Category Archives: 2018 – Spain

Semana Santa – Holy Week in Cartagena

Easter week is filled with processions and Cartagena is the first to get under way in Spain.  Ian’s Mum and Dad, John and Irene, arrived on 22nd so they were able to experience it along with us.

The processions are staged by the “Brotherhoods” of which there are four in Cartagena.  The first procession, Viernes de Dolores, began on Friday 23rd March at 3.30am.  Yes you have read that correctly, well as you have guessed we didn’t make that one.  As well as being the start of Holy Week it is also the Feast Day of the Patron Saint of Cartagena.  The first procession we watched was the “Floral Offering”.  Mainly women and children dressed in traditional regional costume who make floral offerings to the patron of Cartagena.  The flowers are placed outside the Iglesia de la Caridad.  Again what strikes you most, as with the carnivals, that it is very much a family affair from babes in arms to elderly people.

There were two further processions this evening.  The first was the “Processional Via Crucis”.

The main procession the “Procession Santisimo Cristo de la Misericordia” which began at 9 o’clock.  Nothing starts very early in Spain.  This lasted for just under three hours.  This was our first sighting of the brotherhoods, some of whom wear pointed hoods that cover their heads and faces, so all you can see is their eyes.  It is a bit unnerving.  They all wear the same colours which consists of a robe, sash around the waist, a cloak, hood and sandals.  The reason for the hoods is that those wearing them are repenting their sins in public but want to remain anonymous.

The Brotherhoods are divided into smaller groups who are in charge of one of the tronos (floats).  The order is three members of the group who walk side by side, followed by two lines of members who march in time to the beat of the drums.

Following behind each of the groups is a music band and the drummers and finally the trono.  Some are carried and others are pushed along from inside.  You know from a distance if a trono is being carried or pushed along as if it’s being carried you can see it swaying from side to side.  They have to manoeuvre these enormous floats around some very small winding streets.  When you hear a bell ring the “portapasos” (float carriers) stop, a second bell sounds and they gently put the trono down.  And in reverse when the bell goes they stand ready in place, second bell, they lift the trono and off they go again.  When you see the size of these things you can understand why they have to stop every few minutes to rest. The tronos are carried by groups of men and women.

The processions are unique to Cartagena as they are quite regimented, an influence of Cartagena’s military and naval background.  So in amongst the brotherhoods are groups of military.

Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday)

The Roman Soldiers march around the city in the morning.  The Romans ruled over  Cartagena following the Battle of Cartagena in 209BC.

As it was Palm Sunday of course nearly everyone carried a palm.

E12a. Psalm Sunday procession, Cartagena 25.3.18._collage


Watching the procession, one of many.

F. Ian, John and Irene, Cartagena 25.3.18.

The churches are not always open however walking along Calle Mayor on Sabado Santa (Easter Saturday) the Virgin Mary had been brought out on display for all to see.

G. Virgin Mary, Cartagena 26.3.18.

We walked past the Basilica de le Caridad on many occasions but we only came across its doors open on Easter Saturday evening.  So of course we took the opportunity to go in and have a look.

The processions are mesmerising.  The photos are just a small selection to give you a flavour as the processions went on for quite a few hours.  We feel very fortunate to be in Spain during this time as it was AMAZING experience.


Spain – March 2018


Carnivals, Cuisine and Guns of Mazarron


February seems to be the time for carnivals in Spain.  About an hour’s drive from Cartagena is the seaside resort of Aguilas.  It is the most famous carnival in the Murcia region.  It’s known for its flamboyant costumes, synchronised dance groups, glitz and feathers.  So we went along to get tickets for eight of us who had decided to go.  It was a small office which was open each evening from 5pm until 7pm.  We are in Spain so 5pm doesn’t necessarily mean 5pm and yes you guessed it, no it didn’t.  The guys arrived at 5.30pm but we got our tickets in one of the tiered stands.  Our friends John and Prim were coming out to see us so they came along and it was AMAZING.  Yes I know that’s in caps but I just had to emphasise how AMAZING it was.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  The costumes dazzled and some of them included pulling a heavily decorated frame along, which formed part of their outfit.  The thing about the costumes etc is they are only used for one year.  The photos are just a few as there were so many to choose from.


