Still BBQ weather here in Cartagena. 50+ adults today. Great company and music.
So where did that month go? Highlights – Neil’s book becomes an audiobook, Great British Bake Off Final and Mum & Bry came to visit along with Barbs (who came to Lagos with Mum in January) and her husband Barry. They were here for 5 days and hopefully they managed to get a good sense of the place. Additionally, they came bearing “gifts” between them. All the bits and pieces we had ordered – bike bits (for Neil to rebuild an aluminium folding bike he picked up for €15 in La Linea), replacement sewing machine for me (my mini Janome broke. I was gutted but Mum brought me hers – yay Mum), tea, M&S pants, ear plugs, Percy Pig sweets, DVDs, 3 pin plugs, electrical adaptors, fusible wadding…. You know, all the essential stuff. They went back with seriously less weight in their cases than they arrived with.
Mum & Co had hired a car for the duration of their visit and Neil drove. The airport (St Javier in Murcia) is only a 35/40 minute drive from the marina so not too far. We picked them up Saturday morning and after settling them into the hotel, unpacking all our stuff, we had lunch on board Gleda in the sunshine. The weather while they were here was cloudy/bright but hot still. Daytime temperatures at around 26-27º and night time temperatures not dropping below 20º due to the cloud cover. Since they have left, we have had sunnier days, with similar temperatures but as soon as the sun dips it is noticeably cooler. On 31st October, I put on long trousers after my shower as the sun was setting for the first time and we have succumbed and put the duvet back into the cover (4.5tog) although we still have the hatch open overnight. We saw a minimum of 12º at 4am this morning; the lowest we have seen so far.
Chris, Jim and Molly (the dog) came to visit us yesterday from Grey Goose. We met them originally in Lagos, then bumped into them again in the Guardiana. They are wintering in Almerimar back along the way we have come. There sailing this season seems to have been fraught with one incident after another. I’m very glad for our non-eventful season. It’s nice to see familiar faces as well as meeting new peeps.
The live aboard community is increasing and changing here week on week. The BBQ on Sunday was the largest we have seen with also people visiting from the marina next door.
Back to our visitors. We took them to our favourite restaurant (so far), El decanso del Icue and again the food did not disappoint. We also took them for tapas at La Uva Jumillana, a favourite tapas bar, but the high bar stools or standing up did not suit them. The food is great though. For €1.80 a wine or a beer with a tapas – yum. Alternatively you can have a beer & beer for €1.80 if you don’t fancy a tapas. Mum, Barbs and I discovered that the cana (beer) and skewer tapas at Lizarran on the main street was a real treat. For €1.90 you have a beer and a choice of skewered tapas. They have a selection of cold tapas, including some dessert ones, and then the kitchen sends out hot skewers and they ring a bell when the hot ones are coming. At the end, your bill is worked out by the amount of skewers you have on your plate. We all ate their one night as well. Barbs, Barry and I had tapas skewers, Mum, Bry and Neil ate of the menu and Mum and Bry had some skewers as well. It’s based a lot on trust that you won’t dispose of your skewers. Also most people I guess don’t have a beer with every skewer. I only had one beer with my 4 tapas.
Their holiday involved a lot of eating as well as sight seeing. We ate a few lunches on the boat too all sitting out on deck in the warm sunshine and ate at some nice places in town (one not quite so nice, just OK – Cotton Grill American Restaurant). We also discovered the Asiatico coffee together which was invented in Cartagena. It is a coffee which is a layer of condensed milk, a layer of Liquor 43, a layer of brandy topped with an expresso. Very tasty and a lovely end to an evening. We did discover that a 43 over ice was also a nice way to end the evening. Neil had read about Liquor 43 and we bought a bottle a couple of weeks ago and had been enjoying and sharing the odd snifter. We don’t have a freezer but have been keeping it chilled. However, our size shot was not as generous as that at Columbus restaurant. We converted Barbs and Barry who took a bottle home. We have also been advised to order it over crushed ice with the glass rim coated in sugar. This is something Neil and I will check out for research purposes!
