Cadiz, the oldest city in Europe & Jerez,the home of sherry

Before we left on this trip I knew that 1 of the places I wanted to visit this time was Cadiz, on the south-west coast of Spain.

What I didn’t know was that it is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, partly because they ‘capitulated’ to the Romans, meaning that they were able to keep most of their own customs and leading to Cadiz (Gades, as it was then) becoming one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire (and also one of the most infamous, due to the inhabitants lifestyle – and their Gaditan dancing girls).

Cadiz is a tiny city – it wouldn’t actually be difficult to walk around it, taking in all the principal sights, within a day.  And, it certainly didn’t disappoint!  But before we finally managed to visit (more on that later) we explored the immediate area around the campsite we stayed at (Playa las Dunas, El Puerto de Santa Maria), and also a visit to Jerez.

Our campsite was immediately in front of a beautiful beach.  There is a lovely promenade stretching a couple of miles, although the cycle path goes further (we cycled it on a VERY windy day!)  There is also a large pine forest backing onto the beach, well used by locals at the weekend for picnics etc.

There is a ferry that, apparently, will take you directly to Cadiz.. We tried 3 times before giving up and driving!  The first time we really couldn’t understand why the ferry was cancelled – we actually took a video of the placid waters leaving the harbour..  The other 2 days we must admit it was a little lumpy (although the Isle of Wight ferry would have, without a doubt, been sailing!!)

Our first day out though started as a quick cycle ride along the promenade and ended in the narrow, quirky lanes of the old town (the advice when arriving in a motorhome is to make sure you DON’T try to go through the old town – we took a detour of a couple of miles just to make sure.  We were glad we had once we saw the streets!)

This is a charming little town which reminded us both of Havana.  Funnily enough we later learned that Cadiz itself is often called ‘Little Havana’ – we could see why, but we actually thought that El Puerto Maria was more of a fit for this name.

The next day saw our first attempt to catch the ferry to Cadiz.  And our first failure!  We didn’t fancy the ‘replacement bus service’ (which would have taken us well over an hour), so headed off to Jerez instead.

Approaching on the main road there is nothing for miles and then suddenly in the distance you see this settlement – what I mean is, there is nothing and then you can see the city plonked in the nothingness!  Once in the city the traffic is busy so we decided to just head for 1 of the underground parking garages (which wasn’t overly expensive), and we emerged into the main square, Plaza de Arenal, where we stopped for a drink – sat outside (where it wasn’t overly warm!)

The tourist office is in an amazing building here, and we had a quick look before simply following the signs towards the Alcazaba.  This was an impressive building bordering by the Alameda Vieja, which I discovered means a ‘tree-lined avenue’, often Poplars.  It also contained a bandstand and has recently been extensively renovated.  Very popular, yet peaceful (as I said, it wasn’t the warmest of days!)

Our next discovery was the Iglesia de San Miguel.  Set in a tiny square set with orange trees, we paid 5Euros each (but this also gave us entry to the cathedral and bell tower).  The cathedral housed the most intricate, impressive nativity scene that I have ever seen!

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The Nativity scene in Jerez Cathedral

Small and delightful I think just about covers this 🙂

On the way to the cathedral we saw many ancient buildings, including the church of Dionisio.  Admittedly it would have been nice to take advantage of the CityBus (tourist open top) which runs through the city, but unfortunately there was no sign of it on the day we visited.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned sherry, which is obviously what Jerez is most famous for?  Well, there were several bodegas and Caves (some very large), but neither of us actually like sherry and so we’re not drawn to these places as most other people are, but there is plenty of choice if this is what you’re looking for!

We also didn’t visit the famous equestrian school (Fundacion Real Escuela).  I would have liked to but it was a little way out of town and at a price of approx. 20Euros each for a show we decided against it.  You can visit the school and museums for a much lower price, but for me it would be the show I wanted.

The next day found us attempted, once again, to catch the ferry to Cadiz.  Once again the ferry was cancelled (admittedly it was a little more blustery this time).  So we decided to go for a bike ride the other way along the promenade.  A lovely ride, finding more beautiful beaches, a sailing school and marina (Puerto Sherry), places for motorhomes to park up by the beach and a ruined castle atop the cliffs.  It did get extremely windy though so we turned back after about an hour.

When we tried the ferry again the next day, we decided to give up and drive!  It took us about 1/2 hour, taking us past the wetlands of Cadiz (with their many paths and bird-watching opportunities), and over the, rather impressive, la Puente de la Constitution 1812 (there is a choice of 2 bridges), and parking underground (this is normal in Spain :))

Cadiz is absolutely charming.  And very compact.  Once again it was very windy when we visited, which meant we didn’t visit the castles sites slightly offshore and accessible via a causeway – I was worried we might get blown into the sea!!  On leaving the centre we had driven around the coast road, and as I didn’t realise how small it was I was completely disoriented, not believing we had actually passed by all the sights I should have been looking out for!  They are in the process of laying a proper cycle path (i.e. smooth – unlike the one at Puerto de Santa Maria.  Which, at first sight, looks excellent, but is actually made of bricks, many of which are now rising meaning that you have to really concentrate when riding along it).

In the centre there are several walks to follow.  Quite literally!  In a couple of the following photos you might notice a coloured line on the road?  You simply follow the colour that you want to – very easy 🙂  Incidentally we visited on a Saturday, and found that you could visit the cathedral for free (although not the bell tower), after the service.

Also in the square in front of the cathedral there were scout and guide troops on a day out playing numerous games – great fun to watch 🙂

We also watched young ladies learning flamenco, of which there is a rich history in Cadiz.

