Posts tagged ‘horses’

May 8, 2010

perfect places {Cádiz, Spain}

During my student days and my living abroad phase I spent a total of about 2 years living in the beautiful Province of Cádiz in the south of Spain so it is like a second home to me.  Far from the touristy and built up coast of Malaga, Cádiz still maintains it´s rustic charm.  Its coastline has not been exploited like that of Malaga and the people who live there are renowned for their good sense of humour and generosity.  If you want to escape the crowds of tourists that swarm the coast of Malaga in summertime, experience real Spain and meet some great people along the way this is definitely the place to come to!

About the accommodation – Where to stay depends on what you are looking for.  There are numerous fabulous little villages tucked away in the hills such as Arcos de la Frontera or Zahara de la Sierra and some great coastal villages such as Tarifa (the kite surfer´s paradise).  However I would recommend being based in the beautiful Capital, Cádiz.  Cádiz has it all; from beautiful white beaches to history and charm.  From here you can hire a car and explore the surrounding area.

As it is not a very touristy city there is only a small choice of hotels.  If you are looking to splash out I would suggest staying at the splendid Hotel Playa Victoria.  The hotel is based in the new part of town but at only 5 minutes taxi ride from the bustling cobbled streets of the Old Part (Casco Histórico) and offering fantastic views it is definitely worth it.  On the other hand, if you would prefer to be in the Old Part, you could stay in the Hotel de Francia y Paris where you will be right amongst the hustle and bustle.  Top Tip: if you are hiring a car make sure you reserve a parking space when you book your hotel – parking in Cadiz is practically impossible!

If you are looking to do things more on a budget there are several good hostels in Cádiz.  Make sure you book in advance as they are always very booked up.  I would avoid Casa Caracol as it is always full of Americans – not real the traditional Spanish vibe you are looking for.

About the sights – There is an endless list of things to do and see in the Province of Cádiz and it would take me all day to write about them, so instead here are my top 10 things that you must see and do during your stay.

(1) Take a day to wander around the Old Part of Cádiz.  Take in the awesome Cathedral that took over 100 years to complete and demonstrates Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical elements.  Watch the boats passing by and the washing flapping in the wind while listening to a detailed tour of the city at the Camara Obscura. As evening draws in, eat tapas and soak up the atmosphere in the Barrio Pópulo and then make your way to the most famous ice cream parlour in Cadiz in Plaza Mina (you will know you have found it because of the queues).

(2) Visit a White Village (pueblo blanco) or 3.  Each white village has its own charm and personality – (I could happily explore every single white village in the whole of Andalusia).  Those that have “de la Frontera” in their name were part of the network of fortresses that were built to keep the Moors out.  Generally built on the top of a cliff they offer fantastic views and intriguing histories.  Among some of my favourites are:  Arcos de la Frontera, Castellar de la Frontera, Zahara de la Sierra and Rota.

(3) Have a go at Kite Surfing, hang out in the trendy bars and wander the historic streets of Tarifa.  At the most southerly point of Europe and the place where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic meet, the high winds and long beaches make it the ideal spot for Kite Surfing.  However, even if you are not much of a water sport fanatic Tarifa is definitely worth a visit.

(4) Whale watching.  You can book your tickets over the internet or in one of the many little shops that you will find dotted around Tarifa.  If you are visiting at the right time of year this is a must-do and you will not be disappointed.  Sightings are guaranteed!  Check out the website for more details.

(5) Visit the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Equestre (The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art) and attend a show where you will see the maginificant purebred Andalusian horses dance.  Even for the most cynical non-horsey people this show will take your breath away.

(6) The word “Sherry” comes from the name of the Andalusian city “Jerez” which is located at the heart of the Sherry Triangle.  The Sherry Triangle is the only place in the world that produces the fortified wine that can be officially named “Sherry”.  Visit the Tio Pepe Bodega where you can have a detailed and interesting tour of the Bodega in English followed by a tasting session!

(7) Hop in the car and explore the innumerable beaches, coves and caves that line the coast from Cádiz to Tarifa.  Don´t plan where you will go – just explore.  Keep the coast on your right and stop at anything that takes your interest.  Highlights will include the awesome Caños de Meca, the Sand Dune at Playa Bolonia and much more!

(8) In the months of June – August each village and city in the Province of Cádiz takes its turn to hold their local fayre.  The fayre normally starts on Tuesday and finishes on the Sunday evening.  There are 3 main parts to the fayre; the rides; the music tents (casetas); and the horses.  The best time to go is early afternoon when you will see the Spanish women in their traditional flamenco dresses and the Gentlemen in the traditional suits parading up and down the main stretch on the beautiful Andalusian horses and towing carriages with a glass of rebujito in their hand (a mix of sherry and lemonade).  As the evening draws in the crowds move into the casetas where they continue to drink and dance.  Some casetas play only traditional flamenco music where the women and men go to dance in their traditional outfits, while others have more of a modern twist.  My favourite fayres are the Feria del Caballo (Jerez) and the Feria del Puerto de Santa Maria.  The Feria de Sevilla is the most famous but the casetas are private whereas in all the others entry is open to anyone.

(9) Try the “pescaito frito” (fried fish).  This is the most typical dish in the Province of Cádiz.  You can order raciones (a whole plate), media raciones (half a plate) or tapas (a very small portion).  There are numerous different varieties of fish so if you are unsure what to order simply order a mixed dish with a bit of everything.

(10) Make sure you take time to enjoy the beaches.  Visit the Caleta on a Sunday in the Old Part of Cádiz and marvel at the way the Gaditanos (people from Cádiz) picnic (tables, chairs, beer, Spanish omelette, bingo…and more!)

About the transport – The public transport system in Cadiz is actually fairly good.  Local buses run regularly between all the main cities and villages.  Portillo and Comes are the main bus companies and you can find timetables and other information on their websites (although if you don´t understand Spanish it could be a bit difficult).  The local train services are also excellent and very reasonable, check timetables here.  However, in my opinion the best way to explore is by car – hire a car from any of the local airports or you will find offices based in all the major cities.

To sum up – the Province of Cádiz is one of the gems of Spain.  Still largely unaffected by the mainstream tourist industry you will find the real Spain here!  Take the time to explore and get to know the locals who are always up for good laugh with the guiris (foreigners).