Hola from Cadiz on the southwest coast of Spain! After a much needed good night's sleep, we walked this morning to the bus station in Chiclana with Maria and Mercedes and rode into Cadiz to pick up our rental car - it is a snazzy 5-speed Opal! We picked the car up at the train station where there was a very loud strike underway for the sanitation workers. About 10 strikers were in front of the train station blowing shrill whistles. On the inside of the station, there was trash all over the floor and no one to pick it up - part of the strikers' plan to get visitors to go to a different train station. We had no choice as that is where our rental car pickup was arranged.
After we picked up the car, we drove down the street to an underground parking lot, stashed the Opal and came back up to street level to begin exploring the old city. First we had to find an ATM to get some Euros, then we went to find the special bank that had machines where we could retrieve the tickets for our visit to the Alhambra in Granada later in the week. Looking for the "Caixa" took about a half hour with several stops, but we finally found it and enlisted the help of a nice Spanish banker. Then it was time to find a place to eat - we left the house without breakfast so we were quite hungry by 2:00! We found a restaurant and ordered several items - mostly good but the paella was a bit overcooked and dry. But the fresh olives, bread and tuna were wonderful. After eating we walked towards the "old" part of Cadiz to see the Atlantic - which looks much different than the US Atlantic - here it is the beautiful blue-green color that is so refreshing looking. We walked through several parks, past convents, universities and through old cobbled streets. We also saw a huge rubber tree that is over 2000 years old! Past the "dirt door", the whole city sits on reclaimed land from the old city and is over water. The city was mostly destroyed by a tsunami many many years ago, and the "dirt doors" indicate how far the water came into the city. I didn't get a picture of the dirt doors, but they are actually large earthen walls with a passage way into the old city.
Walking along the ocean wall, we saw some of the remains of the old city out in the water as it was low tide - it is amazing the amount of damage angry water can cause! We saw the gun turrets where the military protected the town from invading forces. There is also a botanical garden near the coastline which is where the Carnival floats line up. There is a long dirt pathway through park which is lined with ornamental trees such as cypress - the floats parade along this path. The trees are all are trimmed into unusual shapes - see pictures.
After we left the park, we walked back through narrow streets and thru Plaza de San Antonio - a large open square housing the church of San Antonio which was restored in 1884 due to damage from the tsunami - the original doors and two spires were saved. We then walked to the Museo de Cadiz (museum) which contains several sarcophagus and many oil on cloth paintings from the 17th century which came from restored monasteries, churches and convents. As such, the themes were mostly about the Virgin Mary, Jesus and various saints. One large series of paintings stood over three stories tall! The museum also contained artifacts that were uncovered during restoration, such as jewelry, clay pots, weapons, columns and pillars. We continued our walk through the shopping district - people watching was very enjoyable! As we headed back to the port where the car (coche) was parked, we stopped by a sweet shop that Maria and Mercedes' grandmother used to take them when they were children! We perused the beautiful display of chocolates and cakes, and did not leave empty handed! We walked past the Fuente de las Tortugas (Turtle Fountain) and made our way back underground to retrieve our Opal. Then it was a 25 minute drive back to Mercedes' casa in Chiclana. We stopped at the supermarket to pick up a few things.....over an hour later we emerged with bags full of cheese, jamon (ham), pancetta, bacon, bottled water and other basic necessities! Steve waited in the car and wondered if we had found a spa while inside - men don't understand the joy of shopping - lol!
As I type this, it is 10:10pm and dinner is being prepared - when in Spain, we eat late! The wine is open, we have olives and cheese to nibble on - all is well!