If you missed the window for individual travel to Cuba, come to Cádiz.
Tell an Andalusian you are headed to the southernmost city of the southernmost province of the country, and chances are you will be asked if you have been to Havana. We could buy several shots of seven-year-old Havana Club rum (6€ each) at the atmospheric Habana Café on Calle Rosario if we had a nickel for every time we have been told Cádiz is the Havana of Spain.
You could blame this on James Bond.
It seems Mr Zao has lost himself in Havana, a Chinese intelligence agent tells 007 in Die Another Day. If you find him, say goodbye from us….
Bond does, of course, find Zao but – things being what they were and are again between the United States and Cuba – 007 finds Zao not in Havana but in Cádiz, where the sea wall and promenade rimming the crescent-shaped bay evoke Havana’s Malecon.
That Havana beach where Halle Berry memorably emerges from the ocean in the movie? La Caleta beach in Cádiz, not Havana.
The connection, though, is deeper than spy movies and post-card images.
According to Pablo, our Cádizfornia Tours guide (yes, Cádizfornia is a thing here, but that’s another story), the architect of the 18th century “new” cathedral in Cádiz subsequently decamped for Havana and built churches there. The ornate gas street lamps in Havana were manufactured in – and copy – the street lamps in Cádiz.
For countless sailors and colonists who set sail for the New World, including Havana, Cádiz was their last view of Spain. Maybe it’s no surprise then that the streets and homes they built throughout Latin America bear no small resemblance to the streets and homes of Cádiz.
Even that connection does not seem to get to the bottom of things. José Marti was a Havana-born writer, poet and 19th-century revolutionary. He was also a symbol and martyr to Cuba’s struggle for independence. Why would the bust of a man who died trying to break Cuba away from Spain grace the seaside Alameda in Cádiz, Spain?
The answer will have to await our return.
We woke up on our last day in Cádiz to a storming Levante, the wind locals say can drive people mad. Our rooftop awnings were whipping and our terrace furniture rattling, as if to make sure we knew the skies of Cádiz are not always as blue as the ones we enjoyed or perhaps to tell us it was time to move on. And so we did. Today finds us in Portugal, home of fado, port and more.
In the rear-view mirror:
- Dances with horses: A day in Jerez de la Frontera (45 minutes by train) to see the horses dance at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. This one is just warming up for the show, which is a marvel.
- Picturesque meals: This may look like something from Disneyland, but it’s just another street corner in Cádiz.
- Picturesque tipplers: Not so typical, but how could Louis resist a shot like this?
- Free flamenco with tapas: This is how the locals often do and enjoy the music that originated in Andalusia, not in shows with flashy costumes but in tabernas where amateurs who spend years perfecting their art find admiring audiences.
- A tour of Miguel’s treasure room: Our host hopes to open a maritime museum someday. For now, the collection is in a storage room he opened to us.
- Spanish solidarity: Days after the Catalonian independence drama, Spanish flags were draped from many windows and balconies throughout Andalusia.
- The real Havana (December 2017, with Debbie and Barry): Only the real Havana has the old cars.
Coming soon: Lisboa in our sights