On a narrow strip of land, connected to the Iberian peninsula by an even narrower strip of land, is Cádiz- one of the oldest cities in Europe. Last weekend I went to Cádiz with a group of friends in the Exploring Andalucía program, and we had an amazing time! Cádiz is full of history, delicious tapas, beautiful beaches, and lovely people. Here are some of my favorite memories from the trip.

The views. For me, the two best ways to experience a city are on foot and from above. We did plenty of walking, and we also went in two towers and saw beautiful views of the city. Cádiz is really small so you can see most of the city if you are high enough. In the center of Cádiz there is a building called Torre Tavira which costs a few euros to enter. Not only does it offer an amazing view of Cádiz, including the Cathedral, the building also has a camera obscura- which allows you to see a live, 360 view of Cádiz. We were able to see the entire city of Cádiz projected onto a large canvas disk, in real time. It was so cool to see the waves of the ocean, birds in flight, laundry drying on roofs, and even people walking around the city!

View from Torre Tavira, including the Cathedral of Cádiz

In the Cathedral of Cádiz you can walk up a narrow and steep spiral ramp that takes you up to one of the two bell towers. From here you have a beautiful view of the city and details of the roof of the church. The bells ring every 15 minutes though, and they are very loud!

Very steep and narrow stairs at the top of the Cathedral!

View from the Cathedral bell tower

Speaking of the Cathedral, it is one of the most interesting buildings I have seen in Spain (besides the Mezquita-Catedral of Córdoba, of course). Structurally the building has two main domed towers and a concave façade in the middle. The exterior is two different colors because the building took a long time to complete, and they used two different materials. Inside, there is large central altar and many smaller chapels all along the sides of the church, all boasting statues of biblical figures and paintings. The church also had a crypt below ground that was designed to produce echoes. In the crypt the air is cool and moist, since it is below sea level.

The exterior of the Cathedral

The central altar in the Cathedral, which is modeled after the two towers

Tapaaaaas. Spain is of course famous for tapas, and there are many typical tapas dishes in Spain. Many of these are meat based, and I am vegetarian, so often my options are limited. In Cádiz however, I had eggplant with goat cheese and honey, salmorejo (a tomato based dip eaten with bread), and sautéed veggies. Everything was delicious and really cheap! I also had my first Spanish paella in Cádiz! On our first night we actually had Italian food for dinner, which was really good, but the other two nights we just went to a few tapas places for food. Although they are small plates, if you get a few you have a substantial dinner for only a few euros!

Adrenaline. Cádiz is right on the water and has numerous beautiful beaches. In the summer it is a popular vacation spot for this reason, and the heat makes the ocean a great place to cool off. As we went in January, it was not nearly warm enough to justify swimming in the ocean, but my friends and I wanted to anyways. We looked pretty ridiculous running in, as no one else was swimming, but it felt great to jump in the Atlantic! There’s something about seeing the sun begin to set over the ocean that’s different when you’re in the ocean, when your senses are heightened from the cold water.

Sunset over the ocean in Cádiz

Vulnerability. When you are put in a new environment where you don’t know anyone, which is often what study abroad is like, you end up making friends really quickly. In my case, I travelled to Cádiz and shared a hostel with people I had known for two weeks-and it was amazing. Because you are sharing so many new experiences together, you bond really quickly and form friendships fast. In my experience, this has led me to be more open and willing to share things about myself. There are many ways this has manifested itself-including a few of my friends and I playing guitar and singing together in our hostel. We spontaneously shared our favorite songs and our voices with each other. That vulnerability and ability to connect through music formed our bond that much quicker.

Traveling also lends itself to making new friends quickly wherever you go. Staying in hostels is a great way to meet people, because many people are traveling alone or in small groups, and there are often common areas to hang out in. At our hostel in Cádiz we met a lot of really cool people and got to talk with people from many different places!

No schedule. One thing that is nice about traveling to smaller cities is that while there are some big tourist attractions, you don’t feel rushed to do everything possible in one weekend. My favorite thing to do when I go to new places is often just to walk around the city, to see what people are up to and to look at different buildings and apartments. We would start our day and have some idea of what we might do, but never any specific place to be at any specific time. And because of this we just wandered, and got to know Cádiz through it’s narrow streets and from the brightly painted buildings that stand out from a sea of crisp white exteriors. On Saturday we walked through a park and stumbled upon a man playing the recorder, while cats darted in and out of bushes. Sunday we took the long way back to our hostel and encountered a large plaza where young kids were learning to ride bikes and scooters while their parents chatted and enjoyed the sunshine. Later, in front of the Cathedral, a woman danced flamenco in the street as people ate in the plaza and watched her perform. We did some of the tourist attractions but we also just walked, listened, and let the day unfold.

Lazy cats in Parque Genovés

What made this trip really special, however, was the people I went with and the people I met. If you surround yourself with good people you’re bound to have fun anywhere! Till next week!

My buds and I in Cádiz!

Celia Cody-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017: