Today was an archaeology/travel day. We packed up and checked out of Granada and headed two hours east to a site called Torre Garcia, on a little beach outside a little town whose name I never learned. We had lunch there in that little town, at a cute pizzeria. We ate our pizza and dreamed of Italy.
After lunch, we walked around the beach a bit. There is something so calming about the rush of waves breaking on the shore and the feeling of sand between your toes. It was also nice to be a bit leisurely – the site at our next stop didn’t open until 6:30pm, so we had some time to kill.
Our next stop, Mazzarón, had a few sites that Chris needed to see – some vats on a beach (thankfully!), a Roman reservoir, then some vats in the aforementioned museum. We trundled around the small town, hopping from site to site, until at last, around 7:30, we headed to Cartagena.
I had been looking forward to Cartagena, though I’m not really sure why. Maybe because it was founded by Hasdrubal in 227 BC and was called Carthago Nova (New Carthage) by the Romans. Maybe it’s because I’m paused in my Aeneid journey (see my other blog! lol) in the middle of book four. Maybe it’s because the presence of the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians are almost more ubiquitous in southern Spain than the Romans and so Carthage has been constantly on the back of my mind. For whatever reason, I was excited to get to Cartagena.
As we drove in, we couldn’t help but notice that the city was a bit…grittier…than any of the other places we’d been. Stacks of apartment buildings swathed in graffiti, little run down looking playgrounds… we became less and less certain of our decision to come with each passing block. We arrived at the hotel, which seemed nice enough, and dropped off our bags. After showers and some research, we headed out to dinner (at a very Spanish 10:00 pm, no less!). As we were walking, we could hear the pop-pop-pop of firecrackers and various small fireworks all over the place, and realized that groups of kids were just huddled together setting them off. Not just one or two, but almost every group of kids we saw was setting off firecrackers. What the hell kind of place is this?! It wasn’t truly alarming until we were walking back from dinner (which was lovely, btw – pork paella in a very nice little restaurant with an adorably harried looking server) – as we were heading back to the hotel, we saw two or three groups of kids lighting fireworks that spun totally out of control and unpredictably when lit – and they threw them right into the midst of the park, where mothers were sitting around chatting while their young children played on the swings and slide. It was really quite frightening and we hurried back to the hotel, but we could still hear the pops and whistles of the fireworks flying through air well after we’d gotten ready for bed.
So, a weird introduction to Cartagena. We keep telling ourselves that there are tons of museums here with Roman stuff that should be really cool, so hopefully that proves to be true tomorrow!