Cadiz – Spain Travel

It was perfectly dark when we reached Cadiz. The lanterns of the ships and smaller craft at anchor in the roads, the lights in the town, and the stars in the sky, literally covered the waves with millions of golden, silver, and fiery spangles; where the water was calmer, the reflection of the beacons, as it stretched over the sea, formed long columns of flame of the most magical effect. The enormous mass of the ramparts loomed strangely through the thick darkness.

In order to land, it was necessary for ourselves and our luggage to be shifted into small boats, the boatmen fighting with one another, and vociferating in the most horrible manner, for the passengers and trunks, in about the same style as that which was formerly patronized at Paris by the drivers of the Coucons for Montmorency and Vincennes. My companion and myself had the utmost difficulty not to be separated from each other, for one boatman was pulling us to the right, and another to the left, with a degree of energy that was not at all calculated to inspire us with any great confidence, especially as all this contention took place in cockle-shells, that oscillated like the swings at a fair. We were deposited on the quay, however, without accident, and, after having been examined by the custom-house officers, whose bureau was situated under the archway of the city gates, in the thickness of the wall, we went to lodge in the Calle de San Francisco.

As may easily be imagined, we rose with the dawn. The fact of entering, for the first time, a town at night, is one of the things which most excites the curiosity of a traveler; he makes the most desperate endeavors to distinguish the general appearance of the streets, the form of the public buildings, and the physiognomies of the few people he meets in the dark, so that he has at least the pleasure of being surprized, when, the next morning, the town suddenly appears all at once before him, like the scene in a theater when the curtain is raised.

Neither the palet of the painter nor the pen of the writer possesses colors sufficiently bright, nor tints sufficiently luminous, to convey any idea of the brilliant effect that Cadiz produced upon us that glorious morning. Two unique tints struck our view; blue and white—the blue as vivid as turquoises, sapphires, or cobalt, in fact the very deepest azure that can be imagined, and the white as pure as silver, snow, milk, marble, or the finest crystallized sugar ! The blue was the sky repeated by the sea; the white was the town. It is impossible to conceive anything more radiant and more dazzling—to imagine light more diffused, and, at the same time, more intense. In sober truth, what we term the sun in France is, in comparison, nothing but a pale night-lamp at the last gasp, by the bedside of a sick man.

The houses at Cadiz are much loftier than those in the other towns of Spain. This is explained by the conformation of the ground, which is a small, narrow island connected with the continent by a mere strip of land, as well as from the general desire to have a view of the sea. Each house stands on tiptoe with eager curiosity, in order to look over its neighbor’s shoulder, and raise itself above the thick girdle of ramparts. This, however, is not always found sufficient, and at the angle of nearly all the terraces, there is a turret, a kind of belvedere, sometimes surmounted by a little cupola. These aerial miradores enrich the outline of the town with innumerable dentations, and produce a most picturesque effect. Every building is white-washed, and the brilliancy of the facades is in-creased still more by long lines of vermilion which separate the houses and mark out the different stories; the balconies, which project very far, are enclosed in large glass cages, furnished with red curtains and filled with flowers.

Some of the cross streets terminate on the open space, and seem to end in the sky. These stray bits of azure charm you by their being so totally unexpected. Apart from this gay, animated and dazzling appearance, Cadiz can boast of nothing particular in the way of architecture. Altho its cathedral, which is a vast building of the sixteenth century, is wanting neither nobleness nor beauty, it presents nothing to astonish, after the prodigies of Burgos, Toledo, Cordova, and Seville; it is something in the same style as the cathedral of Jaen, Granada, and Malaga; it is a specimen of classic architecture only rendered more slim and tapering, with that skill for which the artists of the Renaissance were so famed; The Corinthian capitals, more elongated than those of the consecrated Greek form, are very elegant. The pictures and ornaments are specimens of overcharged bad taste and meaningless richness, and that is all. I must not, however, pass over in silence, a little crucified martyr of seven years old, in carved, painted wood, most beautifully conceived, and carried out with exquisite delicacy. Enthusiasm, faith, and grief are all united on the beautiful face, in childlike proportions and the most touching manner.