As you can see from the above photo, sometimes you just have to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm! An hour or so ago it was hot sunshine, but the high winds we’ve been suffering for a few days have dragged in the Atlantic rain and thunder and have us searching for our snorkels & flippers. But what better opportunity to put the kettle on, sharpen the pencil, and bring you up to date with the journey so far?
We’re currently just outside Tarifa, Spain’s most southerly point, sitting on an abandoned land-yacht racing track which has been adopted by the travelling community. What happened to land-yachting? I suspect it died the death when the kite-surfing craze took off; earlier we could see literally hundreds of colourful kites along the beach, with wet-suit clad fit young folks dangling – in some cases – thirty feet in the air! It’s very windy today! Before the weather closed in we were also treated to our first views of Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar which was hard (for us) to believe.
When we last shared a cuppa and a catch-up we were about to chat about Cadiz. We’d found a campsite by the beach in a town called El Puerto de Santa Maria; as you can see from the pic it’s a little way around the bay from Cadiz itself. We thought we could kill two birds with one stone and have an explore of El Puerto on our arrival day then get the ferry to Cadiz for a full day on Easter Sunday.
El Puerto de Santa Maria’s claim to fame is that it was the port from which Christopher Columbus set off on his second voyage to the Americas. It’s one of those ‘see everything in an afternoon’ little towns with a small castle and a busy centre full of fish restaurants with shopping streets radiating back from the waterfront. It was pretty busy on an Easter Saturday so we enjoyed wandering through the crowds from one artisan stall to the next with a face full of delicious mango ice-cream.
Easter Sunday saw us up and out early, pedalling like fury to get to the ferry for the 10:50 departure. Ok fair enough, it wasn’t that early. We’d meant to get the 9:00am ferry but hey – we’re on holiday so maybe somebody forgot to set the alarm, naming no names. We locked our bikes up at the quayside and boarded the catamaran for the half-hour chug down the river and across the bay. As we neared Cadiz, we sailed past one of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships which was having a quick service & MOT in the shipyard. What a size! How these things don’t tip over, I’ll never know. It looked like a city block of apartments nine or ten decks tall.
It was only a short walk from the ferry terminal to the old city, and of course our first stop was for morning coffee in the square by the cathedral, just sitting in the sun taking in the size and the grandeur of the relatively recently-built edifice. Recent as in 1722-1838. Those modern-day masons were nowhere near as good as the builders of Seville’s cathedral – the whole internal roof had netting slung beneath it to catch random bits and pieces of falling masonry. Some of the pieces caught in the netting were alarmingly large! Perhaps the bishop could have a word with M. Macron to divert some Notre Dame funds his way.
As we wandered the aisles and chapels of the cathedral we could hear the choir and the organist (as we thought) practising for the Easter service. Then to our surprise the doors shut with a big oaken boom, and a bloke in a dress wearing a funny hat started the service! There were lots of other chaps in dresses too, swinging metal handbags which appeared to be on fire. If I’d known religion was such fun I’d have been a much more regular church-goer, I can tell you!
Joking apart, and I was joking, no offence intended – the combination of deep organ music and the trained voices of the choir echoing from the vaulted ceiling was very moving. Not moving enough to bring down any rubble thankfully.
Our guidebook had mentioned what sounded like an ideal place for lunch; Freiduría Las Flores, serving pescado frito – chunks of lightly-battered fried fish, in paper cones. The idea is to grab a beer as well and stand in the sunny square getting all greasy and squiffy. However. I think most of Spain must have been using the same guidebook as the queue was enormous. In true Spanish style it was less of a queue, more of a pushing, shoving, braying crowd of sweaty tourists! What didn’t help was that after twenty minutes of fruitless arm waving and trying to attract the attention of one of the servers, we realised that there was a ticket system in operation – like at the deli counter – where you take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. When we took one, it was number 32. They were working (I use the term loosely) on order number 14. Another fifteen minutes later they were on 16 so we gave it up and, rather grumpily it has to be said, wandered off hungrily to find somewhere else.
Now, I have a friend (you know who you are) who will eat anything which comes from the sea – alive or dead – and now I think about it, any part of any animal including various unmentionable organs. This elderly fellow always recommends looking for the fish market, and eating where the old salts do for a guaranteed good-value nosh. So we found the fish market, noted that it was full of canny Spanish folks enjoying many-tentacled treats – I swear some of those treats were still wiggling. For the princely sum of €9 including beers we did manage to have our pescado frito after all, and I dare say it was of a higher standard than we’d have enjoyed back at the deli-counter. Result!
We decided we’d have our post-lunch coffees elsewhere, and wandered the narrow streets for a while just enjoying the sun and the sights until we came to the sea. So not only is Cadiz blessed with beautiful buildings, Roman ruins, great eateries and a fabulous atmosphere – it has amazing beaches too. Coffees were duly drunk, ice-cream guzzled and we waddled slowly back to the ferry terminal for a nice sit-down on the ferry home. Having the bikes waiting for us was a blessing, the road back was very flat so we were feet up and glass in hand long before the first foot soldiers made it back to camp. They probably didn’t appreciate my tip of the glass and cheery British wink. Well, one has to fly the flag, doesn’t one..?
Pip pip for now 🙂