16th January 2017. Murcia, Spain.

Our plan for today was to get a taxi into Murcia and book one from reception, that was as far as we’d got with the plan, we had no idea where we needed to travel to in Murcia or in fact what there was to see in there but I thought it would be nice to visit because my father and step-mother used to live in the area and I wanted to see what it was like.  We had contemplated cycling in but it was a 45 minute ride, our friends had done it a few years ago and got lost, which didn’t fill us with confidence on our ability to get there without any mishap and as I was still feeling very tired from my lurgy that seemed like a risky option.

The first and only part of our plan failed dismally.  The owner didn’t speak English and although she was very friendly and happy to help she had no idea what Darren was asking for and instead gave him information about the bus.  As the bus stop was right opposite the aire we decided to use that.  There were only two other people on the bus when we got on so we raced to bagsy two of the back seats which had a great view out as there exit was in front of us.

It seems that our stop was the first on the line because at each stop someone got on until it was almost full.  The journey took us an hour to where we eventually got off.  Darren had decided that as we had no idea where the historic section was we’d get off when the majority of people got off, which was a great idea but unfortunately everyone got off in dribs and drabs.  We eventually got off as the bus reached the area where it turned round.  We then proceeded to zigzag through the numerous narrow back streets of Murcia, in the words of Chuck Berry “with no particular place to go”  We hoped to eventually find our way back towards the river and see a sign for Tourist Information.

As luck would have it after we’d been walking  for about half an hour Darren heard a British accent and went over to ask them if they could tell us where the pretty bits of Murcia were.  Unfortunately they couldn’t help.  They told us were on a coach trip and they’d been dropped off in Murcia at 11 p.m. and were kicking their heels until they were picked up again at 4 p.m..  It was now midday and they’d given up trying to find the tourist information centre.

They said they’d been to the cathedral but it was closed, couldn’t find anything else to look at, had explored the narrow back streets as suggested by the coach driver but felt nervous of the groups of men hanging around there.  Their next idea was to look for a hotel and to ask for information there but they couldn’t find one of those either (I told them we’d seen a big hotel from the bus so maybe they hadn’t come to it yet).  Apparently we had just come across them as they’d spied the cafe and decided to order a coffee to while away their time in Murcia instead and at that moment they were twiddling their thumbs waiting for the waitress to appear to take their order.  The poor things were feeling very despondent.

It was nice to know that we weren’t the only ones having problems find historic Murcia but their tale of woe was rather disconcerting.  As the waitress came over to their table they pointed us in the direction where the coach driver had told them tourist information would be and after we’d thanked them we set off that way.

During our bus journey into Murcia we’d passed a small area beside the river that had a couple of beautiful buildings on it (with hindsight that was the place we should have got off the bus), as these poor people hadn’t seen that building on their way along the road we assumed it must be further down the river but not long after we’d started walking back we came first to the huge modern and very swanky looking hotel I’d seen from the bus (we were rather amazed they hadn’t seen that when they walked past) 5 minutes later we came to the law courts which had two huge statues, placed either side of the entrance (which warranted a photograph or three) and 15 minutes further on we arrived at the beautiful building we’d gone past an hour ago!

As we walked across the square Darren heard another British accent and asked the couple where the Tourist Information office was.  They directed us, 200 yards to a square opposite the cathedral!  When we got there the office did look as though it was closed but the door slid open as we approached it.  The lady in the Information office was very helpful and we left with a map and headed towards the cathedral, which was now open.

As we approached the very grand cathedral my eye was caught by the menu del dia.  It was only 10.20 Euros AND it had vegetarian options.  We were only there a few seconds before the waiter came out and beckoned us to the outdoor seating area.  We’d been considering stopping for a coffee so we sat down and ended up ordering lunch.

It was a lovely meal and very good value for money.  It included a beer, starter, large salad, main course and desert AND we got to eat it whilst enjoying the view of the cathedral and historic square.

We watched the people coming and going from the cathedral and after a short while a large number of clergy wandered out (we later saw them standing around in groups in the nearby streets and speculated that maybe they were the men that the British couple had seen earlier!) and the huge door clanked shut.  There were very long queues of people waiting to go into the Episcopal Palace, they stood there for ages then, as if by magic, when I turned round to look at them they’d all disappeared.

When we’d finished eating we explored the rest of the area.  The Tourist Information lady had mentioned the Casino and as we walked up one of the lanes we saw the words CASINO written in big writing down the side of a modern building, up until that moment I’d been absolutely positive that the Casino was the name of an historic building.  We were surprised that she’d put that on the map of things to see and had a good laugh about it, turns out the joke was on us, when we got  back to the van I discovered that there IS an historic building called the Casino (not the place we’d seen) and it’s a beautifully ornate Moorish building, d’oh!)

I wonder whether the British couple we spoke to had been to one of the other ornate churches in the town thinking it was the cathedral and that’s why they hadn’t found the historic buildings.   I hope they eventually stumbled across the interesting areas.

We had a lovely stroll along the river, took photos of the statues that were liberally distributed around the area.  I love the works of art that are strewn throughout Spain, they appear in the most unexpected places, it’s wonderful.  I loved the statue of the man tight rope walking across the bridge, he was counterbalanced and swayed in the wind.  There was also a cute statue of a man and his child fishing off a bridge.  I am entranced by the artwork we’ve seen in Spain, particularly the items placed on the roundabouts.

We caught the bus further along the river.  It was much busier this time around, we had to stand in the aisle, as I was trying to grab hold of the rail my toe bumped into something soft and when I looked down I saw  to my dismay that I’d just kicked a cute Golden Labrador on the nose!  I bent down and rubbed it better and he looked at me with big sorrowful eyes, I felt a real heel!  After a few stops I sat in a seat opposite and he kept glancing over at me accusingly, oh, the shame!

The bus stopped right outside the aire we were staying at and as we got off so did our French neighbours from further up the bus, we had no idea they were on there.

As we were settling back in the van I noticed the owner walking across the site carrying a basket of fruit for some new arrivals and called out “Hola” to him.  Ten minutes later there was a knock on the door and he was standing there holding a basket of oranges and lemons (say the bells of St Clements) for us.  It was such a lovely surprise.  The surprises didn’t end there, we watched a beautiful sunset and just as it got dark there was a firework display from across the road.  A very nice end to a great day.

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