Things to do in Cádiz, my favorite city in Spain

Just when I sat down at one of the tables in a tiny roadside restaurant, I smelled it. Fresh washed laundry, hanging to dry in a very humid climate. The scent of moist mixing with fabric softener rose from the red-checked tablecloths in front of me, catapulting me back in time. Back to an image of drying laundry in front of the ochre-yellowish walls of an apartment building, its walls crumbling of age. I was sitting on the terrace of my hostel in the Casco Antiguo, Panamá.

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of flashbacks. The smallest hint of a scent smelled a long time ago, can bring me back to this specific time and place. Not only smells, songs as well: ‘Cheerleader’ by Omi shows me images of palm trees against a deep blue sky, flashing by while driving from Trinidad to Varadero in a blue Viazul bus. Location: Cuba. I noticed colours transport me into the past too. A specific kind of ochre reminds me of the Cathedral in Cádiz.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Cádiz lately. Being in Thailand, mainly on my own – that’s another story, not for now – I’ve had a lot of time to think. I’m temporarily living in a tropical paradise, but I’m missing my beloved Latin America. – always, but I know I’m going to go back – I’m missing living in Spain too. During the eight months I was working in Spain last year, I had the chance to visit tons of places in Andalucía, the city of Cádiz being my absolute favorite. About time I started to write about it.

At the Paseo Maritimo, watching over the ochre dome of the Santa Cruz Cathedral

Why, you would ask. Why Cádiz? Honestly, I don’t know. There are places that have a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, a feeling or a vibe that make you feel like you belong there. There are magnificent cities with a ton of things to do, a vibrant nightlife, a mass of people raving about it and yet, they leave me completely indifferent. Others, however, catch me from the first moment I set foot in their streets, leaving me with a warm buzzing feeling inside and the dreams of buying an apartment and moving in for the rest of my life. Doesn’t matter if they’re big or small. I absolutely adored Mexico City, a huge mastodont smacked in the middle of Mexico with terrific traffic problems, while Cartagena, a beautiful colonial city In Colombia – and I do love myself a colonial city – left me irritated and eager to leave. Cádiz, however, enchanted me from the very beginning and even though it’s not one of the biggest cities in Spain – number 17 the be exact -, it still has enough sights to see and keep you busy for a couple of days. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss when visiting Cádiz!

Moorish heritage in Cadiz
The New Cathedral, right in the centre of Old Town Cadiz
Little narrow streets lead you to small Plazas, perfect to take a break from strolling around Cadiz
Watchtowers everywhere
Pink and other pastel colors for the houses in Cadiz

WALK THROUGH THE OLD TOWN

Cádiz is ancient. It’s founded around 1000 BC by the Phoenicians and considered one of the oldest still standing cities in Western Europe. You’ll breathe history when walking through the small cobblestone streets, referring to the times the Spanish Empire plundered the Americas. You’ll spot a Roman theater, right in the middle of the El Pópulo district. Memories of the Phoenicians, Greeks & Romans, Visigoths and Moors still linger in the streets. The area is so rich in stories, it’s hard to soak it all in. The best way – according to me – to discover the narrow streets of Old Town Cádiz is with a Free Walking Tour. I’ve spent quite some time researching which tour to take and opted for the Spanish speaking – a girl gotta practice her Spanish – tour with Lalunares, which was easily one of the best tours I’ve taken. Ever. The guide’s storytelling was so vivid, you could literally see the Romans march through the streets in front of your eyes. In case you’re not so fond of mingling with strangers and you’d prefer to discover Cádiz by yourself, you just have to walk around. Narrow streets with buildings in pastel colours, leading from Plaza to Plaza, opening up only to reveal some hidden wonders or lead you back to the seaside. It is the perfect city to get lost in and you’ll get to know its secrets while doing so.

View from Torre Tavira, the highest watchtower in Cadiz
View over the city of Cadiz from Torre Tavira

TORRE TAVIRA

Cádiz is a city of watchtowers, 126 to be exact. The city was blooming in the 18th century thanks to its trade – or robberies, depending how you see it – with the Americas, being the first port the ships arrived to after their trips to the Colonies. Merchants didn’t want to miss the arrival of their precious goods and build plenty of watchtowers hovering over the city, each with its own flag, in order to be spotted from far away at sea. Torre Tavira is the highest watchtower of Cádiz, serving as a museum, a camera obscura and the best viewpoint of the city, all at the same time.

Sunset at the Paseo Maritimo
Roman theatre in the El Populo area of Cadiz

PASEO MARITIMO DE CADIZ

The ocean is only a small walk away from the centre. Actually, almost the whole Old Town of Cádiz is surrounded by the sea. History and old buildings mingling with the seaside are my favorite. Once the narrow streets start to get claustrophobic, you just have to follow your nose and walk a couple of minutes before breathing the fresh sea breeze. The Paseo Maritimo leads you along the coastline to the Cathedral, while serving as a meeting point for young and old or the setting of buskers playing South American tunes in the evening light.

