Cadiz iz the biz!!

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March 30th 2015
Published: June 26th 2017
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Casablanc to Cadiz

Total distance travelled from Santos: 5278 nautical miles

Cádiz is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and sometimes counted as the most ancient city still standing in Western Europe. The city was originally founded by the Phoenicians and named Agadir. As there was already a city in Morocco by the same name it was confusing for merchants. This was changed to Gadir for sanity sake and then as other nations settled on this narrow but strategic outpost finally became the name by which we know it today – Cadiz. It has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century.

The city is built on a unique site - a narrow slice of land surrounded by the sea.

We were scheduled to dock at 10am. Roisin was up early and watched the ship's approach as Cadiz appeared out of nowhere with only sea and empty coast line on both sides. The gangway was lowered at 09:25 to the awaiting ambulance and police car. I found out later from the Customer Relations Manager that a passenger had a heart attack. The medical team on board managed to stabilise him but he was taken off to a hospital for a proper check-up. These things are really no joking matter but having recently looked at my on board account, I also felt a slight tightening of the chest!! And our bill is probably not a patch on some of these others seeing them constantly in the bar and casino! The police just turned up as a matter of duty.

The land mass that is Cadiz is just over 3km long and 1.2km wide at its widest. That's why I thought it odd that a ho-ho bus was charging as much as €17 to circumnavigate the city. And that's what it does. The route keeps to the outer perimeter road so any sights that you want to see have to be visited on foot anyway once you alight the bus. It is impossible to get lost in Cadiz due to its unique shape and walking to explore is much more fun (and cheaper as well as probably quicker!) than taking a bus tour. That said, the ho-ho stopped only a few yards from the port gate and checking from our balcony, we could see that there were already a mass of people congregating around the bus stop. ('congregating around' is the nearest description I can muster to forming a queue!!)

The ship berths practically in the town centre, any closer and it would need a residents parking permit!! We walked through the compact cruise terminal, picked up a map of the city and ventured out in to the streets of Cadiz. I had researched that official city walking tours are available (look for the orange t-shirts) every day. These are free and rely on tips at the end of the tour. As today's tour was not scheduled to start until 1pm we decided to do our own walking tour. It's much more entertaining making up your own facts and figures anyway. (something which, as you may have gathered, comes easy to me!!)

The city map I had picked up has four coloured routes: Green – Medieval district; Purple – shippers to the Indies; Orange - Castles and Bastions and finally Blue – Cadiz constitution. Have you ever tried to follow a route on a small tourist map? It is not the easiest thing to do and inevitably the wrong turning means you just end up walking aimlessly. Cadiz is slightly different. The coloured routes are actually marked on the pavement to help you find your way around.

Walking down the Avenida Ramon de Carranza, we crossed the road and cut through to Nueva, picking up the Green – Medieval district. Within a few minutes we had entered Plaza de San Juan de Dios and faced a rather impressive town hall – Ayuntamiento. This building, I am told is the result of a mixture of neoclassical and Isabelline style. Good old Isabel, I knew she had style and to mix it in with a bit of neoclassical. Pure genius!!

Following the green line, we crossed over the Square and through some more narrow thoroughfares we reached the aptly named Plaza de la Catedral. There were queues to enter the cathedral so we were happy to take a few photos and move on. Now this is where we went a bit maverick. Rather than walking up the left side of the cathedral, following the green line we decided to walk up the right hand side of the cathedral where we lost the green route altogether!! Remember how I said that it is so hard to follow a marked route on a map but Cadiz have made it much easier as the markings are on the pavement?? Continuing along the Orange route we found ourselves walking along a wide promenade. The sun was shining, 27 degrees C! We decided we'd had enough medieval culture for one day and were both happy to continue walking along this ‘front' that was reminiscent of any holiday resort in the UK in the 60's (when we used to have hot summers!) We reached the most westerly point of Cadiz, Castello de San Sebastian that is connected to the mainland by a rather long causeway. We decided this is a great stop for lunch. Having just settled down and ordered, we heard an English accent, ‘It's amazing the riff raff you meet in these places!' Turning around but already knowing who it was, Emelia and Stephen had just arrived, having walked from the direction in which we were heading.

After lunch, we spent the next hour or so walking across the causeway to the Castello San Sebastian which is now just a shadow of it's former glory. This fortress played its part in the Peninsula and the Napoleonic wars. It played its part in defending the city during the battle of Trafalgar in 1812. This is one of the main reasons Cadiz is the only part of Spain that remained unoccupied by Napoleon.

After we said adieu to Emelia and Stephen, we continued our walk around the perimeter of Cadiz, passing Caleta beach with its British looking pavilion built on the sand.

