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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!