Christmas in Spain 2019 – Days 8-9: Cádiz

We started our first full day in Cádiz off with our usual healthy breakfast of yogurt, fruit and granola then headed out into the sunshine to start exploring. We’ve lucked out totally with the weather thus far and all the days have been clear blue sky days with lots of sunshine. I’ve found the temperatures just about perfect for exploring in a t-shirt although Marie and Caitlin have started most days off bundled up in their parkas. For today we’re going to follow a route that Marie found online somewhere that will take us on a walking tour of the must-see sights of old town Cádiz. Turned out that some were closed, some were not really must-see after all and some were pretty cool.

First up was the Plaza de San Juan de Dios. It’s a very picturesque plaza fronting onto the ocean and ringed by the town hall and a bunch of other stately old buildings. There’s the requisite outdoor cafes and locals doing locally things along with assorted statues and children chasing pigeons. It’s yet another example of something that Europe does really well – plazas and squares everywhere. Most days we’d probably linger for a coffee or a beer in a plaza like this but we were just starting our day of exploring so we made tracks for the next spot on our list.

Up next was one of the highlights of the day – the Roman theatre – or at least the little part of it that still remains and isn’t buried under modern buildings. Cádiz is a very old city (one of the oldest in all of Europe) and traces its roots back to the Carthaginians… there’s not much remaining of that period of Cádiz’s history but wherever Carthage went you can be sure Rome followed and there’s a little bit more left of Rome. They’ve done a nice job of preserving the remnants of this theatre, which was one of the largest in the Empire and could apparently seat 10,000 people. All that remains now are a few rows of seats and some of the behind the scenes barrel-vaulted tunnels. There’s also a decent little interpretive centre with the requisite history, illustrations and explanations. It’s all free to enter and well worth the half hour or so you’ll spend here.

Our next destination was definitely the highlight – Cádiz Cathedral. Built in the 1700s it’s modelled after the much older basilica style churches (think St. Marks in Venice or the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul) with huge rounded dome ceilings and lots of thick marble columns, etc. They charge €6 each (I think Caitlin was a couple euros cheaper because she’s a student) but that includes an audio-guide to the cathedral which was quite informative and interesting. The crypts beneath the cathedral look like they were only recently developed and most of the tombs seemed to date from the early 20th century onward. There’s also the obligatory bell tower offering sweeping views of the city. Caitlin appreciated the fact that this one wasn’t reached via the usual narrow winding staircase of death that gives her heart palpitations every time but was instead a completely safe and civilized ramp. The views from the top were quite spectacular and the look on Marie’s face when the bells started ringing right beside her head was absolutely priceless. There are a bunch of wooden stalls set up in front of the cathedral selling the usual range of souvenirs and handcrafted stuff… Caitlin was not amused that we chose to go into the cathedral first thinking we could wander through the stalls afterwards only to discover they’d all closed up while we were inside. One thing we have noticed is that shops keep odd hours in Cádiz with some open for a couple of hours in the morning and then closed most of the day only to reopen for a couple of hours in the evening and others seemingly opening and closing whenever they feel like it.

After the cathedral we decided to grab some snacks at a 100 Montaditos – as usual the food was far from gourmet but is cheap and not overly heavy so it’s kind of perfect for a mid-day snack when you’re out exploring. And, most importantly, their beers are consistently very cheap and very cold! The pigeons in the square seem to be doing very well off the leftovers and are some of the fattest – and least fearful of humans – we’ve ever seen. You definitely don’t want to leave your food unattended or it’ll be snatched up right away. So far we’re about 3 sights into our list of 12-15 places we’re hoping to visit today so we’ve got some ground to cover… So we shouldered our day packs and headed back onto the road… or street… or whatever… we started walking again.

Up next was the Cádiz Mercado (Market)… It was closed. By this point I think it was early afternoon so we’re not really sure what the hours of the market are. It seemed we just missed it as some of the stalls were still in the process of cleaning up… Perhaps we’ll try again tomorrow morning.

From the Mercado we made our way the short distance to Tavira Tower which features great views of the city and a camera obscura thingy that somehow lets you see the whole city at once via some kind of panoramic lenses… We’ll never really know. Marie and Caitlin decided that it wasn’t a must-see after all while I was in the washroom so we hoofed it to our next destination – San Sebastián Castle.

This was a bit of a trek from the tower and we weren’t sure if it would even be open by the time we got there but decided we’d chance it as we could at least see the ocean even if the castle was closed. The castle is reached by a long breakwater walkway that is quite scenic in its own right offering up nice views of the city from the water. It’s good that the walk out to the castle is as scenic as it is because the castle is temporarily closed… which if I understood someone’s explanation in Spanish correctly, it has been for 2 years… Go figure. The walk out is actually so nice that it really didn’t bother us that the castle itself was closed… See, we’re already in chill, relaxed holiday mode.

