It’s only an hour and a half away from Sevilla, but Cádiz feels like a different world away from Andalucía (which it’s still part of). It’s the old city in the whole of Western Europe as well! Situated on a peninsula that used to be an island, it used to be the gateway to the New World, and Christopher Columbus has sailed from here before (as he had also in Sevilla).
Yeah, so all this Spanish history rush finally comes during my very last city. A pity, I know. But not being so into history in the first place, I missed out on a lot in my other cities. I decided to join a walking tour here with my hostel, and learned quite a lot.
But first, I did a bit of walking on my own. I needed some food though, as it was 3 pm. I hopped into a hostel-recommended tapas bar – very authentic, all locals. So authentic that I didn’t know most of the items on the menu! In fluent Spanish, I ordered two items, one of which I had no idea about and didn’t bother to ask what it was… Whatever it was, I resolved to eat it all. Hmm, maybe it would’ve been better if I just straight up asked in touristy English! I ended up with riñones – liver. And yes, I ate it all. Didn’t like it so much. The other dish was more to my palette – cazuela de huevos, an egg-based vegetable stew.
With four hours before the walking tour started, Michael, the hostel attendant, drew out a bunch of places to visit. Beautiful coastlines, spectacular gardens with bizarrely sculpted trees, streets to walk down and plazas to see…but what was on my mind was the beach. I walked the entire city in two hours, just thinking, “I wanna go to the beach, the beach, the beach…” That probably sped things up.
There are two beaches in this town: one that stood for Havana, Cuba in the famous scene from the 007 movie Die Another Day, where Halle Berry (or rather, her body double, since the water was freezing in the February day they filmed it) famously emerged out of the water in an orange bikini. Uh, yeah, I had no idea. Nor have I actually watched the movie. But it’s famous enough here that they seem to mention it all the time… The city also bears a striking resemblance to Cuba, or so I’ve heard from people I’ve talked to. The other beach doesn’t have a film behind it, but is extremely popular nonetheless. It’s where I just sat down, tanned, and swam for awhile, despite not having a towel. Soooo relaxing.
On the walking tour, Michael took a bunch of us from the hostel and introduced the town’s (and therefore much of Spain’s) history. It’s the oldest city in Western Europe because it was founded around 1100 BC by the Phoenicians! There are a lot of ties to legends as well, which formed over the years: its famous wind and its location past the Gibraltar Strait led people to spread rumours about sea monsters. Also, Hercules has some ties here, and he features on the Andalusian flag. The cathedral was built over a period of 160 years because they ran out of money after the shipping monopoly moved back and forth to/from Sevilla…and the cathedral is thus built in three different styles, with clearly different types of material since the top half is discoloured. The city’s passed from Phoenician to Carthagian to Roman to Moorish rule, had execution plazas during the Spanish Inquisition, got rid of its bullfighting ring due to it being used as an execution spot by dictator Franco (who died and ended his rule in the 1970s). It’s been through a lot of trouble…and it still is now: the economy. One of the highest unemployment rates in the entire country of high unemployment. Ouch.
We ended our tour seeing the sunset over that pretend-Cuba beach. Beautiful.
After the tour, I hung out with Raphael (Toulouse) and Ryan (Seattle), who were also on the tour. Raphael was crazy enough to take a swim despite the heavy winds, somewhat cold water, and the lower temperature after sunset…and then have to walk half an hour all the way back to the hostel to clean up. After that, we headed out for some dinner to try the local pescaito frito…which wasn’t so great. Heh.
My stay in Cádiz was supposed to be only one day, but I received information that Tom, a friend I met while travelling in Laos last year, happened to be in Jerez in flight school! No problem staying another day for to meet him – and with Cádiz being so pleasant, no complaints either. Jerez de la Frontera is a city next to Cádiz, so we resolved to meet for lunch.
I first spent the morning at the beach with Raphael and Ryan, having read the schedule at the hostel that there would be a bus leaving at 12:10 and arriving at 1 pm. I did get to the bus station with a few minutes to spare…but what I didn’t figure out earlier was that the schedule I read was for both the bus and the train, and the train was the one leaving at 12:10! By the time I figured it out, I was watching the train leave the station… And I had one hour before the next train. Poor Tom! We did finally meet up though (thank goodness for Facebook mobile, eh?), and caught up with our stories over the past year. (Marika, Joyce, Elise – if you’re out there reading this, we missed you guys!)
There was one thing that Silvia and Oscar implored me (via Skype) to try in Jerez – the sherry. I obliged. It’s…decent, I guess? I had a dry white sherry that was sweet but a little bitter. I’m not much of a wine aficionado, and I don’t know if what I ordered was a good wine. But well, one glass of that, and a glass of tinto de verano after, was enough to make me more tipsy than I’ve ever been before… I’m a lightweight and proud!
I tried to walk around Jerez more, but I realised – it’s Sunday! Travelling really makes you lose track of time, especially the days of the week. Because it was Sunday, virtually everything was closed – a bit eerie, since the streets were nearly deserted. Having no idea where to go without a map and with the tourist information also closed, I decided to scurry back to Cádiz (nearly missing the train by like 30 seconds – I’ve been rushing around a lot!) to enjoy the beach some more. I ran into Ryan at the hostel, and we headed to the beach again, leaving when it got a little bit cold.
Cádiz is such a pleasant city, and at night as well. Just walking around the dimly streetlamp-lit streets, taking in the stately glamour and the seaside setting…it’s really quite romantic in that idyllic “European” way. I’m quite tempted to just stay here for longer, go to the beach everyday…but I can’t. I’ve already stayed longer than I meant to, even if just for a day!
It’s now been three weeks, and it’s time to leave Spain – a very hard thing to do, because I’ve fallen so much in love with this country! After seeing Latin America, I think it just made things more special to see where everything I saw there came from. I’ve enjoyed the food here immensely, and will miss heading to the tapas bars and ordering whatever I fancy – something I’ve only just gotten the hang of! The people are awesome, the setting is consistently surprising and incredible, the music and dance mesmerizing, the history is rich (and I’ve only just barely scratched the surface)…I would love to live here. Economy notwithstanding, of course!
I’ll also miss the curiosity locals and nationals tend to have when I speak Spanish – I know, that makes me a bit of a novelty, so this is a bit of a selfish observation. But I’ll really miss just speaking and hearing Spanish all the time – it’s such a lovely language, and I hope I don’t lose much in the next three months when I won’t be using it.
Next stop, Morocco, but I’ll see you again in three months, Spain – I don’t want to leave!! (I have to though, or I risk getting deported as I overstay in the Schengen area trying to visit everyone I need to, haha…) España, te amo, nos vemos!