Monday, April 09, 2007

Bay of Cadiz

We’re well and truly into Spain now. From Vila Real we did a 60-mile run down to Chipiona, at the mouth of the Rio Guadalquivir which goes up to Seville. Chipiona is a bit of a kiss-me-quick resort, although I’m sure it’s very tasteful compared with the Costa Brava. Large lumps of the town have been demolished in favour of something which isn’t built yet, and the concrete structures which are left are covered in graffiti – a bit of a shock after clean, tidy Portugal.

In Chipiona we had our first exposure to Semana Santa, the celebrations of Holy Week which is a very big thing in Andalucia. Loads of people (including children, or possibly very short people) dress up in black, purple, red or white robes, with matching pointy hats which go right over their faces with just holes for the eyes. - see image of small model spotted in bookshop window! To us it looks a bit creepy and reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan, but the Andalucians have been doing this for hundreds of years. They parade around the streets and in and out of churches, with huge candles, marching bands, effigies of the Virgin Mary and of Christ on the cross.

We spent just one night in Chipiona and decided to head down towards Cadiz. Sadly we missed out on Seville this time, although perhaps we’ll make it another time. The marina in Cadiz suffers from being almost a mile from the city, although it’s a pleasant walk along the sea wall – more curious half-finished concrete structures with graffiti. The city is fabulous, mainly 18th century with high, narrow streets and open squares. I wanted to see the cathedral but we never got there because of the processions everywhere – it was Good Friday, after all. We had a delicious dinner of fried fish of various kinds – apparently fried fish was invented in Cadiz – and finding our way home was like a maze in a puzzle magazine, where every route led either to the sea or to another procession full of people with pointy hats.

We were running a bit short of food, as most shops are closed over Easter, and decided to try another location for a couple of nights. We headed just five miles over the Bay of Cadiz to El Puerto de Santa Maria, where sherry has been shipped from Jerez (which is just inland) for centuries. On the way it poured with rain, and continued raining for hours. Andalucia is famous for being hot and dry, so we felt this was a bit unfair! Judging by the look of the river water (unspeakably disgusting) the sewers had overflowed, and my mother said the rain was even mentioned on the news in the UK.

The shops have been closed in El Puerto too, but it’s a lovely location (the river looks much cleaner today) with an attractive marina on the river, run by a yacht club. On Sunday, we managed to find some sliced bread and crisps, and guess what, more processions with pointy hats. We even bought some Kinder eggs for the boys – I bought them some Easter chocolate, and left it in the UK…Today, Monday, we found the Aldi supermarket and some gas for the cooker, so we're stocked up with beer, cheese and other essentials.

We've just managed to enable an internet connection here and check the weather. It looks OK for a run down to Barbate tomorrow and Gibraltar hopefully by Thursday.