This one is from the archives, first published in Turbulence - corrib voices anthology.
It is said that when the sun sets in Cádiz, it falls off the edge of the world. How it manages to climb back up again each morning no one knows, but the fall is always a magnificent sight. That is, if you happen to be within sight of the sea.
You could be sitting outside the little fisherman's bar on the Playa de la Caleta, for example, with a cold beer on the table beside you and little fishing boats bobbing in the sea in front of the fort of San Sebastian, behind which the orange sun falls. Better still, you could take a stroll along the miles of beaches that run along the southern edge of the city. Here, every evening, the locals go on their daily paseo, immaculately groomed, with beautifully dressed children and pedigreed dogs.
Stray more than a few paces from the town's edge, however, and you lose sight of both sea and sun and are immediately swallowed up into the warren of narrow, cobbled, one-way streets that is the old part of Cádiz. As you walk along these little streets, dodging twenty year old cars and innumerable scooters adorned with handsome young Spaniards, your eye will constantly be drawn to the old and dilapidated yet still somehow beautiful buildings that make up this ancient port. Elaborately carved doorways support massive oak doors, behind which, more often than not, are hidden little courtyards embellished with Andalusian tile work and earthenware pots overflowing with flowers and greenery.
If you happen to look up you will see a thin strip of blue sky, on either side of which drape down these buildings, hiding ornately rusted balconies behind weathered wooden blinds. The song of caged birds floats down and adds a sort of timelessness to your impressions as you walk.
Cádiz is not a town that moves with the times. It's inhabitants do - slowly, years behind everyone else - but the town itself does not shake off its past.
When, unexpectedly (for you think you know where you are going) you come upon one of the many scattered plazas - little and not so little but never big - the slight sense of claustrophobia experienced in the narrow streets fades, but you will still not be able to get your bearings from the sun. The plazas are not big enough for it to ever be visible among the tall, tall palm trees and oaks which adorn them.
You sit down at a little table and order a nice cold caña, which inevitably comes with a little plate of olives, take out your map and get your bearings. Then, when you've drunk your fill and found on the map both where you are and where you want to go, you confidently set off. Five minutes later your are lost again.
Getting lost in Cádiz, however, is a rather pleasant experience. The town, surrounded almost entirely by water, has expanded only outside the old city walls along the narrow strip of land that joins it to the mainland and you can, in theory, walk from one end to the other in fifteen minutes. Unless you unknowingly come within yards of the sea to get your bearings, that is, and take a wrong turn which takes you back into the heart of the town.
You don't mind too much though, for you will inevitably find the little church which was impossible to find on your last walk and which provides some stunning examples of Catholic ornamentation at its baroque best. Or you might happen upon the Plaza de las Flores, which stubbornly resists being called by its newer name Plaza Topete, and which is still covered with flower stalls. Then, unexpectedly, you will find yourself on the promenade - albeit the one on a different side of the town than you thought you were heading for. And you will know that if you walk along the beach, in just a few minutes you will again be within sight of the playa you meant to go to, where you can sit on the beach, a cold beer in your hand, and watch the sun fall off again.
Hi, I'm Misja.
I'm a writer, a mum, an (eek!) oma. ...
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