We arrive in Cartagena around lunchtime and have an excursion in the afternoon. We are met by our very enthusiastic guide, Pedro. We are supposed to be touring Roman Cartagena but first we have an extensive bus ride around the area. He extols the great natural harbor and explains how beautiful the countryside is. It has been extensively mined for a long time for silver and lead and he points out proudly the slag heaps and colorful ponds (toxic waste.) But he is so enthusiastic that you cannot help but like him. He proudly shows us a golf course and then takes us to a lighthouse which he tells us is so beautiful. It is overlooking the Mar Menor salt lagoon on Cabo de Palos. It was built in 1865.
Okay, so it is not as beautiful as he was describing but it is an opportunity to get off the bus and takes some pictures while he regales us with more fabulous facts of Cartagena such as it being the orchard of Europe growing melons, almonds, olives, artichokes, citrus, and stone fruit. Then he also tells us that the flamingos from the North Pole migrate down to the waters of Cartagena. This is too much and Sarah and I totally crack up. From then on when ever we need to make someone smile for a picture, we shout flamingos.
After this we head back to the bus and drive to the Roman museum and theater of Cartagena. The theater was built between 5 and 1 BC but was not discovered until 1990 when some other construction unearthed some Roman capitals.
Behind the museum is the Roman theater and the ruins of the Santa Maria la Vieja Cathedral which was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. It was built in the 13th century. Once again the Spanish Civil War is not discussed.
After walking through the museum we walk out into the theater. It is in pretty good repair. The younger members of our group take the stone steps down to the stage. With no railings, John and I decided to skip this adventure. There is a hole near the top of the theater over which a bullring had been built. It was used as a bomb shelter during the Spanish Civil War which is again not discussed.
After this we take a little stroll in the main part of Cartagena which is a very pretty city. The main pedestrian thoroughfare is paved in marble and the City Hall is quite lovely.
Pedro now tells us to have a little walk around on our own for half an hour. He suggests that we get some of their famous coffee. We decide instead to get some beer and tapas. Actually we are only going to get beer but the owner of the taverna speaks to us rapidly in Spanish and it is obvious that it is about some food. I recognize the word patatas and give him the go ahead. He brings us a plateful of patatas pobre, a perfect accompaniment to our beers.
We are taken back to the boat and later meet for dinner at Manfredi’s, the Italian restaurant on board. Along with some superb lamb chops, here are other dishes we had-