Written by Jon:
Maybe it was the stark contrast to hideousness of Torrevieja, but the moment we stepped (or in our case scooted) out of the marina gates we fell in love with Carthagena.
Away from the commercial and industrial port, the city is clean, with smooth, clean streets perfect for a scooting family. The buildings are mostly from the 20s and 30s with a wonderful modern, almost art-deco style. Between and around these buildings is more modern architecture, brave and surprisingly complimentary to the older styles. And then there is the really old stuff, mostly Roman, which pops up in the most unexpected places around the city.
There must be over 30 museums to explore, the lady in the tourist information claimed you could spend two weeks visiting them all and I’m inclined to believe her. In the end we decided to spend a long afternoon visiting just four historical sites and within them a couple of museums.
But, back to the start. We got safely tied up in the marina after a lovely and enjoyable sail from Torrevieja. We got up early, around 3am to get the best of the wind and it paid off. The weather forecast was perfect and we sailed about 6 hours out of our 7 hour hop down the coast. Largely uneventful, with only a few minutes of concern as our minds started playing tricks on us near some large fish farms off the coast. We arrived in Carthagena late morning and quickly tied-up and headed off to explore the town.
Hungry we headed out looking for a bite to eat and were pleasantly surprised to find a city with a real ‘gastro’ feel to it. We had our pick from several restaurants, busy with locals having a late lunch, offering a ‘menu of the day’ for less than 10 euros. Some light shopping, exploring, sight-seeing and a little ice-cream followed; we collectively agreed to leave the museums for day two. We returned to the boat for a bite to eat and an early night.
Our second day was slow to start but packed with an afternoon of museums. Starting with a ride in a huge outside elevator to the castle that overlooks the whole city. We were greeted with a cruiseship worth of tourists and a few peacocks. Thankfully the tourists left early in the afternoon and we had the city to ourselves and the locals.
After the castle we stopped for lunch at a little Pinxos bar we’d spotted the day before. Halfway through the meal the restaurant was invaded by warriors in full battle dress. It turns out that it was the first day of a 10 day long fiesta, celebrating and reenacting the battle for the city against the Romans. Undeterred by the swords and horns, Teo, with the help of his mamma, approached the leader and managed to get himself conscripted into their army – with a badge to prove it. So, Teo is an official member of Uxama (it’s a town) army. He got to hold a sword and wear a fox on his head and everything!
After lunch we took a lovely walk around a covered, but outdoor, archaeological dig site of a Roman taverna and baths. The city has done an excellent job of integrating this city in the surrounding buildings and providing the perfect structure to house and protect the site. It was amazing to see original roman wall paintings and decorations from banquet rooms still visible today. The final museum provided an entrance to a tunnel which lead under the city, under a church and up into the original Roman theatre.
That evening we joined Stewart and Anne onboard Brighteyes for an early, and delicious, dinner of paella. After a lovely evening, chatting and great food we headed into the city to watch the opening ceremony of the fiesta. Teo even managed to find his army again and was welcomed as a brother in arms – albeit with an earlier bed time than most.
We were sad to go, especially since the battles would be going on and Teo was keen to help, but we decided to keep going west while the weather cooperated.