Where to live: Murcia and the coast
Spain's unspoilt Murcia coast is a welcome alternative on the Mediterranean that is growing in popularity. Get an insight to the Spanish beach lifestyle.
Murcia has traditionally been known for producing a great deal of the country's fruits and vegetables. Its plentiful orchards (known as huertas) are in contrast with other parts of the region, which boasts Spain's very own badlands and steppes. Rain is scarce around here, with as many as 300 days out of the year clear and sunny.
Murcia is also home to another natural wonder: the Manga del Mar Menor, a narrow strip of sand separating the Mediterranean proper from what locals call the 'minor sea'. This area was one of the preferred destinations for the massive development that hit Spain's Mediterranean coast in the 1960s, and whose epitome was – and continues to be – Benidorm in nearby Alicante province.
La Manga and the municipalities near it, including San Javier, have profited from this boom and are now magnets for foreign residential tourism. Coastal towns offer everything that one can expect from this type of resort, from yachting marinas to beachfront promenades, as well as a cosmopolitan calendar of cultural events. Murcia region boasts 192 beaches, with La Manga alone offering 21 kilometres of sand, each side facing a different sea.
Lately, developers have set their sights on inner parts of Murcia that had been previously off limits – mainly due to the scarcity of water. In a 2006 report, Barclays Bank indicated that Murcia and Almería province in Andalusia were the new property hotspots following the saturation of the Costa del Sol.
While developers and environmentalists slug it out over the right to build here, visitors to Murcia can opt for several tourist attractions besides the sun-and-sea option. With carnival coming early this year – 26 January to 9 February – it might be a good idea to drop by Lorca, Águilas and Cartagena, where the carnival and Easter celebrations have been declared of international tourist interest.
Caravaca de la Cruz, in the northwest of the region, is one of the five holy cities of Catholicism, along with Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago de Compostela and Liébana. Its Real Alcázar houses the famous Cruz de Caravaca, a cross with two horizontal arms (instead of one), which holds what is allegedly a sliver of the actual cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.
Gastronomes will be happy to know that the variety of Murcia's fresh produce means that its diet is varied and healthy. Meanwhile, proximity to the sea also means that Murcian cooking relies heavily on fish and seafood. All of these ingredients are successfully combined in dishes such as caldero, an iron pot full of rice and fish (typically grey mullet, monkfish or grouper), with a side serving of alioli, a garlic mayonnaise favoured throughout the eastern Mediterranean coast.
Susana Urra / El Pais / Expatica
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