Gaudi’s Masterpiece: The Church of the Sagrada Familia




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Our 2009 trans-Atlantic cruise ended in Barcelona. We stayed three extra days there before flying back to Canada and covered a lot of ground in those three days.

Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia. Its history goes back to Roman times. Situated on the Mediterranean coast, it is known for its warm climate, beautiful beaches, vibrant retaurants and entertainment and most of all, for its stunning architecture, particularly that of Antoni Gaudi, a pioneer of Catalan Modernism.

La Rotonda, an example of Catalan Modernism designed by Adolf Ruiz in 1906. It was a hotel and later served as a hospital. After being abandoned for a few years, it was completely refurbished as an office building in 2013.
La Rotonda, an example of Catalan Modernism designed by Adolf Ruiz in 1906. It was a hotel and later served as a hospital. After being abandoned for a few years, it was completely refurbished as an office building in 2013. This picture is from 2009.

After leaving the ship, Janis and I and our friends Chris and Sheila took a shuttle bus to our respective hotels, then met up for a walk around, before settling at a restaurant near the Sagrada Familia for lunch.

We have lunch in a plaza near the Sagrada Familia
We have lunch in a plaza near the Sagrada Familia

Construction on this famous church whose name means Holy Family started in 1882. The work continues to this day with completion expected in 2026, the hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família or Church of the Holy Family, one of Antoni Gaudi's master works.
The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família or Church of the Holy Family, one of Antoni Gaudi’s master works. This side of the church is called the Nativity Facade.

We first took a walk around the church, which is huge. The immense scope of the project can be seen from the drawing below. The brown parts are the elements finished so far. The white areas, including the mammoth central tower, are barely started.

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Diagram of the completed and uncompleted parts of the Sagrada Familia.

The text says: “Drawing of the church showing the completed part and the part that is still to be built. It will help you understand the scale of the work. When it is finished it will have 3 facades (alluding to the Nativity, the Passion and the Glory) and 18 towers (12 on the facades, dedicated to the apostles, 4 to the evangelists, 1 to the Virgin Mary, and the highest one to Jesus).”

Four of the completed towers. Work continues on the structure.
Four of the eight completed towers. This side is called the Passion Facade.
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On this side of the church the sculptures are angular and fairly modern in style, on the other side, the Nativity Facade, the sculptures are more traditional.

Considering they plan to have it completed by 2026, they have got their work cut out for them. The half way point was reached in 2010, 128 years into the project. But the project was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and went slowly for many years. With modern technology, the work has accelerated.

Piles of construction materials outside the church.
Piles of construction materials outside the church.

After walking around the outside we went in, first to see where work was continuing inside. We saw massive scaffolds many stories high, as well as artisans moulding giant cement and stone pieces that would eventually be hoisted into place.

Huge scaffolding inside the church as work continues.
Huge scaffolding inside the church as work continues. The video below captures even more of the vastness of the project.

After touring the construction zone, we went through an exhibit explaining Gaudi’s style. One of the fascinating elements of Gaudi’s work is his love affair with nature. Themes like giant pieces of fruit, honeycombs, spirals, roosters, a giant turtle supporting a column and so on, abound. Not to mention that the entire church looks like it is a sandcastle with glops of sand dripping off it.

Heaps of fruit atop some pinnacles at the Sagrada Familia
Heaps of fruit atop some pinnacles at the Sagrada Familia

Then another walk around outside to where we could go up the completed towers themselves. We took an elevator up one tower and exited high above the city.  The towers soar above the street level offering a fabulous view of Barcelona. And everywhere – work continues.

Looking down to the street from the walkway between the towers of the Nativity Facade
Looking down to the street from the walkway between the towers of the Nativity Facade

After wandering around up in the open air high above the city, we went still higher up the spiral staircase in another tower. These giant shafts are layered with scalloped lookout holes.

Looking out at the city through one of the scalloped windows in one of the towers.
Looking out at the city through one of the scalloped windows in one of the towers.

Then down to the basement for an exhibit of models Gaudi used in designing the church. Some of these models are a good size in themselves.

