20.08.20 — Travel

Murcia Once More

My last post left off with me catching a plane after a lovely few days down in Tenerife, but this plane didn’t bring me back home to Madrid, but rather eastwards and to Alicante. I wouldn’t be spending my time in Valencia like last summer, however, as I was picked up by my auntie and uncle and whisked off to Murcia to spend the second half of my holiday at their place.

Upon arrival, the weather was thankfully much warmer and brighter than the last time I visited, but the sun was already beginning to set by the time we arrived at their apartment. We weren’t about to waste the evening though, as my auntie had organised for us to meet some of her friends at a local restaurant to take advantage of their happy hour!

After snacking on some lovely croquetas de bacalao (cod croquettes) and sneaking in as many drinks as we could before happy hour finished at ten, we returned home to carry on our conversation and get rested for the next day.

A pool surrounded by palm trees.

As I’d agreed to make my auntie a carrot cake as a late birthday present, and I wanted to pick up some home comforts from the supermarket, we kicked off the next day with a trip to Mercadona (my local supermarket chain). We also stopped by at the British supermarket to buy some cordial (seeing as I could bring it up to Madrid with me on the train later), and then spent the rest of the day lounging around the pool.

In the evening, we headed down to a town on the coast and a restaurant that my auntie and uncle had recommended, where we had a lovely meal as we watched the sun set over the sea. After some table-layout-related chaos, and a starter containing gulas (baby eels) which had my auntie and uncle intrigued, I enjoyed a lovely cut of pork and a homemade dessert which left me fit to burst!

We were up bright and early(ish) the following day, as we’d a trip planned up to a covenant in the mountains. My auntie and uncle had spoken quite a bit of this place in the past, but I’d never managed to make it up there, so I was keen to see what the fuss was all about.

An arch with a view over the city of Murcia in the background, flanked by trees.

It turns out that the cluster of buildings perched on the mountainside is absolutely gorgeous, with panoramic views over the city of Murcia to match. These views revealed themselves as we walked between two buildings and through a lovely archway, but I’d been told that there was a little chapel that was worth a visit before exploring further. The interior of this place was decorated to the rafters with gold and frescos, but we were soon ushered out by the lights going out as mass was soon to begin.

A heavily gold-gilded church interior.

We then stopped in the covenant’s café for drinks and some of their delicious homemade empanadas (imagine a Cornish pasty), which gave us the energy to begin climbing some of the pathways and taking in the amazing views over the covenant, the mountains, and the urban sprawl below.

A view over the covenant on a green hillside.
An old lamppost in between a bunch of pink flowers.
An old house atop a hill.
A bush with pink flowers on the side of an old building.

The views from the covenant were as varied as they were spectacular.

Once we’d knackered ourselves out in the heat, we hopped back in the car and began searching for a restaurant that my auntie and uncle’s friends had recommended. We were told that it was an unassuming spot, attached to a service station, but upon entering it became obvious that it was a hit with the locals. I spotted that a lamb dish on the menu had won an award, and so I opted for that despite not being a fan of lamb, but I sure was glad that I did – it was delicious and an absolute steal at just 8€!

The next day we decided to spend relaxing around the apartment and pool, and I decided I’d whip together aforementioned carrot cake as my auntie had invited a group of friends over for a drink. In the end I made a two-tier monstrosity, something I don’t usually do, but it went down an absolute treat. I also must mention that we were joined in our gathering by my auntie’s friend’s dog, Paolo, who was a very good boy and a joy to have around. 

A carrot cake with candles.
Paolo, my auntie's friend's dog.

Paolo was very well behaved and a treat to play with.

We spent the evening in a quiet local bar, where we shared a range of dishes on the terrace, chatting about all sorts of nonsense as the sun set around us. It had soon become my third evening in Murcia, and I still hadn’t decided when I was returning to Madrid, as I was still waiting to hear if my sister’s trip was definitely off due to the quarantine situation.

Walking through the quiet streets of small-town Spain is always a calming experience.

The pale yellow walls of a house in rural Spain.

