After the splendour of the swanky campsite in Calpe, we plumped for an aire near to a village with a bus service to Murcia. The aire is set amongst lemon groves and was a lovely contrast to the busy seaside resort of Calpe. The owners were very friendly and the resident German camper was welcoming and gave us the wifi code as soon as we arrived. The smell of lemons in the air was intoxicating(even without the gin and tonic!).
Next day we followed the directions we were given and, after a death defying walk along a narrow road, found the bus stop. We managed to get off the bus in the right place for the tourist information and the Cathedral, which was a good start. The first place we came to was the Glorieta De Espana which was colourful and quite busy with tourists awaiting the Bus Touristique.
We walked through to the centre, presided over by the Catedral. Murcia was founded by the Moors in the 9th century on the banks of the Riu Segura, and it soon became an important trading centre and 4 centuries later, the regional capital. Today it is the commercial hub of the region. It was largely rebuilt in the 18th century and many of the buildings in the old quarter are of that era.
The cathedral is free to visit but, in common with many tourist attractions in Spain, was closed from 1330 to 1800. We just had time for a visit before the doors were locked.
This cathedral is quite unusual as it does not have a long nave. It seems to be composed of numerous side chapels and indeed, there was a service taking place in one of the most ornate chapels. We managed a quick look before that was locked too.
After my fix of cathedral architecture we followed the recommendation of the lady in the tourist office, and went to visit the Real Casino de Murcia. It cost 6 euros to go in but it was well worth the outlay. The building dates from 1847 and is quite quirky. It combines an Arabic style patio and vestibule, an English style library/reading room, a Pompeiian patio with Ionic columns, a billiard room and a French ballroom. The neo-Baroque ladies powder room has a ceiling which depicts angelic ladies among the clouds, powdering their noses and tidying their hair. The mixture of styles is fascinating and each room we entered was a lovely surprise.
The casino is still a private members club and there are areas that are not open to the public. However, we were really pleased with what we did see and after that, we managed our disappointment in not being able to get into other interesting buildings. In common with the Catedral, they were all closed until 1800, which was too late for us as we had a bus to catch. The only other place I had fancied visiting was the Convent of Santa Clara and it was also closed.
We had our sandwiches sitting in one of the squares and watching the world go by, then wandered slowly back to the bus stop. It was definitely worth a visit to Murcia and, for us, the dangerous walk from peaceful lemon grove to village bus stop.