Janis and I in front of a model of the entranceway to the Passion Facade
Janis and I in front of a model of the entranceway to the Passion Facade

Without a doubt, the Sagrada Familia is the must-see sight in Barcelona. Even if you don’t tour inside, you must at least walk around this massive edifice. It is nothing short of spectacular. You’ll find a link to an additional photo gallery after this video from the Sagrada Familia website. The video shows a speeded up version of some of the construction so far followed by an animation of the construction yet to be done, ending on the completed structure planned for 2016.


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Photo Gallery: The Sagrada Familia




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We took about a hundred photos at the Sagrada Familia. Here are some of them.

The Nativity Facade with its four towers
The Nativity Facade with its four towers We were able to go up to the walkway between the two central towers.
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A crowd admires the sculptures on the Nativity Facade.
Construction continues on the church which was dedicated as a basilica in 2010.
Construction continues on the church which was dedicated as a basilica in 2010.
Inside the church - tall filagreed columns
Inside the church – tall filigreed columns
More interior columns
More interior columns
Workmen prepare materials to be hoisted into place eventually.
Workmen prepare materials to be hoisted into place eventually.
Another piece under construction
Another piece under construction
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One of the exhibits explaining Gaudi’s art. He took inspiration for this grille from honeycombs.
A turtle forms the pedestal for this column. Nature themes played a large role in Gaidi's designs.
A turtle forms the pedestal for this column. Nature themes played a large role in Gaudi’s designs.
Looking down on the street from the elevated walkway on the Nativity Facade
Looking down on the street from the elevated walkway on the Nativity Facade
At this great height there seems to be even more construction than down below.
At this great height there seems to be even more construction than down below.
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Look up the tower and you can see the scalloped windows, each recessed and shielded by an overhanging piece of stone.
Janis and the pinnacle of the central sculpture in front of the walkway
Janis and the pinnacle of the central sculpture in front of the walkway
Some of the fruit inspired decorations atop two spires.
Some of the fruit inspired decorations atop two spires.
A large stained glass window
A large stained glass window
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More spires topped with fruit decorations.
Looking up one of the towers inside
Looking up one of the towers inside
Looking down the stairwell of one of the towers
Looking down the stairwell of one of the towers
Janis inside one of the towers.
Janis inside one of the towers.
This stairwell is inspired by spirals, perhaps a shell.
This stairwell is inspired by spirals, perhaps a shell.
One last look below before taking the elevator back down.
One last look below before taking the elevator back down.
A model in the gallery below the church
A model in the gallery below the church
Back outside - a good look at the construction work.
Back outside – a good look at the construction work.
A drawing of what the project will look like when completed in 2026
A drawing of what the project will look like when completed in 2026.


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Malaga: A Tale of Two Castles




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The fourth stop on our 2009 cruise was Malaga, a small Spanish city on the Mediterranean 134 kilometres from Gibraltar. As we did in Cadiz, we decided to explore Malaga on our own rather than take an organized excursion. The city is a short hop by bus from the port.

Malaga is an ancient city with a history spanning 2800 years. It was founded by the Phoenicians in 770 BC.  Like Cadiz, it is also within the autonomous region of Andalusia.


Upon leaving the ship, we took a short bus ride to the city. We were dropped off at the Paseo Parque, a broad boulevard spanned by parks on both sides. These parks are lush with greenery and the occasional statue and fountain.

Statues, fountains and lush foliage abound in the Paseo Parque.
Statues, fountains and lush foliage abound in the Paseo Parque.

We wandered though the Parque de Malaga to a road that took us to the first of two castles, the Alcazaba. The road is flanked by a steep retaining wall which is dotted with little pigeon holes.

The roadway to the Alcazaba. Note the pigeonholes.
The roadway to the Alcazaba. Note the pigeon holes.
A pigeon in a pigeon hole.
A pigeon in a pigeon hole.

Tha Alcazaba is an old fortress built by the Moors from 756 to 780 AD and extensively rebuilt by the Hammudid Dynasty in the 11th Century. It has features of Roman, Moorish and Renaissance architecture.

The Alcazaba, magnificent Moorish fortress.
The Alcazaba, magnificent Moorish fortress.

The roadway took us to an elevator which took us up into the fortress. Inside we found gardens and fountains as well as displays of crockery and other artifacts. There were also stables and drinking troughs for horses. We enjoyed walking around the battlements which command an excellent view of the city.

Some of the gardens inside the Alcazaba
Some of the gardens inside the Alcazaba

While we were there, a teacher dressed as a knight explained the history of the Alcazaba to his students. A colourful and interesting outing for the kids.

A teacher engages his class in a history lesson at the Alcazaba.
A teacher engages his class in a history lesson at the Alcazaba.

But the Alcazaba is just one of two Moorish castles in Malaga. The other is a short walk up the hill – the Castillo de Gibralfaro. The road is fairly steep and we passed fields of cacti.

Lots of cacti grow wild along the slopes of the Gibralfaro hill
Lots of cacti grow wild along the slopes of the Gibralfaro hill

Along the way we got a good view of the Malagueta, Malaga’s bull fighting arena. This 14,000 seat stadium was built in 1874 and bull fights are still staged every year from April through September.

The Malgueta, Malaga's bull fighting arena. Fights run from April through September
The Malgueta, Malaga’s bull fighting arena. Fights run from April through September

Arriving at the Castillo de Gibralfaro, you enter through a museum showing military uniforms through the ages as well as a model of the two fortresses. There is a similar model at the lower fort. from there you can wander at your leisure. The fort is a large one and offers excellent views of the city from its ramparts. We circumnavigated the parapet as we had done with the lower fort.

Janis, Chris and Sheila on the ramparts of the Castillo de Gibrilfaro
Janis, Chris and Sheila on the ramparts of the Castillo de Gibralfaro

At one point there was a sort of small dungeon below the walkway, with a grate above it. My wife and her friend Sheila went to check out the place while I stayed above with the camera. When they entered I shouted down to them, “Look up! Look waaaaaay up!” Someone nearby quickly added, “And I’ll call Rusty!” and we all had a good laugh. A fellow Canadian! The lines come from a popular kid’s show called The Friendly Giant.

Look up! Look waaaaay up!
Look up! Look waaaaay up!

We explore some more of the castle and then made our way back to the street level and a beautiful garden park called the Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso.

The Jardines de xxx seen from the Castillo de Gibrilfaro
The Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso seen from the Castillo de Gibralfaro. The Paseo Parque boulevard runs behind it and all along that road is a series of connected parks, all lush with foliage. The building beside the gardens is Malaga City Hall.

We wandered back to downtown through the park flanking the Paseo Parque and stopped at a restaurant for some paella. Then we wandered through part of the downtown with its marble pedestrian ways and beautiful buildings. The city looked so clean and bright. A gorgeous city.

Janis and I enjoy paella at a sidewalk restaurant.
Janis and I enjoy paella at a sidewalk restaurant.

Along the way we came across some street entertainers. They were living statues. They were dressed in gray costumes and stood absolutely still like statues. If you put a coin in a hat, the statues came alive and posed for pictures and gave you a souvenir coloured pebble.

One of the living statues. Check out the video below.
One of the living statues. Check out the video below.

We wandered back towards the ship and passed a bus, half buried in the sidewalk. It was an ad, an unusual billboard for a movie, Fuga de Cerebros, a romantic comedy about young college students. It was panned by critics but the biggest drawing Spanish movie of the year, later released in English as Brain Drain.

The unusual ad prop for the movie Fuga de Cereberos, top grossing Spanish movie of 2009.
The unusual ad prop for the movie Fuga de Cereberos, top grossing Spanish movie of 2009.

We loved Malaga. It is a beautiful city with two great castles to explore, lush green parks, great restaurants an a colourful and entertaining downtown. Well worth a visit.

We took so many pictures you’ll find a separate photo gallery linked below. Or just keep scrolling if you’re on the home page.



