I woke up and got ready quickly, with a 10 minute walk to the University of Cadiz, it was important I leave on time. My mama española had breakfast ready for us when we came into the kitchen. A light meal, consisting of toast with nutella, tea or coffee and of course, fruta. The deadline to get to the front doors of the University by 9 AM wouldn’t be hard, since I like to give myself enough time to enjoy the walk to school I usually leave at quarter of. It was a cool morning, but I knew it wouldn’t last long as the sun rose above the buildings. I noticed that it was a quiet morning in the plaza and as I walking through the streets.
The bus was waiting for us, prompt and ready to go. We left a little after 9:15, heading towards Vejer. With just an hour on the bus, we soon arrived in this beautiful city. Known as a pueblo blanco, this break-taking place is definitely worth a visit. We took a guided tour through the city, stopping at el castillo and la torre. The layers of history and the amount of research that must’ve been conducted to figure out what had happened in these historic towns is incredible. It was used as a means of defense during the times of the Phenocians and the Romans. Not only is it rich with culture but the views are only breath-taking. When the Arabs came in to dominate this area for more than 500 years, they left an impression in the culture of city. When the Castilian kingdom conquered the city, they turned it into a fortress. Using it as an advantage point against the Moorish armies. It is because of the Spanish kingdom’s use of the city as a fortress, that the city is now called Vejer de la Frontera.
After getting a some time to explore la Plaza de España, we loaded back onto the bus fun a short ride. We were soon near the coast, where the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia are located. First we explored the two level museum, with a beautiful view of the coast and the ruins. Then we followed the signs that lead us outside. This is the area where you can walk among the ruins. It is a very unique experience, a little imagination is needed but it was very interesting!
After an hour exploring Baelo Claudia, we all got back on the bus for one last stop. We were going to Tarifa! Not knowing what to expect, we all quickly unloaded the bus. When we got into the city, we learned that we had free time to explore the city. Not knowing what to do with our time, my friends and I took a walk along the coast. We reached a point in Tarifa where the Mediterranean Sea and Africa were to our left. Looking to the right, we could see the Spanish coast and the Atlantic Ocean. It was very guay, to be standing at a point in the world where two bodies of water meet. It was a beautiful coastline, but once you realize the geography of where you are it is much more powerful.
Finally the students and guides got back on the bus for the ride home. It was a long day of walking, so most students took advantage of this time for a little siesta (myself included). Arriving in Cadiz, it was nice to see familiar places. Almost like coming back to your home city. I walked back to my host family’s home, only to come back to a surprise! It was my host mom’s saint’s day, Dia de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles. Her whole family came over while I was eating dinner. It was similar to a birthday party, with small gifts and a lot of pastries being shared. They sang a small song before she opened her gifts. It was a different sort of experience to be apart of. Although I didn’t sing along or have a gift for her, I appreciated her sharing this day with me. She was very happy to be surrounded by all her kids and grand kids. The energy and warmth they bring in with them spread to everyone who was present. They stayed most of the evening leaving close to midnight. There a lot of customs and traditions that strike me as being so different. Although I’ve heard of celebrating the day for your Saint whom you were named after, I’ve never seen in practice the fiesta and gathering that takes place so commonly in other places around the world. I love learning about new people in this way, and hope to learn more as I travel!
A day exploring different towns near Cadiz. Our first stop was to Vejer de la Frontera, which is one of the cleanest towns in Andalucia, which was built on a hill overviewing different towns. The town is known for their white houses and buildings as well. Something interesting was knowing that everyone must paint their house or business white. It was also interesting seeing La Cobijada statue around the town which are honored in Vejer. In Vejer La Cobijada is a sheltered woman who is dressed in a black mantle where one of her eyes are the only visible part. This is viewed as a costume in Vejer that brought roots from Muslims. Women now don’t keep up as much with the tradition of wearing the mantle anymore, but in festivals like Holy week they do use it. Holy week is very traditional in Spain where every town was their own celebration. In Vejer there are four original arches that they have kept and one of them is the most famous because of the view that extends from the arch. Vejer de la Frontera is a beautiful town.
The next stop was Baelo Claudia an ancient Roman town near Bolonia. This is the heart to understand the Romans life and development at the time of the Roman Empire. Here we could see the theatre, temples, the wall where the trading ports would come in, the basilica and much more. An interesting part was seeing the Roman reproduction of Doryphores. The statue is a athlete that is nude with a spear on his right hand. The archaeologists have said that the stones are from high quality marble which was white with grey. This finding was carried out by the University of Cadiz in 2012 while the archaeological excavation. It was found in a swimming pool in the Maritime Baths. This statue is the most significant in Baelo Claudia, which shows wealth and what they call a taste of the Roman period.
Our last stop was in Tarfia and they left the best for last. I was amazed by the beach in Tarfia. The water was gorgeous I could believe that I was there. The girls, I was with, and I decided to have lunch on the rocks sitting by the Mediterranean Sea. Our lunchtime was so relaxing just watching the ships go by. A lot of cruise ships and boats full of families passed by in the timing that we were there. Also, looking beyond the ocean which was the mountain that is in Morocco. When we finished our lunch, we walked down the boardwalk where the Mediterranean Sea is on your left-hand side and the Atlantic Ocean is on your right hand. Both sides were beaches and both were filled with people. Seeing the difference in the two was interesting because the Atlantic Ocean was filled with seaweed. The Mediterranean Sea was so clear you could see right through it. The water felt perfect and it was a great temperature not too cold. I think that Tarifa was a great idea to leave for last because it’s worth it.
Coming to Cadiz has been one of the greatest opportunities I have been handed. It’s a place where family is very important and everyone is kind enough to help you out if you get lost. I have been happy to have my house five minutes away from the beach and the university. During the first week, I have noticed how everyone helps you improve your Spanish. Classes in school are very interesting because it’s not only students from Lowell but from all over the world. I have met people from all over the world. I like the idea of having classes with other international students because they can help you out and vice versa. Class is a place where you go to learn the language and grammar, but also where you can have discussion on anything you don’t understand with the language. Spanish in Cadiz is the main language, which is a great way to expand my vocabulary in the language. Learning the language in Cadiz is interesting because you can learn the different meanings to different words. Living with a host family that only speaks the language is the best part because not only are you speaking Spanish at school but at home you must speak it. In the past week, I have learned a list of new words that are new to my vocabulary. The class schedule here is comfortable enough where it’s not too early and not too late in the day. I enjoy the environment in school because it’s very welcoming and everyone encourages you. Everyone who lives in Cadiz has different rhythms in speaking either very fast or well off speed to understand, which connects to the idea of having two professors is a great idea. The two teachers have different teaching styles and different ways of speaking. I have enjoyed being in the classrooms very much.
One of my favorite things about Cadiz are the beautiful beaches that it has. Cadiz is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. The view is amazing and the water is even more amazing compared to the cold beaches that we have in the United States. La Caleta Beach is a five-minute walk from my house which is the reason why I look forward going to the beach all the time. La Caleta Beach is stunning with their sailboats in the water. The sunset is a great view as well to see in the night. I was very surprised when I was told that the sunsets so late at night, so it makes the day feel longer and nights shorter. Another beach is La Santa Maria which is very nice and I’d say bigger than La Caleta. I experience here in Cadiz the caring for one another is great to see that people would ask me if it’s okay to watch their belongings. This city has shown me how everyone here is happy to help one another. Coming to Cadiz it’s a must to visit both beaches.