On the day they arrived we went around to the small beach, Cala Cortina. Mum, Bry and I dipped our feet in the Mediterranean while Neil had a swim. One afternoon we drove past the beach and through the industrial area, Escombreras. You can see a bit of the industry from the sea with tankers going in and out regularly. However what you can’t appreciate from the sea is how large this area is. It’s massive with huge great pipe lines, storage towers, huge industry. It’s like something from a James Bond scene. You then drive into the old mining area through the Sierra de la Fuasilla, where there are mahoosive pits left in the ground with old abandoned buildings. Then into Portman which is a small town with a quay with the mooring bollards still in place but the sea is now about 3/4 of a mile away. Within a couple of miles you are driving through lush green greens and the palm trees of a golf resort then you get to the corner of the spit of the Mar Menor and La Manga. We drove up the spit (which separates the Mar Menor, an inland sea, from the Mediterranean) but we didn’t like it. Too artificial and built up.
Another afternoon we went for a drive in the other direction and climbed through the Sierra de la Muela mountains on winding narrow roads. Neil had seen that there was a battery at the end of Cabo Tinoso but we did not know what to expect. I thought just small brick built building like we see in some seaside places around the UK. No, this was a huge great fort in two parts with at least 5 Vickers guns capable of firing a 1ton shell over 20miles. The part Mum, Barbs, Neil and I explored had two of the guns which were impressive and then the other 3 that we could see were along a ridge to the very end of the cabo. From the sea, hardly anything of the buildings could be seen and from our approach, we didn’t see the extended bit until we had climbed up to the top by the 2nd gun.
We also did the amphitheatre remains which are in the centre of town. Probably the most dramatic example of the Roman history of the city. You are surrounded by Cartagena’s Roman history and we read in the local news about a building project in town being halted as they discovered Roman remains. I’d previously said to Neil that any building developer could be put off Cartagena town as the chances of finding remains of “historical interest” is probably inevitable. The amphitheatre had been built over with houses and although the towns people knew there was something there, until they removed the buildings 30ish years ago, they had no idea how dramatic the site was.
The days went quickly with our visitors and we returned them to the airport on Thursday morning for their flight back to Birmingham. St Javier airport is quite small and closes to flights at 11pm. I think Mums flight was the first one of the day. They were the first in the check-in queue and it looked as though the place was just opening up at 8am. The mosquitoes hadn’t had anyone to munch on through the night so found Neil to be a nice tasty breakfast!
As usual, there was loads happening in town all through the month. Music events, religious parades, Halloween celebrations, a small festival by a group of travelling small boats. Almost every day there is something happening. Loads to see on the water; cruise ships, Canadian and Danish military ships (forming part of the task force shadowing the Russian ships arriving in the Med), racing ships, a Wharram Pahi 63 (the largest Wharram built), super yachts including one that belonged to Abramovich until he reputedly gave it to a friend, one that was a favourite of Frank Sinatra and one that the Queen & Prince Philip used to tour the UK during Jubilee year.
I’m kind of hoping that Neil’s blog will include more detail about the history of where we have been and the boats. Keep an eye out on his site www.thegledaproject.com for his next blogpost.
I’ve been crafting again too, hence when my sewing machine broke. I also crocheted a new over the shoulder bag using the coloured yarn kit that I had delivered to Lagos in January but hadn’t yet opened. It was a kit for the Jolly Chunky Bag but as I had already made one in the leftover yarn from my blanket, I kept the yarn for another project – the Weekend Bag by Lucy at Attic24. I’m currently making some poppy brooches. Next week’s BBQ includes a bring and buy and craft sale. You never know, I may sell a few. Mind you it will only be a few as only 3 made so far and only 3 clasps left.
Neil’s book has been published (31st October) as an audiobook on Audible.co.uk (an Amazon company) and is narrated by Dennis Kleinman. Neil was contacted a few months ago by New Street Communications who wanted to create the audio version of A Foolish Voyage. It is still available as an e-book or Paperback via Amazon and now as an audiobook. I’m massively proud of what Neil has achieved and thrilled that his book is now available on Audible. Regular readers will know that I’m a massive fan of audio books.
The weather has been holding out generally. We had the few hours of rain when Jake and Lucie were with us in September but no rain to speak off since. While we ere eating at El decanso del Icue there were a few large rain drops, enough for the restaurant to open the awning. In the end it didn’t even amount to a short shower. Hopefully we can keep this weather until at least after Nicole and Simon have been to visit in a couple of weeks. Then I’m back to the UK for a visit at the end of November leaving Neil and Gleda behind.