Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
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We drove around the peninsula and over to Cadiz (pronounced 'Cadd-i', if you want to get into all this) on the Atlantic coast. It's reputedly the oldest town in Europe, founded somewhere around 1100BC. I can't even get my head round that.
A bit more broken Spanish got us some toasted pan con jamon y queso and a hot coffee which set us up for some decent exploring.
Immediately, we got a different feel from Cadiz. It was more modern on face value, hugely developed and teeming with city life. The port is huge and we got told to piss off by security when we tried to sniff around the huge cruise ship that was in port preparing for some exotic voyage.
The buildings, streets, plazas and parks were a pleasure to saunter around and we spent a lot of time watching the local people spend this particular sunny Sunday with their families and friends. Smiles filled the place and I felt a strong community spirit that was positively enchanting.
Walking along the coastal pathway from north to south - the grandeur of the old bustling city on one side, the roar of the Atlantic on the other - was incredibly rewarding. We walked for miles and stopped at almost every opportunity, checking out the ancient monuments, castillos and coastal attractions, including an amazing taverna flamenca called 'Juan Villar' on the way to the Castillo de San Sebastian. The castillo was locked but the walk out there with the atlantic crashing against the walled pathway from both sides was a lot of fun.
We continued over to the huge yellow-domed cathedral in the distance and wandered down in to the main plaza. Awesome. The most serene setting: a gob-smacking towering structure dominating its square with ancient towers and monuments, and dozens of happy diners sitting outside in the sun eating small banquets and roaring with laughter, cheer, and the occasional burst of local flamenco. Utterly fantastic. We ate there. We lapped it up. Another shovel full of tapas down the hatch, a full belly and a stretched smile which took us off again, probing down more tiny alleyways. We liked Cadiz. It's huge, and emanates immense grandeur.
Next stop was Tarifa, the southernmost town in Europe. We arrived at dusk and made it just in time to catch the fiery sunset bellow up behind the stormclouds hovering over the Atlantic. It's been a while since I've seen a coastal sunset, and found it even more impressive to see distant tornadoes branching down intrusively into the horizon.
We took ourselves right to the very tip of land that provides the dividing break between the powerful crashing surf of the Atlantic and the milk pond Mediterranean which stretches all the way past Gibraltar and along the Costa del Sol. To me it was like standing at Cape Reinga and watching the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific again, only upside down and with a fiery sunset that silhouetted the surfers bobbing on the other side of the wall.
Tarifa is a windsurfing and kitesurfing hotspot. It's one of the best in Europe. The winds that come pounding in are incredible, and you only have to let your eyes follow the line of inland hills to see that they're lined with hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines. Quite understandably the surfing's pretty full-on too, and as we drove through the small township down to the beach we passed a whole population of adrenaline seekers lining the streets and huddling round tables in cafes and bars.
We continued on to Algeciras, the main ferry port out to Morocco. We had planned to stay there but the vibe was all wrong. It was intrusively hectic and hostile, but I guess we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. A little up the coast and we found something more suitable - a smaller, friendlier little fishing village called 'Estepona'. It's just what we needed and after dumping our bags we headed straight out for a meander, a cerveza and some er... tapas..
Tapas count:- 30