Sunday, February 14, 2010

New photos on the Web site

Yes, it's been a long time coming, but we have finally posted our first pictures from Spain (and Gibraltar) on the Web site. John says he's working on more pages, but for now you can see Rota and Gibraltar.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Train ride to the beach

The weather turned nice last week, so we decided it was time to go somewhere. There is no beach in Cartagena, just harbor frontage, but a narrow-gauge railway called Feve runs from Cartagena to Los Nietos on the Mar Menor. The Mar Menor (which means small sea) is a large, saltwater lagoon lined with resorts and beaches. One description I read of Los Nietos said that there was nothing there except the beach. Although it seemed unlikely that the train would go to nowhere, we decided to take the chance. After all, if nothing else, it would be a little adventure.

Satellite view of the area

There was a woman waiting for the train in Cartagena who was carrying a book that said “Spanish” on the front, so I decided to talk with her. It turns out that she’s a British ex-pat who lives in the small town of La Unión on the way to Los Nietos. The same website that said there was nothing at Los Nietos suggested a stop for lunch at La Unión, so I asked the woman about it. She was happy to tell us what to see in La Unión and said we could stop on our way back to Cartagena, but that we would have to buy another ticket after that. The train was only €2.30 each round trip and one-way was €1.20. That wasn’t going to break the budget, so we decided to stop on our return.

The train at the La Unión station

The final stop of Feve at Los Nietos is pretty close to nowhere. The station building is closed, whether that’s just because we’re off-season, we don’t know. The tracks run parallel to a major road, and across that is a subdivision that extends to the beach. We followed a street to the shore where we found an esplanade, just as the British woman said we would. Then we started walking back in the direction the train had brought us.

Mar Menor

It was really strange: there were no people and all of the buildings were closed up. John likened it to a Twilight Zone village, and I had to agree. In the distance we could see a marina, but until we got almost there, we only saw one guy walking his dog. About a block from the marina a group of old fishermen were talking with each other. And a couple rode past on their bikes. That was it. Pretty odd, we thought.

Los Nietos

About a block in from the beach we found signs of life. A bar was open on one corner. On another there was a pizza place with people in it, and the restaurant at the pescadaría (fish monger’s) was open although the pescadaría itself was closed. We found the train stop (not a station, just a stop), and there were people there, so we waited. We could see the train down at the last stop, so we knew it wouldn’t be long.

The train ride itself was interesting. Besides the old mines that are visible from the train, we saw quite a bit of agriculture. We couldn’t tell what was growing everywhere, but we did identify some people picking lettuce. And the view from the top of the hills as we approached the Mar Menor was spectacular.

Our stop at La Unión was enjoyable. It’s a former mining town, and you can see the old mines all around it. The mercado (market) building is very impressive, and it is evident that this was once a commercial center. On the other side of the mercado from the train station is the town square, and on the far side of that is the main commercial street. We walked from one end of that to the other before deciding to eat at a new pizza/kebab/roasted chicken restaurant. I wanted kebabs, but they and the chicken were apparently only on the sign out front, not on the menu, so we had hamburgers, which were pretty good.


Fountain in the town square commemorating the mines

After that we got back on the train and went home to Cartagena, which seemed like a real city after our venture into the countryside. When the tourist bus and boat start running again later this month, we’re going to do the tourist thing here in town, and I should have more to blog about again.