El Puerto de Santa Maria
The Puerto de Santa Maria is located at the Atlantic Ocean relatively far into the southwest of Ansalusia. In the very proximity of Cádiz, the oldest city of Europe. The history of the place El Puerto de Santa Maria goes far back into the past, it was already founded during the heydays of the greek Republic. The harbour served the Romans as a starting point and also the Moors made use of the city and the harbour. The harbour got a special famousity by Christopher Columbus, who started from there his second trip to America and also as an important bridge to these new colonies.
Today, these signifant days are over, the Puerto de Santa Maria is a vivid small city with some sightseeings but it is not necesarily a part of the touristical highlights. Anyway, a side-trip to this place is worthwhile for sure. It is priorly known for its excellent sherry, that can be enjoyed in one of the numerous sherry-bodegas and for its fresh fish that is offered hier everywhere.
We were pleasantly surprised when we got a city map from the staff of the hotel, in which a red line was drawed in as a tour and we got explained that this red line is also visible at the edge of the street. By following it, one gets to all most important sightseeings. This is, as we think, a good and original idea to please the tourist and that makes the exploration of the city much more easy. Unfortunately, this is in practice not so excellent anymore, as most of the times, the red line was unfortunately quite worn off, the idea is very good and it remains to hope that is is brushed up soon a little.
Sightseeings in El Puerto de Santa Maria
When we explored the small city El Puerto de Santa Maria we did not think that at the end it has almost 74.000 inhabitants. But this is surely also due to the reason that we only visited the touristically important part, the old town. El Puerto de Santa Maria is far from competing with such places full of history as Córdoba, Granada or Sevilla, but we found that there are also some interesting places and outstanding buildings.
What would be an Andalusian city without a bullring? Of course, there is also one located in El Puerto de Santa Maria, and it is not any one. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful and third biggest one of Spain with space for 15.000 visitors. The circular building with the bull plastic in front of the entrance is an imposing building. Those who want can also view the interior.
Of course, also El Puerto de Santa Maria has some gorgeous buildings to offer. The most outstanding and centrally located three-naved gothic church Iglesia Mayor Prioral is, at least some parts of it, still from the 13th century. The south portal of the church is specially beautiful. The Museo Arqueológico is also located in the Plaza de Espaņa, in which many exhibits referring to the city history are exhibited.
A piece further to the south there is the Plaza Castillo with the Castillo de San Marcos (castle) that gave the name to the plaza. This was originally a Moorish mosque on which basic walls a fortification complex of the Castillo de San Marcos has been built and that was supposed to serve as a protection against the pirates. The Moorish past is still visible in the Castillo, specially the main tower reminds on the former minaret. The crenellated wall and the six towers give an idea of the "tough nut to crack" the pirates had with this fortification.
The Castillo accommodated also some celebrities. Thus, Christopher Columbus was there while he tried to collect the financial means for the exploring journey to west India. Juan de la Costa, the owner of the ships of Columbus, also was in this fortification.
Another worthwhile seeing place is the Plaza Isaac Peral with the old city hall of the town. Those who have time can also visit the monastery Monasterio de la Victoria. But it is a little far outside the old town, relativly far at the eastern edge of the El Puerto de Santa Maria.
The whole old town is located at the shore of the river Rio Guadalete, a landing point of many boats and ships. From here, Christopher Columbus started from here that led to the discovering of America by the Europeans. On board of the "La Niņa", a copy of the ship of Columbus, one can cruise the bay of Cádiz.
But it is also possible in a more profane way. The steamboat "El Vaporcito" goes every day except on Mondays from El Puerto de Santa Maria to Cádiz and back. This is a very good opportunity to visit the oldest city of Europe. By this way, one avoids the annoying car drive and specially the more annoying and almost hopeless parking place search in Cádiz.
As a peninsula, the city of 143.000 inhabitants is almost completety surrounded by the sea and only communicated by the hinterland by a narrow headland. If possible, one should not miss the side-trip to Cádiz, specially in the summer time there is a pleasant sea climate and most of the times, the air is crystal clear.
Outstanding in the truest sense of the word is the cathedral of Cádiz. The Catedral Nueva is one of the biggest churches of Spain and its yellow cupola shiny and glittery rises over the houses of Cádiz.
Hotel Los Cántaros
With a little imagination we can say that our over night-stay was in a jail complex. In any case, this is not meant badly and is also not supposed to devaluate the hotel but is only related to the past of this house. Up to the 70ies of the last century, there was an old women's prison standing at this place that was then demolished in the year 1983 and replaced by an hotel building.
Still today, the plaza in front of this hotel is named "Plaza de la Cárcel", the Prison Plaza. On this plaza, still a fountain from the year 1839 is standing there. The hotel, which name is "Los Cántaros", in English "The Clay Jugs", got this name due to the many clay jugs from the 17th century that were found here during some construction works. Some of these jugs can be seen in the city museum, some are located at the hotel's reception.
"Los Cántaros" is quite centrally located in El Puerto de Santa Maria, amidst the old town's alleyways. This means two things: It is not so easy to find the way to there by car and there are practically no parking places. The latter problem was solved by the hotel's management in which one can keep one's vehicle in a parking house in the neighbourhood. This is not the worst solution, but also not a cheap one.
The hotel itself made a very good impression to us, it was not vey big but of a tasteful quality. 39 rooms with bath and WC, minibar, heating and air condition are at one's disposal. There is also a TV in the room, but without any German channel; We did not think this was extremely tragical, as we finally were not there for watching TV. Otherwise, we were very satisfied with the accommodation. The furnishment was relatively easy and simple, but practical and in a good condition. Due to the little back position of the hotel and the small alleyways, it was also pleasantly calmed and there was barely some disturbing traffic noise.
In the bath, there was permanently hot water, soap and a hair dryer. We cannot say how the room service or the exchange of towels, etc. was, as spent only one night in "Los Cántaros". Anyway, the rooms were clean during our stay.
There is a lift taking one to the rooms. There is a coffee bar in the restaurant but no restaurant, so that it was not possible to dine in the hotel. This was not further disturbing, as within several minutes one was is the centre of the place where one could find a lot of bars and pubs.
We were fully satisfied with the breakfast. The breakfast room was practically arranged, not much too cozy but also not the opposite. The breakfast offer was good, coffee, tea, milk or hot chocolate was available from the machine as much as wanted. Then there were rolls, bread, pastries, cake, cut colds, marmelade and honey. Of course also juices were offered, a thing that cannot be missed in a Spanish breakfast buffet.
Kudos to the hotel personnel. People were very friendly, tried to find an answer to every of our questions, also in english. At the reception, we got a map of the city with the sightseeings and a lot of tips. As we wanted to explore the city still on the day we left, we asked if we could leave the luggage for a longer time in the room, a thing that was no problem.
Conclusion: We can highly recommend the hotel "Los Cántaros" for a stay in El Puerto de Santa Maria, at least for a short stay. It is not a luxury accommodation, but clean, tasteful and practical with a friendly personnel and a good breakfast; A negative thing is that the hotel does not have an own parking place.
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Author: Michael Nitzschke; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz