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September 2022, Virtual
September 29 2022, Virtual
Said to be the oldest port in the world and first settled 3,000 years ago, the city of Cadiz sits on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic in the very south west of Spain. It commands the entry to the Mediterranean with Gibraltar 80 miles away (or a couple of hours) by road. The popular tourist area of Marbella lies120 miles to the south east, about 2 hours easy drive. The city is an interesting day”s visit from either centre. From an airline point of view Jerez, a Ryanair Stansted destination, is just 30 miles down an excellent toll road. You can easily combine Cadiz with a visit to Seville, one of Spain”s most historic cities. Hertz is the Ryanair supplier at the airport with an abundant supply of the Ford Ka, ideal for parking in a city not really made for the automobile age. Cadiz is also a popular port for cruise ships with the city centre an easy and flat walk from the docks.
Cadiz was the starting point of Columbus second voyage to the New World. However it was in 1587 that the city port made an indelible mark on history with Sir Francis Drake, ”Singeing the King of Spain”s Beard”, sending in fire ships and destroying much of the Spanish fleet preparing for an invasion of England. It seems that the Spanish never learnt the lessons of that fiasco as the same thing happened just over two hundred years later, Nelson this time the British Admiral, gaining much the same result with another attack by fire boats in 1797. In October 1805 Nelson lay off Cadiz trying to temp the Spanish fleet out. They foolishly sailed. Cape Trafalgar lies to the south, the scene of perhaps the greatest British sea victory.
If Nelson were to return today he would still recognise Cadiz, an absorbing complex of narrow streets, the occasional plaza and with its still existing massive fortifications. The Museo Historico Municipal boasts a fascinating mahogany and ivory model of the city, which dates back to 1779, and duplicates all the streets and buildings much as they are today. Cadiz is essentially an island a half mile wide at the most, one mile long bordered on three sides by the sea and connected by a narrow isthmus to San Fernando and Andalusia proper. According to officialdom 350,000 people live in this dense municipality, a bustling hive of activity. There are restaurants and bars galore but not a great deal of accommodation. For Spaniards and visitors Cadiz seems to be a place for an enthralling one-day trip but not for a long stay. Try and time your visit to include activity at the Gran Teatro Manuel de Falla, located within a wonderful neo-Mudejar red brick building and with an impressive interior. Spanish versions of 20th century musicals are easy to follow and naturally Bizet is also on the bill.
The old city looks quite Moorish in appearance and is intriguing with narrow cobbled streets opening onto small squares. The golden cupola of the cathedral looms high above long white houses and the whole place has a slightly dilapidated air. It just takes an hour to walk around the headlands where you can visit the entire old town and pass through lovely parks with sweeping views of the bay.
Some of the city's 18th century walls still stand, such as the Landward Gate. Worth a visit is the city's 18th century Cathedral and churches of Santa Cruz and San Felipe Neri, which is famous throughout Spain as the place where, in defiance of Napoleon's siege, the provisional government was set up with its own liberal Constitution. Other points of interest are La Santa Cueva, home to several paintings by Goya, and stately mansions such as the Casa del Almirante and Casa de las Cadenas. The Baroque cathedral is a grandiose structure capped by a dome of golden tiles and is situated right in the centre of the city. Assuming you have the strength the Torre Tavira tower is a fine place to get your bearings and affords a dramatic panorama of the city. This was the highest and most important of the city's old watchtowers. Back in the 18th century, Cadiz had no less than 160 towers to scrutinize the various harbours and mooring areas.
Unlike most other ports of its size Cadiz seems immediately relaxed and easy going, not at all threatening, even at night. Perhaps this is due to its reassuring shape and size, the presence of the sea making it impossible to get lost for more than a few blocks. It also owes much to the town's tradition of liberalism and tolerance which was maintained all through the years of Franco's dictatorship, despite this being one of the first cities to fall to his forces and was the port through which the Republican armies launched their invasion.