17th March 2021
Isla Culatra, Portugal – Cadiz, Spain
When Cristopher Columbus set off from Spain in 1492 he hoped to discover new worlds, find new treasures and experience new cultures. As we have left Portugal and headed for Columbus’s departure point we have discovered a new world, found new treasures and experienced a new culture.
Setting off from Portugal we felt like new explorers in this Covid world. Spain beckoned and we hoped that our research was right and we understood the entry requirements. All we had between us and this new world were 80 miles of the most idyllic sailing one could imagine.
The miles slid under Ruffian’s keel as she sailed into the night and with it, the horizon was lit up. The hills in the far distance blinked with red lights from windfarms, the fish-farms in the near distance flashed with white ones and the all the boats anchored in Cadiz bay shone like beacons. With all this noise around we couldn’t make out the lights marking the safe entrance to Cadiz, but thankfully our cunning plan of entering just as the sun popped up was executed to perfection.
After negotiating the entrance to Cadiz, we now had to negotiate the trickier task of immigration. We sought out the Frontera police wondering how they’d manage British nationals, with Portuguese residency, who’d first entered the Schengen zone while the UK was abiding by the EU withdrawal agreement, who consequently didn’t have a Schengen entry stamp, but had arrived in time past from a non EU country. If we were confused, a poor policeman would be even more confused.
The Frontera police welcomed us into their offices and as we explained our situation in pigeon Spanish their faces dropped. Our boat documents were scanned, our passports were flicked through and as confusion reigned, our details were scribbled down in scrappy bits of paper. Everything changed the moment they saw the golden EU logo on our newly laminated Portuguese residency certificates. We had smiles and congratulations, there was nothing to do, no stamp to make and were told to go on our way, enjoy Spain and all the delights that lay just the other side of their office.
Entering Spain really was like discovering a whole new world. In Portugal squares had been devoid of life, restaurants stood empty like derelict beacons and towns felt like monuments to a long ago past. In contrast Spain ebbed and throbbed with life. Every coffee shop percolated delicious smells, every corner alive with vibrant Spanish chatter and every street flowed with people on their daily tasks. The new world of Spain could not have been more different from the old world of Portugal.
This new world however was not Covid free, it did however feel Covid contained. Every person doing every activity wore a mask, no-one invaded anyone else’s space, it seemed like everyone exhibited extreme respect for everyone else, and everything that could take place outside was outside. Even as we sat and drank, masks were donned between slurps and as waiters approached masks were hastily engaged. The rules here seem simple and effective. We like simple and effective.
Cadiz charmed us in every way. The narrow streets were made narrower by the balconies that jutted out making neighbours intimate friends, the squares that basked in the morning sunshine were transformed to oasis of dappled shade created by the afternoon sun, every building seemed to have a story behind it that was celebrated in the monuments that decorated nearly every street. Cadiz seemed perfect in every way with no leaf out of place, no litter in any corner, all while throbbing to the sounds that we’d missed form weeks past.
Cadiz was also the most bike friendly cities we’d ever been in. Bike paths made of velvet smooth tarmac criss-crossed the city and we set off to take a dawn pedal around the island. The miles flew by as we pedalled under the imposing towers of the cathedral, through forts that the British had bombarded in years gone by, and out into the new city where we were kept away from the cars and close of the daily life of the inhabitants.
The history of Cadiz is unusual in that it’s been uninterrupted for 4000 years and we were lucky enough to be able to experience this history for free. As we wandered through its museum, we were amazed at finding bright vases from the Phoenician era, intricate gold jewellery from the Romans, and while the British were bathing in mud in the middle ages the Cadizians were busy creating intricate carvings in the most precious of stones and metals.
Cadiz was not only special for the Cadizianness, it was also special because of those we met. As Fiona returned to Ruffian all squeaky and clean she asked Iain for some of his haircutting mastery*. Just as he started to brush and chomp a little voice from another boat chimed in and asked Fiona if she’d like a ‘proper’ styling.
Lizzette from Satori appeared with all the right equipment, wrapped Fiona in a cape, and showed all her hidden skills. Satori had been changed from a powerful ocean-going boat into a hair salon as dry ends were banished, whispy hair was unwhipsed and she even asked if Fiona wanted some ‘layering’, to whit Fiona replied that it was, ‘way above Iain’s capabilities to maintain layering’.
Discovering the new world that was Cadiz, it’s hidden treasures in its past and people and it’s culture of respectfulness and vibrancy has given us a new lease of cruising life. Portugal was good, but Cadiz has been great.
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