I was making my way towards Cartagena, Kindle in hand reading Neil Gaiman’s most recent book and I was struck again by the absolute stark beauty of this desert-like region I live in. One of my favourite parts about living in Murcia, is the countryside. You can always see the mountains, rolling hills that surround the area, which always make me feel like this place is my spot on this earth, my home. The orange and lemon orchards blurred past as I took the hour journey; the peach trees prettily in bloom showed that this has been a relatively warm and short winter. Before I knew it, I was meeting my new friend Annabel at the train station and off we went to spend the afternoon in this little, compact port city.
This was my third visit to Cartagena. It’s the second largest municipality in the region, making it relatively well-known in the area. It’s most famous for its Roman theatre and port. This would be the first time I would see the ampitheatre. For only 8 euros (for the museum, theatre and English audio guide) we spent about an hour and a half stepping back into the past. ‘Cartago Nova’, as it was known then, has 2 500 years worth of history, from Carthaginian and Roman times up to the present.
The Ampitheatre is beautiful to see. Recently restored, the theatre was originally built during the 1st century BC and evidence of deterioration is still evident on the steps of the exhibition. The winter sun blazed down upon us but an early storm wind kept us cool as we walked around taking photos and commented on what it must have been like “back in the day”. We made our way to the top of the steps and revelled in a moment of ‘being in the moment’.
On Sundays the theatre closes at EXACTLY 2pm; we were sternly reminded of this by the guard as he blew his whistle at all the visitors and, in his thick Spanish accent, proceeded to tell us:
It’s two o clock. Get out.
That felt very Spanish to me: Crisp. Clear. To the point. So out we went!
The theatre’s entrance is on La Plaza del Ayuntamiento (The Town Hall’s Square) which is right on the port, so we decided to walk up Calle Mayor, the main street of the city and chose a sweet little spot to eat paella as well as people watch. After that we made our way to Valor, Spain’s number one chocolate shop (for want of a better word) just before hail came down in a tempest-like fury, which ended just as quickly as it had begun.
In Cartagena, it’s always a good idea to look up; the narrow streets display an impressionable mix of beautiful architectural buildings with characterful modern day urban life.
There are many reasons to visit Cartagena for a day trip: there are a number of museums, buildings of interest and churches to see; the port itself is lovely to walk along if you have a love for the sea and boats; enjoy the typical Spanish lifestyle at one of the many cafes or restaurants. I preferred to just enjoy walking around the Old Town with not a care in the world. In my humbly honest opinion, it is the perfect day trip from Murcia City. That’s one of the best things about day trips, I think. You get that initial excitement of travelling and butterflies-in-the-stomach sense of adventure but, quite literally, at the end of the day you can return to the cosiness of your sofa.
After the rain had stopped, I made my way down to the station, bought my Renfe train ticket and said my goodbyes to Annabel. I hopped on, found an empty window seat and waited for the journey back to my city begin; past my beloved hills and patches of green, leafy orchards, back Home.