I slept badly. Although the flat had very good noise insulation, somehow I still sensed the buzz of the activity on Malaga’s streets. We bears need our sleep – after all we hibernate in winter – and I awoke with a sore head to pack my stuff and check out. Extracting my car from the car park was just as slow and stressful as parking had been. With relief I negotiated my way out of Malaga’s old town and on to the motorway, heading for Cadiz.
At first the road was ugly, mile after mile of nondescript tourist development along the Costa del Sol. After an hour I finally emerged from this modern mess, and caught a glimpse of the Rock of Gibraltar before the motorway left the coast. The Rock was impressive from a distance, but the complications of crossing a border with Covid restrictions in place made visiting impossible. Oddly, none of the motorway signs along the route ever mentioned Gibraltar – I guess the Spanish are still upset that it remains foreign territory, having being ceded to the British in 1713 at the end of War of the Spanish Succession.
I stopped for lunch in the “white village” of Medina-Sidonia.
The village was fast asleep in the early afternoon sun, except for one restaurant with a tiny interior and huge terrace. Here, the entire population seemed to have congregated for Sunday lunch. I managed to grab the last table, which was in the shade and cooled by a fresh breeze and ordered tuna ceviche. It arrived quickly, despite the crowded terrace, was excellent and very cheap – just what I needed after my experience with the “golden prawns of Malaga” (see yesterday’s blog).
After a very pleasant lunch stop I headed straight to Cadiz. Fortunately I had chosen a hotel just at the entrance to the old town, meaning I didn’t have to negotiate any narrow streets to check in and park my car. The hotel was in a former convent, and had been converted in an original way, with a library and living room instead of the usual hotel bar. The central courtyard was bathed in the sound of a recording of a choir softly singing religious music.
After checking-in and freshening up, I set off to explore. Cadiz is probably the oldest continuously inhabited city in Western Europe, having been founded by the Phoenicians in 1104BC. It then became a Carthaginian and then Roman territory, before being so completely destroyed by the Visigoths that almost no very old buildings remain. It then passed into Moorish hands, before being captured by the Spanish, when it bloomed. First it became a centre of exploration (Christopher Columbus set sail for America from here) and then it became a centre of trade with the Americas in the 18th century. Most of the historic centre dates from the latter period.
The old town is almost an island, being attached to the mainland by a long thin strip of sand – something that made it vulnerable to attack by foreign powers jealous of its wealth. It has the usual cathedral, plazas, and maze of small side streets typical of historical cities in Andalucia – with the bonus of views of the Bay of Cadiz and the Atlantic Ocean.
The historic centre is surprisingly compact, and I found I had visited most of it after a couple of hours strolling around. It was quieter and seemed less affluent than the others cities I had visited. Compared to the riches of Seville or Granada, or the animation of Malaga, Cadiz came as a slight anti-climax.
I had dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. The wine proposed by the sommelier was excellent, but my order of tuna was forgotten in the kitchen and arrived overcooked. I complained to the manager, who was unsympathetic, and got my own back by filing a review on TripAdvisor. This was my very first unsuccessful meal in Spain.
I headed back to my hotel to write up my blog. It had not been most successful day, but that’s life on the road. At least I slept really well in peaceful atmosphere of the converted convent.