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Photo Gallery: Malaga




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Here are a few additional photos of our visit to Malaga, Spain.

Alongside the Alcazabar
Alongside the Alcazaba. The Castillo de Gibralfaro is at the top of the hill ahead.
Looking up at part of the Alcazabar
Looking up at part of the Alcazaba
Janis in the Alcazabar
Janis by a gate in the Alcazaba
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Along the ramparts of the Alcazaba, the city of Malaga in the background.
Gardens at the Alcazaba
Gardens at the Alcazaba
There are actually two layers of walls at the Alcazaba - a fort within a fort so to speak. The outer wall goes our straight ahead, the inner wall off to the right.
There are actually two layers of walls at the Alcazaba – a fort within a fort so to speak. The outer wall goes our straight ahead, the inner wall off to the right.
The Cathedral of Malaga seen from the Alcazaba
The Cathedral of Malaga seen from the Alcazaba
Another view of the Cathedral of Malaga
Another view of the Cathedral of Malaga
Watering hole for the horses of yore
Watering hole for the horses of yore
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Arabic ceiling in one of the rooms in the palace.
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Looking east from the Alcazaba. You can see the Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso just below and the Maragueta bull fighting arena behind it.
Looking east. The fortress is on a hillside and follows the terrain up and down.
Looking east. The fortress is on a hillside and follows the terrain up and down. That’s our friend Chris striking a pose.
Leaving the Alcazaba behind as we head up hill
Leaving the Alcazaba behind as we head up hill
As we left the Alcazaba and headed up the hill, we saw this amazing fig tree.
As we left the Alcazaba and headed up the hill, we saw this amazing tree.
The Alcazaba is far below us now
The Alcazaba is far below us now
The Port of Malaga
The Port of Malaga
The Malagueta, Malaga's bull fighting ring. Fights are held from April to September.
The Malagueta, Malaga’s bull fighting ring. Fights are held from April to September.
You can get bull fighting posters in some of the gift shops.
You can get bull fighting posters in some of the gift shops.
We find a cannon at the entry to the Castillo.
We find a cannon at the entry to the Castillo.
One of the displays at the museum before you go into the castle.
One of the displays at the museum before you go into the castle.
Along the castle walls
Along the castle walls
Janis on guard duty!
Janis on guard duty!
Looking out on the harbour from the guard hut
Looking out on the harbour from the guard hut
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Our ship, the Navigator of the Seas is the one you see head on at the left. Three cruise ships were in port that day.
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We quite liked this townhouse complex with a rooftop pool that we saw looking down from the ramparts.
The Alcazaba below us
The Alcazaba below us
Walking around the ramparts of the Castillo de Gabrilfaro
Walking around the ramparts of the Castillo de Gabrilfaro
After going down and around the ramparts, we head back up the other side
After going down and around the ramparts, we head back up the other side
Much of the interior of the fortress grounds are covered with grass and trees.
Much of the interior of the fortress grounds are covered with grass and trees.
Looking back at where we just came from.
Looking back at where we just came from.
The city seen through a notch in the battlements
The city seen through a notch in the battlements
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Almost back to our starting point in circumnavigating the Castillo.
Back at street level we see the Alcazaba again
Back at street level we see the Alcazaba again
The Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso
The Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso
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A statue in the Jardines de Pedro Luis Alonso. This statue is called El Biznaguero. can’t find a translation for that.

 

We headed west along the Paseo Parque to the downtown.
We headed west along the Paseo Parque to the downtown.
The streets here are closed to traffic and seem to be made of polished marble.
The streets here are closed to traffic and seem to be made of polished marble.
The architecture of Malaga is gorgeous.
The architecture of Malaga is gorgeous.
Some very old buildings but kept in excellent shape.
Some very old buildings but kept in excellent shape.
Janis and one of the living statues.
Janis and one of the living statues.
Chris and one of the living statues
Chris and one of the living statues
She's got on a lot of make-up to make her face look as if made of stone.
She’s got on a lot of make-up to make her face look as if made of stone.
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A sidewalk restaurant in Malaga
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Much of this downtown area is pedestrian only.
As we headed back to the ship , we saw these horse-drawn carriages. A nice way to get around parts of Malaga.
As we headed back to the ship , we saw these horse-drawn carriages. A nice way to get around parts of Malaga.

