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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3 days around Camino del Rey (which will have it’s own post!)

So, let’s get up to date.

Sunday dawned a little brighter than Saturday (to be honest that really wasn’t difficult as it rained most of the day on Saturday…).  We took the opportunity to sit and relax a little outside and Calv gave the van a clean – he can’t bear it dirty!

We then agreed to meet up with Elaine and Chris to walk up to a cake shop that they know in La Cala.  They came to get us and then we left their car where they’re staying, Dona Lola, and set off on foot along the boardwalk.  The boardwalk then takes you miles along the coast but we were only going just over 2 1/2 miles to La Canasta, the cake shop.  Calv had 2 pasties (empanadas) and then a little later a massive slice of carrot cake.  I had a slice of cheesecake and very nice it was too!

Being a Sunday there was some sort of festival going on in the park behind us; we think there was maybe a fancy dress competition involved.

 

We then walked up to a little square on the seafront and then headed back along the boardwalk to Chris and Elaine’s apartment for a cup of tea.

Chris offered us a lift home but we decided to walk – another 2 1/2 miles 🙂

On Monday morning I finally got my bike out and we went to do a bit of shopping in the Supersol – it was a bit of a faff and I’m surprised we managed to get back with no accidents as Calv decided to buy a 6 pack of 1ltr, glass, bottles of San Miguel which he had to strap to the back of his bike – funny how he’d magically managed to bring some bungee cords with him….

We then relaxed for a while, then just as we were thinking about moving and heading down to the beach for a couple of hours Chris and Elaine arrived, running!  So we had a cup of tea before heading down to the beach together.  I finally got all the way into the sea and swam.  Chris did too, but he went in too soon and couldn’t stay in for very long.  In the evening we walked back to Dona Lola to meet up with them to do a quiz (I love a quiz!)  We came 3rd (with 2 other couples….) and then went for a Chinese.

We decided not to walk home after all and got a taxi.  However, we were surprised at how much it cost to go just a couple of miles – 8 euros!  So we wouldn’t do that again.

And then it was Tuesday 🙂 (See Camino del Rey for what we did on Tuesday!)

 

 

Day ??? (Who knows!) – Moving on from Alicante to ?? (Isla Plana – near Cartegena)

Everything happens for a reason. Or so Calv likes to say. Well today this was proved beyond doubt!

We had our first failure today, in that we got to our first choice of campsite and it was full. It was a big site too, at La Manga de Mar Menor. Actually this is the 1st time that we’ve highlighted more than 1 (3 to be exact) as we know that there’s now more chance of sites being full (as we head further South). And to be fair this was only our 1st choice because it was the 1st one we got to.

However, it was out of the way and we wish we’d rung in the morning to save us an extra 40 miles driving… I had thought that being situated right at the end of a peninsula with few roads going in (as shown on our map anyway…) and a sea lagoon on its doorstep it would be a little slice of heaven with very little going on. Haha – there were high rise hotels built along the sandbar that created the lagoon and a fair bit of traffic. So not my little bit of paradise then!

There was a slight complication though when we were told it was full in that there were 2 other vans there who were told the same thing. Were we all headed for the same site next? Were there any spaces there? If so was there just the 1?! So we ditched the plans to stop for a cuppa, Calv jumped in the driving seat and we were off – it was like Wacky Racers!! The old Talbot that was already there before us also got away first, but we easily overhauled him within a mile or so. The newer Carthago looked like he could have had us, but, luckily, he went in the other direction J

Anyway, my point is that we headed towards the 2nd site (which in reality WAS my 1st choice…) and, having skirted Cartagena, we started climbing through a mountain range – hard driving, following an already hard drive with high side winds all the way – lots of switchbacks and hairpins; it was a bit like being back in the Pyrenees except that we were in the van instead of the little C1!

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But the views!! Just amazing and as we emerged from the mountains, the final descent revealed the sea sparkling just up ahead and we knew then –‘Everything happens for a reason’ J

The drive here saw the landscape change from one of groves and groves of orange trees to groves and groves of lemon trees, and finally to acres of agriculture (we don’t know really but it looks like cabbages and leeks – much is hidden in poly tunnels and greenhouses). Where we have landed, Isla Plana, just south of Cartagena, is no exception. (It’s now Thursday evening and we’ve been on a bike ride alongside some of the polytunnels – filled with hundreds of thousands of tomatoes in various stages of ripedness).

There’s not much going on here but it is beautiful and the site had 4 spots left. It was a bit of a squeeze getting in to our chosen spot – not particularly helped by the German man who emerged to point out that we couldn’t leave it with the nose sticking out into the road (really? really??!).

Normally when people emerge it’s to assist a fellow camper, but he came out to tell us off before we’d even finished manoeuvring– anyway Calv managed to get in sideways instead. Everyone who walks past keeps staring – I don’t think they can believe it’s in like that!! Even our neighbours were impressed that we had a van you could park sideways J

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But we do have a seaview, and a good steep walk to the toilets, supermarket, reception, bar and swimming pools!

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We have an indoor and outdoor pool, both open. The outdoor pool is thermal and we’re thinking of going in later. It won’t be so warm today (we had about 20 degrees again yesterday), maybe 18 (we’re hoping!) We’ll also ride back towards the mountains we came through and maybe up a little to one of the viewing spots (we went out yesterday down to the beach and the ‘town’ – very tiny!)

** Okay Thursday update – the temperature today was easily 24/25 again with full sun all day. We have sat outside the van, swum in the outdoor pool (followed by a bit more sunbathing) and then ridden the other way along the coast, up a mountain to look at the tower that we spotted yesterday. (And we have both, definitely, caught the sun – as in “should have put some suncream on….!”

