In my novel Indiscretion, the beautiful city of Cádiz beckons in the backdrop. The city is frequently a focal point for Alexandra when she takes in a view. Come the end of the book, she is finally able to visit ‘the Bride of the Sea’:
Not quite an island, it was a city of dazzling white houses set on a rocky peninsula, jutting into the sea with the sapphire-blue waters wrapped around it. A jewel that towered over the Atlantic, she well deserved her name. Brilliant and sparkling like a diamond in the sunshine, Alexandra found her beauty was just as arresting at night, under a velvet sky studded with stars, when the city was reflected in the almost unearthly phosphorescence of the ocean.
Indiscretion: available from my shop
Fast-forward twenty-five years, and Alexandra’s daughter, Luz, has found the same affinity with Cádiz as did her mother. In my novel Masquerade, Luz – so-named for the wonderful light in Cádiz, where she was conceived – spends so much time at her parents’ holiday house that it has become her home. Here is a glimpse of the city through Luz’s eyes in Masquerade:
Luz loved Cádiz, with its mellow-stone churches and whitewashed houses shining under a bright blue sky like a spray of water lilies on the dancing, glittering waters of the Atlantic. She had read the nineteenth-century French writer and traveller Théophile Gautier at university and his description of it as a city that was ‘lively and luminous’ had always stayed with her. It was named Cádiz Joyosa, as though it was laughing in the sun.
Masquerade: available from my shop
Cádiz is the capital city of Cádiz province, Andalusia, and its unique position has made it the ideal base for the Spanish Navy for the past 200 years. It’s the oldest city in Spain, and one of the oldest in all of Western Europe (it is part of the Most Ancient European Towns Network, along with Argos, Greece; Colchester, England; Maastricht, Netherlands; and the intriguingly named Worms, Germany).
The city is a mix of old and new. One of the things I like best about it is that the old wins out, because there is so little space to develop on the little slice of land where Cádiz lies and the land is too sandy for the foundations required for high rises. Consequently, the skyline of the city has been little changed in the past few hundred years. This is the city of watch towers: in the eighteenth century it had no fewer than 160 towers from which men looked out for merchant ships. The tallest to stand to this day is the Tavira Tower, atop which intrepid visitors to the city can take in panoramic views through the cámaraoscura, a room in which the view is projected via a convex lens.
Everywhere you go in the city there is a strong sense of history, of roots (making it the perfect setting for Masquerade, in which the past is inescapable for the characters). There is such a long and diverse history to explore, from the vestiges of Greek and Roman citizens through to the influence of the Moors and then the scars of squabbles with the French and English. The neo-classical architecture is quite arresting as you stroll from plaza to plaza, and the cathedral is an interesting mix of baroque, neo-classical and rococo styles.
Along with the beautiful buildings and the shimmering sea from which you are never far, there is a sense of magic about the place, a connection to mythology. For example, in Moorish times, it is said, a massive gold idol (of Muhammad, according to some) was constructed just outside Cádiz. Apparently, it magically kept sailors from the city by blowing strong winds and whipping up powerful currents in the strait of Gibraltar.
And what of the creation of the city? Well, if you believe legend, that was Hercules’s doing. A temple that once stood in the city, dedicated to the Phoenician god Melqart, is said to be the location of the pillars of Hercules. According to Greek mythology, Hercules founded the city of Gadeira (Cádiz) en route to carrying out his tenth labour: to journey to the end of the world and take the cattle of the monster Geryon.
I will leave you with a poem by the Romantic Lord Byron that perfectly encapsulates the spirit and passion of Cádiz. I hope I have encouraged you to visit someday – and to experience the city for yourself through my book Masquerade.
The Girl of Cadiz
O, never talk again to me
Of northern climes and British ladies;
It has not been your lot to see,
Like me, the lovely Girl of Cadiz.
Although her eyes be not of blue,
Nor fair her locks, like English lassies,
How far its own expressive hue
The languid azure eye surpasses!
Prometheus-like, from heaven she stole
The fire that through those silken lashes
In darkest glances seems to roll,
From eyes that cannot hide their flashes;
And as along her bosom steal
In lengthened flow her raven tresses,
You’d swear each clustering lock could feel,
And curled to give her neck caresses.
Our English maids are long to woo,
And frigid even in possession;
And if their charms be fair to view,
Their lips are slow at love’s confession;
But, born beneath a brighter sun,
For love ordained the Spanish maid is,
And who, when fondly, fairly won,
Enchants you like the Girl of Cadiz?
The Spanish maid is no coquette,
Nor joys to see a lover tremble;
And if she love or if she hate,
Alike she knows not to dissemble.
Her heart can ne’er be bought or sold,—
Howe’er it beats, it beats sincerely;
And, though it will not bend to gold,
’T will love you long, and love you dearly.
The Spanish girl that meets your love
Ne’er taunts you with a mock denial;
For every thought is bent to prove
Her passion in the hour of trial.
When thronging foemen menace Spain
She dares the deed and shares the danger;
And should her lover press the plain,
She hurls the spear, her love’s avenger.
And when, beneath the evening star,
She mingles in the gay Bolero,
Or sings to her attuned guitar
Of Christian knight or Moorish hero,
Or counts her beads with fairy hand
Beneath the twinkling rays of Hesper,
Or joins devotion’s choral band
To chant the sweet and hallowed vesper,
In each her charms the heart must move
Of all who venture to behold her.
Then let not maids less fair reprove,
Because her bosom is not colder;
Through many a clime’t is mine to roam
Where many a soft and melting maid is,
But none abroad, and few at home,
May match the dark-eyed Girl of Cadiz.