Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SPAIN: Cadiz

waterfront with cathedral

Capital of the province of the same name, Cadíz is only forty-five minutes away from Medina-Sidonia. It juts out into the sea at the end of a long narrow spit taken up mostly by road and rail connections, just like the long connecting bridge to Venice. To the south (on our left), after passing some rather pungent marshes we could see a rather nice long surf beach that we could visit when we'd finished with the city proper. Even after the spit there's a very long stretch of commercial street of an area called San Fernando before reaching the wall marking the old city and port.

Cadiz mapThe first thing that Cadiz brings to mind for me is pirates. Ignoring its ancient founding as a sea-port in 1100 BC  (allegedly by Hercules), it is perfectly situated for trading with the New World, and it was from there that Columbus set off on two of his expeditions to the Americas. Its wealth and strategic position made Cadiz a great target for pirates and other privateers or marine adventurers like Francis Drake who attacked it in 1587, destroying over one hundred Spanish ships. The Battle of the Spanish Armada (commanded by the Duke of Medina Sidonia) occurred the following year, and in 1596 Elizabeth I’s favourite, the Earl of Essex, and Walter Raleigh captured Cadiz with a raiding fleet.

Cadiz Cathedral cathedral steps

We parked underground near the central cathedral, and spent some time wandering the streets, one eye on the lookout for a phone shop (never found). On the footpath there are some painted lines to guide you around the main sights of the city, and we ended up following the purple one for a while until it seemed like it was just going to loop back to where we'd started before we'd seen enough. We passed a costume where a little girl had just been clothed in some frilly pink outfit by her mother. A passing woman tourist (American) exclaimed nasally "Oh my gosh!" and mere seconds later as Munson came by "oh my gawwwwd!".

The street layout with so many narrow-packed apartment blocks reminded me of Naples, perhaps smashed up against Syracuse with that damp rotten smell like Bangkok. At the end of one street that opened to the see where two gigantic fig trees that looked rather familiar - they were from Australia! But whereas in Naples, Syracuse and Bangkok my meanderings would constantly offer up new interesting markets, goods or performers that had the signature of that place, this was just inner-city blandness. What did strike me was glimpses of old people sitting at a narrow window onto near-empty alleys or always-shadowed streets. The window frame is inset into a thick wall that makes it impossible to engage even visually with anything but the slowest moving pedestrians, which may only be a lizard moving across the facing wall.

Australian fig trees

P1110008  Looking out to San Sebastian castle

By about 2pm we'd had enough city heat, and were a bit disappointed that a city of this antiquity didn't
really offer much for the casual wanderer who didn’t want to dig through cathedral or museum interiors. I don’t know if the city was lacking in character or if it was simply so old that it had become the prototype for so many other ports, that what was once original has been shaded into a thousand newer variations.

tasting the sea air Munson in fountain

We didn't have appetite for more than a frozen yoghurt and Munson wasn't even interested in sharing one of those. He finally took refuge in a fountain for a while (to the joy of many tourists) and then we collected the car to head for the beach.

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