What I did on my holidays part 3 – Cadiz

In Cadiz I was on the trail of my real rather than my fictional hero – as I posted while I was there, Cadiz to me is the place where they shouted ‘Viva Collingwood’ in the streets (in 1808, when the Spanish first rose against the French, and he was in Cadiz as C in C in the Mediterranean to offer support).

It was also, although I didn’t know it beforehand, the place where the first Spanish constitution was written, and the first parliament held, in 1812. (I meant to go on a guided tour and learn more about it, but one day I had sore feet and went to the beach instead, and one day I went to the right place at the right time and nothing happened.)

As well as that, it was a good base for going to Gibraltar and Cape Trafalgar, but I didn’t work that out until I knew I was going to Cadiz – I was just following the tall ships. And Collingwood.

As it turned out, I just fell in love with it as a city – it’s a real old town place of tall narrow streets and even narrower lanes which turn corners when you’re not expecting it so that you’re never quite sure where you are, and squares for sitting in, and a beach right at one end of the old town, and there was always a sea breeze and sometimes clouds so that I didn’t roast the way I had in Lisbon, and it was lovely. I can’t think of an excuse for going back, but if I do, I will!

Having returned from Gibraltar, I began my real sightseeing with the Torre Tavira – less for the camera obscura (I’ve lived 30 years in the same city as the oldest one in the world without ever getting round to visiting it) than because I always climb up tall places for the view, wherever I go.

Torre Tavira

The camera obscura was fun, it turned out, especially when they picked people up on a bit of paper and left them walking in the air – but the tower did have a wonderful view over the rooftops.

Rooftops and towers

A lot of buildings had these towers – it’s always been a seafaring city, naturally, and they were used to keep an eye on the ships in harbour. So it was nice to find out that we had some ships to look at.

Tall ships

There were different kinds of towers, some with extra platforms, and some without, but I think the octagonal one is supposed to be unique.

Tower varieties

From there I went on to the Museo de las Cortes, the museum of the parliament of 1812. The plaques over the outside date from the centenary in 1912, and I found the geographical spread interesting – not just representatives from across Spain, but from the Spanish colonies in South America and elsewhere.

Museo de las Cortes

Inside there was a bit of a mix – paintings of Cadiz notables on the walls downstairs, and upstairs mostly momentos connected with the Cortes.

I wasn’t really expecting to find Collingwood mentioned – his involvement was much earlier – but I was surprised to find Nelson (and Villeneuve, and Gravina, and Victory) instead.

Gravina and Villeneuve

The main exhibit, though, is a model of the city from 1777 – it has changed, but not as much as it might have done, and it was interesting to be looking down on it after looking down on the real thing.

Town plan

There’s also a large and very fancy monument to the constitution, supported by all kinds of statue people and topped by a book – this was where the walk was supposed to start, except that it didn’t.

1812 Monument

Instead of going on the walk that first day back, I went down to the beach in the evening as it started to cool down, had a swim and watched the sunset while drinking beer. I think this was a better plan.


Both sides of the little beach have their old fortifications – this was the original Phoenician harbour, although I think it’s silted up a lot since then.

The other side of the bay had a little fortress on an island (more or less), at the end of a causeway. My guidebook talked about Cadiz crumbling away in the sea air, but this was the only place it was really visible to me.

Castillo de San Sebastian

I wondered when I looked at it first whether it had originally been a real island, but when I went back the next day I realised that you would always have been able to walk there at low tide. This is still the Atlantic coast, the sea moves!

Low tide

The next morning I went sightseeing again while it was still cool, wandering round the main old buildings of the city.

This is the cathedral, quite clearly built in two kinds of stone at two different times, but I liked it anyway.


I stumbled across these plaques on my first night in Cadiz, when I wasn’t thinking about Trafalgar at all (I knew it was close, because I was going there on a bus, but I hadn’t really taken that in). This is the house on the corner of the cathedral square where the Spanish admiral Gravina died of his wounds, a few months after the battle.

Gravina plaques

There are some fancy old houses tucked into the streets behind the cathedral – this is the Casa del Almirante (although I’m not sure which admiral – not Gravina!)

Casa del Almirante

Another big square, closer to the port and the station and the rest of the world, holds the Old Town Hall of Cadiz, begun in 1799.


Down at the other end of the old town, this is not the theatre where Collingwood was cheered for 15 minutes when he went to the opera, because it was built in 1861 – but it was built on the site of an earlier theatre, so it might be the same place. I took a picture of it anyway!

Gran Teatro Fallo

I did go down to see the tall ships, but after Lisbon they were a disapppointment – a great bare empty place with a couple of official refreshment places set miles back and a handful of touristy stalls, and generally badly organised (they had people right outside the gates giving out free cans of juice, and men with guns right inside the gates tell people they couldn’t come in with cans, and once you’d walked the quarter mile or so along the ships in the heat they told you that you couldn’t get out at that end and had to go back to the beginning).

But have a picture of Alexander von Humboldt’s nice green sails, since I was reading a book about him.

Tall ships again

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