A day in Cadiz

The old town of Cadiz is a wonderful maze of narrow streets with three-storey buildings decorated with ornate balconies on each side. We wandered through them to the central market this morning. Cadiz is all about seafood and the market made that clear. Even though I’m not a fan of dead fish, the market was all about presentation of quality, rather than quantity, and the displays of food were quite lovely.

There was a point in the 1700s when Cadiz was as rich as any city in the World. As the major port for the Americas it was full of merchants who, inevitably, built mansions. Less inevitably, they also built towers to watch the shipping from – or perhaps just to sit in and look down on the rest of the world. As Cadiz is fundamentally flat, these towers are not exactly skyscrapers – but they are pretty and there are 133 or the original 160 still standing.

The tower we climbed was the old government watchtower on the highest point in Cadiz the top of the tower is 45m above sea-level so, again, not toweringly tall. However, because the old town of Cadiz is made up almost universally of three-storey buildings, the watchtower, Torre Tavira, provides a great vista over the rooftops and out to sea.

The Torre Tavira also has a camera obscura which was an effective way to get a birds-eye tour of the city. It also provided one of those moments when you suddenly get a blinding flash of knowledge. In English we say ‘camera obscura’ which is Latin which I had always thought had something to do with modern cameras. In Spanish they don’t use the Latin and say ‘Camara Oscuro’ which simply means dark room or chamber and describes the experience of being in one. We call the things we take pictures with cameras because they were broadly derived from a dark room with a mirror in the ceiling. Sorry, realizing that made me happy.

In the afternoon we hired bikes, Cadiz has kilometers of bike path that run around the old city and then along into the new city which the locals call Cadi-fornia for its high-rise beachfront. It was a great day for a ride along the Atlantic coast – but as I don’t ride much, I’m now sitting a little delicately.

A lunch stop provided an opportunity to try the local delicacy which can be brutally described as deep-fried sea food. Together with local tomatos in spices and olive oil it made for an almost healthy lunch.

After returning the bikes we decided to ignore the fact that we are permanently cathedral-ed out and visit the cathedral. To be honest I thought it might feed my outrage at the pillaging of the Americas by the colonialist Spanish. But it proved to be austere and quite stylish, and, with that said, hardly worth a visit. But we also ascended the tower which was totally worth the entrance fee. Not only did it have a spiraling ramp all the way to the top instead of stairs, but the view was fabulous.

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