Just Roman Around

Look at this little bit of punctuation ” – ” It’s not very significant is it? Just a little hyphen, or a minus sign. Unfortunately it’s very important for navigation as we found to our cost this week. I can’t bring myself to talk about it right now, I’m too traumatised. Maybe later.

In our last chat we were about to head into Cartagena for an explore. This was on the recommendation of friends & former neighbours Roger & Sandra who visited the town a couple of years ago. When they came to see us in our new home in Scotland they were so enthusiastic about the place we’d just had to see it for ourselves.

The tourist office!

We weren’t disappointed! A short bus ride from the motorhome park had us there mid-morning. It would have been earlier but we er… missed our stop and ended up at the port rather than in the old town as we’d intended. But what the heck; it was a beautiful day, the port was lovely too, and just a short walk from the museum and Roman Amphitheatre. Coincidentally, a huge Celebrity cruise ship – the Infinity – had docked at Cartagena that morning so we found ourselves surrounded by crowds of day-trippers looking confused and disoriented and pointing in all different directions. On our arrival at the museum we decided to divert for a coffee first while all the Elmers and Marges queued up for tickets. As we drank our café con leche we were treated to a street music rendition of ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ on the cello and electric piano. It was beautifully played and we both had a tear in our eye until we remembered with a giggle that that was the hymn played by the string quartet in the Titanic movie. As the ship went down. I suspect somebody was having a joke at the expense of all the cruise ship passengers!

The big surprise of this museum visit was that after strolling past the usual glass cases of Roman remains, the pots and vases and bits of column, you are suddenly ejected into a full-on, semi-restored Roman amphitheatre in the baking sunshine. The bizarre thing is that it was only recently discovered – in the late 1980’s. There were photographs of what, at the time, was a run-down and virtually uninhabited part of town. It was as these slums were being pulled down for redevelopment that someone said whoa there Billy..! Or possibly whoa there Juan.., what’s this underneath the rubble? Subsequent generations had simply built on top of the solid Roman foundations.

We continued our visit with a walk round the ramparts of Cartagena’s castle, which dominates the city – the views were superb, and the height made the enormous cruise ship in the harbour seem very average in size. At one end of the castle is the ascensor, a glass lift which took us down to street level. We could hear it complaining all the way down about the somewhat portly American tourists bursting out of the doors. The lift deposited us a short distance from all the tapas bars where we paused for lots of little dishes of heaven, and a couple of refreshing sangrias.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum…

In the afternoon we navigated our way to the Roman Forum. This is yet another remarkably preserved area in the middle of a normal busy shopping district. Here you can walk around and over a complete section of a Roman city on walkways, where once stood a grand bath house, a temple and a piazza surrounded by residences and a tavern. I was struck speechless (a rare occurrence) by the clear colours and brush strokes of the artwork on some of the walls. It was as though they had been painted last week. I really hope they weren’t.

The overall verdict on Cartagena? We only scratched the surface but found it fascinating and deserving of a future return to really get under the skin of them there Romans.

Well it looked quiet from above!

After a busy city visit it’s always good to get out into the country or to the beach for a quiet day or so. Looking at the map we’d spotted a narrow strip of land curving out from a bay to form a huge lagoon. Our park4night app pointed us at a quiet spot overlooking a tiny beach on the end of this narrow spit of land, so what could be more idyllic we thought. Wrong. Yes we found the quiet beach, but to get to it we had to drive eighteen kilometres through what felt like Miami Beach! High rises, beach bars, hotels, traffic lights, crossings, you name it. On a busy Sunday it took us hours of stopping and starting. It pays to do your research kids, because this was La Manga – one of Spain’s favourite resorts. Strangely though, once we’d fought our way to the end it seemed to be mostly residential; lots of apartments and only a few shops and cafés. It was much less frenetic than the previous seventeen km! We turned right on to a side street and found half a dozen camper vans parked at the end where the land stops and the sea starts. We joined them for a very peaceful overnight stop.

No beaches, no mountains, just the brick works behind us on this stopover!

As I may have mentioned in our last couple of posts, Vince has his seven-league boots on; we’ve been driving much greater distances between stops as we start to head north for the ferry home (boooo!) The next destination this week was Agost, where we stopped to have a look at another of the Via Verde trails – the former railway tracks converted to cycle & walking paths like the one in Olvera. Unfortunately this one had no vultures, no viaducts and not much else in its favour. We still had a good old walk but the whole area was turned over to intensive agriculture, which while necessary of course, doesn’t make for the most picturesque environment. A couple of coffees in town, a cycle up the huge hill to the church (closed) and the castle (closed) pretty much exhausted the attractions on offer so it was back to Vince for a sit in the shade, a book, and a sunset sharpener or two.

Now then. Back to the incident with the minus sign. Actually, you know what? It’s getting late and once I start I’ll go on and on and on. Hey – I heard that! What do you mean as usual..? Tell you what, we’ll be on a camp site in Zaragoza for two nights from tomorrow so I’ll have time to get over it and explain all then. Meantime have a great weekend & chat soon 🙂

Two thousand year old painting on a Roman wall. Still looking fresh.
Cartagena view
Vince’s Miami stop. If you click or tap to enlarge he’s just visible in the middle!
View over Agost

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