We arrived mid afternoon so we could have some lunch and get a parking space, which we did right on the sea front.  Great, however, we realised that there was no way we could get out of Aguilas until the parade was finished.  The parade lasted just over five hours so we couldn’t have left earlier if we’d wanted to.


We hadn’t realised that Cartagena was holding their carnival procession a few days before so after watching a couple of games of rugby, the Six Nations, where us sailors took over most of the bar, we walked along to find a place to watch the carnival.  There were people of all ages, very young children to the elderly taking part.  The costumes again were AMAZING.  The one thing that was different to the Aguilas carnival is that all the music was the same across the whole length of the procession.  There were big speakers set up along the route so you didn’t get that mix of different music in your ear.



We also visited the local catering college who offer set meals three times a week at lunchtime.  So 24 of us went along for them to practice their newly learned skills.  The theme was sea weed.  The food was lovely and they did very well looking after so many of us.



Another outing with some of the Sailing Crew was to the Battlements and Gun Emplacements at Castillitos and El Jorel, Cabo Tinoso (the Guns).  We had to travel down the hillside across the plain and then up the other side, much of the road was single track.

There are two battery emplacements built between 1926 and 1933.  44 elements cover every angle of attack and the batteries were built in a ring which encircled Cartagena and out along the coast as part of the Plan de Defensa of 1926.

Cabo Tinoso sits 218 metres above sea level on a rocky cliff top.  The Vickers guns, made in the UK, give a 35km firing range and measure 17 meters in length and can fire ammunition weighing up to a ton..


After walking from one cliff top to the other we had built up enough of an appetite so we visited the port of Mazzaron for a spot of lunch.  Four courses, with half a bottle of wine and a shot of something similar to Baileys all for €10.

February 2018

Madrid – 6-9 February 2018

We decided to take a trip to Madrid as you can’t spend time in Spain without going to the capital.  I’d been here twice before, for work, so hadn’t seen much of the city.  We had planned to drive but after further consideration decided on the train as parking is expensive.  So we let the train take the strain.  It was quite a long journey but that was mainly because the train didn’t go very fast for the first part of the journey.  We had left behind weather in Cartagena of about 15 degrees which is not to be sniffed at in February.  Madrid was another story.  We went through snow on the way and it was bitterly cold in Madrid.  I’m not after any sympathy, I know I’m not going to get any, with the cold weather you’ve had in the UK.

We had managed to find an apartment right in the centre of Madrid, just off from the Puerta del Sol so the sights were all easily accessible.  The square contains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the “Twelve Grapes” and the beginning of a new year, not the easiest thing to do, we tried it when we were in Barcelona one new year.

Paseo del Arte is the art district in Madrid which consists of a number of museums, the one I think most people go to is the Prada Museum, so we decided on the  Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.  We spent a lovely warm day wandering around the museum which has paintings from Dürer, Rafael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Picasso, Hopper, Rothko. These are just some of the impressive list of names that make up the collection.  Once a private collection it now belongs to the people of Spain since the Spanish Government bought it.

We always think a good way to get an overview of a city is to hop on a sightseeing bus.  We had no choice but to sit up top in the open air as downstairs was rammed as it was so cold.  It was freezing.  We hopped off the bus at the Royal Palace to find that it was closed due to an official function.  So we only got to see the outside which was a shame.

C2. Royal Palace - Madrid 7.2.18.

We also paid a visit to the Museo Cerralbo which is a 19th century mansion house which preserves its original décor, giving an insight into Spanish high society.

One thing that was very noticeable was the large police presence around Madrid although there wasn’t a policeman in sight when someone slipped my purse out of my bag, thankfully I felt someone touch the back of me so I caught them with it in their hand making out I’d dropped it, amazingly (not) my money had all disappeared but at least I got my purse back with my cards.  The other thing that is odd is that even when it’s cold, just a few degrees above freezing, people still sat outside restaurants having a coffee and eating.  Mad or what!!  If I’m sitting outside I want warmth.

Madrid is definitely worth a visit but I’d suggest you go when it’s warmer.  It was lovely getting off the train in Cartagena to warm sunshine.


February 2018





Cordoba – January 2018

Following our trip to Ronda we drove two hours to Cordoba.  The historic part of Cordoba includes the Mosque – Cathedral and has a Roman bridge which was originally built in the first century but has been reconstructed on various occasions since.  It has 16 arches and is 247 metres long.  For those of you who are avid Game of Thrones fans you may recognise the Roman Bridge as it was used for the Long Bridge of Volantis in series five.


