Exploring Murcia with James Villa Holidays
On the final Sunday of our amazing adventure in Southern Spain with James Villa Holidays we travelled North from our villa for 30 minutes along the F-14 and A-30 to Murcia, capital city of the region. The husband has been badgering me to mention how amazingly good the roads are here, they’re beautifully kept, spotlessly clean and put our worn out and badly-patched UK motorways to shame.
The desert like landscape drawing us towards the city with its hills and ruddy earth is dotted with evergreen shrubs and trees reminding us of driving through Arizona and Navada on our honeymoon.
We parked in one of the underground car parks which are great for keeping car cool in 30 degree heat – and pretty good value at €8 (£6.30 or so) for the whole morning. As soon as we came up to street level we were greeted with the most beautiful water features and architecture. Curly Girl, all red white and blue for the day, skipped long the paths watching the water dance in the sunshine.
After a quick look at the map together, with Curly Girl helping in her first exercise in reading one, we headed down one of the side streets to Plaza del Cardenal Belluga past the tourist office (who were extremely helpful) and stopped dead when we saw the Cathedral – the stunningly beautiful must-see gothic/baroque architecture that dates from 1388 simply took our breath away. The juxtaposition with the ultra modern town hall extension shows ancient and modern in stark relief.
The ultramodern town hall extension
As we visited on a Sunday there was a service in progress so the husband and I took turns inside, knowing our Little Man wasn’t going to be silent if we took him in with us. Walking around in silence with my daughter by my side only enhanced the spiritual atmosphere and I was quite overcome with the beauty of the carvings, paintings and sculptures. Photography isn’t allowed inside so you’ll just have to take my word for it!
Big door, small girl
Running for the sheer joy of it
The smile that greets me every day – I’m truly blessed
After the littles had a bit of a run around in the square and the husband and I were drunk on the sheer beauty of the cathedral we headed down a side street, following our noses really and on Calle de la Trapería we found Roses, a pretty little patisserie with candy striped wallpaper and the most delicious macarons – we just had to have some!
About half way down the street is the impressive Murcia Casino which was built as a gentleman’s club originally in 1847. We didn’t venture inside as the pram would have made it tricky but even poking my head through the door I could see the decadent interior with sparkling chandeliers and ornate decoration. We were reliably informed by the tourist office that the ballroom inside is magnificent.
Calle de la Trapería opens out into the Plaza de Santo Domingo, a pretty square with lots of restaurants and tourists on guided tours and young couples kissing on the benches. Curly Girl spotted this tree with it’s own knitted dress and just had to give it a hug!
We walked north along the pedestrianised Gran Vía Alfonso X towards the centro (roundabout) where the trams turn. It was really reminiscent of Las Ramblas in Barcelona and had the husband shared a special moment remembering our lost weekends there from many moons ago before we lived in China and family life arrived.
At top of the Gran Via is a stunning fountain and on the other side of that a small playground with swings and a slide where the littles had a well-deserved play after a morning of sightseeing. I struck up a conversation with a local mother in my truly awful Spanish (it turned out her son’s birthday was three days after the Little Man’s) and she commented that we’d come to Murcia at a good time because the weather is lovely but cooler than in the Summer and it’s not so busy. In the Summer the number of people multiplies by a factor of ten so Spring and Autumn are great times to visit here.
Watching the children play it struck me that the language barrier didn’t phase them at all. They climbed, slid and swung happily alongside each other and Curly Girl was her usual supportive self, helping a little boy to clamber up one of the small climbing walls, while chattering away. The Spanish children learn English SO well at school (putting our embarrassing efforts at language learning to shame in my opinion) but I’m not he understood a word that she said. It didn’t matter – the language of play is universal.
Once the little people were suitably tired and hungry we walked back to the cathedral for a lunch of delicious tapas, coffee and chocolate ice cream. By now the area was quite crowded but we picked a restaurant that had good ‘helado’ and grabbed a table for four. They didn’t have high chairs unfortunately but our nice waiter put two chairs on top of one another so that the Little Man could reach the table. It didn’t keep him in the chair of course, but thankfully some nifty Thomas the Tank Engine action from the mini trains I’d brought along kept him amused long enough for the food to arrive *phew*.
Little Man found his own special way of finishing off the melted ice-cream at the bottom of the glass and Curly Girl had a plate of her new favourite snack – bread and garlic mayonnaise ‘aoli’. The garlic was very strong and she LOVED it! Despite being directly in front of the cathedral our tapas lunch was surprising good value at €22 and we had the opportunity to watch the beautiful people parading up and down in their Sunday best, enjoying the wonderful Mucian weather.
After lunch we headed back to our villa, which was the perfect base for visiting the area, and spent the afternoon in our lovely private heated pool while the Little Man took a nap in his air-conditioned room. We will definitely be returning to Murcia, we only scratched the surface of this pretty city founded by the Moors and there’s so much more to see.