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Murcia

- by Don Harris

We enjoy visiting Murcia, at the southeast shoulder of Spain with a few beaches that have remained uncluttered by the tourist trade. The interior of the province is quite mountainous and dry. When we drive through it, we find it reminiscent of the Old West of America. A few decades ago, Murcia was the site for filming many "spaghetti westerns."

We travel up into the rugged mountains to visit Calasparra, the rice capital of Spain. It is here that the local Calasparra rice and the rare Bomba rice are grown. These rices do not grow in the usual briny tidal wetland you might think of, but rather in fresh water brought via Roman-era aqueducts, which had been improved upon by the Moors. Because of the mountains, the rice grains take longer to mature, which makes a drier more absorbent rice to absorb the rich broth of paella.

Not far away is Jumilla where some of the finest wines are grown. Miguel Gil of the Bodega Juan Gil showed us around the vineyards which are amazingly parched in appearance – almost like the face of the moon. The brave vines extend their roots to a layer of chalk beneath the top soil where the moisture of the environment is stored. The extremes of temperature in this high mountain environment make for exquisite wines.

We have driven along the Mediterranean shore past orchards and fields of fresh fruit and vegetables on our way to a favorite city of ours, Cartagena. It was founded about 300BC by the Carthaginians and became one of the principal ports of antiquity. The city is enclosed by several mountains and fortresses built from the 15th to the 18th century.

We enjoy standing on the esplanade overlooking Cartagena’s magnificent natural harbor.

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