Mar Menor – más o menos?

View of the Mediterranean from the balcony of our hotel room

In Spain there are many advantages to being “mayores”,which can mean either grown-ups or elderly and sounds far better than the English equivalents of “OAP” or “elderly”!  One of the plus points if you are of retirement age and live in Spain is the various deals for cheap holidays. 

John´s bank Cajamurcia was doing a special offer for mayores of 55+, and if you shared a room only one of you had to be over 55. You could stay for 5 nights in a 4-star hotel at La Manga de Mar Menor, with full board and use of most of its facilities, for only 165€ per person plus a discount of 5% for all Cajamurcia customers.  We decided to try it out, and can thoroughly recommend the deal.

Our holiday started on Sunday night when, after checking in, we went down for dinner, our first meal in the hotel.  Dinner wasn´t exactly an unqualified success as we had arrived just before the start of the second sitting, and by the time we helped ourselves to fish, meat and vegetables the food was only lukewarm.  John was starting to mutter about having to go out for dinner if we wanted a decent meal, and I had to agree with him.  The salad that we had helped ourselves to for starters was good and all the desserts were cold anyway, so the rest of the meal was enjoyable, but the main courses left a lot to be desired.  The highlight had to be the bottle of wine that was left on our table, which was from Bodegas San Isidro in Jumilla, the nearest bodega to our home there!

There were no complaints about breakfast, where there was a wide range to choose from: breakfast cereals, yoghourts, fruit, cold meat and cheeses, croissants and pastries, eggs and bacon or sausages, bread for toasting (with olive oil and chopped tomatoes beside the toaster for their Spanish guests), plus juices and hot drinks.  This helped to make up for dinner the previous night, so we decided that we would try out lunch later on, after exploring our surroundings.

View of La Manga strip from Cabo de Palos

We decided to head for Cabo de Palos and have a look at its lighthouse, which we had seen from our balcony.  Cabo de Palos is a Spanish fishing village although being on the coast it is also popular with holiday makers. 

If you take the shortest route, it is just over 3km from Hotel Entremares to the Cabo de Palos Faro, so we decided to take the short route there and the longer route back.  It wasn´t just that we wanted to increase the distance of our walk: by going the long way round we would also see the fishing port!

A pleasant stroll up to the Faro

It was a lovely March day, so we enjoyed our stroll beside the blue Mediterranean and then through the gardens leading up to the lighthouse.  We weren´t the only ones enjoying the views - though unfortunately we couldn´t go inside the lighthouse - and everybody else was busy taking photos too.   

We then headed towards the Puerto, glancing at the many restaurants overlooking the harbour: lovely views and lovely prices to match!  We decided to have a coffee, which cost us 2.60€ for a café solo and café cortado: not exactly extortionate, but more than the 2€ we paid elsewhere at La Manga.  The cheapest menú del día that we saw was 15€, so we agreed that we would try the buffet lunch at our hotel and head for the hot buffet first in the hope that the food would still be hot!

Fisherman mending his nets at Cabo de Palos Puerto

Our strategy proved successful, so after that we made sure that we went for dinner early on and had the hot course before having soup or salad.  The food definitely tasted better by being freshly cooked, so we will remember that in future if we go to a hotel with buffet meals!

Being on the coast we noticed that there were a lot more British bars than inland, where we live.  If you are on a budget you are better going to the Spanish bars, where they may very well speak English anyway.  We paid 2€ for a glass of wine in Paddywacks and 2.50€ for a glass of wine in Nobby´s Cantina, whereas the most we paid in Spanish bars was 1.50€, including free tapas such as olives or nuts.  Not surprisingly, the British bars were full of English speaking customers, though apparently Paddywacks is popular with Spanish people too.

On our second day we took the bus to the end of La Manga.  Although we enjoy walking it was over 18k to the end of the strip, plus it cost 1.05€ no matter how far you went on the local bus so we wanted to get value for money!

In actual fact the bus doesn´t quite go to the end and we discovered why when we reached the bridge a bit further down:

The bridge is just as steep on the other side!

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