Sunday, January 29, 2012

Surprises of Cadiz- English

Five researched destinations, four hours of sleep, three hours of sitting on trains, two jackets and a one-way ticket later Cadiz awaited. With only five destinations in mind to visit it seemed like it would be a very short day-trip. There might even be time to explore a little in Seville. Nine hours later the hunt for a way back to Huelva was on. But that is another story.
Cadiz had much more to offer than the five simple simple destinations. The cathedral, Plaza de Flores, Tower of Tavira, Santa Catalina Castle and Plaza de España were great. But there was much  more to do than simply look at these attractions. And among all of the things to do, some were better than others. Some were better than expected.

Of all the destinations, Plaza de Flores was the most disappointing. Only about two vendors had flowers on display to sell. And their weren't many people there; it was no Puerta de Sol, Madrid for sure.

Plaza de España was better, but still, compared to the other things to see, comes fairly low on the list. Of course the history of this area makes it better. The monument and eternal flame are also improving factors.

According to, the monument is a memorial to the Spanish Constitution of 1812. Construction of the monument was completed in 1929.

A surprise can be found at the Tower of Tavira. Descriptions talk about the 180 degree panoramic view of the city. The entry fee is five euros for most visitors which seems a little high just to climb some stairs to see the city from above. However, there is a little more to this location.
Before visiting the roof of the building visitors get a live tour of the entire city from above. But don't worry, there are no planes involved. Visitors don't even have to leave the building. It is called "Cámara Oscura," or "Camera Obscura."

If a person stands in the sunlight with a piece of white paper and then places a magnifying glass between the sun and an image it will be projected onto that paper. This worked similarly. On the roof is a tower which has a mirror and a lens. The guide directed visitors into a dark room with a bowl-shaped white screen. She proceeded to explain how it worked and then opened the shutter for the first view of the city from above. (Unfortunately photos and video are not allowed within this room.)

By turning the mirror with a rope the guide is able to show the entire city. Another rope allowed her to raise and lower the screen which focused the image. The higher the screen was, the further away visitors can see. She did a 180 degree tour of the city, explaining different locations. Not only was the information interesting, but some parts were comical and there is no doubt it was a great way to practice listening to a language. The guide spoke very clearly and at a fair pace. The "tour" lasts about 5-10 minutes and then guests climb some more stairs to the roof.
A sign on the roof states the height is about 45 meters above sea level and visitors climb about 173 stairs to get there. And the view was great. The tower was well worth the four euros (student price).

Geocaching provided knowledge about another location which was a local park. Genoves park is in the northern part of the city. Within its gates are playground for kids and several educational sights. There are plants from different areas of the world, each labeled with their name and species, and what I refer to as the "Jurassic Park." In this part there were several species of geese and ducks along with statues of dinosaurs. It provided several photo opportunities, along with the geocache hidden within the park.

Of course, a day of walking around any city might leave one hungry. As with any city in Spain, there are plenty of places to eat, from restaurants to cafe-bars. Cadiz was no different with examples of each. One restaurant was next to the beach and several other attractions which made it very convenient. At lunch time there was nothing special happening but it seemed that there may be flamenco shows at times. Nonetheless, the food tasted great. Two coca-colas and two tapas (pork chops and shrimp omelet) which also came with a roll, only cost about 12 euros and fed two people.

Art was everywhere along the ocean in the northern part of the city. Iron-work lined the sidewalks. One of the preplanned destinations, Santa Catalina Castle, was also dedicated to art. The old castle, in the shape of a star, has several exhibits within. Entry to the castle is free and visitors can walk around the walls, imagining being a guard. Several styles of art are available to look at in the various buildings inside, along with the metalwork outside.

Within sight from this castle is another. San Sebastian Castle, was one of those surprises. It had a lot to offer and was perhaps one of the best locations in this day-trip. A stone wall extends out into the ocean, with beach on both sides. Further out is water, or rock when the tide has receded. Although the castle itself was closed, the fun doesn't stop with the walk out to it. Their were stairs off the wall which offered an opportunity to explore below the castle and wall. As the tide was out at that time, visitors could walk all the way around the castle.

Just below the wall, near the castle is rock. The movement of the tides has eroded holes through these rocks, some reaching all the way down to the sand below. Exploring the rock below the wall provides for some fun. And of course the temptation to climb down into one of the holes may be overcoming. Some are possible to get out of by crawling on the chest under the rock and out onto the beach. Other holes can only be exited the same way as entered.

Some interesting finds around the castle included a hole which had an old pipe in it. That pipe could easily be mistaken for a sword until the visitor sees the base which is in a square piece of metal. During a walk around the grounds, wildlife is abundant. As with any beachfront area, there are seagulls. But in this area lobsters (or related animal) were also common. There was even a sea turtle (dried out unfortunately) in one of the crevices. Perhaps one of the most intriguing finds was what could just be trash washed into the rocks by the tide and lodged there to stay. But it could actually be a piece of history. The device had wheels on the outside and gears on the inside.

A walk to the south along the sea-wall will lead to the Cathedral of Cadiz. The new one is probably the most impressing, with its rounded domes and architecture. It might even be mistaken for a mosque. According to a list of attractions which included entrance prices, the museum and tour cost something like five or ten euros. But another option was just to walk through oneself for free in the old cathedral. But that is only on Sunday mornings, not Saturdays.

Another interesting trivia fact about the city is it was the setting in part of a 007 movie. From February 16-26 it will be filled with visitors and participants of El Carnaval de Cadiz.

Although at first it seems there is not a lot to do in Cadiz other than a little history and the beach, it holds surprises for visitors.

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