Decided to start my journey off with two nights in a reasonable hotel, so ended up in the Hotel de Francia y Paris at €40 for week nights. I was sceptical as the foyer smelled a little stale, even though clean, but the room was a nice surprise. Obviously recently renovated, with new paint, furniture and bathroom. I hope this is the standard of 3 star hotels I can expect.
I am hoping to stick to a budget of around €50 per day, allowing 20 for food and 30 for room.
Menu del dia at a nearby restaurant – salad, pork with potato, coffee and a glass of red wine for €9.50, Bread also included, and I could have had a dessert instead of coffee. The standard around here seems to be between €8.50 and €11.
Got my first sello (stamp in pilgrims passport) at the cathedral just before mass, so it is now ‘official’!.
Cádiz old town is surrounded by the sea, with mostly steep rock faces, and has LOTS of churches and old buildings, as well as a few good museums. Plenty of bars and cafés, pretty easy place to just relax for a few days. Lots of plazas – mostly with cafés but some just quiet areas to sit in the shade and rest.
Once you leave the old port, you get a lovely long beach on the southern side, flanked by high rise Benidorm style accommodation. Would be nice if you wanted a beach holiday exclusively, as it is right on your doorstep plus lots of bars and restaurants, but not the nice typical ones like in the old town.
Day 1 – Cádiz to Puerto Real – 32km
Hit the road by 8am. Passed the Iglesia then up the back of the cathedral to the seafront walk. Threw a shell from my beach into the water to commence my journey.
Pretty boring walking to start, just through Cádiz beach section then along the road. I deviated onto the beach instead of the track along the back of the dunes, as it was be the last look at the sea for a long time! Approaching the firing ranges I should have gone back to the track sooner, as I found my way blocked by a body of water that I had to walk around.
Got my first ‘Buen camino’ (good journey’) from 2 older guys out for their morning walk! I don’t think it is common to see pilgrims here as some people looked at me as if I had two heads.
Followed overpass at firing range – they fired 2 rounds just as approached (in my honour, of course!) – then on to a dirt road most of the way to San Fernando. €1.55 for lunch – banana, capsicum, salami, apple – which I ate in the park. San Fernando seems like a nice town, but as I still feeling good I decided to continue.
What a walk! Lots of train work near the beginning so the track was hard to find, and along muddy tidal paths at times. A petrol station was a welcome break – Fanta orange, toilet and a rest. I was starting to feel it now – the route in to Puerto Real seemed to go on forever! Walked around 32km in just under 10 hours – way slower than I am used to walking (without a pack and on formed paths that I know like the back of my hand…).
The town itself is not nearly as nice as Cádiz, And I couldn’t find a single hotel or hostal just walking down the Main Street! Tourist info was closed – I eventually asked two men in a square and they pointed me towards the Hostal Bahia del Sur Cádiz, just opposite the church – €20 for a private room with bathroom, basic but clean so I am pretty happy with that. Headed out for dinner – first coffee and pimientos at a bar down on the seaside (€2.30), followed by tapas of pork and tortilla at another bar, with red wine and a coffee on ice for €5.30.
Amazing to see shops like opticians open until past 8pm, with lots of people out doing general shopping.
Day 2 – Puerto Real to El Puerto de Santa Maria – 12km
Started walking at 7.45am, lots of people out already, school kids plus office workers. A few shops like grocers and bakers open, plus some of the early morning cafes, breakfast here consists of juice, coffee and toast.
Most of the walk was through a Parque Natural, on formed gravel paths most of the way – heard a lot of birds and scuttles in the bushes.
Arrived around 10:45am – much nicer town with a more relaxed feel. Found the Hostal Manolo – looked good from outside, and inside matched. 200 year old building, lots of knick knacks – paintings, display cabinets, ornaments – definitely a lived in place. A central courtyard, open to the roof (with just a perspex loose cover so obviously not much rain) with chairs and sofas to relax. €26 for a single room with private bath – definitely a step up from last night, brighter, and with hot water. Let me leave my pack as it was too early to check in, so I went up to the church and got another sello.
Had a big lunch – half portion oxtail with chips (€5) plus mixed salad (€2.30) – each a meal in its own right!
Day 3 – El Puerto to Jerez – 21km
A beautiful morning for walking – overcast with a slight breeze. The section out of El Puerto wasn’t too bad, and once on the back roads it was lovely. Well used cyclists route – I saw more people than I expected, even a walker going in the opposite direction, a Jerez local who recommended a hotel.
4 hours to the Plaza Santiago (16km), which I was happy with. Then the fun and games started, as without a map I tried to find my way to the city centre. I Ended up walking about 5km extra, as the pilgrim route actually carries on out of town from Plaza Santiago and I only realized after a while.
Booked in to Nuevo Hotel on Calle Caballeros as recommended – really good, single room with bathroom for €20 without breakfast, clean and tidy, beautifully finished old building, TV, aircon, wifi. Hotel has been in the family since the 1930s.
I’ve had the most amazing grilled tuna with chips and salad for €6.50 at La Parra Vieja nearby – it was so thick and big I first thought they had given me a T-bone steak by mistake!
Dinner of 3 tapas (jamon, tortilla, papas alioli) plus coffee on ice for €4. I could get used to this…
Photo: L-R: entering El Puerto over footbridge, my first storks (nest on top of tower), amazing metal sculpture, skilled wood carving for Santa Semana (Easter) parade.