This ancient port city, located in the Murcia region in southeastern Spain, has a natural harbor that has been used for thousands of years. Going back to the 16th century, it has been an important naval seaport and is home to Arsenal de Cartagena, the Spanish navy base.
The boat arrived on a cool, but cloudless morning and along with a few others, Doralice, Sarah, and I boarded a bus that would take us 35 kilometers outside the city to the resort town of La Manga, a seaside spit that is 21 kilometers long and 300 meters wide. On one side of this vary narrow strip of land that is packed with highrise hotels and condominiums is the Mediterranean Sea, and on the other is the Mar Menor lagoon. The lagoon’s water is warm and rich with salt and minerals. Unfortunately, our time there was too short and we were unable to take advantage of the healing properties of the dark mud and clay. We could only watch from a short distance as others walked the beaches, the mud a sign of where they ached, though a few must have thought a head to toe covering would bring about maximum healing.
We were given about an hour of freedom in La Manga so we quickly made our way to the nearest hotel in search of refreshments. We thought we would find a terrace overlooking the beach and sip a cocktail. We were close. There was no terrace, only sand, and instead of a cocktail there was an asiático served hot in a plastic cup. This is a popular local coffee drink made with sweetened condensed milk, brandy and Licor 43, and it was perfection. We washed down meat flavored chips with our asiático and watched the mud people.
Back on the bus we returned to the port city for a visit to Castillo de la Concepción, which is located on the highest peak and offers the best view of Cartagena. To get to the top of the peak there is a panoramic elevator. We walked around taking photos of the lovely views and of the peacocks who reside there. I was mildly obsessed with the peacocks, and so, was rewarded with a fanning of feathers by this one guy.
From there, the three of us left our tour group to explore Cartagena on our own. We visited the Roman Theatre Museum, which was fascinating because though the colosseum was built sometime between 5 and 1 BC, it wasn’t discovered underground until 1988, and thus began the archeological excavations. We wrapped up our day in the city center where we found food, drink, and shopping along the pedestrian streets.
Next stop, Málaga, birthplace of Antonio Banderas.