Tuesday 11 June 2019 – Thursday 13 June 2019 Cadiz – Vejer de la Frontera- Tarifa- Gibraltar
We decided to park at a car park by the banks of the Guadalete River in El Puerto de Santa Maria, which is 10 kilometres north east of Cadiz.
From here it is a lovely 30-minute ferry ride to Cadiz. Cadiz is a town on the Atlantic coast and is generally considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Europe, founded as Gadir by the Phoenicians in about 1100 BC. It stands on a peninsula jutting out into the Bay of Cadiz and is almost entirely surrounded by water.
Late in the afternoon, we arrived at the ferry terminal only to find the ferry wasn’t running due to high winds and had been replaced by a bus. We decide to go anyway and strolled through the historic city centre along narrow cobblestoned streets until we found Freiduria Las Flores restaurant. We sat outside, ordered surtido (a traditional mixed fry-up of the local seafood) and drinks and watched the world go by. The food was delicious, dogfish was something we had never tried before, and the experience was wonderful.
The next morning, as the winds had died down, we finally caught the ferry to Cadiz. It was a novel way of travelling into a city, seeing it from the water, and it was beautiful.
Free Walking Tour
We headed to Plaza de San Juan de Dios which was built on land reclaimed from the sea. Overlooking the Plaza is Ayuntamiento, the city town hall and was constructed in two stages, the first in 1799, the latter in 1861.
This is where our tour began. We walked around Cadiz Old Town and saw:
Arco de los Blancois, a vestige of an ancient Roman gate which was the main entrance into the medieval quarter.
Oyster stone which the city of Cadiz seems largely built from. This is basically a pile of shells bound together with ground up shell and maybe a little brown sand. The rock is porous and holds moisture in summer and remains dry in the wet season. No wonder they used oyster stone to build the old city of Cadiz.
Avendia Campo del sur a waterfront promenade where the Atlantic Ocean meets the shores of Cadiz with amazing views of the cathedral and mosque. Like with any city in Europe there is an old city and the modern city.
The waterfront of old Cadiz is stunning with its brightly painted houses and beautiful lamp posts. It is said the painted houses were to lure the men home from the sea.
The Cadiz locals (who are known for their sense of humour) call the new city “Cadifornia” because of its high-rise buildings and sandy beaches.
Parroquia de Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz Parish Church formerly the Cathedral) is the oldest church in the city and was built on the site of an old Muslim mosque. The outside is very simple because it was stripped of elements to decorate the New Cathedral.
Inside is a different story, there are the arches which show the beauty created for the original mosque, the beautiful gilded altar and the statue of the ‘Black Jesus’.
During the attacks on the city in the 16th century, the statue was removed from the church and hidden. When they found the statue in 1960 it had unfortunately been damaged from a fire. Hence the Black Jesus. At the time, it was politically incorrect to have a Black Jesus in a procession, so they used makeup on the face and hands to make them appear white. The Cadiz locals refer to this statue as the Michael Jackson statue.
Teatro Romano de Cadiz was built in around 70BC. It consisted of an amphitheatre and theatre and was rediscovered entirely by accident in 1980 under the El Populo district. The digs have unearthed part of the theatre and it is believed to be the oldest and one of the largest on the Iberian Peninsula. The most monumental area of the complex, the stage and the portico behind it, have not been unearthed and their ruins remain hidden under the El Populo neighbourhood.
El Arco de la Rosa (The Rose Arch) is the old gate carved into the walls of medieval Cádiz next to the cathedral. These walls and the gate were built during the reign of Alfonso X. The gate is named after Captain Gaspar de la Rosa, who lived in the City in the 18th Century. The gate has an old cannon on one corner, a remnant of the Napoleonic siege of the city. These cannons can be found on the corners of buildings in narrow street to save the houses and buildings from damage by passing vehicles.
New Cathedral is an impressive Roman Catholic church built between 1722 and 1838. The Cathedral has two towers representing the two winds, Poniente (a warm, dry westerly or north westerly wind blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean) and Levante (an easterly wind that blows in from the western Mediterranean Sea and southern France). It is capped by a dome of golden tiles.
Plaza de las Flores in the heart of the historic and traditional city is filled with flower shops. The colours of the different flowers and the aroma they exude is quite lovely. The guide pointed out a number of windows in the houses here were concreted. Like many European towns, there used to be a tax on how many windows you had. So, the owners chose to fill in some of their windows to save on paying the outlandish tax.
The city’s unique access to the sea and strategic location just west of the Strait of Gibraltar is the reason why Cadiz has some many watchtowers. The towers were built to scout for ships coming into port. The ships would signal the towers with coloured flags, indicating what food and wares they needed. The merchants of Cadiz would then have the goods ready for them when they reached shore. By 1777, the city of Cadiz had 160 watchtowers. Today, 126 remain.