Cutting through Park Genovés with its well-maintained ‘topiary' trees we stopped for a respite from the heat. Whilst drinking my coffee I saw 2 figures walk past, both wearing purple robes with white flowing capes and a matching white pointed mask covering the whole of the head. This is the week before Easter known as Holy week. It is a religious celebration remembering the last seven days of the life of Christ. These somewhat macabre looking figures wearing the ‘pointy' hats represent the people who have asked for a prayer from Jesus or the Virgin Mary. I am whole heartedly assured this has nothing to do with the KKK. They apparently got the idea from the Spanish Inquisition (the 16th century persecution of non-believers and not the Monty Python Sketch!!)

Getting back on the ship was a bit of a bun fight. We had to queue through airport style security. I had to remove my netbook from my backpack but still beeped as I went through the metal detector. I then had to remove my watch, lanyard and belt, something I have never had to do re-boarding a ship as their metal detectors are not normally set to ‘super sensitive'.

In the short time we were in Cadiz, this is a city we could easily adjust to. Nowhere is too far from the sea front, always good weather, not too crowded. There was a good vibe to this place even if the KKK were in town!!!

We decided to stay out on deck for the sail away. Everyone should have been on board by 17:30 for an 18:00 departure. When you leave the ship and again when you re-enter the vessel, your cruise card is scanned. This has a bar code on which all your details are held. From this data ‘they' know who is on board and who is missing at any time. At 17:50 an announcement was made in German and no other language. If a message is announced but not in your language it is not applicable to you. In this case the German announcement was asking for two persons to call at the information desk or ring from the nearest phone. This was then repeated at 18:05. We finally set sail at 18:35 – 35 minutes behind schedule. We were advised later on by Valentina Caiazzo, the Customer Relations Manager that two German Guests forgot to set their watches forward 1 hour between Casablanca and Cadiz. Even so, say they had set their watches to the correct time, it means they were getting back within minutes of the requested 17:30, cutting it a bit fine!! So much for German efficiency!! Apparently the Captain wasn't too happy as any delay means that the Company have to pay additional mooring charges to the local port authority. God forbid anyone else who is late from now on!!

It has been known for passengers to refuse dinner with the captain as they don't want to be seen dining with the crew!! This evening was the ‘special' dinner dedicated to the MSC Black Card Holders. Although the benefit states dinner with the captain or one of his senior officers, it is very rare that the captain will make an appearance. The shoe is now very firmly on the other foot as the captain dreads these functions. ‘Oh no! Do I have to? I'll probably get the idiot who asks me if I'm here, whose driving the ship?! Is the assistant to the bilge pump operator available? He's always up for a free dinner!!'

Our meeting place was the Diamond Bar on deck 6. A specially cordoned off area was provided. As we arrived, Emelia and Stephen were already sitting there with Seamus and Bea, a couple from Wexford we had met a few days earlier. A waiter appeared with a tray of champagne and fruit juice. Several minutes later two very smart Indonesians dressed in tails and white gloves led a further two couples in to this special area. These four newbies, we shortly learned, were Yacht Club members, an exclusive breed who have heaps of privacy with their own private bar, restaurant, inclusive drinks. They even have their own private sun deck and, as we saw first-hand, their very own butler 24/7.

We were finally assembled. 10 dinner guests. Valentina was our host for the evening. We were led to Eataly, the speciality restaurant. Valentina was a good host relating a number of anecdotes. She said that the German guests are the most problematic. They always start by saying ‘Ich habe eine Frage' I have one question. ½ hour later after their seventh question……Germans always scrutinise the daily programme line by line and are the first to bring any grammatical or factual inaccuracies to the attention of the Customer Relations Manager. But apparently, contrary to popular belief, they're not very good at time keeping!!!!

As the evening wore on, we got chatting to Preston from Manchester and his husband Carl. They were both living it up in the yacht club. Preston is not his birth name (we failed to ask him for his true identity!) although he originally comes from Preston. (Lancashire) Some time ago, his employer, Trans Pennine Trains, asked him that if he changed his name to Preston (from Preston) for a limited time they would donate a sum of money to his nominated charity. His colleagues became attached to this name as did the man himself so he changed his name to Preston by deed poll.

The other yacht club couple were from Gothenburg, Sweden, about 20km south from a town called Kungsbacka. I managed to impress them (or maybe not) with my (now) limited amount of Swedish.

The meal was a success with everyone enjoying each other's company. The wine was free flowing all evening so although the captain couldn't be with us, it was good of him to leave some money behind the bar!!!

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