get out to the end, you pass through an arch in a wall that leads into the old city which is as ancient as the new town is modern. We did almost a full lap around the old town before finding some underground parking.
Looking back from the old city to the hotels lining the coast of the new city.
We went to the Catedral Nueva (New Cathedral) so named because it was only built in 1776 on the site of the older cathedral after it burned down. Those darn modern architects with their crazy new fangled ideas.
Sharon took a couple nice pictures inside the cathedral:
I took a few too. Dummy that I am, I went to a cathedral but forgot my tripod. Placing the camera on random objects to do time lapse shots occasionally gives good results but sometimes not. All in all, I think Sharon did better than I did that day. We may get the same number of good shots but I have to take three times as many to get the same number of keepers.
One exceptionally interesting part of this particular cathedral is the crypt. Down some stairs beneath the altar leads you to a circular room with little passageways off to the sides where various people of import are entombed. The ceiling has an interesting curved arch to it. “How neat,” we thought, and wandered around the room looking at things. Then we walked across the middle of the room. “tickatickaticka…..” “tickatickaticka…..”. Sharon: “What the heck is that?” Kris: “Wow, they’ve used the parabolic shape of the roof as an amplifier to repeat and echo the sounds of your footsteps. How clever yet creepy.” Sharon: “Parabolic nothing, this is a crypt and that’s freaking me out. Let’s get out of here.” Actually, even knowing how it works, it was a pretty freaky effect.
Before going any further, I’d like to talk about towers. Cadiz is ALL about the towers. I think they still have something like 160 of them and at their peak, they had over 300. Every merchant’s home had a tower so they could keep an eye out for incoming shipments. Not sure why this was so critical but either way, lots of towers. Here’s a really nice one. Many of them are quite a bit more simple.
We wandered around a bit more and made our way to the Tavira Tower where we got a guided tour with a camera obscura. This is the best way to tour the city since the bird’s eye view is displayed on the screen in front of you. You get to see everything but there’s NO WALKING!!! Woohoo! Our sore feet were very happy. The fellow running the camera obscura was a nice young fellow who spoke a zillion languages. There were only two couples there so this tour was done in English and Spanish although he was occasionally lapsing into German because he had just had a few sets of German tourists earlier. Afterwards, when we went up to the roof to take pictures, he came up and we had a little chat. It turns out that we were the very last presentation that he would ever do because he was off to Algeria to be a language teacher since he spoke fluent Arabic as well. He told us how dry Cadiz was and that he remembered a time when he was young and it didn’t rain for over two years.
Count the towers puzzle. I’m pretty sure there are at least 8 in this picture but it’s hard to tell. Some are just simple square towers, some have a ‘step’ and some are round or octagonal.
Couple more views.
We wandered around the streets a bit more on our way back to the car. Here’s an example of some of the streets we drove:
The sunset was nice so we stopped to do a portrait. No one will mistake us for professional models.
This is what we were looking at.
More street kitties. There were big clans of them living in the breakwall rocks on the water down below the wall.
Back to El Puerto and out for dinner. El Puerto is not at all a tourist town so when we found a nice tapas bar, there was no english on the menu and none of the staff spoke it either. Believe it or not, after a week in Europe, this was the first time we had encountered this situation. Using our phrase book and menu reader we managed to order a bunch of dishes and a few different types of sherry and had a great time. Dessert at a Ben and Jerry’s of all places. Why? Why not. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Tune in next time for a tour of a bodega and a coastal drive.