The tower was part way up, yet another, mountain and then the entrance was halfway up the tower itself, followed by some steep, and very narrow, spiral stone stairs up to the top! It was used to protect the coast from pirates J

We are definitely going to stay a 3rd night here and just relax – or maybe try to cycle up into the mountains to one of the viewpoints – wish me luck!

Moving on from Pamplona Thursday 26th January

Calv managed to tear himself away from his new Bezzie mate in the next door van (he even went and sat in there for a while yesterday) long enough to get ready to move on!

First off for other travellers out there we used the N road today and it was wonderful.  A little rough in places but loads of parking areas to pull off onto and have your lunch, unlike the road from Bilbao to Zarautz. We’re finding that the motorways have service areas that are often few and far between, and they’re usually not particularly good.  I’m definitely learning to appreciate what we have at home in this regard!

Looking on the map we saw that Olite, as recommended to us by Jim yesterday, was just about an hour into our journey. We drove past about 3 signs for it before deciding to go and have a look. You could actually see this walled town from the main road.

We managed to drive past the Aire that was signposted (until the crucial moment when you got to it..) but, being January, there were plenty of parking spaces available for us. And also another British van parked just up from us.

Olite is a walled medieval town with a castle. It’s rather charming, but as we were on the way somewhere we decided not to go into the castle, opting to wander the streets instead. Who fancies taking their exams in this place??

We also found the main shopping street – everyday shops crammed into these medieval streets J

We got back to the van and started making some lunch when there was a knock on the door. It was the couple from the other van parked up who were going to head back down to the Aire (they’d managed to miss it too) to stay for the night. They were headed back north, going through France and via Versailles. They told us about a town about an hour further along where there were cave dwellings in the side of the hill – Aguedar. I had to see this place!

Sure enough it was about an hour further on and there was an Aire to park up in (not sure we’d have wanted to stay the night though. The dwellings were amazing; look at these pictures – there were people living in these right up to the 1960s! They weren’t small either, and you can see there are full kitchens in them, lots of rooms, doors, windows, chimneys and they were painted too! Amazing J

I will put lots more photos on the gallery later 😊

We chose not to drive round the national park that they’d also recommended, Bardenas, as it was apparently a 30km detour off route which we decided we didn’t have time for. We did have time to pull off the road again though when we saw some other cave dwellings just at the side of the road. They turned out to be more like storage units and as you entered them they were dug down into the ground. Some had a few rooms and some were just one room. There were 2 that had a thoroughly modern, locked, door as well! Obviously still in use.

 

It was then time to get a move on and find our next chosen site. We arrived there, I think, just before 5pm. I’m saying nothing more about this site except that we left as soon as we could (by 8.45am the next morning in fact). If you want to know by all means read the review I’ve done – Review of Camping Savinan

The evening that we spent at Savinan was spent frantically looking for our next site as Calv decided he wanted to go a little further than we had thought up to now. We eventually settled on a site in Cullera. Our drive here was uneventful (we just stopped for brunch – our first food of the day – at about 11.15am). There was lots of snow on the way though; however we were at altitudes up to 1100m and there were signs for ski resorts…

And then all of a sudden we were in sunshine and 19 degrees!

We are at Santa Marta Camping, which has an old (I think abandoned) bullring at its entrance. Our welcome couldn’t have been more different. The guy who booked us in was covering lunch and whilst he spoke hardly any English he did speak French, so that’s how we communicated!

He was friendly and welcoming and tried to explain everything we would need to know. I later saw the fulltime staff member who was also lovely. He’s helping me with my Spanish and I’m helping him with his English!

Jo, we’ve already had a couple of robins visiting us. They really are a very pretty bird. However, we’ve also had a black cat jump to look on our table and try to get in the van – clearly looking for food.

This is a lovely little site and at just 14 euros a night half the price that we paid for the pit that we stayed at last night. We have a walk up the mountainside to do 1 day to visit Ermitas Santa Marta, a cycle ride along the beachfront (Calv is very excited as he thinks it looks very much like Benidorm and he CAN’T WAIT to get to Benidorm!) and we want to go to Valencia on the train. We’ve just got to work out how to get to the train station – which is too far to walk (unless we could walk through the mountain), we don’t really want to leave the bikes there all day and we can’t see any taxi numbers. So we’re hoping for a bus but can’t find any details on timetables! Wish us luck… (update – I think we’ve decided to walk.  We’re going to go on Monday).

Tomorrow however we are going to do very little. Well, I think I’m going to make soup, do a wash, do a few chores and, you know what? I might make some cakes J (update – I did all of this!)

It’s raining now but we’re expecting sun and 17 degrees tomorrow so we’re looking forward to breaking out the flip flops! (Update – have dinner all the above and sat in the sun for a fair portion of the day too).

Tomorrow (Sunday) we’re going to walk up the hill later in the day, but in the morning go exploring on our bikes – calv’s actually been out this afternoon so he knows where to go.  Wet might even eat out again!

See you soon. Take care x

Pamplona :)

2 posts in 2 days – I’m on fire!  Well actually it’s because I have about another 3 hours left on Wifi and I want to make the most of it 🙂

Also I wanted to tell you how lovely the old part of Pamplona is.  Yesterday afternoon we sat out by the van in the sunshine (it was only about 13 degrees but out of the wind it was lovely).  We knew it was unlikely to get above about 4 degrees today so we put our base layers on and wrapped up warm ready for our cycle ride along the river (about 10km).  (Btw, base layer bottoms seem to be like tights ladies – you need to get a size up for them to actually fit properly and be comfortable – just saying…!)

It was fairly straightforward – we only went wrong twice, once on the way there and once on the way back.  Quite good for us, don’t you think?!  Continue reading “Pamplona :)”