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Cadiz, Spain - Friday 16th December 2016

There is usually a stop somewhere down the West coast of Spain or Portugal on ones way to or from the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean or onwards to the Canaries or towards the Cape. La Coruna, Cadiz, Vigo, Lisbon and Malaga are prime candidates and Cadiz is therefore another port we have visited many times. We have in fact visited five times in the last four years covering A Voyage to the Greek Islands on the Queen Elizabeth in Autumn 2016, the Queen Elizabeth 5th Birthday Cruises 2015, the Christmas 2014 Cruise on the Queen Victory when we visited Seville on a tour from Cadiz, the Wonders of the Mediterranean 2014 - a cruise on the Queen Victoria in 2014 as well as the Mediterranean Discovery Cruise on the Queen Victoria in 2013.

We are therefore just going to pull out the parts which are unique to this visit and then add a section at the end covering our favourite areas which we frequently go back to based on our earlier visits for our first time readers.

Cadiz this visit

Many visitors to Cadiz by ship decide to take the long day trip to Seville, 80 miles away as we did in 2014, or else go to Jerez de la Frontera for sherry tasting. However Cadiz is a fine town in its own right and we had a few well defined targets for today, specifically the market and our favourite Alameda cake shop. First we ignored our usual route through the Plaza de Espana and instead strolled along the Avda. del Puerto to the Plaza San Juan de Dios. The weather was mild and there were still oranges on the trees. The dancing fountains were under maintenance but there was a good view of the Ayuntamiento in one direction and the Queen Victoria and the Christmas tree in the other.

A narrow pedestrian street leads to the Cathedral Square and the church of Santiago and then another narrow street leads to the Post Office and the Market. It was very quiet, at only 0900, and the Cathedral Square was deserted. The Market always has good displays of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.

After a short exploration of the small Carrefour supermarket for typical Spanish Christmas specialities we walked up to the Torre Tavira and the Alameda cake shop opposite. On our previous visit we had enjoyed the coconut macaroon biscuits, Sultana con Yema, so bought them for immediate consumption. However a much more luxurious purchase was the typical marzipan Christmas cakes which are only made here. The typical family size cake costs 50 euros, because of the price of the ingredients, but there was one smaller cake for sale. We hope it is not too fragile and that we can get it safely home. Having glimpsed trees at the end of the Av. Torre, there were lots of bench seat in the Plaza San Antonio where we ate our coconut macaroons. This large square had another Christmas tree and the beautiful church of San Antonio.

We have old favourites but it is nice to find new places to visit. Leaving the Plaza San Antonio in a new direction leads to the square with the Gran Teatro Falla, named after the famous composer Manuel de Falla who was born in Cadiz and is buried in the cathedral. We have often walked past the Castle of Santa Catalina on the edge of the Playa de la Caleta but it has never been open to visit. After much repair and reconstruction work it is finally open again. Timing was good because the weather was changing and we had to shelter in one of the buildings while it rained. The large domed space was used as an art gallery, there were sculptures in the garden, and the little chapel was open. The seafront promenade completed our circular walk back to the cathedral. On our way we saw a large group of cats living in the rocks by the beach, including one siamese, and wondered why people buy pedigree pets and then abandon them.

Instead of returning along the coast there was time to stroll back window-shopping, eventually joining the Avda. Ramon de Carranza. Although the tourist shops remain open all day the other shops close for lunch and the transition from shopping to eating was taking place. We would be too late for lunch on board but had plans to enjoy Afternoon Tea. Yesterday we had returned to the QV too late to get a seat in the Grills Lounge for tea and we were determined to be more successful today - it was worth it.

Cadiz for the fist time visitor

Cadiz is said to be the oldest inhabited town in the western world, with 3,000 years of history. It is a major port, and is near to Jerez for exporting sherry and brandy. Seville is 80 miles away. Cadiz is a compact city, and is almost an island because it is circular with a narrow join to the rest of Spain. The old town is easy walking, and the Plaza de Espana is just outside the dock gates as well as the HopOn HopOff bus. There are recommended walking tours, each painted a different colour on the pavement, and the orange one is along the city walls, through the Alameda de Apodaca and Alameda Marquis de Comillas gardens, and along the Genoves Park to the Castle of Santa Catalina, then along the Playa de la Caleta sandy beach to the Castillo de San Sebastian.

