Two years ago, I was living in a small town called Puerto Real, in the southernmost tip of Spain. Puerto Real is located in the historical city of Cadiz. Cadiz was believed to be one of the first cities in Europe, and is best known for Cristobal Colon’s (Christopher Columbus) starting point for his voyage to the Caribbean Sea.
Monumento a las Cortes de Cádiz. They say it was built when the city was established.
Apart from the history, Cadiz is rich in culture but is industrialized because of the port. However, whilst I was living there, I felt that I was on an eternal holiday. As for Puerto Real, I felt that I was on an eternal slumber.
When you talk about Spain, it reminds you of Catholicism and the frailes, the bullfights and flamenco, the mañana attitude and the siesta. I remember finding it hard to adjust to the super laid back kind of life. The extravagant and lively parties, carnavals and fiestas. The two hour siestas. The closing hours of establishments. And of course the long list of national and regional holidays.
Free beer, oysters and tapas at the Carnaval Opening in the Plaza de Espana
Establishments open at 9 in the morning and close at 2 in the afternoon. Sometimes, some of them open at 4 in the afternoon, and stay open until 9 in the evening. Sometimes, if the establishment is owned by a family, expect that it might not open again for the rest of the day. I disliked this fact during the first month. I disliked it even more, because my stomach would growl in hunger whilst listening to lectures in Uni. Yes, lunch was at 2 p.m. And dinner should be around 10 in the evening so they say.
I liked living in a city with a country-side charm and personality though. Everyone smiles and says hello to you in the streets. Strangers strike up conversations with you whilst waiting for the bus. When you are lost, even if they can only speak 3 to 4 words of English, they will still try their best to help you out in anyway they can. In stores, they always say gracias (thank you) and hasta luego (see you later) even if they don’t expect to see you again. Cars stop when they see you are crossing a street even if you are not walking on a pedestrian lane. They are patient and they appreciate everything that they have. They are very expressive. You could still see old people kiss and hold hands whilst walking on the street.
“These oysters are aphrodisiacs! Want to meet me later?” Drunken man wooing female customers
The downside though… They are very expressive. It is sometimes embarrassing to suddenly see adults make-out in streets, in Uni grounds and everywhere. And sometimes, it also involves rated-PG activities too. Another thing too, they love dogs and all the creatures. However, they don’t pick up the excrement. So after my first couple of months there, I became an expert of eyeing poo and evading it whilst walking on the pavement.
Puerto Real and Cadiz was sunny and the people were enveloped with sunshine that is why they seemingly are eternally happy and friendly. They are passionate and loving. I loved the tapas and the jamon. You could see the cucinero’s (cook’s) passion in it.
Ever since I went to the UK, I began to miss it. I never thought I would, because the place made me really slow down to the point that I became lazy. But I do. I miss Puerto Real and Cadiz.
Vera Christine F. Horigue
Joint Master in Water and Coastal Management
Universidad de Cadiz, España and University of Plymouth, United Kingdom