Monday, November 9, 2009

5 to 8 Nov 2008 - Cartagena

It has taken us three years to visit Cartagena, and then only because our friends David and Rosemary suggested that we go together for a long weekend.

David booked three nights at one of the villas on this urbanisation in Mar Menor for the bargain price of just 150 euro for four of us for three nights. We had everything we needed, though it has to be said that the urbanisation was very quiet as it was now out of season, and all of the facilities - including the supermarket - were closed for the winter.

David noticed that there was a train line on the map at a little village called Los Nietos which seemed to go to Cartagena. On our first afternoon we drove the few miles to the village and found the station. No time table or booking office, just a station. However a visit to the cafe confirmed that the trains ran every hour to the city.

Friday morning found us waiting at the platform just in time to catch the 0940, and having paid 8 euro for the four of us return, we arrived in Cartagena for 1000. We soon found the tourist information office, where a very helpful lady gave us maps and timetables and told us everything we needed to know to explore the city. First stop was the town ramparts, which provided excellent views of the city and harbour.

Then on to visit the civil war shelter museum, where the locals found shelter from German bombers during the Spanish Civil War. You reach this museum by lift, which then takes you up to Conception Castle, with its excellent views over the city and harbour. And also of the bull ring. Now unused, and apparently waiting for restoration as it is held together by a sort of frame which makes it look like a piece of scenery in a stage play. We were to see quite a few examples of this throughout the city.

Then it was back to the city ramparts (or city wall) and on to the city centre.

Like many Spanish cities, Cartagena has many examples of street statues, including this one of a sailor with his pack. The city is a major naval centre, so this subject was not too surprising. Rosemary obviously cannot resist a naval man!

The highlight of our first day was a visit to the Roman Theatre Museum. The whole area was recently recovered, and has the most magnificent modern museum build alongside the ancient theatre. It would be hard not to be very impressed. We were also surprised to find that all of the exhibits had English as well as Spanish explanations.

We were spoilt for choice for lunch, but settled for one just outside the Roman Theatre Museum, right in the middle of the square. We were surprised, and pleased, to find that the menu del dia was only 11 euro each for a three course meal and half a bottle of wine.

It was mid afternoon by the time we finished lunch, and we decided to return to the city on Saturday, which left us with the rest of Friday to look around and get a feel of the city. And the harbour was an obvious choice.

This is the original first submarine ever built. It was invented in 1884 by Isaac Peral who was born in Cartagena, and was built in Cadiz.

The harbour had many interesting boats, and of particular interest to David and Rosemary who are keen sailors. Jan and I were glad of any excuse to stop walking around, even though we have little knowledge of boats.

Saturday found us again in Cartagena, after yet another trip on the little train. We started the day with a tour of the city on the Tourist Bus. Surprisingly cheap at less than 4 euro each, and perfectly adequate to give us a broad introduction to the city and a feel for its layout. We also spotted this large statue, indeed it would have been difficult not to spot it!

The harbour also provided this second statue, which looked just like s whale tail.

And once again everyone was more than ready to take any opportunity to sit and watch the world go by.

Sunday morning we set out to explore the area around Mar Menor, and we were pleased to find that there was easy access to the long empty beaches. We also found quite a few villas designed to look like castle's, and this one right on the beach was a particularly fine example.

As well as beaches, there were plenty of walk ways along the side of the sea, including this one with its collection of sail boats.

We explored the sea front for an hour or so, and then had a light lunch before setting off back home. It was a very pleasant break and one which convinced us that we should plan another one soon.