Our current roving retirement trip through Spain has been much faster than the slow travel we did in Hawaii and Scottsdale. We’ve been on a schedule of sorts, but have tried to see the highlights of each town we visited. In our effort to see as many towns along the Spanish coast as possible, we decided to stop in Almeria. The drive from Alicante to Malaga was too long for one day. This allowed us time to see Almeria and swing by Cartagena on the way.
A reader mentioned that we might get ABC fatigue on this trip and defined it as Another Bloody Church. In eastern and southern Spain, I would define it as Another Bloody Castle. While we were in Valencia planning our day trips and our route south, I started removing castles from our to-do list. My approach became to look at the pictures of the castle and determine if there was something unique about it. If the pictures weren’t interesting enough and it was just another block of stones on a hill, skip it. All that said, we did visit more castles and churches too.
Cartagena was named for the Carthaginians who were the first people to settle this piece of the Spanish coast around 220 B.C. The city boomed during the Roman period and has many Roman ruins such as a 1st-century B.C. theater. Cartagena has also been the capital of the Spanish Navy’s Maritime Department of the Mediterranean since the arrival of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century. The port is quite large and busy.
There is the necessary castle on the hill, Castillo de la Concepcion, but this one has an elevator. You have to pay for it of course, and we found it by accident, but we were really excited to not climb up the hill the day we were there. Just so you don’t think we are complete slugs, we did walk down and through the old town and then up the hill to where we parked our car. The Castillo had a small museum and fabulous views of the port, city, and the iconic Palacio Consistorial, which is the 100-year-old town hall on Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
After our visit and lunch in Cartagena, we moved on to Almeria. Almeria is in Andalusia, so we had left Catalonia after more than two weeks of travel. Arriving late afternoon, we didn’t have more than a few hours to roam around the pedestrian part of the old town.
Almeria is the driest city in Spain so the desert area around the city is used for two things: filming movies and TV shows and a new form of agriculture marked by large swaths of white tarps. Because this part of the Costa del Sol is so dry with unforgiving landscapes, a new type of farming has been developed, using greenhouses that look white. Whole fields are covered with white tarp material and inside, all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables are cultivated. The technique has created a multi-billion euro business. That said, I’m not sure I can get used to the landscape being white wherever you look. The tarps can even be seen from space.
One of the most interesting parts of our stay was the hotel parking garage and car elevator. I chose a hotel that wasn’t quite in the pedestrian part of town, but it was darn close. The little street where you access the garage is full of tables and people having drinks and tapas. Of course, we didn’t see the entrance the first time, so I hopped out and went to the hotel to get parking instructions. (This happens quite often.)
Many of the hotel’s reviews said that the guests were brought to their sister hotel, which happened to be an AC Hotel (Marriott). Since we have status at Marriott, I didn’t think that was a bad deal if it happened. Which it did. It was an upgrade from what I booked and we got free breakfast. Still, it was a confusing walk between the hotel I booked and the one we stayed at.
We discovered that there was more here than we initially thought and we might want to visit again for a longer time. Among Almeria’s charms: the food is really good, it has a very large Alcazaba (a Moorish Castle), a christ statue on a hill overlooking the city, a port, and unspoiled beaches. Almeria didn’t look too big when we drove in, but I found out there are about 200k people in town. So there is plenty more to see when we come back.
Which town would you prefer, Cartagena or Almeria?