There is so much to see in this little city and I wouldn’t be surprised if we returned another day.  Highly recommended 🙂

 

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PRACTICAL INFO:

We stayed:  Playa las Dunas, el Puerto de Santa Maria 

Supermarkets close by: – Mercadona (just behind the campsite, but you have to take a detour to get there!  Walking distance and certainly cycling distance

Previous Post: Tarifa

Next Post: Algodonales 

Where we stayed: Algodonales Motorhome Service Point

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Historic Lincoln – Sunday is a good day to visit!

I haven’t been to Lincoln since I was 15 so was really looking forward to this trip.  From Fulbeck we took the A607 and passed through several pretty villages; Leadenham, Welbourn, Navenby, Boothby Graffoe… On arriving in Lincoln we managed to drive onto a pedestrian only area (it wasn’t obvious!) We then found an NCP car park close to the city centre and by the river to park in.

Now this was expensive – £7.80 for up to 4 hours (no option for 3 hours).  But if we’d parked any further out I think it would probably have been too far to walk.  If anyone knows of a better and cheaper place to park please feel free to share!

Anyway we found our way to the shopping area by walking through an alleyway between 2 very old buildings.  There were many such buildings to admire, but after a spot of lunch we headed for the cathedral, which dominates the skyline and a very impressive sight it is too.

Before making it to the cathedral itself though we had to negotiate Steep Hill, which is very well named 🙂 (Look at the angle of that building on the left…)

This is a charming mediaeval street, approx. 1/4 mile long, Continue reading “Historic Lincoln – Sunday is a good day to visit!”

Ely – a dream come true :)

As I said in a previous post I’ve always wanted to visit Ely (Eel-ee. Not Eel-i), and I still have no idea why (although this morning my sister has given me some ideas – which make me thing maybe I once saw it the old Holiday programme when it was hosted by Cliff Michelmore).

That said today was the day (Monday 26th June 2017) that I finally fulfilled my long held dream 😊

Ely didn’t disappoint. From parking in the cathedral car park and looking for the pay machine to find that there isn’t one. Because the parking is free!!

This isn’t a big city and we were soon within sight of the cathedral itself. And what an impressive sight it is. Before heading towards it though we saw a sign for Oliver Cromwell’s house (he lived here for 10 years and his 2 youngest children were born here – of 9 children in total).

 

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Our 1st sight of Ely Cathedral

It cost £4.90 each to visit the house and, whilst very interesting (I learned much that I wasn’t aware of about Cromwell), we only got to see a small number of the rooms. I’m also not entirely sure that the ‘coverage’ wasn’t a little biased towards Cromwell! I still can’t decided whether he was a hero or a villain – as they ask you to do at the end of the tour! I still veer towards villain but feel I need a little more study before I can make my mind up for sure!

 

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Oliver Cromwell’s House, Ely

It was now lunchtime so we set off in search of somewhere to eat. We eventually settled on Julia’s Tearoom, which was very nice (and the cakes looked scrummy) but we nearly didn’t go in as the frontage wasn’t overly welcoming (a quick clean of the windows might help a little!)

Finally we were ready to head for the cathedral itself. It really is magnificent, but we were disappointed to find that there was a charge of £8 plus £7 each to go on the Octagonal Tower tour – £30 between us to visit seemed excessive. There’s also a Stained Class Window museum. At £4.50 each…

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I really wanted to go in but Calv wasn’t bothered so I went in while he wandered around the town. The cathedral is beautiful, particularly the lantern at the top of the octagonal tower. The tour takes you to the top of this tower and gives many insights into the history of the cathedral.

This is not the original tower. That collapsed in the 14th century! (As we’re visiting many churches and cathedrals I’m finding out that this isn’t actually that rare an occurrence!)
The tour was excellent. Apart from the fact that the guide could be a little rude and impatient. I can live with that though. Also the higher you ascended the narrower the spiral stairways became, and you have some tiny doorways to squeeze through – the smallest being just 18 inches wide 😊

 


This cathedral has the largest Lady Chapel I have ever seen – very impressive.  I also really loved the mix of ancient and modern inside the church, with some new sculptures being present.  I went to find Calv when I left the cathedral (luckily he had his phone with him for once! Although he didn’t have any cash….)

If you turn left on leaving the cathedral you will soon come across a large stone gateway. Walking through here you find yourself taking a path through a park. Crossing a road you can see the river ahead of you, packed with barges and riverboats. This small section of park has a sculpture of an eel.

The riverside is rather lovely with a couple of pubs and cafes along the banks. We had a drink in The Cutter Inn sat watching the world go by.


Wandering back up through town we were charmed by the little town centre.


This is a lovely little city – a visit is a must if you’re in the area 😊

East Norfolk, Dog Racing and Norwich

Great Yarmouth has both a horse racing track and a greyhound stadium.  As I’ve never ‘been to the dogs’ I thought it might be worth a visit.  So Wednesday evening found us joining the hordes (might be a bit of an exaggeration..) attending the races.

I was surprised by the lack of excitement – I only actually heard a couple of people get excited when their dog won (including me on my 1 win – out of 13 races…)

You pay to get in and then, of course, to bet.  The 6 horses are paraded around to be shown in front of the crowd; at this point many of them take the opportunity to, shall we say, lighten their load!  They’re loaded into the starting stalls, the hare (orange) comes racing around and away they go to race for 1 1/4 laps (about 30-35 seconds in total!)  I have to admit it wasn’t overly exciting and I doubt we’ll bother going again.  But, it’s always nice to do something you haven’t done and, you never know, we MIGHT have won big…..

On Friday we decided to go to Norwich.  This was somewhere else that hadn’t been on our radar, but having read what the ‘Rough Guide’ had to say we decided that we really should make the effort.

We were glad we did and wished that we’d got up a bit earlier so that we could have seen more of it. Continue reading “East Norfolk, Dog Racing and Norwich”