Discover the towers of Cadiz ©

Discover the towers of Cadiz

The towers of Cadiz or Cadiz from above.
When I say we live in a tower, faces twist into question marks.
In France, this translates as: "A tower? What do you mean, a tower... HLM? In Andalusia?"
In Cadiz, it's more like, "Why live in a garage sale?"

So these are the towers of Cadiz? 

Cadiz from above

Of course, the answer is quite different. For those discovering Cádiz and its "casco antiguo", there's Cádiz from below, with its opulent Baroque and neoclassical buildings, its exotic tree-lined squares where cosmopolitan society used to gather when the city was the essential port for trade between Europe and the new Americas. And then there's Cadiz from above. What is there to see from above? 

Just over two centuries ago...

At the end of the 18th century, Cádiz was the influential meeting place for Spanish, Flemish, French, Italian, Dutch and English merchants... All European nationalities exported and imported fabrics, pigments, spices, gold, chocolate, tobacco... Everything passed through Cádiz, as the Guadalquivir and its sedimentation prevented heavy ships from sailing to the river port of Seville.

Nearly 100,000 inhabitants mingled in the casco antiguo. Today there are just 30,000.

As in Monopoly, merchants buy up m2 of presbyteries or decrepit buildings to build their empires. Always the same logic: the first floor for the store, one floor for the offices, another for housing the merchant and his family, and the last for servants or for storing merchandise.
Sometimes, "áticos" grow on the roofs as attics. Today, the" ático"has been converted into an apartment with a roof terrace.

Of course, the more opulent the merchant, the more attractive the building.
Towers are also beginning to sprout up on building roofs.

Why these towers?

Competition is fierce in the port of Cadiz.
The merchandise is not yet ashore, and merchants are already negotiating by sea.
The tower as a watchtower to observe approaching ships. The higher the tower, the greater the chance of being seen by the commander.
So merchants built near the port. Soon, 160 towers were erected. All too quickly, the town council legislated. Henceforth, to avoid destabilizing building foundations, only one tower per building was authorized.
Today, between 126 and 133 towers remain. Let's not argue about numbers.

They come in four different forms

The "torre garita

Or the "sentry box" tower, which, as its name suggests, houses on its roof terrace a sentry box or shelter with asperities: small holes for the lookout's eye, which sends out signals to approaching ships, using mirrors to negotiate without being seen by competitors and pre-empt the best merchandise.

Two gatehouse towers side by side Cadiz Cadiz ©
Two towers side by side facing the sea ©lasguiritanas

The "torre sillon

Or the "armchair" tower. It's true, they do look like armchairs. They're often four storeys high, with the third floor featuring a large balcony where friends can sit and play kite-flying, while on the top floor, from the roof terrace, the merchant negotiates with waving pennants and smoke.

Perfectly restored "armchair" tower near the covered market ©lasguiritanas
Perfectly restored "armchair" tower near the covered market ©lasguiritanas

The "torre mixta

A mix of the two previous ones. Only one remains today. It's called "calle Jose del toro", and we were lucky enough to live in it for a weekend. Its owner takes great care of it. He inherited it from his grandfather, a black-and-white photo of whom, centered in a frame in the small living room like a marquise, shows the grandfather at the beginning of the 20th century. He looks handsome in his suit and boater hat, pointing proudly at Cadiz from the first balcony. 

Tour mixte calle José del toro, in the casco antiguo
Mixed tower "calle José del toro", in the casco antiguo ©lasguiritanas

The "torre terraza

Or the rectangular "terrace" tower, erected skywards.
Like Torre Tavira, the city's highest tower, 45m above the sea. It is open to the public and can be visited every hour from 11am to 7pm (only from May to September).

The tour in French is at 3pm. ➽ CLICK to book

Torre Tavira and its afternoon visitors ©lasguiritanas

The view of Cádiz from above reveals "a city with an air of the boondocks", as Eli, the second guiritana, puts it. Yes, the Arabs have been here. The city's white roof terraces are lined with clotheslines. In Cadiz, the terrace is a collective affair, and few gaditans venture out.
Imagine the same thing in France: ephemeral bars, vegetable gardens and tables to share with neighbors would be legion.
But gaditans like their comforts. They prefer to meet in squares or on the beach. More convenient. No stairs to climb. Just the armchair under the arm to unfold for a game of dominoes, the light table planted in the sand. Parents and children come after work and school to reinforce the ranks, for an evening dip in the sea before the summer vacations.

Unclassifiable towers at last

The guiritana tower

The one we rented, the one we saw as soon as we moved into an "ático" opposite it. The tower that made us want to live in Cadiz.
A tower built by a Basque, Francisco Antonio del Arco y Hondiz, in 1745, who had made his fortune in the tobacco trade. Our Basque was influential.
His tower is unlike any other, having been able to deviate from the four imposed shapes. It's a "groove" tower, and from the front, it's not completely rectangular. (see opening photo). Above all, its roof terrace is partly covered, providing a protected living room and an open terrace.
A roof with "azulejos azules" (blue tiles), so that you can look up into the sky, with your eyes plunged into the sea, whatever the season: high winds, bad weather, (relatively) cold winters.
Cadiz's tallest tower after the torre Tavira.
DISCOVER the strange history of the building on which the tower stands ➽ here.

Calle san miguel tower Cadiz ©lasguiritanas
Tower where las guiritanas live, back view ©lasguiritanas

La Bella Escondida

The city's only octagonal tower. It's called "Bella Escondida" for "Hidden Beauty" because you can't see it from the street. You have to climb to the rooftops to see it. It faces the torre "mixta", also known as "calle José del toro".
It's a private tower. Las guiritanas were lucky enough to visit it. It's now for sale.
DISCOVER IT via this link, along with the accompanying caption.

The "Bella Escondida" or Hidden Beauty ©lasguiritanas
The "Bella Escondida" or Hidden Beauty ©lasguiritanas

The Casa de las cuatro torres

Or the "house of four towers". A wealthy Syrian merchant, Juan Fragela, built it between 1736 and 1745. It's the only building with four towers on its roof.
How is this possible? Remember, the mayor only allows one tower per building.
One tower isn't enough for our merchant. No problem. He creates four entrances to his building; four different addresses and therefore one tower per address. Clever.

Long abandoned, the "Casa de las cuatro torres" has been converted since 2015 into a boutique hotel with just a few rooms, each unique, restored in the pure Gaditan tradition. A use that Juan Fragela had also envisaged, since his home made a few rooms available to passing merchants awaiting the arrival of their goods.
If you too are visiting Cadiz ➽ BOOK via this link, a room with a view to enjoy breakfast on the city's rooftop.

Two of the four towers of the "Casa de las cuatro torres" ©lasguiritanas
Two of the four towers of the "Casa de las cuatro torres" ©lasguiritanas

There are still a few unclassifiable ones that escape our eye.
Living in one of these towers gives us plenty of time to find them and bring them to you.

What about the towers? Do you see them differently now? Would you like to see them "in real life"?

🍀 Visit Cadiz as if you were living there with las guiritanas. BOOK NOW ➽ HERE

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