Cadiz - a light less ordinary

Think of Spanish cities and the first thing that comes to mind is iconic architecture: Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, Valencia’s striking Calatrava-designed City of Arts and Sciences, Bilbao’s Guggenheim, Granada’s Alhambra - it’s the big, bold sites screaming 'Look at me!' that draw the crowds.

Cadiz has no grand designs or big-name architects. Walk around its cobbled streets, pickled in centuries of Andalucian sunshine, and it’s the vernacular, the everyday, the ordinary that catch the eye - elegant mirador-fronted facades painted in pastel shades, blind alleys, cafes and ancient back streets imprisoned behind formidable fortifications.

Its cathedral is a huge, rather uninspiring 18th-century pile, it was erected in the wake of repeated batterings Cádiz suffered as the major receiving port for the riches of the Spanish empire. The cathedral’s ancient predecessor, along with most of the city, was repeatedly razed in attacks by Drake, Essex and Nelson.

Literally crumbling - the effects of brine on its soft limestone - the city has tremendous atmosphere: slightly seedy, definitely in decline, but still full of mystique. One of the first impressions is the luminous intensity of light reflecting off stone and whitewashed exteriors. Laurie Lee likened Cádiz to a scimitar 'lying curved on the bay and sparkling with African light.' It’s actually a fist-shaped promontory jutting into the Bay of Cádiz.

The nearest airport to Cádiz is Jerez, served by Ryanair from Stansted, or fly to Malaga or Seville.

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