Sunset over Cadiz
Beautiful flowers of the Botanical Garden in Cadiz
The Castillo de San Sebastian, close to Playa de La Caleta
The crumbling road to Castillo de San Sebastian

PLAYA DE LA CALETA

The city ends at La Caleta, nestled between the castles of San Sebastián and Santa Catalina. A beach. And castles. Do I really have to say more? The perfect place to take a dip in the sea, after strolling through ancient streets on a hot summer day. The adventurous of heart could always head towards the entrance of the Castillo de San Sebastián, connected to the mainland through a crumbling road that clearly has seen better times. An ideal place to watch the sunset, with a cold drink, seeing the sky turn all colours of pink you can possibly imagine.

Selling fresh fish at Mercado de Abastos
Fresh shrimps ready to be eaten
The prettiest catch of the day at the Mercado de Abastos

MERCADO CENTRAL DE ABASTOS

The place to be in Cádiz to sample some of the best foods Spain has to offer. The market is the best in the mornings, when fresh fish and seafood is ready to be sold, cooked and land in empty stomachs. The smells of fresh produce and salty ham linger in the air while you walk around, deciding on what to cook that evening. Maybe you’ll be just buying some ingredients for a pick-nick at the beach. Or you’re in it for a quick lunch, browsing through the food stalls at the outer square of the market, ready for a true food fest.

Once you’ve visited all these highlights of Cádiz, you just scratched the surface. But I hope you’ll fall in love with the city just like me, not only impressed by the history, but also the simple things in life: enjoying pink sunsets on a rooftop terrace while freshly washed shirts are swaying in the hot summer breeze. Walking along the Paseo Marítimo while deciding which of the side streets you’ll discover next. Tasting some mouthwatering tapas while sitting on a terrace in one of the Plazas dotting the city, or licking the melting ice cream of your fingers while walking over ancient cobblestones.

Things to do in the city of Cadiz, Spain.

Tenerife – what to do on the biggest island of the Canaries

Tenerife. When I told people I was going to work on the biggest of the Canary islands, some people started looking at me as if I was speaking Chinese. Others immediately started smiling and instantly bombarded me with stories of their sun-drenched adventures in Playa the las Americas, or even better, drunken memories of the famous Veronicas strip. Since I’m working as a destination representative for a well-known European travel agency, working in winter – yes, we think in seasons and yes, there are only two: winter and summer. Which basically means summer and MORE summer for me. – almost automatically leads you to: the Canary Islands. A Spanish archipelago off the coast of Northwest Africa known for its hot summers and warm winters or, like a Canario told me, “The land of eternal spring.” – sounds pretty dramatically, but I must confess, the temperatures are indeed very pleasant in winter – Of course, I ended up on the biggest and most famous of all the islands: Tenerife. When I got to know where I’d be working in winter, a couple of images flashed through my head: rows and rows of people on sunbeds, almost as red as a lobster. German schlagermusic playing too loud. Resort after resort after resort. McDonalds, Zara and Starbucks taking over the place. Elderly couples racing the streets with their electric scooters. Basically, images of an island that doesn’t even give the slightest hint of being in Spain.

For the readers that have no idea what I’m talking about, the Canary Islands are the ‘hotspot’ for European holidaygoers. Knowing that those islands have the perfect spring temperatures all-year round, I guess you can already imagine where the image in my head came from… It would be busy. It would be crowded. And it would be very very hard to find anything unspoiled by mass-tourism. At least; that’s what I thought before having ever seen the island. I was very very wrong. Continue reading Tenerife – what to do on the biggest island of the Canaries

Snapshots of Montenegro.

After five-and-a-half months in Montenegro, my iPhone told me to stop. taking. pictures. He couldn’t handle it anymore…time for me to look back – whut, it has only been three weeks? – and pick my 5 favorite iPhone-shots to share. Whoever follows me on instagram, maybe you’ve seen some of these before… if not all of them.

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Sunset over Budva.

This is one of my favorite views of Budva. I was living in Bečići for the time being, which meant I had to walk along this beauty of a coastal promenade every single time I wanted to visit/party in the city. While the view is not less stunning in the daytime, the minutes before dusk sets in are simply beautiful. Normally I’m not a fan of posting pictures of sunsets – they’re way better when you’re present to enjoy them –, but here I couldn’t resist the urge to snap a picture. The lights and the pinkish glow over the water give the city an almost magical atmosphere, while swimmers enjoy the last rays of sunlight before the evening falls.

 

Rafaelovici Beach next to Budva in Montenegro during sunset
Empty beaches.

Rafailovići in spring, before the beaches were packed with colourful umbrellas and barely clad bodies baking in the sun. One of my first strolls in my ‘new’ environment, when the beaches were still deliciously empty. No bright coloured souvenir stands along the promenade or tons of voices in foreign languages, just silence and emptiness. Wonderful.

 

The viewpoint in Lovcen National Park in Montenegro
La la love Lovcen.