 




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Old Lisbon




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The second port of call on our 2009 trans-Atlantic cruise was Lisbon, Portugal. While had taken a shore excursion on our first stop, Tenerife in the Canary Islands, we opted to check out Lisbon on our own. Upon disembarking, there were free shuttle buses to transport us to the Baixa and surrounding districts which make up the historic centre of Lisbon, much like the 20 arrondissements make up the historic centre of Paris.

Lisbon has a lot of history behind it. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, predating London, Paris and Rome by centuries. The bus dropped us off at outside the Rua Augusta Arch – the gateway to Old Lisbon.

The Rua Augusta Arch was built to comemorate the rebuilding of the city after the 1755 earthquake.
The Rua Augusta Arch was built to commemorate the rebuilding of the city after the 1755 earthquake. The 100 foot high arch is surmounted by a 23 foot tall statue.

We passed through the arch into the downtown area, a warren of narrow streets with shops and apartments, as well as large plazas. The area was bustling with activity. It is largely a pedestrian only area though there are trams running up and down the narrow streets and some cars as well. Lisbon also has three funicular trams as the city lies on a hillside sloping down towards the Tagus River.

Busy pedestrian mall looking back towards the arch.
Busy pedestrian mall looking back towards the Rua Augusta Arch.

We noticed a large fortress off to our right so we decided to check it out. The Castelo de Sao Jorge is in the Alfama district, one of the oldest districts in Lisbon and the only one not destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. To get there we strolled up some narrow streets, passing the Lisbon Cathedral along the way.

Lisbon Cathedral
Lisbon Cathedral

The castle itself is Moorish and was captured by Christian forces in 1147 during the Second Crusade. Lisbon became the capital in 1255 and the castle was renovated and extended over the next hundred and twenty -five years.

The Castelo de Sao Jorge dates from Moorish times.
The Castelo de Sao Jorge dates from Moorish times.

We spent a good while there exploring the castle and walking along the battlements which command a panoramic view of Lisbon.

On the castle ramparts with the city in the background.
On the castle ramparts with the city in the background.

Then we walked back towards the central part of old Lisbon. Along the way we watched as the trams made their way through the narrow thoroughfares.

Up the hill from the Rua Augusta Arch we came across the San Justa Lift. The Baixa district is flanked by steep hillsides, one leading to the Castelo on the right and another to the Bairro Alto on the left. The San Justa Lift takes passengers from the Baixa up to the Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square). Construction was started in 1900 and completed in 1902. Originally powered by steam, it converted to electricity in 1907. It stands 45 metres tall (about seven stories) We did not go up the elevator but did take a funicular later in the day.

The San Justa Lift carries 24 passengers at a time from the streets of the Baixa to Carmo Square.
The San Justa Lift carries 24 passengers at a time from the streets of the Baixa to Carmo Square.

Further up the road from the lift is the impressive Rossio Square. The square features a large fountain and a statue of Pedro IV (Peter the Fourth). During the Spanish Inquisition, the square was the site of public executions, the notorious auto-da-fé which saw its victims burned at the stake.

Fountain in Rossio Square
Fountain in Rossio Square. You can see some of the inlaid Portuguese pavement below the fountain.

But its most striking feature is the Portuguese pavement. Portuguese pavement is a surface created with inlaid stones of different colours to form intricate patterns.  The Rossio plaza is particularly striking because of the optical illusion it gives of waves and motion. You can see in the video below that my camera did not like it much.


We wandered further up the hill and came across Lisbon’s Hard Rock Cafe (seems every major city has one!) And across the plaza from the Hard Rock we found the Ascensor da Gloria, one of three funicular trams in the city. This inclined railway dates from 1885. We hopped the tram and later walked back down to the Baixa.

