The weekend was restful – the “Costa de la Luz” had already started to have the soothing and relaxing effect on me (and my fellow travellers).
Time to get busy again. Rota is the perfect “base camp” to explore this part of “Al-Andalous” also known as Andalucia.
This region like no other in Europe can look back on a colourful yet not always peaceful past, defined by visitors and invaders from the south and the near east of Europe and Africa. And while in modern times Andalucia was first seen as the poor house of Europe and then as the amusement park for bored central and north europeans, let us not forget that important chapters of European culture and history were written in this part of the world.
One of the must-sees is and will remain the city of “Gades” or – better known as “Cádiz”. Manfred and I go there whenever we are in Rota – at least once during our stay.
When referring to “Cádiz”, people – and I for that matter – refer to the “head” of the peninsula which forms the city.
While the residencial part of “Cádiz” is situated on a rather narrow patch of landmass the part interesting to visitors (unless you are an “aficionado” of ugly late 60ies architecture) is the “casco” – the head of the city.
While I am on it: Due to its location the city is rather difficult to be reached by car. As you can see, there are only three entry points by roads: CA 33, CA 36 and CA 35. The latter has only become a valid option only recently as a new bridge (“Puente de la Constitución de 1812“) was inaugurated in September 2015.
However there is a far better way to reach “Cádiz” – hasslefree, without traffic jams and the nuisance of having to find a parking in the “casco historico” – el barco.
The catamaran service from either Rota or El Puerto de Santa Maria is the best and the most convenient way to visit this marvelous city at the entrace of the “Bahia de Cádiz”. In not so many words: USE THE BOAT.
As the attentive reader of this travel blog recalls – Manfred and I have been coming to Rota for almost 2 decades – we had to use the car to visit “Cádiz” and we were there when the commuter service by boat was opened and we became fans of it immediately.
Currently (June 2016) round trip Rota-Cádiz/Cádiz-Rota cost EUR 10.10. The catamaran leaves from Rota Marina. The time table can be found online and can also be downloaded as PDF. All other current information about the service such as tariffs and others can be found on the official web site. Tickets are bound to the times you buy them for! We always plan the round trip; in other words: we know when we want to go and more importantly which barco we want to take for the return trip. I have never experienced that a barco was sold out – however there is a risk that if you do not plan your trip to “Cádiz” both legs you may end up waiting for the next available barco.
You, dear reader, may have guessed already – our little travel party used the catamaran even though M. tends to get seasick. Now, on this topic – as the boat is actually a catamaran it glides or even better “cuts” through the water and the waves. In other words it can drive a) faster than a usual boat or ferry and b) is more steady on the water.
The duration of one ride: 30 minutes. You cannot get to “Cádiz” any faster by any other means of transportation.
We decided to take the 9:55am barco to visit Gades, M. and B. had already been there once in 2013 during our 25th anniversary celebration and they had fallen in love not only with Rota but also with “Cádiz” and particularly with the sea fruit section of its market hall.
Being the strict and structure travel guide that I am – however I prescribed that we would walk the city first and then allow M. and B. to indulge in the visual and olfactory wealth of the market.
We got to the marina on time and purchased our tickets – time for M. and B. to hone their newly acquired Spanish language skills and ask for the round trip (ida y vuelta) at the counter.
As always there was already a crowd of tourists and locals waiting at the pier – some passengers we identified as guest of the “Hotel Playa de la Luz”. I was already sure that we would see the same people on our way back on the 2:10pm barco.
People! Crossing the Bay of Cádiz in a catamaran is a blast. I do enjoy it every time and even though I am more of an “air person” I could do this over and over again.
The deep blue sea, the wind, the sun.
And as icing on cake you get a breathtaking and more-than-picturesque view on one of the major sites of “Cádiz”:
“La Cateral de Cádiz”. And if you are lucky (or unlucky – depending on how you look at it) you glide past one of the 4,000 passenger Luxury cruise ships you have seen on TV.