The San Carlos walls which were constructed at the end of the 18th century and were the start of the yellow walking path. We preferred to climb the walls for the views instead of following the path around the base and then descended into the Almeda gardens with ceramic tiled benches and water features, passsing the pink baroque church of Saint Teresa and the bastion of La Candelaria. We then reached the Engineers Building which dates from 1760 although the small square tower was added later. It is now the HQ of the Reina Sofia Cultural Centre and contains offices and exhibition rooms. We looked at the permanent exhibition of prize-winning work of Juan Luis Vassallo who was born in Cadiz in 1908 and died in 1986. Entry was free. Further along the coast the castle of Santa Catalina was again closed. It was built on the orders of Felipe II after the Anglo-Dutch looting in 1596 in order to protect Santa Catalina Cove. The work was completed under Felipe III. The chapel of Sanata Catalina inside was constructed in 1693.

Turning along the beach the impressive Naval College and the derelict old Hospice next door have not changed for years. The derelict Hospital-cum-Orphanage is temporarily in use for parking but rumours are that it might become a new 5-star hotel. The Balneario (Spa) of Our Lady of La Palma, built on the site of the old Royal Baths in 1924, is more modern and now contains offices. The other end of the beach is protected by the Castle of San Sebastian at the end of a long breakwater. It is worth the extra walk because it is interesting to visit and there has been reconstruction work since our previous visit. It is easy to walk along the top of the walls and the views towards the sea are good. It was named after a hermitage built in 1457 by crew members of a venetian ship who were recovering from Plague. In 1706 work on the fortified enclosure began. The lighthouse is modern and was built in 1908. Continuing along the coast the one option is to go directly to the cathedral but instead we often turn towards the Market which always has an impresive selection of fish and vegetables on display and, of course local cheeses. From there it is easy to find the Carrefour supermarket if one needs to stock up from a good choice of local red wine from Cadiz, and they often have some very cheap Cava and they are a good place basic local cakes and confectionary to take home to add interest to our coffee mornings.

Nearby is, the Tavira Tower with its camera obscura, which is well worth the climb. In 1778 it was the highest lookout point and was the official watchtower. From the top of the tower there is a 360 degree view and it was clear there are many watchtowers in Cadiz, by memory 129, and most houses have rooftop terraces. Our red funnel was visible in the distance, and we identified many of the familiar landmarks from our morning walk, including the Castillo de San Sebastian, the new Cathedral and the Mercado Central.

Entry includes a demonstration of the Camera Obscura, which projects an image of the scene below and around the tower onto a large white circular screen. Other worthwhile places to visit include the Museu Provincial and the Museum of Manuel de Falla and bookshop, all are in the Placa de Mina. We often try to purchase local specialities but beware, our favourite cake shop the Almeida cake shop nearby closes for the typical afternoon siesta. We look for Christmas specialities at the appropriate time of year and the Sultana con Yema, soft large coconut biscuits sandwiched with an eggy cream are another favourite to revive one.

The square in front of the Cathedral is usually busy with tour groups, many paying to visit the cathedral. The 'new' Cathedral was built between 1722 and 1838 so is a mixture of different architectural styles. The high altar is in the form of a tabernacle, supported by paired columns. The statue of the Immaculate Conception dates from the 17th century. The choir stalls predate the construction, dating from 1702. The crypt was the first part to be built, between 1722 and 1730. It is made of oyster stone, a local stone excavated from the sea and containing lots of shells. The Chapel of Bishops contains the remains of all the prelates. The famous composer Manuel de Falla was born in Cadiz in November 1876, but died in Argentina in 1946 and was returned to be buried in the crypt. Outside, in Pio XII Square, there is another church on the corner, of Santiago Apostol, a Jesuit church, built in 1635.

 

The nearby Fray Feliz Square is one of the most important spaces in Cadiz, including the Old Cathedral, the Cathedral Museum and the Bishops House. Nearby we again visited the Roman Theatre where work seems to have now ended. It is possible to walk through the tunnels and sit on the steps of the theatre, looking across at the exhibition rooms of the museum. Finally we followed the blue walking path to the Town Hall in the Plaza San Juan de Dios. The nearby interesting building is the Casa de los Pazos de Miranda. This square has a line of fountains, leading to the port.

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Content revised: 31s t December, 2016