The Mosque – Cathedral of Cordoba

Cordoba is well known for the mosque which has a cathedral in the centre of it.  The mosque is spectacular and the pictures don’t do it justice or make you appreciate its size.  It could hold 40,000 people in the 13th century which was quite incredible.

It is believed that the site of the Mosque-Cathedral was originally a Christian church dedicated to Saint Vincent the Third, which was divided and shared by Muslims and Christians after the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic kingdom. This arrangement lasted until 784, when the Christian half was purchased by the Emir Abd al-Rahman I, who then proceeded to demolish the original structure and build the grand mosque of Córdoba on its ground.  In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. The cathedral nave was installed in the 16th century.

The focal point in the prayer hall is the horseshoe arched mihrab or prayer niche.  A mihrab is used in a mosque to identify the wall that faces Mecca


Within the Cathedral is the renaissance high altar.  The 18th-century choir stalls, are carved in rich mahogany from the West Indies.  The carving , contain scenes from the Bible, the life of the Virgin and depictions of local martyrs and also a large number of decorative pieces: masks, eagles, centaurs, and a variety of stylised flora and fauna. The cathedral organs, of which there were two, were stunning and whilst we were there a young guy who was visiting played.

Outside the Mosque–Cathedral is the Courtyard of the Orange Trees.  In the corner of the courtyard is the Torre del Alminar is 93 meters (305 feet) high.  The exterior of the mosque was also highly decorative.

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

This the palace where King Fernando and Queen Isabel, first met with Christopher Columbus in 1486 who was putting his idea of looking for a Western route to reach India.  The Alcázar’s has lovely terraced gardens.  The fish migrated to any part of the pond they thought food might be coming.

An Enormous Castle in View

We were driving back from Cordoba and up in the distance off the main road was an enormous castle.  So being nosy that we are we just had to go have a look.  When we got out of the car we weren’t expecting it to be quite as cold as it was only 5 degrees, so we didn’t hang about for long.  We could see the Sierra Nevada too and there was quite a bit of snow on the mountains.

We discovered it was the La Mota Fortress or Castillo de Alcalá la Real  which for over 150 years, has marked the frontier between the kingdoms of Granada and Castile. Surrounded by several rings of walls, making its perimeter one of the largest in Andalusia, with seven gateways and three towers, so it was enormous.  It is 1,029 metres (3,376 ft) above sea level (no wonder it was cold). It dates back to the 13th-14th century, although some parts of the structure are older.


This was the end of our little jaunt for the time being.

January 2018

Ronda – January 2018

Car hire here  in winter months, if you collect and drop back to the airports, is very cheap so we thought we would take advantage of this and hired a car for a month (€70) and take the opportunity to explore some of the Spanish countryside.  Our first trip was Ronda which was a five hour drive from Cartagena.  The views going up were stunning.  It was a clear day and you could see Gibralter (see the ships waiting outside Gib in the photo below) from the roadside going up.

Ronda is set up in the mountains, 739m above sea level, and is situated above a deep gorge (El Tajo).  It was a lovely sunny day and quite warm, which we didn’t expect for mid January.

The Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”)

The Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”) is the newest and largest of three bridges that span the 120-metre (390ft) deep gorge that carries the Guadalevin River and divides the city of Ronda.  Construction of the bridge began in 1759 and took 34 years to build.

Plaza de Torres (The Bullring)

Ronda is well known for its bullring and although not the oldest it is the oldest bullring built entirely of stone and has a diameter of 66 metres (217ft).  It is unique as all the seating is under cover. The stands were constructed in two levels of seating with five raised rows per level and 136 Tuscan sandstone columns forming 68 arches providing support for the top level of seating and the roof of the Plaza de Toros.

A small number of bullfights are still held here, the Goyesca Bullfight is the highlight of the Pedro Romero Fair which takes place in early September.  Pedro Romero was a legendary bullfighter from the Romero family in Ronda, He was known as the first matador to present the bullfight as an art form as well as a display of courage.

And it wouldn’t be a visit without a trip to a church.  This is the Iglesia De María Auxiliadora De Ronda

We spent a couple of days here and then drove to Cordoba which was a couple of hours away.


January 2018