Taking the barco is like getting on a commuter train every morning and I do admire the routine and the professionalism the crew fixes and unfixes the boat at arrival or departure. It all takes seconds and works like a clock work. Kudos.
Outside the harbour on the “Plaza de Sevilla” a giant “rainbow flag” greeted us, reminding us of “orgullo gay” or “Christopher Stree Day” which had been celebrated the week end before. It also reminded us of the assault on a gay club in Orlando as the rainbow flag had a black ribbon attached to it.
This tour is merely a suggestion. You cannot get lost in the casto historico even though it reminds of a maze with all the narrow streets. If you stay longer in the region, do schedule more than one visit. On the first visit just walk zigzag and get your bearings and a feeling for the place. The next trip should then be more targeted including sites such as the ones you see in the map plus a couple of other ones, not featured on this map:
- Torre Tavira
- Puerta de Tierra
- The two castillos (Santa Catalina and San Sebastian)
- Oratorio de San Felipe Neri
In “Cádiz” the journey is the reward – as the visitor gets captured in the more than 3,000 years of history oozing from each single architectual pore of the casco historico.
Museum goers should definately visit at least the “Museo de Cádiz” and the “Museo Catedralico”.
Historians and those interested in Spanish history, pay the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri a visit – a church from the outside but a place of tremendous historical relevance – similar to “Paulskirche” in Frankfurt am Main. Only that Spanish constitution, la Pepa, was written and announced in 1812 in exactly this church, while it took us Germans 36 more years for a first attempt.
The “Torre Tavira” houses the Cámera Oscura which allows you to “visit” Cádiz in a way you can never experience walking through the narrow streets with obstructed views on the watch towers of the city. These watch towers – please, dear reader, take my word for it – are beautiful and worth to be learned about.
M. and B. had already been introduced to the Torre Tavira and as we were short in time we decided to skip the view and the Cámera Oscura.
We started to walk along Avenida del Puerto towards the Diputación de Cádiz – the regional administration building
to continue to the monument that was erected in honour of the Spanish constitution which is a stone’s throw away.
Surrounding the monument, which is situated in a very nice park, we enter the maze of narrow streets that offer shadow and cool in the onset of heat.
And here you could see examples of the watch towers I was talking/writing about earlier.
Making our way through the maze of streets, which open – all of a sudden – to a plaza. It was still early enough to see the “Gaditanos” (the inhabitants of Cádiz) running chores, talking in the streets with their neighbours or scrubbing house entrances. A quite regular Monday morning in Cádiz I would say, so charming that I fall in love with it every time.
One cannot get enough and even though Manfred and I had been here countless times we do discover something new every time. Now, though dangerous at times, but I recommened to not only keep your eyes on the streets, but to allow your eye to wander along the front of the buildings and to enjoy the many details.
In the casco historico urban life with all its elements seems to be intact – you got the right mix of residential areas, places to meet, parks, small privately run grocery shops, bakeries, bars and restaurants as well as a reasonable network of public transportation such as busses, taxis, boats.
Of course I am not being naiv – the casco historico also falls victim to gentrification as sad as it is. I have never researched the opportunity to rent or the prices of property in the casco but my guess would be that they are unaffordable.
Engrossed in so many visual, auditory and olfactory impressions it was easy to forget track of time – especially keeping fellow travellers from taking 2,000 pictures regardless how beautiful the sites were. Time for me to crack my virtual travel guide whip and move the party along to the next stage: “El Parque Genovés” . Situated at the top of the casco historico aside of the promenade offering a wonderful view to the “Bahia de Cádiz”.
The reason why M., B., Manfred and I like the “Parque Genovés” is quite simple to understand, looking at the pictures.
The trees and bushes in the park all look as if they had become victim of a lunatic hair dresser – and in consequence were transformed into sculptures.
Besides the green, the park also exhibits a fair share of fountains and an artificial pond.
