Day 103, April 18:
Ever wonder why a city winds up with a cool nickname? In the case of Cadiz, the so-called Spain’s “Little Silver Cup” in the region of Andalusia, it’s because it is cool. We had been to Cadiz three times. But each time we came, we had been lured away on tours to Jerez de la Frontera, Spain’s sherry capital, and to drop-dead-gorgeous Seville, Andalusia’s capital, with its opulent Alcazar palace and imposing Cathedral with the famous Giralda bell tower and the grave of Christopher Columbus. These two spots, Seville and Jerez de la Frontera, often do vie for cruise passengers’ attention on calls to Cadiz, but my goodness, Cadiz does deserve a visit!
This time during our 112-day Grand World Voyage on the Amsterdam, Humberto, Duffy (our bear that went around the world) and I decided to give our undivided attention to Cadiz. After all, our onboard travel guide Barbara, a woman who has gone around the world 14 times, had called Cadiz “one of Spain’s most beautiful cities.” It has that cute nickname of “Little Silver Cup” due to its cup-like shape with the ocean as its plate, our local guide, Cristina, told us. And Cadiz also has the distinction of being one of the oldest – if not the oldest – city in the Iberian peninsula, with archaeologists placing Phoenician merchants, who established a trading center they called Gadir here as early as 1100 B.C. Another Cadiz distinction: It was from here that Columbus sailed on his second voyage of discovery in 1495, and the city later became the homeport of the Spanish treasure fleet.
Other Cadiz draws: It is associated with legends of none other than Hercules – who, according to tradition, founded the city after slaying Geryon, and also punched a hole in the mountains between the rock of Gibraltar in Europe and Ceuta in Africa to create the Strait of Gibraltar and thus a way to get from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. To this day, the association of Hercules is revered in Cadiz, whose city flag is emblazoned with his image. With its city center just a few blocks from the cruise terminal, Cadiz is a wonderful walking city. We toured on foot with Cristina, beginning in the city’s medieval quarter, the ancient Puertas de Tierra walls that separate the old town from the new city and taking in such points of interest as the Torre Tavira, a baroque watchtower dating from 1778 with a “mirador” (lookout deck) on top and a camera obscura patterned on a design by Leonardo da Vinci that allows the projection of live images onto a screen. This and more than 150 other watchtowers were in use during the 18th century when Cadiz had to protect treasure-laden cargo coming from the Americas against pirates and privateers like Francis Drake who had pillaged Cadiz’ harbor in 1587.
Other highlights of Cadiz include the City Hall (Ayuntamiento) overlooking the Plaza San Juan de Dios and begun in 1799 (completed in 1861) and the Santa Catalina Castle, one of the city’s most impressive fortifications built in 1598 by order of King Phillip II. Cristina mentioned that this castle became a model for later fortifications in the Caribbean. Another of Cadiz’ castles, the Castillo de San Sebastian, was on the Amsterdam’s starboard side as we entered the harbor. To one side of the castle is the green expanse of Genovese Park; to the other side is Balneario de la Caleta with a fine beach, one of several wonderful beaches in Cadiz.
Cadiz’ Roman heritage is evident in the ruins of a Roman theater – this coliseum was unearthed in the Barrio del Populo district of the city during a modern-day construction project, and it is believed to be 2,000 years old. Though mostly in ruins, parts of it are in good condition. Near the coliseum is the old Cathedral, Iglesia de Santa Cruz, located near the new Cathedral.
The Moorish influence is evident in Cadiz. The Moors invaded Spain in the year 711 and stayed for five and a half centuries until the time of the re-conquest by Spain, and though they were more interested in Seville, they nevertheless left their mark in Cadiz. Their influence is felt in the city’s narrow lanes and in mansions and buildings such as the Post Office.
Good places to browse for souvenirs of Cadiz and Andalusia – we picked up some olive oil – include the Plaza San Juan de Dios and Calle Columela, from Calle San Francisco near the port to Plaza de las Flores with its many flower vendors, just one of many picturesque squares in the lovely “Little Silver Cup” of Cadiz.
Freelance travel writer Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto are currently sailing on Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout their time on board. She has logged 174 voyages to all seven continents and visited more than 100 countries.