Mercado Central is a covered place in the Plaza de la Libertad. It has a variety of meats, fish, fruits and local produce. On the outside of the building are small tapas bars where you can find an assortment of dishes to eat. At lunchtime it was standing room only.
Barro de La Vina was inhabited by popular classes that depended on the fishing activity of the beach of La Caleta. The main street in the neighbourhood is the Virgen de la Parma. The street is relatively wide and straight and begins at the parish of Our Lady of Palma and leads directly to the beach of La Caleta. This small church built halfway through the 18th century. Its patron saint, Our Lady of La Palma, is popularly attributed with the miracle of stopping the water before the church during the 1755 tsunami. On the street is a plaque which shows the level of the flood waters and the history of this event.
Playa La Caleta is a small white sandy beach located between two old forts: Castillo de Santa Catalina and Castillo de San Sebastian which protected the city. This is where Christopher Columbus set sail twice on his exploration voyages and this is where our 2-hour guided tour of Cadiz finished. It was a great way to see the various neighbourhoods of the Old Town.
We then visited the two forts.
Castillo de San Sebastian is a fortress at the end of La Caleta beach on a small island separated from the main city. The castle was built in 1706 and was initially accessed by drawbridges. In 1860 one of the drawbridges was replaced with the current pier which connects the island with the urban centre. We walked through an old gate out to the end of the pier to wander around the fort only to find it is closed for refurbishment. We had a nice stroll back along the pier.
Castillo de Santa Catalina is built on a rocky outcrop that reaches out to the sea. It was built in 1596 with cannons used to ward off the British and Dutch invaders. It has an Italian style star shaped floor plan, with two bastions and a moat and served as a military prison. Today it is a major cultural and recreational space, including art and craft workshops and temporary exhibition halls.
In the hall there is a display on La Explosion de Cadiz in 1947. The explosion of a naval ammunition depot (which stored 1,565 underwater mines, 596 depth charges and 41 torpedoes from 1942 -1943) occurred due to heat and passage of time and resulted in 150 deaths and 10,000 injured. It is a very graphic display which pays tribute to the victims and those who helped.
Cadiz has a completely different feel to it than Seville. The streets are generally pedestrianised and smaller and so is the city.
We left Cadiz the next morning for our lunch time rendezvous in Vejer de la Frontera on our way to Tarifa.
Vejer de la Frontera
Vejer as it commonly known is a white village perched high above the steep gorge on the right bank of the river Barbate. The town is surrounded by orchards and orange groves. It contains several ancient churches and convents, and the architecture of many of its houses recalls the period of Moorish rule, which lasted from 711 until the town was captured in 1248.
On our way to the restaurant El Jardin Del Califa, we walked up the steep incline to the top of the hill at the end of the walled enclosure and passed the Door of Sancho IV. Just above the arch is a Baroque nobility shield. Through the gate entrance in the wall is Casa del Mayorazgo, a manor house in the baroque style, dating from the eighteenth century. It has a beautiful patio area and the house is open to the public.
After leisurely strolling through the maze of steep cobblestone streets, climbing some stairs and then down again lead us into Plaza de Espana, the town square. It is absolutely stunning with palm trees, a wonderful old fountain with traditional ceramic Andalusian frogs, which spout water high into the air, thus forming a fountain and posts and benches adorned with tiles.
We found El Jardin del Califa in the heart of Vejer’s medieval quarter. The Jardin del Califa is inspired by the Moorish rule of Vejer over 700 years ago and is set in one of Vejer’s historic buildings dating back to 1527. To get to the courtyard we descended a small circular stairwell passing stone clad dining rooms and a wine cellar. Finally arriving at the bottom, we were met with an amazing site. A palm filled courtyard with tables covered in ceramic designs and metal chairs which immediately provided a Middle Eastern vibe. To accompany this, we had a delightful couple of culinary creations made with locally grown products, based on Arab-Andalusian tradition.
The food was delicious, the scenery stunning and the company exceptional. Vejer is one of the prettiest towns in Spain we have visited.
From here we drove to the small town of Tarifa atthe southernmost part of continental Europe and at the narrowest point between Europe and Africa. We arrived to find the motorhome aires we intended staying at has been closed with no indication if and when it will reopen. After finding a park in the street we went in search of the tourist office to find out information on an organised tour to Tangier in Morocco. We decided this would be the best way to gain an idea of taking the motorhome over next year. Unfortunately, we were unable to obtain enough information and the possibility of where to leave the motorhome, so we opted to head for Gibraltar for an overnight stay at the marina where we parked last year when we visited Gibraltar. We will investigate Morocco when we get back home to have a better understanding of where to go next year.
The next morning, we drove to Ronda.