I’m lost, but it’s a great feeling.
I’ve visited Cadiz before and I know how easy it is to get confused exploring the maze of narrow streets of the old quarter of the classic Spanish city.
On my most recent visit to Cadiz aboard Crystal Serenity, I knew I needed to come prepared with the most detailed street map I could find.
Even at that, there aren’t many street signs–and tall, ornate buildings that come right to the edge of the streets limit the view of the terrain. So there’s always a little uncertainty which direction to turn next to get were you want to go.
But I don’t find that a problem; it’s fascinating to wander on streets literally too narrow for cars and browse in century-old shops. What I love about this city is that even in the main tourist areas, it doesn’t feel touristy.
Cadiz, has been a major port since the days of the Roman legions. Christopher Columbus used the port as the jumping off point for the second voyage to the New World in 1493. The reason was location and ocean currents. At this most southerly corner of Europe nearly every ship coming from the Mediterranean or returning from the Americas will end up stopping here.
There are two very practical reasons for the way the city developed.
First, in a hot climate, narrow streets with tall buildings on either side are always in shade, so the layout provides natural cooling and funnels whatever breeze there is through the whole town.
Second, the tiny and criss-crossing lanes made it more formidable for attackers and pirates to find their way into the city’s center.
Fortunately, the city isn’t that large and by keeping track of landmarks like colorful store fronts, grand residences and street corner shrines. I was at least able to get a general idea of where I’d been before as I wandered from church to church, visited a post office that looked like a cathedral and checked out the Archeological Museum.
From the pier where Crystal Serenity was docked, it was a short walk to the exit from the port. I followed a route that took me past the grand villas of families that made fortunes shipping goods and gold from the West Indies.
It’s one of four walking tours you can find on the city’s website www.visitcadiz.es.
As the narrow lanes converge on a large square the Catahedral is a landmark hard to miss. It’s surrounded by elegant outdoor cafes that are always packed with people watching the evolving scene.
Lunch time actually found us at the vast Central Market, where it’s a challenge even figuring out what to choose for a meal. Restaurants buy all their fresh ingredients from the profusion of fish sellers, vegetable stands and bakeries around them.
In the afternoon, it was still possible to shop because the stores in the central tourist area don’t close for siesta. But you can’t lose track of time. Every hour and half hour, the sounds of myriad church bells fill the air.
Spain works its magic in many cities, but Cadiz has a special charm.