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How to Spend Your Downtime in Cádiz

Cádiz could be a great place to learn Spanish in Spain, as it offers a wonderful combination of good weather and a gentle but steady lifestyle that will give you a thorough insight into the psyche of Andalucían people, the famous inhabitants of the south. If you choose to come to Cádiz, there are certain activities you simply cannot miss.

A Millenary Town with Millenary Traditions

As you take a stroll along the cobble stoned streets of Cádiz's historic quarter, you will inevitably come across the feeling of dwelling in the midst of buildings, areas, streets, houses where much has happened before now. There is a distinct sense of secondhand ownership to everything in Cádiz, an almost mystic appreciation that everything here has lived other lives, has seen many days.

A city of contrasts, Cádiz's historic centre is made of increasingly narrow lanes laid out in seemingly arbitrary fashion, as is usual in any ancient city developed with no rigorous urban model in mind. Nevertheless, each alley in Cádiz leads to spacious, open and decorated squares where the scent of oranges is both soothing and exotic. To the shade of the orange trees, sheltered from the relentless sun, chilled by the cool maritime breeze blowing through the square, you will be the beneficiary of the Arab affinity for collective spaces of rest and recreation.

And yet, if you find a suitable terrace, bar or restaurant — and, believe me, you will find no shortage of them — then you can quickly jump ship, escape the Moorish presence in the air, embed yourself deeply in a thoroughly Western, thoroughly Christian tradition, and ask for a glass of sherry, a traditional form of wine which has extended its reputation well beyond the Spanish borders and which is produced exclusively in the region to the north of the city, between Jerez de la Frontera and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

As any Cádiz city guide will tell you, the culture of sherry drinking in Cádiz is as rich and serious as any other deeply-rooted tradition in spanish society. Ranging from the very dry form of 'fine' or fino sherry, to the sweet tastes of 'oloroso' or 'sweet' sherry, both much more alcoholic than the 'fine' kind.

The Root of a Countrywide Phenomenon

One of the goals of Spanish immersion schools is to embed students fully within the cultural expressions of a given society, so that the specific teachings related to the language come together with acquired knowledge regarding the environment within which such a language is spoken. Well, nothing can be more autochthonous and unique of Spanish culture than its long standing tradition for Flamenco music. And, do you know where such traditions originated? You got it!

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During the Age of Discovery, Cádiz became one of the most important cities of the Spanish Empire, merely because it was the home port to the Treasure Fleet, arriving yearly from the colonies with gold, silver and precious stones. At the same time, the bulk of the internal migration was directed to Sevilla, less than a hundred miles away from Cádiz, where the Casa de Contratación was located and where most of the trade with the colonies was conducted. It was the Golden Age for the region, which saw an influx of people, cultures, traditions and tendencies like never before

This blend of cultures, along with a long-established source of outside influences which reached back to the days of Phoenician dominance, are more than likely the roots of the eclectic and fascinating form of expression that is Flamenco. It is far more than just a dance, a tune, a rhythms or a song. Flamenco, truly felt, is a way of being — it is an attitude, simply a lifestyle that finds an outlet in music and dance and is truly considered 'Art'.

Deeply felt, truly committed and highly expressive, Flamenco clearly is tremendously indebted to the Gypsy community in southern Spain, which has come to be the fosterer of the more traditional vein of this kind of music and dance. In this respect, it might seem difficult to link Flamenco with learning Spanish, as the lyrics and vocalisations of the performers are usually lost even on native speakers. Nevertheless, this is yet another instance of the importance of cultural awareness when it comes to learning a language: there is a certain cadence, a given attitude, a determining factor to learning Spanish in Cádiz, which makes it a unique experience. Why not even give this fantastic activity a go yourself!

So, if you fancy an authentic view into the realities that have shaped Spanish tradition, then little can be more rewarding than travelling to the southern end of the country. As you sip your sherry, sitting in one of the bars in one of Cádiz's historic quarters, the barrio de Santa María, the home of Flamenco, and you ponder upon the nature of the Andalucíans, you will be doing more for your Spanish than if you read a whole dictionary!