Where’s Colin? He’s at a commercial Aire on the outskirts of Cartagena at N37º39.219’, W1º0.208’. It’s €10 including electricity, wifi, toilets and showers, as well as having a lounge with sofas, games, books and a large dining table.
I hadn’t intended for us to visit Cartagena, as the write up in our guidebook didn’t make me think it would be worth the effort. However, having driven out first thing to the spit of land which encloses the Mar Menor and established that it didn’t seem that there was anything there to hold our interest, we revisited the campsite and Aire books and, given the choice of a 950-pitch mini-city in La Manga or a 28-pitch Aire on the edge of Cartagena, we opted for the latter with fingers crossed that there would be space.
Hitting it lucky with our timing, we secured the very last pitch, with three other motorhomes being turned away over the course of the next twenty minutes. Even more lucky with our timing, the bread van arrived just after us, which solved our most pressing store cupboard deficiency.
Two options then lay before us: 1) I could do some laundry; or 2) we could catch the 1pm bus into town. As the bus stop was only a five minute walk away, it would have been silly not to at least take a glance at the town. Well, what a pleasant surprise it was! My low expectations were entirely exceeded by this interesting, historical place.
Starting with a walk through the old town towards the harbour, pausing only for a Menu del Dia lunch*, we passed plenty of interesting buildings, like this one:
In search of the castle, past the harbour we went, which, in this snap looks like it focusses on the leisure market…
…but looking left or right shows the industrial elements of the town:
Eventually we did locate the castle (of which I failed to take a single photo) and after a bit of contemplation decided to splash out €3.75 each to go inside. Whilst the history of fortification on that site is a very long one, the last ‘proper’ castle was demolished in the late 19th century, and the current keep was rebuilt in the 1980s, with various other bits having subsequently been excavated. As it went, it wasn’t the building itself which made it well worth the admission fee, but two other factors: firstly the excellent views given of the city from the top of the keep, which showed off a good handful of nearby historic sites…
…and secondly the ‘history of Cartagena’ exhibition housed within the building, which includes English translations on all of the written and audiovisual exhibits.
A full tour of the castle grounds was omitted, as time was marching on by the time we got out of the paid-for bit of the castle, and by chance our return route back to the old town took us right past this:
We had considered whether to go to the Roman Theatre museum, mainly to see the amphitheatre, so it was a bonus to find that we could get a good view of it from various angles without any need to try to squeeze in another museum visit.
To round the day off, we happened to pass this too:
I think I’ve already mentioned how almost every surface in Spain seems to be considered fair game for awful grafitti (tagging and general scrawl), so it was nice to see a piece of art like this on a city wall (and no tagging over the top of it! Given that information signs and ancient monuments seem to be considered as fair game just as much as walls, lamposts, benches and trees, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find this defaced too).
There was more we could have seen in the town (particularly if we’d arrived during the week, or earlier in the day, in which case we would have visited the Naval Museum), but for today we had run out of time, so declaring our visit to the city to have been worthwhile, off we toddled back to the bus stop. It was dark (and the temperature collapsing) by the time we walked the little lane back to Colin.
(*On the next table to us at lunch was a British trio who kept us entertained by their horror at the food they were served. Like us, they started with a mixed salad. It was far from the best presented mixed salad I’ve ever had, but it was fresh and inoffensive, yet they stirred their plates around a little bit and they were all taken away largely uneaten. Then came two plates of Paella (same as us), plus one plate of fish and squid. The look of disdain on the two women’s faces was priceless, as they poked through what they had been served. Those plates also went back largely uneaten, although the chap did make a decent job of his (of course, our plates went back clean on all courses, save for the shells). Having had a good gander at my creme caramel for pudding, the two women opted for the same. The older woman had a decent taste of hers; the younger again turned her nose up. Really, what is the point of going out for a meal if you’re not prepared to try anything?! Positively bizarre it was. It made Mick want to take them on a good long walk, feeling sure they’d be prepared to forego their fussiness and eat anything at the end of it!)