Archive for the Casco Antiguo Category

Cadiz – Casco Antiguo – Carnival Madness

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz, Cadiz Province, Casco Antiguo, Spain on November 23, 2015 by gannet39

I was really excited to be finally coming to Cadiz as I’d heard so much about it and I was determined to make the most of my two nights here. As luck would have it my second night coincided with the Saturday night of Cadiz’s famous carnival, and I could let my hair down as I’d finished work and was flying home from nearby Gibraltar on the Sunday.

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The two week carnival is the most famous in Spain and attracts (so I’m told) about 100,000 visitors, many of whom who are bussed in for the main weekend. Apparently it dates back to the sixteenth century when they started to emulate the Venice carnival, a city with which Cadiz had a lot of trade.

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Music is a very important feature of the carnival and there are several different kinds of performances, some serious some light hearted. When I was eating at El Faro on the Friday night the restaurant was invaded by a troupe of Chirigotas; singers who perform humourous satirical ballads about politicians and current affairs. I didn’t understand the lyrics but just the way they sang was funny and they had their audience in stitches.

Some examples on Youtube here and here to give you an idea of what they get up to.

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On the Saturday evening I met up with John, a school owner in nearby San Fernando who I’d become pals with. After a few refreshments in a marisqueria near my hotel we headed into town to meet his buddy Mario.

 

They’d been friends as teenagers before John went to live in NYC for a few years and were now reunited as partners in crime. I couldn’t want for two better guides.

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As described in my previous post they took me around a string of tapas bars and one drink led to another!

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Saturday night is when everyone puts on fancy dress and parties in the street, so we met a few characters.

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Many of the costumes were inspired. One of my favourites was this platoon of plastic soldiers.

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The atmosphere was fantastic and the light drizzle (which John says happens every year) did nothing to dampen anyone’s spirits.

We kept going till about six in the morning  (I think) but eventually I had to go back to the hotel and pack before getting my bus to the airport.

I had a really great time thanks to your fabulous hospitality guys. Cadiz is my kind of town!

Cadiz – Casco Antiguo – Stuff to See

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz, Cadiz Province, Casco Antiguo, Spain with tags , , , , , , on November 23, 2015 by gannet39

Cadiz is considered to be one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Western Europe, founded by the Phonecians in 1104 BC.

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People from Cadiz call themselves Gaditanos, from the Phoenecian name Gadir. This became Gādēs in Latin and then Qādis in Arabic, which is the origin of the current name.

The oldest part of the city, the Casco Antiguo, is a maze of alleys and squares whereas the newer parts of the city have wide avenues and more modern developments. However, because Cadiz is built on a sand spit, there are no tall buildings as the required foundations cannot go deep enough. Consequently the street layout in the old town has remained virtually unchanged since medieval times.

Google map here. Map of the barrios in the old town here.

Following is a suggested walk to give you a basic handle on the layout of the old town.

Historically the main land entrance to the Casco Antiguo would have been the Puertas de Tierra, just a short walk from the Hotel Monte Puertatierra where I was staying.

They were built originally in the sixteenth century but had to be modified in the twentieth to allow traffic through. These are the only remaining parts of the walls to my knowledge.

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Once through the walls, if you veer right along Avenida Cuesta de Las Calesas, you’ll find the bus and railway stations on your right and this facade on your left.

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Go straight past them until you come to Calle Plocia where there are a couple of nice houses on your left.

At the end of Plocia is Plaza de San Juan de Dios where you’ll find the town hall. In the picture it has been illuminated for carnival. It’s not usually bright pink!

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Go out of the West side of the square and along Calle Pelota and you’ll come to Plaza de la Catedral, a pleasant square with palm trees and an old stone gate.

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As its name would suggest there is a nice cathedral in the square.

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Go out of the north west corner of Plaza de la Catedral and go straight along Calle Compañía, you will come to the petite Plaza Topete at the west end of which is the central post office.

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The lion head post boxes along the side wall are the same as those of the central post office in Valencia.

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Adjoining Plaza Topete to the south west is Plaza Libertad with the Mercado Central at its centre. It was closed when I went so sadly I didn’t get any pictures. These prawns were in the Carrefour next door!

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All the squares mentioned are ground zero for street partying during carnival.

So that’s my very brief survey of some of the main sights. I only had two nights in town so please don’t consider this an authoritative guide, I’m sure there’s lots more to see.

Cadiz – Casco Antiguo – Eating and Drinking

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz, Cadiz Province, Casco Antiguo, Spain with tags , , on November 23, 2015 by gannet39

As I only had two nights I didn’t have the time to go to all the places I wanted to, but I tried!

Casa Tino (Intermediate) 25 Calle de la Rosa

I arrived here with typical English punctuality just before they were due to open but the chef was late so I waited out on the street with the staff for about quarter of an hour. I was willing to hang around because I’d read that this was the best place in town to come for Ortiguillas Fritas (fried sea anemones, a local speciality) but was told it would take a fair while before the kitchen would be ready. I wanted to go to El Faro below so I just had an octopus salad, which was excellent (B+), and hit the road, after a free chupito by way of apology. Next time.

El Faro (Advanced A), 15 Calle San Félix, www.elfarodecadiz.com

I absolutely love this place. I ate in the busy tapas bar (standing only) but they also have a restaurant next door that I must try next time. I met a few people in the tapas bar, firstly Martin and Irene and later Julia and Eduardo, who were very friendly and we soon got chatting.

