This turned out to be a happy surprise of a city; a warren of narrow streets with apartment buildings and many shady plazas alive with people at all hours, plus sea front and bastions to protect harbours, beaches, lovely parks and many nice cafes and restaurants. Perfect!
We came in by train and have the luggage managed pretty well by now in terms of getting it on and off the train. What can’t be managed is the direction we face when travelling as tickets must be booked in advance and you have no way of knowing which way the train will be facing. The luck of the draw has been a little against us so far.
We travelled Madrid to Seville, changing there for Cadiz. The 15 minute difference between train arrival and departure was just about right to do things with comfort. We travelled with some beautiful cold meats from the restaurant in Madrid and had a bit of a feast for lunch. The Iberico ham, fed on acorns, has the sweetest, nuttiest taste and is quickly addictive making our cooked hams seem pale and anaemic in both looks and taste.
The journey took us past many marshy areas that are used to make and harvest salt, essential for the packing and export of fish from Cadiz from the earliest times, as well as extensive wind turbine farms and solar arrays. The Spanish take their alternative energy quite seriously.
|Wind turbines|| |
Old boat staves in the water (shot through train window at speed)
We take taxis from airports and stations these days, especially with luggage. It was an excellent idea in Cadiz as I don’t think we could possibly have found the hotel, buried in its little alley not much wider than a car. The hotel Argantonio was a sweet place, though our room was tiny and the suitcases had to go under the bed if we were to move around.
A quick walking tour of the city in the late afternoon found everything from a big sea-side cathedral, to the sea front walls and a sight of the distant, modern Cadiz which we never managed to visit, Roman remains such as an old theatre, plus all these long, straight, narrow calles that criss-cross the old town. This is a place with a history.
Next day we had planned a train trip to Jerez to visit a sherry bodega. Tio Pepe seemed to give the most comprehensive tour so that was where we went. They had it beautifully choreographed to move several large tour groups through the grounds and maturing halls with the sherry soleras. We saw a movie on the history of Gonzales-Byass, the Tio Pepe company, had a little train tour round the grounds, walked through the various storage places, saw barrels signed by celebrities and ended with a tasting of four different sherries. Exit through the gift shop.
They also had two stunning halls which were to be used to host weddings that night. Both looked like they accommodated several hundred guests and the decorations were being put in place as we moved through. There was also a fountain and grassed area in the gardens that was used for functions as well. Very stylish!
Pretty fountain in the gardens
Wedding hall one
Second wedding hall
We visited the cathedral in the town which was more open than usual; no grille before the altar and no choir in the nave so it felt more welcoming and had a series of small patios outside which were serene and calm.
Massive front of Jerez cathedral
Peaceful patio of the orange trees
Back in Cadiz we saw the Costa Fortuna (the very name makes me giggle) sister ship to the Costa Concordia, preparing to leave. Cadiz has always been an important port and remains so today, not just for passenger cruise lines, but they come in some numbers too. We finished the night at the local Plaza of San Francisco where we sat outside and watched the children run and play while their parents sat and ate and conversed with friends: no traffic so very safe. We also saw two brides for weddings at the church there. The second wedding finished at 10pm, just a nice time to go for a wedding dinner somewhere.
Plaza San Francisco
The museum was first on the agenda the next day and it was a very fine offering, showcasing Phonecian and Roman remains from its history on the ground floor, some pretty important Spanish art on the second floor (Zurbaran, Murillo) and some very modern Spanish art on the third floor which didn’t appeal much.
Amphorae for export. Each type of export had a different shaped amphora
Love the smile
Beautiful Roman mosaic
Then off towards the beach, passing a very nice new Paradore Hotel and walking through the carefully cultivated topiary and little fountains in the Genove Gardens to the old harbour. This is protected by two forts and has a lovely family beach between its arms. Lots of locals set up on the beaches which are not private at all in Spain, so it rather reminded me of our days at the beach as youngsters in Queensland; heaps of beach umbrellas and towels and families greeting each other and kids having a great time. We climbed over the fort of St Catalina where they were setting up for a concert under the stars, had a look from the outside at what seemed to be a beach pavilion but turned out to be an old spa (closed now) that replaced the Royal Baths, and ate under a huge spreading tree that I will swear was a Moreton Bay Fig. A beer at a beach bar completed the outing.
Beach and the old spa
Part of the St Catalina fort
The other fort
Grown up sandcastles
That evening we walked to a restaurant called Ballandro opposite a different waterfront and ate well, lobster soup and millefeuille of beef for me, scorpion fish pate and stuffed chicken breast for Nick. If you sat at the bar you had tapas: in the restaurant you ate from the menu, a very common way of dining in Spain.
Bastions near the waterfront at night
Meanwhile, at home, our little cat, Minuette, was in hospital with kidney problems. Many thanks to Shannon and Amy, our house-sitters, for looking after her so well and nursing her back to health.
Next stop: Seville