M1626 – Captivating Cádiz

In my last three posts, M1626 – Winning Formula, M1626 – Nice Tour, and M1626 – Scary ship I described my port call to Monaco, and the onboard celebrations for Halloween that occurred on that day. Over the next two days we sailed south-west down the coasts of France and Spain, and late in the evening on the second day we sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar – the lights on the land clearly visible on both sides of the ship – and back into the Atlantic Ocean.

Early the following morning we sailed into our penultimate port of call for this cruise, Cádiz. Although I have called at Cádiz twice before, I find it a very attractive place and was very happy to be returning there. As usual on this cruise we got the prime berth closest to the city centre – the perk of being on a small ship. Not long after we berthed, I watched from our deck a ‘floating block of flats’ – Ventura – struggle to manoeuvre herself in the limited harbour space into the next berth out from ours.

Cádiz is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain, and is one of the oldest cities in western Europe. It is situated on a narrow strip of land with the sea to either side. At the northern end of the strip is the oldest part of Cádiz, the Casco Antiguo (Old Town), within remnants of the city walls. Here narrow winding alleys connect to large plazas, providing a striking contrast to the newer areas of Cádiz to the south, which feature wide avenues and more modern buildings.

We were in port all day – in the morning I was doing a shore tour, and in the afternoon I planned to go ashore by myself and explore with my camera. This cruise is one of those I do acting as travelling companion to my elderly family friend, and she and I were repeating the same tour as on our last visit, a short panoramic coach tour around the city. It’s an easy tour for her to manage, and provides good views of the attractive city, and as it is just two hours duration  I was more than happy to accompany her.

The tour starts by heading out to the beaches which run along the western side of the strip of land, on the opposite side to the harbour. Here there was a short photo stop, where I retook my favourite and iconic view of the city – looking back along the coastline to the church and cathedral which once again looked stunning in the low early morning light:


When I returned to the ship I was interested to compare the shot to that taken on a previous visit, the light this time was softer and the shadows much less distinct.

On my previous visits to Cádiz I had seen a large bridge being constructed to provide an additional link between the city and mainland Spain. This bridge, known as El puente de la Constitución de 1812 or Puente de La Pepa (The Constitution of 1812 Bridge or La Pepa Bridge) has since been completed – three years late due to the Spanish financial problems. The bridge has two pylons 180m high, one located in the sea and the other in Cabezuelas Harbour. The span between the two pylons is 540 meters wide, and 69 meters above the sea below.

To my surprise and delight the itinerary of the tour had changed slightly since my last visit, it now took us out of the city on the old José Leon de Carranza Bridge so that we could return to the city using the new bridge. I managed to catch quite a dramatic snap of the new bridge through the front window of the coach as we approached it:


The remainder of the tour was as before, taking us past the old city gates on our way to the cathedral. Here we had a half hour stop, but knowing I would be back later with more time, I decided not to enter the cathedral at this time and instead went into the smaller Church of Santiago to one side of the cathedral square:


Once back on our coach we continued to follow the coast around three sides of the old town until we returned to the harbour. On the way we made one more very brief photo stop at the Parque Genovés, an attractive garden I had explored more fully on foot on my previous visit to the port:


Following lunch and a rest on board ship, I set off on foot with my camera to explore parts of the old town area of the city. Just across the road from our berth was the Plaza de San Juan de Dios with it’s attractive fountains, and the Old Town Hall:


Next I walked south-west around the edge of the old town towards the old city walls and gate, passing this statue to the ladies who used to work in the cigarette factories nearby, and of this ‘armless fellow, who was a popular part of the Cádiz carnival:


Leaving the old town briefly by walking through the city walls, I took a picture of this striking sculpture of a bird by Luis Quintero called Pájaro-Jaula:


Re-entering the old town I followed the same route as the coach had done in the morning towards the cathedral. On the way I passed this statue on a roundabout, this typical narrow street and a school building who’s architecture very much reminded me of the Azores:


Approaching the cathedral area on foot it was interesting to see the buildings from a new perspective, and to better understand the relationship between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ cathedral buildings. Old Cadiz Cathedral, or Church of Santa Cruz was built around 1262 on the site of an Arabic mosque, and was rebuilt in the 17th century in a Mannerist and Baroque style. In the 18th century Cádiz prospered with all the trade between Spain and America, and the Church of Santa Cruz became too small, so a new cathedral was built nearby. The project took 116 years to complete (1722 – 1838), and several different architects were involved, resulting in several changes to it’s design. It is largely baroque-style, but it contains rococo elements and was finally completed in the neoclassical style.


Having paid to enter the cathedral, I quickly walked around it’s interior, including the crypt with it’s fascinating echoes, as I have been around both before on a previous visit:


What interested me more was to climb to the top of one of the bell towers to see and photograph the views from there as I had not done this before. I was surprised to find that rather than a spiral staircase it was a spiral sloping ramp almost all the way to the top, but it was still a steep and challenging climb. On the way I paused to photograph an old clock mechanism standing in one of the windows:


The views from the top made the climb worthwhile, including of the cathedral cupola, of the Church of Santa Cruz and of the old town looking across to the port and the two cruise ships:


I was also interested to see the outline of an old building painted on the surface of the cathedral square – I had never noticed this when walking around the Square at ground level:


Returning to ground level I slowly worked my way through the narrow streets back to the port and the waiting ship. Once on board, I went up into the top deck to watch us sail out of the port. From there I had a good view down onto the Plaza de San Juan de Dios, and as we sailed out of the El puente de la Constitución bridge that we had driven over earlier:


I had very much enjoyed my day in captivating Cádiz and was sorry to leave, especially as we were sailing towards the final port on this cruise meaning the end of my final cruise this year was getting all too close.


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