May 5 - and the trip back to Tangier was harmless. We were prepared to battle for our seats on the first leg to Casablanca but the compartment was mostly empty so we were able to stretch out. Likewise the high speed train to Tangier - lots of seats to choose from. All the connections allowed us enough time to appreciate the wonderful new train stations. The little pink stone station that I remember in Marrakech is still standing along side the massive new one. Arriving at the ferry terminal in Tangier we got tickets for the next fast ferry which left in 30 minutes so we relaxed in what we thought was the waiting area. A fellow borrowed my pen so he could fill out his immigration form and then he started saying what sounded kind of urgent. Next thing he is running out the door - oops, we were in the wrong area! So at 10 minutes to 2 we are standing in a long barely moving line for the 2pm sailing. No one seemed particularly worried though. Must be Moroccan time! Eventually we got through the immigration line and then a long, quick walk to the ferry -
I think we were the last ones on - and it left only 45 minutes late. Four days earlier the Strait of Gibraltar had been very rough and it took an hour for the crossing but today we actually crossed in the advertised 35 minutes.
We stayed only one night in the town of Tarifa - the southernmost point of Continental Europe - and the closest point to North Africa. There is a one hour time difference between Spain and Morocco and we still can’t figure out why the clocks jumped 2 hours ahead when we did a re-set on the electronics. The old town of Tarifa is narrow winding streets with white buildings and blue/yellow trim (which perfectly describes the Hostal Africa). When researching for this trip, much is said about the Pueblo Blancos (or white towns) in the hills of Andalusia - so far, EVERY town in the south has been white! Having existed on train food (sandwiches) all day, we went out to a “proper” sit down dinner at Silos. Fabulous!!!!!! Especially the basil sorbet to finish!
Tarifa is a kite surfing mecca (as evidenced by all the kite surfing schools and “surf style” clothing
shops) - it is generally quite windy and there are 10 kms of beach to play on. On our way out of town we counted more than 50 kites in the air and increasing by the minute.
A 1.5 hour uneventful bus ride (except for the guy who really needed to pee, so the driver obligingly pulled over for him) we arrived in Cadiz (pronounced caa dee with equal emphasis on both syllables) on the Atlantic coast. We have an apartment here for four nights and hopefully the weather will cooperate so we can get some beach time but is a pretty chilly wind that is blowing off the ocean. First stop was the supermarket where we got basics like coffee, bread, tomatoes, beer and laundry soap and then it was back to the apartment to do a much needed load of laundry. At least there is a drier here too - unlike Granada where we strung our laundry on the terrace or Marrakech where we just hung it around the room after a pathetic job of hand-washing.
Considered the oldest inhabited city in Europe, Cadiz has a very chequered history - from the Phoenicians (hailing from what
is now Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel) 3000 years ago, to the Romans, Moslems, Christians - with miscellaneous Visgoths and everyone else thrown in the mix. Christopher Columbus sailed from the port on his 2nd and 4th voyages and the golden age for the city was during the 18th century when it enjoyed 75% of Spanish trade with the New World. We went on a free walking tour with Cadizfornia Tours and learned so much - the old cathedral was originally a mosque, but just sticking a cross on it made it Christian; it now houses a black Jesus who survived the war and Franco; the new Santa Cruz cathedral was started in 1722 with white marble, then sandstone and finally completed in 1838 with white marble reflecting the fortunes of the city and its importance as a trading port; the earthquake in 1755 that destroyed much of Lisbon, Portugal also sent a tsunami through the streets of Cadiz - this wall of water was supposedly “stopped” by a Madonna who was placed on the street; The Spanish consider Sir Francis Drake to be a pirate; parts of the James Bond movie Die Another Day were filmed at La Caleta
beach (as Cuba was off limits in those days); anytime the ground is dug up, there are chances that some Roman artifact will be found, resulting in work stopping while the archaeologists confer- a Roman theatre (colosseum) that’s estimated to seat 10,000, was discovered in 1980 during excavation for a parking lot. And so it goes on.
I am still not used to the late hours of eating (and drinking) in this country.The first night we went to Freiduria Marisquería Las Flores - a seafood restaurant recommended by the guy at the front desk - “it should be open already” - and this was at the “uncivilized” hour of 7pm. Last night we wanted to go to Casa La Manteca (right next door) for highly recommended Chicharonnes (thinly sliced pork) and Lomo el Horno (thinly sliced corn beef) and I was STARVING by the time it opened at 8:30pm. We followed this up with Cazon de Adobo (marinated fried fish) at a stand in the central market. Obviously vegetables are not high on the eating list here. The central market has a wonderful charcuterie (#33 Jaoqui) and you can wait up to 45 minutes (like we did) while the
guy fills orders of those ahead in line. All the ham is right on the bone and he hand carves paper thin slices. Everything is priced in 1/4 kg and it seemed that most people were ordering 1/8 kg.
We are staying in an apartment in the Barrio La Viña which is the old fishing quarter and while It is great having an apartment (as we can make our own coffee, breakfast and occasionally lunch sandwiches) we are having bad nights sleep. Our windows lookout on to the street - onto three different bars/restaurants - so if we want some quiet we cannot open the windows til about 1:30am - and by then it is really warm and stuffy. Oh well.
Day 2 and day 3 dawned cloudy and cool - we actually wore two layers (sweater and wind breaker) for a morning promenade around the sea wall visiting Santa Catalina castle (with its star shaped floor plan) and various beautiful gardens. We had planned to rent bikes to explore some of the long skinny coastline that separates Cadiz from the “mainland” but after taking a look of the seedy looking bikes we changed our minds and went
sherry tasting instead. Jerez de la Frontera, one of three towns in Spain’s sherry triangle is a short train ride away. We did a tour and tasting at Diez Merito which was founded in 1876 and which stores its sherries and brandies in a beautiful building from 1720. The actual production is done at the vineyards. The tasting consisted of 5 very generous pourings from Fino (dry and quite awful) through to the very sweet sherry made from the Pedro Ximénez grape. The favourite is cream sherry which is a blend of Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso.
Fortunately for us, the weather turned spectacular in the late afternoons so we were able to get some sun and relax time either at the La Caleta which is the city beach very close to our apartment or on the rooftop terrace of our apartment.
A couple of other bits and pieces about Cadiz - it is a port of call for both Transatlantic crossings and cruises out of the Mediterranean and it is crazy busy when there are ships in port - there were 4 huge liners one day while we were there. And I have to mention the sunbathing cats.
The local collective Cádiz Felina have set up a number of rough and tumble cat houses against the sea wall for the local wild cats - who spend their days hanging out in the sun.
Our visit to Cadiz ended with a superb Creme Caramel with figs and Pedro Ximénez sherry at the Casa la Manteca..... and then it was off to Sevilla
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