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Give me any old excuse to visit Cádiz and I’ll race you to the bus stop. Said to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in western Europe at five thousand years, it sure must be one of the most beautiful. All that just an hour’s ride from our adopted home of Conil de la Frontera.
So, when the opportunity cropped up the other day, I was off like a shot. And what was any old excuse, this time? Let me see. Well, spring is one of the best times to visit, as far as the weather’s concerned. Not too cold and not too hot, it’s just right. Goldilocks would have thrived here in spring.
Anji certainly had two and a half very good reasons to go. She had a portrait to deliver to a client, that meant money. And two friends wanted to meet up with her before returning to Barcelona. Oh, and she needed a couple of pencils from the art shop in Plaza de la Mina. That’s only half an excuse because they sell perfectly adequate pencils in Conil. And my final excuse was? Well, someone had to go with her, of course.
The client loved the portrait, so we were free to wander wherever the fancy took us. After Anji’s friends queued more than half an hour to buy their railway tickets, that is. Though they got a bit hot under the collar, having lived in this part of the world fo some time now, I’m used to waiting. Andalucia in a nutshell. A ‘if it’s not worth waiting for it’s not worth having’ sort of place. It teaches you how little some things, you used to think you needed, are really worth.
Most tourists don’t stray too far from Plaza de Catredal. But that’s no excuse not to go there. Unless there are cruise liners in town, when it’s all clicking cameras, khaki shorts and wrinkly knees.
There are often little concerts outside the cathedral, and sometimes bigger ones. At carnival a stage is erected for the many acts to perform.
But there’s a whole lot more to the city than churches and a cathedral. The little knifegrinders shop in the photo above, for a start.
I love the old shop signs, which are fast disppearing. The sandwich shop pictured below caught my eye for a second. Must serve some pretty precious sandwiches with all those bars on the window. Funnily enough, I’ve never felt as safe in a city as I do in Cádiz, or felt more at home. The restaurants and bars are good, and mostly cheap. The beaches are golden and the sea is deep blue, where it’s not turquoise.
While the others went into the art shop for pencils I slipped into a shady bar advertising beer for one euro a glass. Shady indeed. it was so dark I could hardly see when I stepped in from the street. But my eyes soon adjusted to discover a Moroccan outpost of textiles, cushions and comfy nooks. It was wonderful. In no time at all, the landlady began chatting to me as though we’d known each other for years. Typical Cádiz, or Gaditana, as the women are known. Always welcoming, always friendly. The men are known as Gaditanos, not to be confused with Gitano, which means gypsy.
Plaza San Antonio may not be the biggest square in Cádiz, but the sparsity of trees makes it feel that way. It’s a bit of a meeting spot for parents. They chat while their toddlers play. Arts and crafts markets are held here at various times of year, as well as other events
Another great thing about Cádiz, while I’m on about great things about Cádiz, is its narrow, shady streets of tall buildings. Great because they break the strong el levante winds, and great because they help keep the city that little bit cooler over the sweltering summers. And great because, well, they’re great, and because they look great.
Filled with lots of shady trees and marble benches Plaza de la Mina is home to Cádiz museum. it’s also where the art shop is, and just round the corner from the Moroccan style bar in callé Enrique de las Marinas, or calle del Fideo, depending which street name plaque you prefer to believe, as one is placed above the other.
We meandered along the lanes and alleys this way and that, without any real purpose, other than to drink it all in. You can’t really get lost in old Cádiz. If you walk more or less in a straight line in any direction you will soon come to the sea, as it’s an island.
With the last bus home to Conil leaving at 9pm, it was all to soon to be heading home, but we had to and take our leave of the friends from Barcelona till we meet again in a few months.
Copyright © 2013 Bryan Hemming
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