The East coast of Spain seems to be less popular than other parts of the country. Rick Steves, for example, does not include much about the East coast in his travel books. However, my friend, Melinda, and I got to explore a bit of this area last week as we rented a car and spent 4 days driving to Valencia and back.
Our first stop was Cabo de Gato, a national park on the southeast corner of Spain of which we got a mere taste (definitely need to go back) but saw some white flamencos in the distance. We spent our first night in Cartegena, a small coastal city in the Region of Murcia. The gem of this stop was the view from our Airbnb apartment which was a Roman theater right next door that had only been discovered and dug up in early 2000. We couldn’t believe our luck (especially having reserved our apartment at the last minute)! In fact, this city is an interesting mix of an upscale marina and office buildings with an old town of numerous construction sites and archeological digs. We considered spending some late night hours at “La Escuela de Calor” (direct translation: “The School of Heat” with hard rock blasting from inside) but chickened out as our 40 something selves felt more called to our beds. We did experience a hardcore coffee shop, though, and watched a military parade the next morning.
Our next stop was a half hour north to San Pedro del Pinatar for Las Charcas mud baths, the largest saltwater lake in Europe, with warm waters, high salinity and healing mud. Even though it was a little chilly and windy while we were there, we managed to partially cover ourselves with mud before rinsing off and quickly lying in the sun to warm up. After some tapas and a free Kahlua and cream shot (Spanish restaurants often gift their customers with a free after-meal drink), we hit the road for Valencia.
We merely scratched the surface of Valencia, touring the Silk Exchange, visiting the art museum and central market, walking the city’s fabulous city park and picnicking under a bridge during a downpour. We also took a Paella cooking class since paella originated in Valencia, as food for the poor. As most areas in Spain, Valencians make their paella with their own local delicacies which forced us to expand our food horizons. I tasted my first rabbit and Melinda had her first snail. In addition, I learned how to prepare and cook miniature artichokes! Our class was lots of fun as we were the only Americans among Brits, Spaniards and Austrians. Melinda engaged the Brits in a “what’s up with Brexit?/what’s up with Trump?” conversation while I had the pleasure of sitting next to one of the Austrians; a 20-something die hard skier who was a twin of Ed Sheeran.
After breakfast at our favorite Valencian coffee shop, We drove south again until we arrived in Granada. Melinda was eager to see Granada so I toured her around Plaza Nueva and the outside of the Alhambra before we returned to Almuñécar that night. The next day, I took Melinda to Malaga for her flight back to the States. What a gift it was for me to be able to share our Spanish home with an American friend and explore new areas together.