Walking back down we passed a little shop whose door was flanked by two carved wooden figures. These figures seem to be popular in Lisbon. We saw quite a few of them at various places.

Carved wooden figures flank the doorway of this establishment.
Carved wooden figures flank the doorway of this restaurant. Such figures are popular in Lisbon.
Strolling back down to the Baixa from the Bairro Alto.
Strolling back down to the Baixa from the Bairro Alto. You can see the Castelo de Sao Jorge in the distance.

All in all we had a terrific time in Lisbon. A lovely city with many interesting sights.



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Photo Gallery: Lisbon




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Here are some additional photos of our visit to Lisbon.

At a park along the waterfront we found these interesting benches before we went into the city itself.
At a park along the waterfront we found these interesting benches before we went into the city itself.
The 25 de Abril Bridge and our cruise ship as seen from the ramparts of the Castelo de Sao Jorge
The 25 de Abril Bridge and our cruise ship as seen from the ramparts of the Castelo de Sao Jorge
The battlements of the Castelo.
The battlements of the Castelo.
One of the turrets of the Castelo.
One of the turrets of the Castelo.
Another turret.
Another turret.
Flags flying above the Castelo.
Flags flying above the Castelo.
The battlements had narrow slits fro snipers to shoot through.
The battlements had narrow slits for snipers to shoot through.
Most of the buildings in Lisbon have red tile roofs.
Most of the buildings in Lisbon have red tile roofs.
Streets are narrow in parts of Lisbon.
Streets are narrow in parts of Lisbon.
Heading back to the Baixa district from the Castelo de Sao Jorge.
Heading back to the Baixa district from the Castelo de Sao Jorge.
Statue of Pedro IV in Rossio Square.
Statue of Pedro IV in Rossio Square.
Lisbon's Hard Rock Cafe. Seems every major city has one!
Lisbon’s Hard Rock Cafe. Seems every major city has one!
How sixties! The Hippie cafe Convenient Store, its door flanked by two wooden figures
How Sixties! The Hippie Cafe Convenient Store, its door flanked by two wooden figures
The Gloria Funicular Tram.
The Gloria Funicular Tram.
Looking back down towards the Baixa district.
Looking back down towards the Baixa district.
Another carved figure.
Another carved figure, this one outside a bakery.
Lots of sidewalk cafes in Lisbon.
Lots of sidewalk cafés in Lisbon.
A last panoramic view of Lisbon.
A last panoramic view of Lisbon.




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The Cats of Cadiz




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Cadiz, Spain was the third port of call on the trans-Atlantic cruise we took in April 2009. It lies along the coast of Spain  on the Atlantic about 150 kilometres from Gibraltar (119 km via the inland route), not quite two thirds of the way from Portugal to Gibraltar. It lies on a narrow spit of land, a peninsula, jutting out from the mainland to enclose a large bay, though it looks more like an island connected by a causeway to the mainland.

The city is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. It is the capital of the province of Cadiz and is part of the autonomous region of Andalusia.

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The Port of Cadiz

The port is on the sheltered side of the peninsula on the North end. This is adjacent to the Old Town, the walled part of the city. This part has preserved much of its ancient heritage and differs significantly from the more modern city outside the walls with its narrow cobblestone streets and small shops. But even in the modern part of the city, all buildings are fairly small as Cadiz sits on a sandspit, making the sinking of the foundations necessary to support highrises prohibitively expensive.

As with all ports of call, we had an option to take one of several excursions, including one to the inland city of Seville, but we opted to explore on our own. And we are glad we did. The Old Town is not very large and you can explore much of it during a stopover.

The Old Town of Cadiz is a walled city. Beyond the wall is modern Cadiz with wide tree-lined streets and shopping plazas. All the beaches are in this area.
The Old Town of Cadiz is a walled city. Beyond the wall is modern Cadiz with wide tree-lined streets and shopping plazas. All the beaches are in this area. This photo taken from the modern city side looking towards the Old Town. There are few vehicles in Old Town as the streets are narrow.

We left the port and followed the road along the wall separating it from the newer part of the city to the side  of the peninsula facing the open sea.

