3000 Year Old City

3000 Year Old City

Cádiz, Spain – December 24, 2011

Today we drove to Cádiz. It is known as the oldest city in Europe. We had wanted to take the ferry from Rota; however, because of it being Christmas Eve, the schedule did not allow us enough time to tour Cádiz. When we walked along the waterfront in Rota, Spain yesterday, we noticed we could see the city of Cádiz. We did not notice that the last time we were here.

Very uncharacteristically, we did not wake up today until about 08:00. After getting ourselves ready, we piled into the car at about 10:30. It was very foggy when we arrived at Cádiz at about 11:20. We parked in an underground parking garage. It was right by the cruise ship dock.

A cruise ship docked in the fog at Cádiz. 

Emerging from the garage, we crossed the street and entered the tourist information office. We picked up a brochure for walking tours that was absolutely idiot proof! A different color indicated each tour. The walking tour we chose was green. All we had to do was follow the green line painted on the ground!

The first site we came to was the Plaza de San Juan de Dios (St. John of God). City Hall is the most prominent building overlooking the Plaza. We had some coffee in our room, but nothing to eat. So, our first order of business was to find a café. We ended up at Restaurante el Sardinero (The Sardine Restaurant). We each had a coffee and a pastry. That ended up costing us 20.40€ (US$25) – OUCH! That was nothing like our little bar last night in Rota! I imagine there were two main reasons for the higher price. First, the café was right on the Plaza, near the cruise ship dock. Second, it is one of the first ones after people get off the cruise ships.

Men walking along Calle Marques de Cádiz.
Tourists trying to find their bearings. Note the green painted path on the ground.
The Cádiz City Hall at the Plaza de San Juan de Dios.
The flags flying at the city hall.
Three travelers and a poinsettia display.
People walking on Calle Pelota.

After our coffee, we continued along our green path. We saw the El Pópulo Arch and the Rosa Arch. The Rosa Arch led us into the Plaza in front of the New Cathedral. We bought tickets for our entry into the cathedral for 16€ (US$19.50), much better than the coffee! As we entered the cathedral, we heard deafening music. More on that later.

El Pópulo Arch.
The sign for La Gata Lupe.
Detail of the sign for La Gata Lupe.
Approaching the cathedral in the distance via the Rosa Arch.
The opposite side of the Rosa Arch.
The Church of St. Luke the Apostle at the Cathedral Plaza. The church dates from the 17th-century.
A panoramic view of the Cádiz Cathedral.

The cathedral was fascinating to tour. For example, in one of the side chapels, there was a huge, silver monstrance, used during the Holy Week parades. It requires 12 men to carry it. I am sure that translates to more than one-half ton of weight.

Shortly after the monstrance, we noticed a staircase going beneath the presbytery. The gate was open and accompanied by several signs, so we went down the stairs. We found ourselves standing in the circular crypt. Interred in the vaults are several bishops, the earliest dating from the mid-1700s. Also, the crypt contains some relics of Santa Victoria. Near the buried remains of Santa Victoria is a letter. The letter, dated August 24, 1816, explains the Church of Rome donated the sacred relics to Cádiz. The painted wood box, wrapped in silk contains a vial of her holy blood and some period clothing. The letter authorizes public exhibition to the faithful according to the norms of the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of August 11, 1691.

The large hymn book at the choir, opened to the Magnificat.

Panoramic view of the main aisle and altar.
The altar and the ciborium in the cathedral.
Detail of the altar and ciborium.
A decorative angel holding a thurible.
A man in contemplation near the altar and ciborium.
The entry to the crypt of the cathedral.
A portion of the circular crypt.
This statue is on an altar near the remains of St. Victoria.
A cross in the crypt.
Detail of the cross.
A private crypt chapel.
Tombs on the floor in the private chapel.
The decree for St. Victoria.
A statue of Mary under the ciborium in the cathedral.
The detail in the Chapel of St. Joseph. The painting is of Jesus and St. Joseph. The statue is Mary of course.
The monstrance used during Holy Week.
Detail of the base of the monstrance.
One of the side chapels in the cathedral.
A different entry to the crypt.
Detail of the Chapel of St. Thomas of Villanueva in the cathedral.
A holy water font.

Departing the crypt, Hillary and Tyler went outside to see what was going on in front of the cathedral.  Leslie and I continued walking through the cathedral.  When we emerged from the cathedral, we saw a large group of female dancers and a couple of male dancers.  They performed several dance numbers choreographed to popular songs.  We stood there and watched them for several minutes.

The performance on the steps of the cathedral.
The performance on the steps of the cathedral II.
The performance on the steps of the cathedral III.
The performance on the steps of the cathedral IV.

We left the Cathedral Plaza and walked toward the Church of Santa Cruz (Holy Cross), built between the 13th and 16th centuries. Continuing south, we arrived at the seawall. From there, we walked by the ruins of the Roman theater. The site was closed, so there was not much to see.

