I spent only a few hours in Tarifa before moving on to Cadiz. I schlepped my belongings a few miles to the edge-of-town bus station and sat with a Magnum icecream bar on a bench to be astonished by the wide range of bare shoulders and legs provided by a tour bus’s worth of Spanish bright young things gathering at the station on their way to some distant event. The Andalusian countryside reminded me of Wisconsin – rolling agricultural landscape – although was significantly higher in windmills than I’m used to at home.
The arrival in Cadiz was preceded by a long causeway with nearly open water on both sides and then a dramatic passage way through huge and medieval looking fortifications. Legend has it that the city of Cadiz was founded only 80 years after the fall of Troy and it certainly comes across as ancient. The street grid of the old walled city is regular but extremely narrow – allowing for pedestrian or one way traffic only except for the ring road which passes just inside of the military grade sea-wall. The city hasn’t been under Moorish control since the thirteenth century but there were still a few distinctly non-European elements. As in Tarifa, I was interested by the similarities and differences to the Moroccan medinas. The narrow streets and inward turned buildings are the same. The central courtyard is key – although somewhat transformed (see the last photo) but there’s still a lot more attention payed to streetscapes. The concept of public space just doesn’t seem to exist the same way in the Moroccan version – every open space between buildings is an opportunity for street vending there. In Cadiz, plazas were far more likely to be occupied by perambulating old folks and business people having impromptu meetings via cell phone. Its an urban landscape that feels more familiar to an American eye, even if it is dramatically more pedestrian than at home.
Operating on the Euro rather than the Dirham, I immediately switched back from restaurant meals (vegetarian tagine ad infinitum) to grocery store picnics on shady benches and began a week long (and never won) battle with the produce departments of various grocery produce departments to get someone to let me buy produce without first encasing it in plastic bags. Daily street markets were notably absent.