The short walk across the peninsula to the ocean took us to a steep sea wall with walk along the top. Part of the sea wall was overgrown with shrubs and we spotted cardboard boxes and other bits of debris here and there. We were surprised to find that these were home to a couple of dozen feral cats.

This fellow came along and fed the cats and replenished their water bowls.
This fellow came along and fed the cats and replenished their water bowls. The modern part of Cadiz can be seen in the background beyond the fortress.

As we watched the cats, they started running up the wall towards the ledge at the top. A man was approaching and calling to them. As they circled around him, he opened a couple of shopping bags and pulled out tins of cat food which he opened. He spread the cat food out in glops along the ledge and the cats had a feast. He also replenished their water bowls.

This is one of the pleasures of exploring a port of call on your own. You sometimes run into the unexpected and so it was with the cats. After the man finished feeding them, he cleaned up and headed off and so did we.

It wasn’t long before we came to a Roman theatre. This archaeological work was not discovered until 1980 when a warehouse fire destroyed the buildings sitting on top of it. The theatre, the second largest Roman theatre in the world after the one in Pompeii, is still being restored to this day. Roman theatres are different than Roman amphitheatres. Roman theatres are semi-circles and much smaller than the amphitheatres which are full circles enclosing a large area where sporting events and games were held. The Coliseum in Rome is an amphitheatre.

Roman theatre in Cadiz
Roman theatre in Cadiz
This Roman theatre is the second largest in the world after the one in Pompeii. It was not discovered until 1980.
This Roman theatre is the second largest in the world after the one in Pompeii. It was not discovered until 1980.

We asked Anna, the woman at the ticket booth, about the cats and she said they were much revered in Cadiz because they kept the rats out. People often feed them she said.

After checking out the theatre we decided to check out the white tower we saw behind it. That turned out to be part of Cadiz Cathedral.

One of the two towers of the Cadiz Cathedral.
One of the two towers of the Cadiz Cathedral.

Construction on the cathedral began in 1722 and continued for 116 years. It started out in the baroque style, but because it took so long to build, there are also rococo and neoclassical elements. The building was undergoing extensive restoration and repair work when we were there but still open to the public.

The Cathedral of Cadiz
The Cathedral of Cadiz

It is beautiful inside with the ornate woodwork and statuary you’ll find in most Roman Catholic cathedrals. It also had a magnificent pipe organ and below the cathedral was a catacomb with numerous plaques and tombs.

The pipe organ at Cadiz Cathedral
The pipe organ at Cadiz Cathedral
Some of the tombs in the catacomb below the cathedral.
Some of the tombs in the catacomb below the cathedral.

We wanted to pick up a few odds and sods before returning to the ship so we crossed through the gates in the huge stone wall surrounding the Old Town and made our way along some tree lined boulevards to a shopping mall. From there we walked back to the ship along the port road, passing by an extensive rail yard as we went. Spain has an excellent railroad system which we would use later when we travelled from Barcelona to Figueres. But that is a story for a later blog post!

The rail yard of Cadiz, part of Spain's efficient rail network.
The rail yard of Cadiz, part of Spain’s efficient rail network.

All in all, we enjoyed our visit to Cadiz, a charming little city by the sea.

Additional Photos




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Photo Gallery: Cadiz




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Here are some additional pictures of our visit to Cadiz in 2009.

Hungry cats find a friend.
Hungry cats find a friend.
Cats feasting atop the sea wall.
Cats feasting atop the sea wall. That’s the Atlantic Ocean in the background.
Excavation continues at the Roman theatre.
Excavation continues at the Roman theatre.
The Cathedral of Cadiz
The Cathedral of Cadiz
Inside the cathedral.
The pulpit inside the cathedral.
Inside the Cathedral of Cadiz
Inside the Cathedral of Cadiz. It is still an active church with regular services.
The pipe organ
The pipe organ
Steel mesh netting protects the people below from falling debris as the church was undergoing renovations.
Steel mesh netting protects the people below from falling debris as the church was undergoing renovations.
In the catacomb below the cathedral
In the catacomb below the cathedral
One of the narrow streets in the Old Town of Cadiz
One of the narrow streets in the Old Town of Cadiz
The fortress wall separating the Old Town from modern Cadiz.
The fortress wall separating the Old Town from modern Cadiz.
Tree lined street in the modern part of Cadiz.
Tree lined street in the modern part of Cadiz.
Janis and our friends Chris and Sheila in front of a gorgeous planter in Cadiz.
Janis and our friends Chris and Sheila in front of a gorgeous planter in Cadiz.
Our cruise ship in the distance.
Our cruise ship in the distance. Beyond is the mainland of Spain.




