San Fernando is a small town on the other side of the bay from Cadiz.
This is the first of four posts about the town, the other three are about places to eat. Everywhere mentioned is on my Google map.
Although San Fernando might not seem particularly special at first impression, the town has several claims to fame.
The town has very strong maritime and naval links. El Panteón de Marinos Ilustres, a mausoleum for famous Spanish sailors, as well as a training school for NCOs, the Naval Museum, navy barracks and an old royal shipyard are all located here. The navy’s Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada is one of the most important scientific centers in the world.
San Fernando is also where the Cádiz Cortes, the first national assembly to claim sovereignty over the whole of Spain first met in 1810. It met in the building now known as the Real Teatro de las Cortes.
It’s also the birth and final resting place of Camarón de la Isla, considered by many to be the greatest Flamenco singer of all time.
San Fernando is also famous for its food. The inhabitants are nicknamed Cañaíllas because of their love of eating a local sea snail from the Bay of Cadiz of the same name.
The Andalusian classic dish of Tortillitas de Camarones, a deep-fried mixture of tiny prawns and chickpea flour, was invented here.
While I’d say the Tortillitas are worth a go, another famous local dish called Biensamabe, aka deep-fried vinegared dogfish, is not.
San Fernando is also known as “La Isla” (The Island) because it’s located on an island surrounded by salt marshes (hence “Camarón de la Isla”). So another nickname for the locals is “Isleños“. Salt production was once a major industry in the area.
There are two indoor food markets quite near each other; Mercado de San Fernando behind the old town hall and Mercado de San Antonio on Calle Juan Van Halen, a side street a bit further along Calle Real. Neither are particularly impressive but they are good places to pick up local ingredients to take home, or for a hotel room picnic.
In 2017 I did my shopping at El Almacen del Pata Negra, a deli at 20 Calle San Diego de Alcalá, around the corner from Mercado de San Fernando.
My local colleague Wakim had recommended a local cheese; Emborrado by El Bosqueño http://www.quesoselbosque.com, a mature sheep’s cheese from the Sierra de Grazalema (the highlands of Cadiz province), so I purchased a whole wheel of it here for €50. I can understand why it came third in the 2016 World Cheese Awards because it was superb (A).
I also picked up another local product; a bag of salt from Salinas San Vicente www.salinasanvicente, the last working saltern in San Fernando. The seemingly severe and unsmiling owner threw it in for free which was nice of him.
Wakim also recommended the Moscatel Pasa de Chipiona although I didn’t know where to look for it so I missed out. Next time.
In terms of architecture there’s not much to see. Most of the buildings you can see in the gallery are along Calle Real, the main pedestrian street running through the city. Although many of them are quite old (1755 was the oldest date I noticed), none of them are particular beauties.
There are a few newer buildings if you like that sort of thing (I do).
If you’re looking for a place to walk or run, or indeed to lie in the sun, you could make your way to Playa Camposoto. Just turn south down Calle Real and keep going as straight as you can (see map).
You’ll see a few salinas, salt collecting channels, along the way. It took me about an hour and ten minutes to walk one way from the Hotel Salymar to the beach after work one day.
Next time I’ll try the Salina Dolores trail to the north west of the town.
The next three posts are about good places to eat in different parts of San Fernando…