As predicted, I haven’t had much time to update this blog over the last week. I will, however, attempt to make up for it now. Strap yourselves in: this is going to be a long one.
So, first thing’s first. Cadiz! Fun fact: Cadiz is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain. In fact, having been settled in about 1100 BC by the Phoenicians, it’s also one of the most ancient cities in Western Europe. But it’s not just it’s impressive age that distinguishes Cadiz; it has a long and tumultuous maritime history, first by those pesky Romans who seem to pop up all over the place, and later (much later) during the Age of Exploration, when Christopher Columbus set off on three out of his five voyages from the port of Cadiz. It was forced to fend off several hundred years of attempted attacks and raids from it’s enemies (the English mostly) due to it’s status as one of the most important bases of trade in Spain.
Anyway, history lesson over. Cadiz is, as you would expect, very beautiful. The old town bears plenty of evidence of it’s history in the form of walled fortifications and castles, as well as beautiful plazas, palaces, churches, and, of course, an enormous (is there any other kind?) cathedral.
We enjoyed several walks around Cadiz. The map is a little confusing- Cadiz is quite large and, unsurprisingly, a bit of a maze- however, some intelligent person had the bright idea of painting purple, blue, orange or green lines on the pavement to represent different walking tours one might enjoy. Consequently, all we had to do was pick a colour and follow the line around the town, trusting that at some point we’d come across some interesting sights, and- hopefully- arrive back at our original destination at some point.
On Friday Kelly had to say goodbye to Nick, and the two of us jumped on a train to Seville for a girly weekend away before Kelly’s flight home. Now, I know this is a big statement, but I do believe that Seville might just be my favourite city in all of Spain. It is the mother of maze-like cities. I pride myself on an excellent sense of direction, but I literally had no idea where I was at least 95% of the time. Kelly, who is used to being in a constant state of disorientation, was less perturbed by this, but I was forever studying the map, looking around hopefully for a street name or a landmark, walking forward a few dozen metres, and then slowing to a halt in order to repeat the process. AND I’d spent a week in the city in February this year. Happily, it doesn’t really matter where exactly in Seville you are: beautiful streets and shady squares filled with outdoor cafes and little fountains or gardens are inevitable.
Seville, of course, has a cathedral that simply dwarfs the one in Cadiz. You can walk around it, and 10 minutes later be like, “Is this rather impressive building I’m standing next to STILL the cathedral?” It’s big. There’s also churches and old hotels and whatnot, but the real charm is in the stunning architecture and cobbled streets, little plazas and incredible restaurants. We stayed in a little apartment, and the owner who checked us in told us that there was a restaurant for every 29 people in Seville. That’s a lot of restaurants. Happily, the standard of food is high, and we ate extremely well.
On the Saturday night we went along to the almost obligatory Flamenco show. Now, far be it from me to cast a humorous light on an activity that is evidently taken quite seriously in this part of Spain, but, well, it has to be said that there’s something hugely amusing about Flamenco. It is all very, very, very emotional. The dancers especially are obliged to feeeeeel the emotion of the song, and, as such, tend to carry out their performances with an expression of extreme angst on their faces. That all being said, Kelly and I enjoyed the show immensely and didn’t stop talking about it all night.
Sunday was another train ride, this time to Madrid. We were gutted to be leaving Seville- we could have easily stayed another few days at least- but we felt obliged to spend a little bit of time in Spain’s capital before Kelly flew out on Tuesday. I don’t know why, but we weren’t very excited about going to Madrid. We just assumed it would be like every other European capital: historic, yes, but also big, overcrowded, expensive, noisy and smelly. Well, it was all those things (apart from smelly- yay), but it was also absolutely beautiful and extremely impressive. We got off the train, clutching onto our bags in defence against pickpockets, which we’d been warned about many times, and after several false starts, finally found our way out of Madrid Atocha station. In the cab we stared open mouthed at the stunning buildings lining the wide, leafy boulevard we were driving down: palatial, white, intricately carved, immense, and, above all, absolutely beautiful. After checking into our hotel (which was awesome- we stayed at Room Mate Mario, in case you need a recommendation) we took ourselves around the central area of Madrid and concluded that, actually, we loved it. Several impressive plazas are linked by busy, bustling streets with all the regular shops at ground level, but as soon as you look up you can appreciate the stunning architecture. The cathedral and Royal Palace were invariably the highlight, especially surrounded as they are by beautifully maintained parklands and gardens.
However, probably the lingering memory I will have of Madrid was Mercado de San Miguel. Only a few minutes walk from our accommodation, we found this food market almost as soon as we left the hotel, and we didn’t really eat anywhere else for our entire stay. It was awesome and had pretty much any food or drink you felt like- as long as it was Spanish. Oh, or sushi.
On the Monday we went on a food tour which was quite possibly the highlight of the entire weekend. We went with a company called Devour Food Tours and it was awesome. Our guide was exactly like Eddie Izzard except about 20 years younger, and not a transvestite (I don’t think…), and he took us to 10 different tapas bars over the course of 4.5 hours, giving us a walking tour of Madrid on the way. We ate a huge amount, and it was almost all delicious.
Tuesday came around and we had to say our goodbyes. Kelly headed off to the airport and I travelled back to Cadiz by train, arriving about 10pm that night, where Nick met me at the station. After living in each other’s pockets for the last 4 months, it was a bit of a shock to spend 4 days apart, and we were eager to exchange news.
Nick had spent his time alone in Cadiz wisely: by doing all the laundry, and practising the banjo for most of the day. His mother is also in Andalusia, in a nearby town called Jerez, and she and her friend came down to Cadiz for the day on the Sunday. We were heading there the following day. No rest for the wicked.
Wednesday we headed back to the station and made our way to Jerez. Gwen is on her annual Spanish course with a good friend of hers, and they came to pick us up after their morning lesson. We had a brilliant day walking around Jerez, which is a lovely old town, and had an excellent steak for lunch before heading back to their apartment for a cup of tea and a good long chat. We’re doing the same thing again tomorrow. Tough life, isn’t it?
Today I finally got caught up on things. I did my laundry, cleaned the boat, uploaded all my photos, wrote this blog, phoned my mother- all those things that shouldn’t take very long, but before you know it the day’s gone. We’ll continue to spend the next few days with Nick’s mother whenever we can, and in between visits we’ll prepare for our crossing to… Morocco!!