Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spain . . . Splendid and Stunning

During our cruising aboard the Costa Pacifica we made several stops along the coast of Spain.  I decided to put them all in one blog post so that my readers would get the full Spain experience at once :-)

Cadiz, Spain

Our first stop was in Cadiz, Spain.  Cadiz is a port city located in southwestern Spain and is full of life and sun!  Cadiz is also the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and is one of eight provinces which make up the community of Andalusia. When we first found out we would be taking this cruise and stopping in Spain we had decided it was a must to lounge at a beach in Spain . . . ummm, boy were we wrong!  We first spent some time in the main square of Cadiz enjoying the live music/dancing, frozen yogurt and shops as well as meandering through the winding and narrow streets of the city.  The cathedral of Cadiz was and imposing structure which demanded our attention. We then changed into our swimming gear in the bathroom of a local eatery and headed off to find our beach!

La Playa de la Caleta ~ when I had done my research before the trip I had learned that this beach was the best loved beach in Cadiz.  It is a beach located in the Old city and is located between the castles of San Sebastian and Santa Catalina.  What could be better than being in Spain, at a beach, located Die Another Day.  It seemed to be the perfect choice for a beach at this stop as it was within walking distance from our cruise dock and the reviews were amazing!  The first thing we noticed upon arrival, however, was the density of people upon this certain beach.
It was packed!  The beach itself is not very large . . . about 1,300 feet long and 98 feet wide . . . all of it filled with tourists and Spaniards combined!  Well . . . "Let's give it a shot" we thought.  Finding a spot large enough to lay out our towels we then took in the surroundings . . . the setting was indeed beautiful!  A quaint beach situated between two extremely old castles, on the left side of the beach several boats were swaying with the tide, the sound of beach and touch of sun on our skin  . . . . we then noticed the nudity . . .
between castles??  I had also learned that it had a certain resemblance to parts of Havana, Cuba and was used as the set for several scenes in the James Bond movie
For those of you who have not been to a beach in Europe, it is quite common for bathers to bathe topless.  It is also quite common to find old and young men alike sporting the traditional "speedo".  We are not European, however, and ended up feeling quite uncomfortable in our surroundings.  Also . . the water was quite cool.
Back in town we were able to satisfy our American food cravings at a traditional, American "burger joint" (forgot the name of it at the moment) before heading back to the ship.  It was a beautiful day and the setting was superb!

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Our next stop in Spain was at the port of Vigo, Spain . . . our main attraction that day?? The city of Santiago de Compostela and it's famous cathedral.  Just a short train ride away and we were walking the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Legend has it that the remains of the apostle James were located here and the cathedral was then built upon the site of the remains.  The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela has been the final destination of a pilgrimage that began over 1,000 years ago and is known as the Way of St. James.  Over 100,000 pilgrims travel to the city each year from across Europe as well as other parts of the world.  Surrounding the cathedral you can find many shops and stands selling the scallop shell, emblem of St. James.  Inside the cathedral there are backpacks and walking sticks stacked along the walls as pilgrims pay their respects (I guess we took the easy route . . no backpacks, tennis shoes or walking sticks for our group of 6).

The construction of the cathedral began in 1075 as was made in the Romanesque style with a Baroque fa├žade.  It is truly beautiful and intricate . . . inside and out!  The first thing I noticed upon entering the cathedral, besides the number of people packed in such a small space, was a very large, and beautiful chandelier in the center of the cathedral.  The smell of incense greeted us and everything seemed to be overlaid with gold.  We stayed for part of the service before venturing back into the streets.

On our train ride back to the port we learned that the very same rail/route we were taking had an accident just a few months prior killing 79 people.  Apparently the train was exceeding the speed limitations and derailed on a bend as it approached the Compostela station . . . uhhh . . gee . . .thanks for informing me. :-/
Malaga, Spain

(roman ruins with the Alcazaba in the background)

Malaga, also a part of Andalusia, was our last stop in Spain during this voyage.  None of the shore excursions listed by our cruise where too tempting so we decided to just do this one on foot.  Clayton, not feeling well, decided to stay on the ship so Ryan, Kelly and I set off on our own adventure.  Malaga is the sixth largest city in Spain, located near the straight of Gibraltar and not very far from the African continent.  The history of Malaga dates back over 2,800 years making one of the oldest cities in the world.

The Roman theater of Malaga dates back to the 1st century B.C. and was only rediscovered in 1951.

The Castle of Gibralfaro, as well as the connecting Alcazaba, were built by the Moors in the early 11th century.  The Alcazaba was the fortification on the top of the hill Gibralfaro and was used for administrative and defensive operations.  It was also the residence of the royalty of that time.  The inner structure was filled with gardens, ponds and beautiful architecture . . . not the typical style of architecture we had seen in Europe up to this point.  I later learned that we could have actually taken a ferry across to Morocco for the day . . . complete with a camel ride!  Oh well . . .

Episcopal Palace