The right recreational mix – the park, the promenade and the Atlantic Ocean nearby.
Moving on – heading back into the casco historico towards M. and B.’s dream site – the “Mercado” passing by the “Gran Teatro Falla” adjecent to the campus of Cádiz Medical School. Named after the famous son of the city of Cádiz composer: Manuel de Falla
Walking down “Calle Sacramento” – the home stretch so to say – passing by the “Torre Tavira” taking a right and there it was the “Mercado Central de Abastos” on “Plaza de la Libertad”. The mercado is indeed impressive but not as impressive that I would have had to visit it again, nor did I feel like tagging along while M. and B. were exploring the astonishing diversity of dead fish and sea food.
I admit it I am so not a sea food lover and the sight and the exhalation of the merchandise in the sea food section make me sick to my stomach frequently.
Manfred and I decided to indulge in some Churros con Chocolate in the Café/Bar “La Marina”. As usual there were no more tables available outside, so we decided to go inside, not as nice as outside but still authentic.
The service in Andalusian cafés is somewhat abrasive and tweedy – something I had to get used to in the many years of coming to the south of Europe.
We ordered Chocolate and Churros for me and a “caña” for Manfred. Our beverages had just arrived when Manfred said to me: “Look outside… there are M. and B.” which caused me to turn around and indeed – there they were our two “passengers” strolling over to the café. “Something must have been wrong with the fish…” I said, just to learn a few instances later after M. and B. had joined us that my assumption had not completely been wrong. – There was no fish or sea food at all – No, the mercado was open all right and all other sections were full with happy customers – only the fish department was devoid of merchandise and customers.
Now, dear reader you can blame the travel guide for a lousy job – rightfully so: There are no fish/sea food on Mondays full stop. No fishing on Sundays, hence nothing to sell on Mondays. As easy as that…
I felt indeed ashamed – I should have touched this. Darn. But being a pro I turned a negative into a positive and said: “Well, that is great, so you have a good reason to come back later this week and visit the mercado again – WITH sea food.”
As a consolation we ordered beverages for M. and B. and discussed our next moves. Manfred and I wanted to buy clothes for Manfred’s grand-children in a shop called Charanga on our way to the harbour. M. and B. said they would roam around the streets – we would meet each other at the harbour at 2:00pm to catch the 2:10 barco.
Shopping for children’s clothes in Spain is a truely satisfying task – Each time I am surprised about the selection of really good looking and yet affordable items. One could say we are regular clients at Charanga and we seldom leave without purchase under EUR 100 – I think that this is called: the Grand-Father Sydrome.
Shopping made us thirsty – so, leaving Charanga with two bags of boy’s and girl’s wear we turned left and headed towards the Cathedral, passing by without paying too much attention to it (OK – I took a picture of it for this blog)
to cross the “Arco de la Rosa” (Roses Arc) to sit down in another establishment to which we have become regular customers over the years.
“Porme otra” that is the name of the bar – just opposite the “Arco de Pópulo” a bit away from the tourist roads, very basic, no bells and whistles.
About time to get to the pier. Crossing the “Arco de Pópulo” to enter the “Plaza de San Juan de Díos” with the “Ayuntamiento de Cádiz” and its fountains. The habour was already in sight and 10 minutes later we joined M. and B. in the waiting area. No surprise there were many familar faces on that barco back to Rota.
Again a very enjoyable ride – with a slightly rougher sea than in the morning but as soon as I had stopped fighting against the movement and begun to be part of the up and down it felt like a merry-go-round.
Back in Rota we went to our favorite Supermarket “Mercadona” to stock up for the week – red wine, pistachios, sparkling water. M. and B. bought shrimps which they planned on eating when back at the hotel – all that was missing to complement the culinary experience was a loaf of fresh bread from the “Panaderia San Antonio” right next to the super market.
We got back to the hotel around 4:00pm – time for a belated siesta before the evening activities.
All in all a great day.