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Abbotsford Tulip Festival




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The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival south of the line in Mount Vernon, Washington has been a huge annual event for years. Now a local Abbotsford farm has created the Abbotsford Tulip Festival, also running throughout the month of April. Last Friday my wife and I decided to check it out.

Compared to the Skagit event which comprises many farms and covers 300 acres, the Abbotsford event is a small affair – around ten acres. And there is an admission charge of $5 a person. Nevertheless, we had an enjoyable visit and it is worth checking out if you want to see fields of tulips but don’t want to travel to the USA to see them.

A blaze of colour in the Fraser Valley!
A blaze of colour in the Fraser Valley!

The farm is on the North Parallel Road in eastern Abbotsford, just past Castle Fun Park. Just take the Whatcom Road exit of Highway # 1, head north cross the highway and immediately turn right onto the North Parallel Road. It is just up the road a bit.

There is plenty of parking on a gravel covered lot. Admission includes parking. Near the parking lot is a large tent with picnic tables, a bank of porta-potties, and a collection of amusements for children including rubber duck races, bean bag toss and tetherball.

Picnic tables vovered by a large tent as well as amusements for children make up some of the facilities.
Picnic tables covered by a large tent as well as amusements for children make up some of the facilities.

From this staging area, you walk along a woodchip covered path to the tulip fields. Along the way you pass crates of tulips of different varieties. There are also a lot of park benches along the way.

Along the woodchip covered walk to the fields are containers with different varieties of tulips.
Along the woodchip covered walk to the fields are containers with different varieties of tulips.

A short jaunt and you’re at the fields. They cover ten acres that are visible from the highway. Mount Baker serves as an attractive back drop to the south while Sumas Mountain forms a backdrop to the north.

Mount Baker forms a great backdrop to the tulip fields.
Mount Baker forms a great backdrop to the tulip fields.

We walked along the figure eight walking path through the fields admiring the many different varieties of bulbs. Most were blooming though there were a number of rows not yet in bloom.

Most of the blooms were out when we were there on April 8th, but some. like those in the foreground, had yet to blossom.
Most of the blooms were out when we were there on April 8th, but some. like those in the foreground, had yet to blossom.

In any event, pictures tell a better story than words so I’ll just end with a collection of photos. If you’re in the greater Vancouver area, just head east on Highway # 1 to the Whatcom Road exit. If you’re a flower lover, it’s worth the trip. Check out their website, Abbotsford Tulip Festival, for more.

Close-up of one of the myriads of tulips in bloom.
Close-up of one of the myriads of tulips in bloom.
Many vibrant colours are a feast for the eyes.
Many vibrant colours are a feast for the eyes.
These are Margarita Tulips, a bit of a different shape for a tulip blossom.
These are Margarita Tulips, a bit of a different shape for a tulip blossom.
Janis sitting on one of the many benches, surveys the flowers as well as Mount Baker.
Janis, sitting on one of the many benches, surveys the flowers as well as Mount Baker.
Beautiful Mount Baker just south of the border.
Beautiful Mount Baker just south of the border.
Gorgeous reds and yellows.
Gorgeous reds and yellows.
And purples and pinks!
And purples and pinks!
Gorgeous red tulips.
Gorgeous red tulips.
We will undoubtedly check out the Abbotsford Tulip Festival again next year!
We will undoubtedly check out the Abbotsford Tulip Festival again next year!




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