One of my all time favorites. – in Montenegro at least – How many times I’ve been hopping into my car, driving all the way up here to admire the view over mountains, lakes and cities? Somehow I always ended up here, the viewing point with the second-to-best panorama in the whole country. – the best is seen from the top of one of those mountains, overlooking the Bay of Kotor and you have to be careful not being hit by cars, sooo… give me Lovcen, please. – How I enjoyed the utter peace and silence on this mountain. When I wasn’t being attacked by flying ants or other bugs, of course.

 

Sunshine after the rain in Durmitor National Park in Montenegro
Black Lake.

Sunshine after rain. And a bunch of people crawling out of their hiding holes, like tiny little ants. I was quick enough to snap this picture, before the sunlight faded away again. Definitely one of my favorite pictures of Montenegro, which was taken at the border of one of my favorite lakes. I was there before on another bright and sunny day, but to me the memory of this specific picture stands, taken after a walk around Black Lake in the pouring rain, when the sun decided to shine after all.

 

Foggy road up to Lovcen National Park viewpoint in Montenegro
Lovcen, again.

Another picture of Lovcen, this time in the fog. First time visiting the National Park, driving on roads winding all the way up the mountain… to see absolutely nothing. Quite the experience and very creepy, because you can’t see how deep you can fall when you take a step in the wrong direction. Luckily, I made it back alive.

How to visit Skadar, the biggest lake of the Balkans.

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I’m on a boat.

When you land in the airport of Podgorica and you’re heading to the Montenegrin coast, you probably don’t realize you’re about to pass through the biggest National Park in Montenegro, a.k.a. the biggest lake on the whole Balkan peninsula. Bigger isn’t always better, but in this case, big also means covered in the prettiest waterlilies and home to more than 270 different species of birds. Oh yeah, the whole shebang is surrounded by mountains, as far as the eye can reach. – all the way into Albania in this case – Nothing beats the feeling of taking a leap and jumping into the cool waters of the lake on a lazy hot summer day, hereby escaping the hordes of sun lovers on the already packed beaches of the Adriatic coast. Continue reading How to visit Skadar, the biggest lake of the Balkans.

Rafting the Tara river.

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You could see black fish in the depths of the lake. Not on picture.

When I first started doing some research on Montenegro, one of the first things that popped up, was rafting the Tara river. Awesome. Even though in the past I haven’t always been crazy about fast currents, tiny boats and especially jumping off things – not that you’re able to jump off things with a boat, but you know, the boat splashes down pretty hardly from time to time –, I changed my mind after a rafting trip in Costa Rica. White water rafting is awesome. Paddling in the middle of nowhere, only surrounded by thick bushes and listening to monkey sounds in the distance. The gushes of adrenaline flashing through your stomach the moment you ‘survived’ another rapid. Getting soaking wet wave after wave after wave and still smile. Yes, you can say that after the first time white water rafting, I was hooked. Not that I have so many chances to raft in the peacefully gurgling Schelde river near my hometown, but the moment I read ‘rafting the Tara river’ in the top-10-things-to-do-in-Montenegro, I knew who would be sitting in a raft sooner or later. Continue reading Rafting the Tara river.

End of summer – 2016.

Pebble beaches in front of Rafailovici.

With the seasons come new ends and new beginnings. For me, the end of summer means also the end of my life and work in Montenegro. A country packed with all kinds of natural wonders, from mountaintops shredded in clouds offering stunning views on mediterranean lakes to sun-drenched pebble beaches soaked in Balkan beats. A country being my home-away-from-home for a little while. With one week of work left, time is there to say my goodbyes – always a heartbreaking experience for me – and sadly, I will leave a whole bunch of wonderful people behind. Continue reading End of summer – 2016.

Why you should visit Rijeka Crnojevica in Montenegro.

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Skadar lake.

Beaches packed with tiny stones and flocks of sweating people under red umbrellas, turning clockwise to catch a tan. Crystal clear turquoise blue waters, showing an abundance of tiny fish and snorkeling faces. When visiting Montenegro during high season, be prepared to sit among a lot of people packed on a small strip of land. – Imagine hairy red bellies, too tiny swimming trunks, naked saggy boobs and a bunch of kids peeing in the water – At least, when you’re the ‘I-prefer-to-be-cooked-alive-in-the-sun’ kind of type. According to the stream of pictures I’ve already posted on the blog, I’m more the ‘I-like-mountains-and-glacier-lakes-and-trees’ kid, variated with some ‘swimming-to-escape-the-scorching-heath’ days and a couple of ‘I’m-too-lazy-to-move-so-I-keep-laying-in-the-sun’ moments. In short, it means that I’m out exploring a lot in the mainland and prefer to leave the beaches behind when too crowded. Close to number one on my Escape-the-beaches-in-Montenegro-bucketlist, is the small town of Rijeka Crnojevića. Continue reading Why you should visit Rijeka Crnojevica in Montenegro.