The food was sublime. The Tartar de Atún Rojo de Almadraba con Huevas de Trucha (Bluefin tuna tartare with trout roe), was fantastic (A+). The taste of the super-fresh Bluefin transported me straight back to Japan, especially as it had been mixed with wasabi peas, olive oil and I think lime juice and served with Kikkoman soya sauce and pickled ginger on the side. I jokingly asked if they had chopsticks and was promptly presented with a pair! I think that any place that expects to serve tuna to Japanese people is going to be pretty good.

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Cadiz is very famous for its seafood, particularly the Bluefin tuna (hence the Japanese visitors) so I wanted to believe this experience could not be surpassed. However Julia and Eduardo informed me that the Campero restaurant in Barbate has the best tuna ever! The perfect time to eat it is in May when several local towns celebrate their tuna festivals.

The tuna (including mine according to the name of the dish) are caught by means of the Almadraba, an ancient Moorish or possibly Phonecian method of sustainable fishing. The tuna swim into the centre of a maze-like net where they can be selectively harvested by the fishermen. The same method is also practised in Sicily and Sardinia where it’s known as the Mattanza.

Next I was served Erizos Rellonos;  a sea urchin (erizo translates as hedgehog!) on ice that had also been tossed in a little soya sauce, and garnished with a few trout eggs (A+). ¡Que rico!

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The Croquetas de Bechamel y Verduras con Salsa de Tomate Casero (bechamel and vegetable croquettes with a homemade tomato sauce) were fine examples of the genre (A+).

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The Albóndigas de Chocos (cuttlefish) were also top notch (A).

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The Tortillitas de Camarones de Salinas (B+) were the best I’d had so far (see my post on San Fernando). ‘Salinas’ refers I think to the saline river estuary where these tiny shrimp are caught.

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I finally got to try Ortiguillas Fritas after being disappointed at Casa Tino. They were interesting but I have yet to be completely won over (B).

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As you can imagine, this wasn’t a cheap experience (€58) but then what price happiness? El Faro had help me achieve perfect contentment, a very rare condition. All the waiters were great, particularly the young guy who mainly served me, so I bunged them a sizable tip. I really need to come back here one day.

As I mentioned in my previous carnival post, John took me to several great tapas bars. Unfortunately I don’t recall the names but hopefully he’ll read this and remind me.

The first one was a marisqueria just a few blocks south of my hotel, on the south side of a side street off the beach front Avenida Fernandez Ladreda.

Upon arrival we got this complementary, typically Andalusian, tapa of Zanahorías Aliñadas, carrots marinated in a paste of garlic, cumin, oregano, paprika and cider vinegar and served with olive oil. Must make this dish at home, recipe here.

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They had a good selection of prawns (my favourite seafood) including Quisquillas (small shrimp) and Gambas Blancas (white prawns) but I went for a plate of Langostinos Tigre (tiger prawns, actually shrimps!?) which were very good (B+).

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This seems an opportune moment to discuss the differences between these very similar crustaceans. Although in English we use the names ‘prawn’ and ‘shrimp’ almost interchangeably they are in fact two different species (the physical differences are explained here). In Spanish, a gamba is a prawn whereas langostinos and camarons (also known as quisquillas or esquilas) are types of shrimp. The Spanish terms vary geographically as well, just as ‘shrimp’ (US) and ‘prawn’ (UK) do.

I also got to try a cream version of Orujo (Galician aguardiente) which I’d never had before (B+).

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After meeting up with John’s friend Mario, we walked the streets for a while taking in the carnival atmosphere. Mario bought me a couple of cones from a street stall; one of Mojama (dried tuna jerky) and another of the tiny prawns they use in the tortellitas.

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We ended up in another tapas bar in town (forgotten which sorry!) where we were served some spicy chorizo and some other unphotogenic but totally delicious sausages.

We also had a portion of Chicharrónes (pork scratchings), which both I and John thought were always rendered but evidently not. Perhaps it can be just another name for pork belly. Anyway, they was delicious (A).

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In another bar we had some Lupin beans )on the left in the picture), another first for me. I’d seen them many times before as they seem to be a popular drinking snack in Spain but didn’t know what they are called. You have to bite through and discard the thick skin to get at the bean inside. Definitely a good accompaniment (A) for the rum shots we were drinking!

These are a couple of places I really wanted to go to but didn’t have time:

Casa Manteca, 66 Calle Corralón

As famous but a bit down market from El Faro, the atmospheric looking ‘Lard Bar’ was so full every time I passed that I didn’t even bother to try to get in. I’ll be there as soon as it opens next time.

Mercado Central, Plaza Libertad, www.cadiz.es

I raced here as soon as I got into town but they were closing by the time I found it. The displays of seafood must be fantastic. I particularly wanted to try a sushi stall I’d heard about, which is either in or near the market.

A pity I didn’t get in to these places but it’s always good to save somewhere for next time, and there most definitely will be a next time.

I stayed at the Hotel Puerta Tierra (Intermediate) 34 Avenida Andalucía www.hotelesmonte.com which is about twenty minutes walk from the far end of the old town. I can’t tell you much more about it as I was hardly there but it was fine as I recall.

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