Massive, brooding battlements jutting out into the face of the ocean. A broad, dusky beach drummed by endless, serried ranks of steely grey Atlantic rollers. A long, flower draped promenade lit by elegant Victorian street lamps. Cadiz has a lot going for it simply in the languid strolling stakes.
Come away from the waterfront- the entire city is pretty compact, and a delight to walk- and you’ll discover massive cobbled squares, flanked by imposing, almost impossibly ornate public buildings from Spain’s golden age as a great world empire. Amazing Gothic and Baroque confections compete for your attention as you sample some delicious, life affirming tapas at any one of a hundred pavement cafes.
As with everywhere in Spain, the cathedrals are almost overpowering. Vast, vaulting, cake rich confections of overblown grandeur on an epic scale. They were intended to instill awe and respect as much as the love of God. They were mostly built at about the same time as the start of the infamous Inquisition, when love of fellow man seemed to be pretty thin on the ground in Europe as a whole.
Cadiz has always been a favourite of the English. Sir Francis Drake loved the place so much that he burned it twice, in an effort to forestall Phillip of Spain’s lumbering, vengeful armada, which assembled in the bay here.
Sadly, Cadiz has often lost out on the tourist stakes to nearby Seville, that legendary mid century masterpiece that still draws crowds by the thousands. And yet, paradoxically, that also makes Cadiz feel that bit more authentic. A real Spanish city, as full blooded as rioja; not just some wannabe medieval theme park where the prices are as inflated as the pretension.
This part of Spain became a battleground for centuries, as the Spanish and the Moors fought for domination of this southernmost bastion of Europe. But while the Spanish ultimately won out, Cadiz still bears many examples of it’s time under Moorish occupation.
You see it in the cube shaped houses, painted a blinding, brilliant white, that tumble down towards the edge of the Atlantic. There are massive fortifications, many feet thick, that form a mute protective cordon around the harbour perimiter. If stones could speak, what tales they could tell….
All things considered, Cadiz is an enthralling, entertaining place to visit at any time. There are numerous quirky, winding alleyways flanked by fantastic old world architecture, and enough modern, eclectic public artwork to make you smile. Spanish creativity did not end in the nineteenth century; nor was it solely embodied in the fabulous, whimsical works of Gaudi and Picasso.