A Speeding Ticket from Cadiz

As the bus twisted off and on to the motorway for the stops along the way from Algeseras to Cadiz I noticed that the coastline on the Western side of Gibraltar was altogether more workaday than the more picturesque hills of my memory. Well, that’s because, in spite of said speeding ticket, I don’t think I’ve ever actually been here before. Cadiz was a bit of an outlying destination when all of my family’s visits to Andalusia were centred on Malaga but that had obviously not deterred my parents who must have ventured over there in a hire car one year. Since I used the same hire company and travelled under the same surname, this can be the only explanation for the carefully written out penalty notice that turned up at my address in Wimbledon nearly a year later.

I think that after thirCty five years we’re going to have to let that one go but the city made quite an impression on me this afternoon when the bus pulled into an “Estastion Modal” which turned out to be a bus and train station combined. There were clean toilets, fresh coffee, free wifi, plenty of luggage lockers and, best of all, someone helpful to book me onto an evening train to my next destination. The sun shone and the great walls of the old city were just across the road so I felt myself very well placed to make the best use of my four hour stop over.

The Phoenicians first settled this small peninsular nearly three thousand years ago, fortified it and named it Gardeire, which means “wall”. The Romans took over and then the Visigoths, followed by a complicated sequence of Moorish conquest and re-conquest until it rose to pre-eminence as the principle Atlantic port of Spain during the colonisation of the Americas. Long before we get to the Peninsular Wars of the Napoleonic period I get completely lost and I’m afraid my eyes start to glaze over. The old city is barely a mile across, constrained from expansion by the sea on three sides with fortifications on the fourth and what little there is comprises of a delightful mixture of narrow streets and unexpected Plazas. There are too many architectural styles to count but most have been painted in a glaring white so do remember to take your sunglasses.

Cadiz has several important museums but I decided that there would be plenty of pictures available on-line and that I could catch up with the historical details later. I’d waited a long time to come here and so walking these ancient pavements, never more than a couple of streets away from a shimmering, flat azure sea seemed an altogether better way to spend the afterbnoon. I thoroughly enjoyed my stroll around the city and climbed to the top of the cathedral tower for the obligatory calendar photographs but I’m not sure that many of the rather listless visitors to be seen wandering about had much idea of what to do with themselves. Other than eating, drinking and shopping, of course.

I came across so many restaurants, bars, ice-cream parlours and souvenir shops that I suspect the tourists must be shoulder to shoulder once the season really gets going. There was at least one luxury yacht in the old port and many of the larger mansions have been converted into five star hotels. Even in the crisp Spring weather the sickly-sweet smell of cakes and waffles was everywhere and vendors with huge bunches of cartoon character balloons meant that ground level pictures of the important buildings had to be carefully composed if I wanted to be sure to exclude Sponge Bob or or Peppa Pig.

A lot of the time “Interrailing” is taken up with getting from one place to another, finding and booking accommodation, keeping track of essential possessions and sorting notes and photographs. Sometimes it is important to stop worrying about all these details and just relax and let the atmosphere of a place take over. I doubt I could have got lost here even if I’d tried, all the onward travel arrangements were taken care of and so the two bus journeys had undoubtedly been worthwhile.

Categories: Europe

Leave a Reply