The Church of Santa Cruz (Holy Cross).
A memorial on the side of the church.
Detail of the memorial.
A cross on a dome at Plaza Fray Félix.
Detail of a streetlight base in the Plaza Fray Félix.
A cat on a terrace.
A man walking along the seawall in the fog.
A dome of the Santa Cruz Church covered with birds.
A cat entering the remains of a Roman theater.
The wall to the Roman theater in the foreground. The twin spires of the cathedral in the background.
The Arco Blanco or White Arch.
A sign for an artisan gallery near an ancient wall.
A panoramic view of the wall.

Returning to the old town section of Cádiz, we ended up on Calle Pelota. That is a busy street with many shops. Hungry, we ultimately selected Bodegon Riojano (Rioja Still Life) for lunch. We sat in the back of the restaurant. I thought the music we heard playing was Flamenco. I asked our server, Jose Luis. He said I was right; it was Flamenco de Navidad.

I asked Jose Luis about the cold, foggy weather. He said it was very unusual for this time of year. I asked him for a business card. He gave us a card and four wallet-sized calendars. After he took our order, he brought us some olives and pickled, pearl onions as a tapa. For a starter, we decided on grilled prawns. Grilled with the shells on, and sprinkled with sea salt, they were delicious! For the main course, the girls ordered beef, two different types of steak. The boys shared a paella. Now, paella has not been my favorite meal in Spain; however, I could eat this particular paella every day! It had shrimp, clams, some fish, and chicken. To go with this, Leslie and I had vino tinto; Chiton Crianza 2007 Rioja. It was good, but then we have never really found a red wine we did not like! Our lunch came to a total of 86.60€ (US$106).

Gambas de la plancha (grilled prawns).

The serving of paella.
Ready for lunch!
Our server, Jose Luis.
The banner on the right reads, God is with us. The sign advertises a 25% discount on sunglasses during the Christmas season.

From the restaurant, we walked to the store, Bengala. It is one of the stores along the side of Cathedral Plaza. We bought several souvenirs.

Leaving the store, we walked back through the Plaza de San Juan de Dios. When we got there and looked to the port, we saw another huge cruise ship. We thought about going to the car and driving back to the lodge at Rota. Instead, we decided to take a taxi to Santa Catalina Castle. If I understood the taxi driver correctly, he said the Battle of Trafalgar took place there. A bit of research confirmed Cádiz played a role in the Battle of Trafalgar; however, it seems no battle occurred at Cádiz.

The Christmas tree in the Plaza of San Juan de Dios.
The view from under the Christmas tree.
Another cruise ship docked while we walked around the city.

Walking through the castle, we saw numerous art shows on exhibit. Work on the Castillo de Santa Catalina began in 1597. The castle hosted a military presence and a prison. The Spanish Ministry of Defense used the castle up until 1991.

The entry to Castillo de Santa Catalina (St. Catherine’s Castle).
The chapel at Santa Catalina. It dates from 1693.
The interior of the chapel.
The entry to the gallery.
The waterfront as seen from Santa Catalina.
A panoramic view toward Castillo de San Sebastian.
One of the turrets.
The Atlantic Ocean as seen from Santa Catalina.
A Santa Catalina photo op. At least 33% of the group is worn out.
A seagull atop a turret.
Detail of the seagull.
Hillary getting ready to capture the moment.
Everyone has eyes on the seagull.
Leather artwork at Santa Catalina.
Leather artwork at Santa Catalina II.
Leather artwork at Santa Catalina III.
Leather artwork at Santa Catalina IV.
Detail of the leather map.
Detail of the leather map II.
Delatex 2 by Francisco Galeote Gonzalez.
Muy Fragil II by Blanca del Rio Oriol.
A painting of ceramics.
Another painting of ceramics.
Garden sculpture and a visitor.
Old urns on display.
A Phonecian capital, possibly from Castillo de San Sebastian.

We left the castle and walked to the taxi stand. At the taxi stand was an enormous tree. Actually, there were two trees. We asked the driver what kind of trees they were. He said they were ficus trees. He also said they were about 100 years old.

A sculpture near Santa Catalina.
Detail of the sculpture.
Seagulls on the seawall.
View toward the city from Santa Catalina.
The 100-year old ficus tree. Note the columns helping to support one of the branches.
A panorama of the base of the tree.


One thing that surprised us in Cadiz was the number of German tourists we ran into while we walked around the city. Maybe they were all off the cruise ships we saw in the port. They were kind; we were just surprised by the numbers.

The taxi took us back to our parking garage. Many of the garages in Spain have lighting above the parking spaces. If a parking space is occupied, the light is red. If it is available, the light is green. That makes it very easy to find a place to park. From the garage, which cost 9.90€ (US$12), we drove back to the lodge at Rota. We arrived at about 18:00. Leslie went to the NEX (Navy Exchange) to play Santa for us tomorrow! We shall see!

A parking garage with indicator lights.

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