By the time we made the trek back to land, it was coming up on dinner time (our North American dinner time) and we thought about calling it a day but realized we were pretty close to the next sight on our list – Santa Catalina castle. This one is right on shore and was, surprisingly, still open when we got to it so we headed on in. Caitlin, who just spent a week in England and Wales where everything looks like a castle, was decidedly unimpressed. I was confused. It was built in the early 1700s to protect a little cove from seaward attacks but didn’t really seem all that fortified for something that could be shelled by ships’ cannons… It had the usual murder holes (narrow slits which allow those on the inside to shoot at you while making it hard for you to shoot back at them) and probably had some whopping great cannons at one time but now it was pretty ho hum… They’ve turned some of the interior spaces into art display areas but there’s not much in the way of interpretive information or real historic interest (and I say this as a major history nerd).

From the “castle” we headed a little further along the water to another stop on the list – Genoves Park. It has ponds. And quite a few unique trees. And apparently concrete dinosaurs… And birds. It also had this massive glass and concrete entrance structure that was apparently funded with EU dollars that has been completely abandoned. It was quite strange. And by this point in the day, concert dinosaurs and trees were holding about as much appeal as watching paint dry so we boogied out of there pretty quick. We all had a good laugh at Marie’s comment that they name their trees, though, and started to referring to each tree as “there’s Bob” or “I think that’s Martha over there…” She’d meant to say that they labeled each of the trees with their scientific names but Caitlin and I weren’t passing up this chance for a laugh and “Bob” and “Martha” it was.

After the park we sort of meandered our way in the general direction of our apartment and happened to come across another Cádiz sight that wasn’t on the list – Teatro Falla – it’s a 1930s concert hall theatre that looks very spectacular on the inside but we had to make do with seeing it from the outside as it was shut up tight. From there we eventually made our way back to the apartment… By this point we’d walked a solid 500 miles or so (at least that’s what my feet thought) but Caitlin still had the energy to do some clothes shopping at some of the stores Spain has that we don’t have back home (she assures me that Spain and Europe have much better middle-value clothing options than we have in BC)… I waited patiently outside the first shop and then decided that I would head to my new favourite watering hole (O’Connell’s) and wait for them. I gave Marie clear instructions as to how to get to O’Connell’s from where they were (it was 350 metres and involved exactly 4 turns) and agreed that they’d meet me in about an hour… They got spectacularly lost… Somehow they managed to eventually find their way to the bar and we headed out to find something to eat… By this point it was well after 10pm and a lot of the places had called it quits for the day and we weren’t super hungry so we settled on a tapas place not far from our apartment. It was the first poor meal we’ve had on this trip. Caitlin had a plate of french fries with “broken eggs” and ham on top – the potatoes were so bad she’s sworn off potatoes for the next while. I had a salad that was not that bad but Marie’s salad basically came drowned in 1000 Island salad dressing and was pretty inedible. We ate what we could and then headed to the apartment pretty worn out after a long day of walking and exploring.

Our second full day in Cádiz started with a pretty late sleep-in followed by a late breakfast at a local cafe. Caitlin had a delicious smoked salmon eggs Benedict while I had scrambled eggs and Marie had an omelette. The food this time was much better than last night’s sad excuse for cuisine. After breakfast (which was really more like brunch) we headed to the Market again to see if it was open – it was… And we really shouldn’t have eaten before we got there because it’s packed full of delicious looking food stalls and we were all filled up after breakfast. From the market we explored a couple more parks that had been on our list from yesterday, had tapas and beer at yet another little square, did some more shopping and spent some down time just hanging out back at the apartment. For dinner tonight, Marie had found a place online that had really good reviews so we made the 2km walk to what turned out to be a great find. It’s called Isleta de la Vina ( and it’s this funky, quirky sort of hipster place that serves amazing dishes that are beautifully plated. Marie did have to send her chicken dish back because it was still clucking (very underdone) but otherwise it was a delicious meal… my pork cheeks on potato purée was delicious and Marie’s chicken and black sesame dish ended up being fantastic. The chocolate ganache we all shared was equally tasty and visually appealing. In all, tonight’s meal more than made up for the poor dinner we’d had the night before – great find Marie!!

After dinner we headed back to the apartment, did some preliminary packing in preparation for our departure for Jerez the next day and called it a night. think we might have stopped at O’Connell’s one last time… In fact I’m pretty sure that we did… But I’m a few days late getting to this blog post and some of the details are a bit hazy… especially the ones involving O’Connell’s…

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