We have spent 3 weeks exploring Jerez de la Frontera and felt it was time to spread our wings. The city of Cádiz, home port to the Spanish Armada (navy), beckoned and is just a short 30-minute train ride south.
The 16th and 17th centuries were golden years for Cádiz as its port became the main commercial port for trade with the Americas. Today, on the opposite side of the Bay of Cádiz, sits the large joint Spanish-American naval base of Rota.
Cádiz is located on the Atlantic Ocean in the Andalusian region of southwestern Spain and is Spain’s oldest continuously inhabited city, settled more than 3100 years ago. Historical records claim that the city was established around 1100 BCE, by the Phoenicians. In the Museum of Cádiz they have on display two white marble Phoenician sarcophagi dating back to 470-400 BCE. The male sarcophagus was found in 1887 where the Cádiz shipyards are today and a female sarcophagus was found in the area a hundred years later.
You may have heard of the Pillars of Hercules in Greek mythology. Some say the two mountains on either side of the Strait of Gibraltar are the Pillars of Hercules, however, the city of Cádiz claims that there were in fact two massive pillars and that the true Pillars of Hercules existed in this city. In either case, tradition says the Pillars bore the warning ne (or non) plus ultra “nothing further beyond” and served as a warning to sailors to go no further west. The Pillars of Hercules are represented in the Spanish coat of arms, which is also on the Spanish flag.
Upon arriving we became concerned when we walked out of the train station and spotted 3 large cruise ships in port. Luckily the bus tours had departed and the city was not as crowded as we expected. The only exception was at the Cádiz Cathedral. Although taking photos was forbidden, we did choose to pay the entrance fee to visit the church, museum and crypt.
As much as paying entrance fees helps toward the cost of renovating these glorious old cathedrals, and this one definitely needs renovation, we felt that if you were to miss this Cathedral, there are far more impressive Cathedrals and churches elsewhere in Cádiz, Andalucía and Spain to visit. The façade of the Cathedral, however, has elegant concave features and two lovely and completed pillars (unlike the Cathedrals in Málaga and Granada).
An upside to having cruise ships in port is that the plazas are alive with talented street artists. An engaging and accomplished jazz guitarist kept us thoroughly entertained during our late lunch break. We were enjoying his music so much we forgot to take his photo but we did take a picture of a beautifully dressed flamenco dancer performing in a nearby plaza.
The best way to explore Cádiz is by foot. There are a choice of four ingenious self guided walking tours taking you through different parts of the city. Each path is color coded (purple, green, orange and blue) and marked on a walking map as well as with a colored stripe painted directly on the street making it incredibly easy to follow. Each colored path takes you on a different journey through the city and if you took the time to do each tour, you would see most of what this city has to offer. For example, Cádiz is called the City of Towers and the purple walking tour takes you past some of the 160+ watchtowers. The watchtowers were built not only to watch for the arrival of the merchants ships, but were also meant to symbolize the prosperity of this city.
During our walk we came across the outstanding Monument to the Constitution of 1812 that can be found in the Plaza de España. This monument, built between 1912 and 1929, is large and magnificent. It definitely compares in size and grandeur with another of our favorites, the Girondins Monument in Bordeaux, France.
The Alameda Apodaca was a beautiful promenade in the center of the historic district in Cádiz. Ideal for a stroll beneath the amazing rubber trees and along the broad geometric patterned cobblestone street. There were fountains and statues throughout but the striking Monument to the Marques de Comillas caught our attention. The seawall has sturdy but intricate looking lamp posts installed along the way and the views of the Baluarte de la Candelaria are not to be missed. Such a lovely city to stroll in, relax and enjoy the sea air.
Iglesia del Carmen
The Church of Carmen, located in front of the Baluarte de la Candelaria is heavenly. Although closed during our visit, seeing just the exterior was sufficient. This church is eye-catching with the exterior body of the church painted in white and the architectural details uniquely highlighted in shades of pink.
Iglesia Conventual de Santo Domingo (Cádiz del Rosario)
Exactly opposite to the Cathedral of Cádiz, the Convent of Our Lady of the Rosary or Church of Santo Domingo is far smaller than the cathedral and, without the beautiful baroque entrance, the exterior is fairly unassuming. However once inside, the church is magnificent. The altar has striking red and black marble columns and the entire ceiling was completely white with beautiful lace-like patterns adorning it.
Cádiz has numerous parks where exotic plants flourish, including giant trees supposedly brought to Spain by Columbus from the New World. Columbus made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain. He set sail from Cádiz on this day, September 24, 1493, exactly 525 years ago as of this writing, on his second voyage to the New World.
We were able to stroll through the peaceful Parque Genovés gardens where there is more than 100 species of trees and shrubs. The beautifully sculpted shrubs and trees were a pleasant surprise to see.
Museo de Cádiz
This lovely museum houses both the archaeological museum and the fine arts museum. We may have seen similar pieces in other archaeological museums but some of the delicate glass vessels, intricate jewellery and tiles really stood out. And of course the two white marble sarcophagi, mentioned previously, were outstanding.
As always, the fine arts museum was enjoyable to peruse. There are paintings dating back to the early 16th century and as recent as the 20th century. One large room housed an interesting collection of antique puppets. We both agreed this museum was engaging and worth a visit.
Castillo de Santa Catalina
This Castillo was built in 1598 using bastion fortifications, or star shaped walls, common to the times. Although currently being restored we were able to spend a couple of hours exploring it. In one set of rooms we found a wonderful art exhibit. The artist painted enchanting cartoon figures ‘playing’ in the city. In another room were archaeological finds. Walking the perimeter of the Castillo provides wonderful views of both the water and the shoreline of the city behind you.
The first written records of this area show the Phoenicians named their settlement Gadir, meaning fortress. The Berger’s named it Agadir. The Greeks named it Gadeira. The Romans named it Gades and to this day the locals are referred to as ‘Gaditanos’. During the 500 years when the Moors ruled the city they named it Qādis. The Moors were ousted by Alfonso X of Castile in 1262 and the name changed once again to the present day spelling of Cádiz.
Although we only spent a day in Cádiz, for the purpose of our salutation, we are claiming temporary status, so ….
Salud from the Gaditanos,
Ted and Julia