9. Cadiz

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Apr 16th, 2011
9. Cadiz

Tuesday 22 March
Up very early; the ship’s blurb says we will arrive at 7am, so I rush up to the topmost deck at the front of the ship to see the land appear. The full moon is still high in the deep-blue sky and distant lights on land are already in view. It’s cold on deck with a fresh wind and I’m glad I put on my fleece jacket. Nobody else around at this hour, even the swabbers are not yet swabbing.

Full moon from the top deck

Closer in, and the pilot’s launch comes chopping out to meet us. As we go between the arms of the harbour walls, we seem to be sailing right into the centre of the town. Which in fact we are; two little tug-boats fuss around the Melody as we move closer and the town is slowly lit up as if someone is stage-lighting a beautiful set. The moon pales and the white marble cathedral and ornate buildings take over in the luminous morning. It’s going to be a lovely day.

Sailing into Cadiz - moon still up in the sky

Somehow the crew has managed to lower the height of the hatchway out onto the gangplank; I’m wearing a hat, so I don’t notice this and whack my forehead so hard I crick my neck. Fortunately the lintel is padded so I don’t have to be carried off in a stretcher. After several passengers coming after me do the same, one of the crew eventually moves over to stand by and warn the taller people.
The wharf is within a stone’s throw of the bustling morning traffic, and there just outside the port gates is a red hop-on-hop-off city tour bus. We opt for this as there is a whole day to explore Cadiz, and this is a quick way to get an overview of all the best spots. Bernard and Terry (the Irish couple from the St Helena taxi) are already on the top deck so we join them.
The bus has an English commentary one can plug earphones into, so we get a quick rundown of what’s what.
Cadiz is one of the oldest cities in Europe, we find; since time immemorial is has traded with all other continents facing the Atlantic.
The city is surprisingly small – the old part anyway, which occupies a spur of land that sticks out into the ocean. There is a walled central town around the harbour, with old battlements recently re built after someone in the arsenal blew most of them up (says the commentary).

Streets of Cadiz

After getting off the bus where we got on – right in front of the Melody – we walk into the city centre, through pretty streets punctuated with plazas and proud men on pedestals and often, built into the corner of a building, a little statue of a saint or a madonna. Streets are cobbled, there are lots of ornate wrought iron balconies on the apartment windows above our heads. The citizens are busy going about its weekday business. This is a university town and there are lots of students and young people about as well.
Fashion note, ladies: winter wear here is boots, (high heeled or flat) leggings or opaque pantihose, and short wool miniskirts (sometimes denim), worn with short trench coat or leather jacket. A scarf and a large handbag is important. Jeans if worn must be the skinny kind that can be worn with boots, which can be knee-high, calf or ankle length.
We reach the end of a crowded shopping street and there is the big gleaming white cathedral with the dome which can be seen from far out to sea. Stop for coffee in the square. Bells ring out the hours. The entire plaza, say the notices all round, is a free Wi-Fi zone, courtesy of the municipality of Cadiz. Darn, we should have brought our laptops……

Cadiz Cathedral

Behind the cathedral is the sea, a lovely sweep of bay to left and right.

 

We wander some more, guided by a small tourist map. We stumble upon a market square and a large covered market. This is the opposite of the market in Dakar. Airy and well lit, clean a pin, there is a riot of colour and texture with neatly-laid out stalls each with temping displays of fresh fruit, vegetables, chocolates, cakes, bread, cheeses beyond imagining. Acres of gleaming fresh fish, octopus, lobsters, shellfish, squid, etc. Asparagus is in season, bundles of the thin green shoots everywhere on sale – must be the first local veg of spring. Spanish housewives are buying produce for the midday meal, popping their purchases into little shopping bags on wheels that they drag along behind them. Mouths watering, we step out on the other side of the covered market and find an ancient little stone built church. Inside it is decorated with spectacular gold-leaf everywhere; one side-apse has an elaborate Jesus Joseph & Mary tableau wearing jewelled crowns and dressed like royalty in rich brocades and velvet and cloth of gold. I see the first electronic votive candles ever – put your Euro here in the slot and one of the little ‘candle’ bulbs lights up for half an hour.

Seafront behind the Cathedral - note the cycle lanes

We continue, wandering more or less in the direction of the Museo de Cadiz, which we find on one side of a spacious plaza lined with plane trees not yet in bud. It is closed for the siesta hour, so we take note and stroll around to look for a spot of lunch ourselves. But first we must get some cash so we look for a bank. They grudgingly change US$50 for 27 Euros!!!!  (should have been about Eur.35) Daylight robbery. We choose a nice little church square near the museum and sit outside in the half-warm sun. Mystified by the Spanish menu, we plump for what looks like a lunch ‘special’ for 10 Euros. The waiter brings a large platter loaded with enough deli meats to stock the counter of Pick & Pay, and a few slices of cheese. This along with a basket full of bread is our lunch, and we struggle but can’t finish it.

Having big lunch in the little plaza

While eating the church bells chime and we watch the schoolkids being fetched by their parents, all very well-dressed and fashionable. Cadiz is a neat, self-possessed, well-run city.
The museum is pretty good too, it has phoenician archeological finds and traces of an ancient Atlantic culture. (surely the city didn’t only grow up here because the fishing was good, I wonder. Did it once trade with the vanished island of Atlantis maybe…?) On the ground floor there are two incredible marble sarcophagi from phoenician times, and lots of roman artefacts, coins, fine jewellery and astonishingly fine gold chain. Even a beautiful pale green aladdin’s lamp made of glass which was estruscan or something, 2000 years old.

Upstairs is the art collection, but is mostly 18th century religious paintings, endless madonnas-and-child, crucifixions, annunciations and adorations. There is a small modern section at the top which is okay but not spectacular.

The Melody is in town!

We return, quite reluctantly to the ship at the instructed hour, 6pm, to find that we will be passing through the Straits of Gibraltar in the middle of the night, therefore will see nothing at all!! So disappointed…! How could they do that to a shipload of sightseeing passengers….?
In the night the sea is very rough, probably caused by going through the strong currents of the tiny gap between two continents. The waves crash onto the side of the ship a few feet from our heads.
In the morning the weather is distinctly cold and blustery, and for the first time the sliding roof over the aft pool deck is cranked all the way closed during breakfast. Under our cabin door comes the ‘interim’ bill for all the drinks and internet bandwidth etc. consumed during the trip so far. There is also an ‘obligatory’ US$12 per day each (!) service charge to be contended with as well.
This is our last full day at sea; tomorrow we put in to Barcelona, and our final port of call will be the day after – the ship’s home port of Genoa, Italy. After which we will be able to take advantage of  better internet connections, and start our land-based schedule of work-on-the-go.

 

2 Comments

  • Peter

    20 Apr 2011
    Reply

    What a nice place, Cadiz ! And you’ve been so lucky with the weather ! Blue skies everywhere. You’ve definitely brought the african weather with you, because as I write this, the southern part of Europe has been in full summer temperatures for weeks now, and not a drop of rain. 25°C in Paris today, and luckily for the kids too, it’s school holidays. Hopefully you’ll be needing aircon in Florence !

  • Connie

    23 Apr 2011
    Reply

    Sounds fab – Captain Aubrey knew it well of course!

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