10. Spain: Full-Day Private Tour to Cádiz & Jerez
There are few places in Spain which can lay claim to the international recognition enjoyed by Jerez. Thanks to its wine, Jerez or sherry, the equestrian tradition, the bulls, flamenco and motor racing, this Andalusian town’s name has been known far and wide for many years. The Phoenicians arrived in the surrounding area some 3000 years ago to establish a colony called Xera, which became known as Ceret under the rule of the Romans and Sheres or Xeres when it became an Arabic fortress. Under the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, the prosperous trading of its famous wines with the English began. The Muslims left a deep mark on the town as well including the layout of the quarters situated in the heart of the old Arabic city town center such as San Lucas and San Mateo, where the church of the same name is to be found, the Market Square (housing the Archaeological Museum) and Riquelme Palace. But without a doubt, the most important Al-Andalus feature is the Alcázar de Jerez situated within the walled enclosure of the mosque, the Arab baths and the olive garden with its cisterns and fountains in perfect harmony with the Baroque palace of Villavicencio built upon the ruins of the original Islamic palace with a tower where the visitor can find the original camera obscura.
The “Tacita del Plata” is considered the oldest city in the Western World. It was founded (in 1100 BC) by the Phoenicians, a seafaring people who turned Gadir into an important trading colony where the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Visigoths and the Muslims would all subsequently settle. An open, cosmopolitan city, its port was chosen by Columbus as the point of departure for his second voyage to the New World. The city would then become, after the decline of Seville, the port to The Indies, drawing the flow of trade with the American continent. This frantic commercial activity then brought about an era of economic, cultural splendor, when Baroque palaces with their characteristic towers offering amazing views were built. The cathedral, which can be seen from the sea, and its golden tiled dome fit perfectly into the Cadiz cityscape with its colonial air. It combines both the Baroque and Neoclassical styles, and its treasures are amongst the most important in Spain.
The intense trading activity with the Indies awakened the greedy interest of pirates, which led to the city being fortified. The remains of the original although renovated crossfire defense system designed by Vauban make up an important part of the heritage of Cadiz. La Puerta Tierra, the city gates, retain sections of walls and semi-bastions such as those of San Roque and Santa Elena, on both sides. A stroll through the Campo del Sur will afford you with a view of the Los Mártires and Capuchinos defense bastions by La Caleta, which is guarded by San Sebastián and Santa Catalina Castles. Heading towards the boulevard Alameda Apodaca, the La Candelaria Bastion and the San Carlos Walls can also be seen. The Puerta Tierra Walls clearly divide the new city regained from the sea –built along a great avenue and along the extensive, landscaped promenade– and the old. The historic center of the city has narrow streets and small squares in popular districts such as La Viña – the fisherman’s district - the Mentidero, Santa María (true home of flamenco song) and El Pópulo.