Yesterday, following my, err… ‘grate’ morning stroll to the main square in front of the ayuntamiento (or town hall) of the city, I sat down for a few minutes to upload the ‘grate’ pictures [OK, stop with the ‘grate’ jokes now…] to the Internet and to await my ‘free’ tour of Cadiz (the tip was the fee). Guided tours are by far the best ways to be introduced to a new place and although I’ve now been in Cadiz for a week (and already been given a guided tour in Spanish), I have much to learn. I could see Ramon, my guide from a distance. He was holding aloft a brightly coloured card to indicate that he was the person giving the free tours. I approached and after a few minutes of chatting it was clearly apparent that I would be his only customer that morning. It is March after all and he did explain that the second Saturday tour tended to be more popular. However, it worked to my advantage. Having only me to guide around town he could not only dispense with the Spanish version of the tour – he was used to doing it bilingually – but could answer all my questions without any other pesky tourists butting in first! A throughly enjoyable and informative couple of hours unfolded and here is the man himself, Ramon, along with his leaflet. I’m more than happy to give him a bit of free publicity as he did an excellent job!
Towards the end of the tour we arrived at the beach in Cadiz on the northern end of the peninsula. After recounting a humourous tale about the extras in the James Bond movie that was filmed near the beach in the late 1990s when lots of people were to be found sunbathing in the December prior to the shoot in order to top up their tans and look more like people from Havana than those from Cadiz, Ramon spoke about the two small castles on either side of the harbour. They had been built to keep the pesky British at bay at some point in history and Ramon noted that they were free to wander around. That, perhaps, would be my project for the afternoon. I shared a coffee with Ramon and we said our goodbyes. (He’s a budding cyclist by the way and keen to do some long-distance cycling so I didn’t miss the opportunity of pointing out that my books were now available for just €0.99!!)
Following a short siesta back at the apartment (of which I’m becoming more and more proficient as time progresses), I headed back out onto the streets in the early afternoon with the intention of exploring the castles mentioned by Ramon. However, just a short distance from the flat is another fortification that until today I had thought was closed. It wasn’t, so I wandered in to discover a photography exhibition of the photographs of a certain Manolo Torre. I wasn’t overly impressed with his work. The photographs wouldn’t have looked out of place in a drop in ‘we-will-make-you-look-much-more-glamouress-than-you-really-are’ outfit in a small town in the West Midlands (I don’t know why I chose the West Midlands – apologies if that offends you).
The view from the window of the spruced up fortification was, alas, far more inspiring than Manuel’s efforts with the camera. Indeed I did think that my grates would have look better on the walls than the toned-down page 3 images that were being exhibited. Was I missing the irony? Who knows…
I wandered further along the seafront to the first of the two castles mentioned by Ramos earlier in the day. I have to say that I wasn’t expecting much at all, an empty castle with some decent views looking back at the city if I was lucky. I certainly wasn’t expecting a thought-provoking museum of contemporary art. But guess what I got? Let’s brush over the first part of the exhibition that I visited which was a rather confused cull from the local archives of Cadiz (newspaper cuttings, postcards, architectural drawings for proposed bridges to the mainland, invoices [yes, invoices]…) and move on to the rest. I have no idea if much of what I saw had many if any connections with Cadiz but there was some cracking stuff to look at. I don’t necessarily mean that it was ‘good’, but it was art that makes you think. That’s the kind of art that I like! The bricks? Were they there to tick the ‘modern art’ box on the European Union subsidy form? I did wonder. I liked the photographs of the ‘people in my street’ work which had echos of my [here it comes again] ‘grate’ work earlier in the day. It’s Stalin by the way who had been chopped into three, I did try and open the door (as no doubt had many before me), the view of Cadiz from 1925 hasn’t changed a bit, you will never in a million years guess the significance of the little people (I do know and can’t make the connection), the bar of soap with the fingerprint… well, answers on a postcard for that one, the video installation (the panoramic shot inside the room) was my favourite; a man walking through door after door after door in a 12 minutes loop (yes, I watched all 12 minutes)… Even the views from the top of the castle were cracking!
And there endeth my second Saturday in Cadiz. Well, almost. Even on the way back to the flat I found a bit of thought-provoking street art that I admit I have yet to work out what it all means. The time and effort that the ‘artist’ has clearly put into his work does, however, deserve recognition and here it is: