By Regina Winkle-Bryan
We went to a wedding near Murcia in the southeastern bit of Spain. It was not a Spanish wedding, but an English wedding, and most of the guests were from London. In fact, Adri and one other woman were the only Spaniards there!
First of all, let me just say that I love weddings, and I love my friend W and am SO happy for him and his new wifey! Marriage, it’s so grown-up, right? The wedding was a blast and the ceremony sweet and personal (the colors were blue and white for those of you interested in these details! Classy).
While the location for the wedding was beautiful, it was also quite weird. I felt like I was at a sort of Disneyland for adults. ‘Isn’t that Las Vegas?’, you’re thinking. Yes, you’re right. Then this was Euro Disney for adults, golf and drinking and eating being the main draws. The place in question is La Manga Club, and it’s just inland from La Manga on the Mediterranean Sea about a half hour to the east of Murcia and a half hour north of Cartagena.
It’s strange because this area doesn’t seem to have much going on, just fishing and lots and lots of agriculture – artichoke fields as far as the eye can see. Men in the hot sun picking strawberries. Many times in Spain the ‘Murcian Garden’ is referred to as much of the country’s produce comes from here. It’s not a ritzy region. It also seemed quite dry, with low rolling hills and sparse vegetation. Yet among all this dry grass and these migrant workers there’s La Manga Club, with its manicured golf course and lush palms concealing luxury apartments and fabulous villas (I saw a couple I wouldn’t mind moving into to!).
This juxtaposition alone is not weird. What’s weird is that everyone who lives at La Manga Club is British. What’s weird is that when you order a drink in Spanish the bartender says, ‘Huh?’, and you have to stop and think about what country you’re in. It does not seem like Spain when one is strolling La Manga Club, where fish and chips are easy to come by and the pork is prepared at an English Butcher, ‘Best English sausage in Murcia’, his sign says.
Indeed, it is not just La Manga Club, but the whole area around Alicante and Murcia that seems to attract Brits. What’s the deal? Maybe some of you Brits out there can fill me in.
Not golfers, and in possession of a rented car from SIXT, Adri and I ventured out of La Manga Club. We went to Cartagena which is OK, but certainly not a must-see sort of place. We also ate a couple meals in Los Bellones (some good Asian food), which seemed to also have a large English expat population. The top meal we had during our weekend in Alicante and Murcia was most definitely at the fishing village Cabo de Palos at a seafood spot overlooking the Mediterranean.
There are quite a few options in Cabo de Palos, but I recommend El Navegante (Paseo Maritimo, Cabo de Palos, Tel 968-56-33-12). Here we had the Menú del Día for €15.00 each which included wine (white this time), bread, a huge salad, fried baby squid (yum!), and a sort of paella called caldoso which neither of us had had before and which was totally tasty. Oh yes, let’s not forget dessert, which was flan. Stuffed, we went back to our spacious Suite at Las Lomas in La Manga Club and took a nap.
I’ve got to say that despite my mixed feelings about La Manga Club, Las Lomas was an excellent deal. Mostly people live at La Manga Club but there is also a 5-star hotel and Las Lomas which offers up Suites and and holiday apartments. Las Lomas offers guests several pools, a spa, plus restaurants and cafes (serving Spanish and English fare) in a compact, landscaped environment. It’s very nice. We got an amazing deal on our Suite for €60.00 a night. Our Suite had a lovely porch and a bathroom bigger than my apartment in Barcelona. The view was of a parking lot, but at €60.00, we weren’t complaining too much. I noted that some of the other Suites had barbecue pits, too.
More on traveling to this area:
We took Ryan Air to Alicante airport. Flying to Alicante puts you closer to Benidorm and Valencia, if that’s your cup of tea. The closest airport to La Manga Club is Murcia, but we couldn’t find flights to Murcia from Barcelona (which is also strange). From Murcia or Alicante you need to rent a car to get to La Manga Club. There are taxis too, but they’re expensive.
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