For breakfast the next morning, my auntie and I jumped in the car together and headed down to a lovely restaurant on the coast that we always tend to stop at. Singing a range of songs in the car on the way down (which reminded me of my car karaoke project for university), we arrived to enjoy a classic Spanish breakfast followed by a cheeky beer as we looked over the Mar Menor.

A woman looking at the notice board of a church.
A selfie of me.

After this followed anther relaxing day at the pool, when I finally found out that sadly Ellie wouldn’t be able to make it over to Madrid, and so I booked my train back for the Thursday to give me a few days relaxing in my flat without rushing back.

Now that we knew exactly how much time I had left, we made a plan of action for the following day, involving taking a little shuttle train from a tiny local village up to Cartagena, a city on the coast. This is another experience that my auntie and uncle had talked a lot about, but that once again I had never done, and so I hopped on to the tiny one-wagon train in earnest. 

An old hand-painted sign.
Animated image of a car heading down a road.
A cliff with a house behind it.

Upon arriving in Cartagena, we walked around the city wall and into the centre, where we soon stopped for a drink to cool off from the summer heat. After this we were sure to stop by a local bar, Ramón’s, where I once again got chatting to Ramón himself and we enjoyed the local speciality coffee, un café asiático.

For lunch we sought out a restaurant that my auntie and uncle knew, and sat down on the terrace for what was to become the start of a wild two-hour experience! After we placed our orders and they gave us a plate of patatas bravas “as a gift for the delay”, we had an inkling that things might not be running smoothly behind the scenes, and this hunch turned out to be right!

With our starters coming out at random intervals, it soon became evident that a complete chaos had been caused by the numbering system of the tables, which had fallen apart as new tables had been put out and nobody new which numbers they were. When it was eventually time for dessert, the head waiter had clearly had enough, and opted to just stand in the middle of all the tables and shout out the list of desserts that were available, instructing everyone to just raise their hands for their preferred dessert as he did so. What a laugh!

Once lunch was finally over, we headed slowly back down to the waterfront, wandering along the docks of the port and back forwards the train station. I then spent a relaxing evening in the pool by myself, watching the sun set as I called some friends around the world.

A panorama of the see seen from Cartagena, Murcia, Spain.
A sunset seen from a pool.

All too soon my final full day came around, and after a morning hanging around the pool, me and my auntie headed out for lunch at a local bar whilst my uncle headed out with his friends. This involved a few courses of local dishes, all of which was delicious, and which I then digested whilst lounging around in the pool once more.

I did have one thing I wanted to do before I left, though, so we made the most of my last night to squeeze it in before my return up north. This involved a trip down to the mud baths of Lo Pagán, which I’ve made the most of during a previous visit, but which my auntie has never experienced. This involves wading into a shallow pool, slathering oneself in sulphur-infused mud, allowing the stuff to dry in the sun, and then washing it off.

Palm trees line a pier in Lo Pagán.
A selfie of me at the mud baths.
The mud baths.
A streetlight and palm trees.
A first-aid building jutting out into the sea.
A bicycle tied to a wooden pier in the mud baths.
The sun set over the sea.

After watching the sun set and stopping off for a kebab (it’s hard to get a decent one in Madrid, so I’d to make the most), we headed back home and had one last drink for my last evening. The following morning was then spent lounging around the pool, before heading off for a lunch at a restaurant that we usually visit just before I head back on the train.

This time, however, there was a rail replacement bus service in action for the first half hour of my trip, and so I’d to wave my auntie and uncle off from the car park before a rather uneventful socially-distanced train ride back to the big city. Although sad to leave my auntie and uncle and resigned to the fact that my summer holidays were nearing an end, it was lovely for me to come back to find that all my plants had survived my absence thanks to my friend for nipping in to water them!

Much like Cami, Sam, and family, I’ve to once again thank my auntie and uncle for putting me up and putting up with me for a whole week after my five days were extended by the unfortunate cancellation of my sister’s trip to visit me in Madrid. I feel like any time out to travel is a real luxury this year, and so I’m really grateful to have been able to visit Tenerife and Murcia.

For now, it’s back to work for me, and I know that Ellie (my sister) and Johann (her boyfriend) will be back in Madrid just as soon as they can!