We gotta make it here in the Summer, I remember thinking last year in May, when my kids and I stormed Sajorami beach (Zahora) and Bolonia beach, as part of a long drive from Puerto de Santamaría to Marbella.
And so we did, finally, as part of this 100% Spanish post-quarantine 2020 vacation. K and I took the plunge sometime in April, just when there was a hint that the COVID-19 travel restrictions would end before the Summer, and booked an Airbnb apartment in the town of Barbate, Cádiz. There were some other options in the region, but Barbate seemed ideally located for exploring infinite white sand beaches where personal distance would not be a problem.
Barbate surely delivered when it came to the A-sides. The two beach days in neighboring Zahara de los Atunes were a delight to both young and old. Following a local’s tip, K insisted that we escape the wind by making it all the way to Cala de los Alemanes, the Southernmost beach before the Cabo de Camarinal, The clear, turquoise waters we encountered there were not expected.
That wonderful day of swimming and beauty watching was topped off by a sunset from Zahara town beach, to the taste of cold Cruzcampo beer and the soundtrack of live rumba from the chiringuito. In moments like this, you get why so many people in Spain swear by vacations in Cádiz. Their eyes shine when they mention this province, and mine shine now as I reminisce about the triptych of blue, white and green as seen from the water at these unspoilt beaches.
The last beach day was spent at Bolonia beach. As happens so often, repeats fail to capture the magic of the first time round. And so the stress of parking and finding a comfortable spot on the beach made that day a bit of a letdown. That’s until we started swimming in that clear, shiny, cold water, and enjoyed the view of the pine trees and the immense sand dune.
I’ll share a traveler’s thought now. The more I travel, the more I am getting to enjoy the pleasure of planning with quite some detail, yet enjoying the moment in which you drop the plan, improvise or, simply, recalculate a bit like a GPS would. And so we failed to visit expected highlights such as Playa del Arroyo del Cañuelo, the Conil coves or, perhaps more regrettably, watch the sunset from Trafalgar lighthouse in nearby Caños de Meca.
In the past, failing to visit one of the presumed highlights of the menu would have made me somewhat frustrated – less so now. Perhaps that’s one of the gifts of family travel, that forces you to slow down so that everyone’s needs and tasted are catered for, at least at some point. And, turns out, your ball and chain becomes your freedom and the apparent need to make it here or there in time for this or that just wanes.
But there’s a thing or two to be said about Barbate itself, too. So much that it deserves its own blog post.
A word of recommendation to international travelers
This being a travel writing and reflection blog, I hardly stop to give advice on what travelers should or should not do. But this I’ll say – go to Costa de la Luz in Cádiz. It’s amazing how few international travelers can be found in the region, outside Cádiz town or Tarifa. And yet, I don’t think that there are many places in Europe, let let alone Spain, offering this combination of (relatively) unspoilt beaches, authentic sea-side towns and options of cultural side trips. Oh and, some of the best Spanish food at very reasonable prices.
Want to know more?
Useful overview of the region: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/sep/27/cadiz-costa-de-la-luz-andalucia-spain-stay-eat-drink-guide
Good writeup on Cádiz’s beaches: https://spanishsabores.com/2013/08/19/cadiz-beaches-visiting-the-coast-of-cadiz/