What a difference a day makes! This morning we woke to grey skies, strong winds and lashing rain. Signs all over the hotel insisted we refrain from opening the terrace doors because of the conditions.
I hadn’t seen the signs when I tried. It was quite difficult and very, very scary. I closed the doors double quick time, against the gale force winds and driving rain.
After an emergency meeting over breakfast of Spanish meat and cheese, we decided the best thing was to stay in the hotel and, as Bob always says, take a day off.
And so, without much more ado than absolutely necessary, we set up base camp in the lobby along with quite a few other guests. I read and Mirinda worked on her DBA until the time reached beer o’clock when I moved into the bar. Denise watched some TV in her room while the maid tidied around her. We then met up at about 1pm.
Then, as if the gods of all things holiday had decided after a long hard night on the town to go easy on the rest of us mere mortals, the sun came out, the clouds went away and it was summery all over again…though Denise claimed it was cold.
This was the signal for our valiant tour guide to show us some bits of Cadiz that may or may not have been open. As it turn out they were all open!
First up though, a little bit of background…
The Phoenicians came from what today is roughly Lebanon. They were great traders, sailing all over the Mediterranean, buying from here, selling to there, generally making a lot of dosh without having to resort to conquest.
They were very successful, their civilisation lasting from around 1550 – 300 BC. They also spread out far and wide, building settlements on natural harbours. One of those settlements was built in southern Spain in a place they called Gadir. Eventually the name became Cadiz (pronounced like Gary) and the longest continuously inhabited city in Western Europe.
Our first stop was a visit with some ancient Phoenicians as they rest in the Cadiz Museum after lying in the ground for some considerable time.
The male sarcophagus on the left was discovered in 1887 while the female was found much later, in 1980. The female sarcophagus is in wonderful condition and is a brilliant artefact of a once very powerful civilisation.
The museum has lots of other brilliant pieces from various times throughout Cadiz’s long history. Possibly my favourite (after the sarcophagi) was this tiny little bee.
It’s just slightly bigger than a real bee and is exquisite. It was found in a Roman grave (along with other jewellery and grave goods) and shows remarkable workmanship.
The museum also has a rather massive marble statue of Trajan. While the bulky toga clad body was chiselled in Cadiz, the head came specially ordered from Rome. The difference in quality is pretty obvious.
Sadly the art gallery upstairs was closed so we had to make do with the ancients before heading out for our next stop.
After a coffee in the Plaza San Francisco, we headed off for our next tourist stop, the Oratory of the Santa Cueva (Holy Cave).
This dark, dank chapel formed around a cave that was discovered under the building, is nothing to write home about and, frankly, smells of damp. Then, trying to disguise your distaste for the smell and disappointment, you go upstairs.
Amazing! Not just for the extraordinary chapel built upstairs but also for the three glorious paintings by Goya which decorate panels beneath the domed ceiling.
Of the three, the Last Supper is easily my favourite for its simplicity and peacefulness.
The painting is a long way from the floor so the quality is a bit lacking. The colours are actually more vivid and the lines clearer. Still, I think the photo shows his expert brushstrokes and simplicity of style.
While the chapel is clearly a place for worship, the cave below was built in order for a group of old men to meet and discuss religious things while escaping someone called The Old Mother. All very mysterious.
And then, after the magnificence of the chapel, the best site yet. Mirinda led us to the underground world of the ancient Phoenicians. With a modern theatre built above it, an archaeological dig showing houses and a road have been perfectly preserved with glass walkways above and information boards spread around.
The tour started with a short movie regarding the discovery of two bodies at the site with some of the hammiest acting I’ve seen for some time. Then you wander around, above the site checking out the amazing Phoenician remains.
There’s houses, ovens, the skeletal remains of a cat and a cow’s head, an alley and a road. It’s all incredible. It must have been one amazing dig to be one.
Along the final wall is a slowly progressing history video, showing the changes in Cadiz from the Phoenicians through to the Romans.
The whole place was just fantastic. When our tour guide delivers she sure delivers big. I loved it.
We then headed back to the hotel in order to prepare for our second big night of flamenco. And, in a day of great sites and sights, the flamenco was the best ever.
(Actually we stopped for tapas before the dancing. We popped into the only place we’ve seen advertising that they make berenjenas con miel, something of a favourite in our little troupe. It was very good though not as good as the one we had in Seville.)
La Cava flamenco advertises that they don’t take themselves too seriously and they’re right. Of course there’s a lot of the serious face pulling and passion during the dancing and singing but in between there’s smiles and giggles. This one also featured three women dancing, a guy singing and a guy on guitar rather than the ones we’ve seen in the past. The final piece saw the three women each dance separately as if trying to beat each other in skill, finesse and stamping.
Because we’d booked early, we had the best seats in the house. This was proved when a very rude man from somewhere behind us asked Mirinda if she’d remove her arm because it was in his line of sight. She was very polite but I could tell what was actually going on behind her eyes.
Talking about the audience, there was a family (mum, dad, daughter, son) sitting to the left of the stage who were absolutely bored to tears. The mother was falling asleep, the daughter WAS asleep and the father just looked bored. The son aged about 8, however, seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. Maybe it was his idea to come.
The show was in two parts and lasted for an entire bottle of rioja (which is roughly equal to two glasses of sangria). And while we couldn’t video any of it, it was okay to take photos. So we did. Which means I’m more than happy to mention it on Instagram, on here and anywhere else I can.
Finally we hauled our drunken selves back to the hotel for our last night in Cadiz. Tomorrow we bus it to Vejer de la Frontera.