Murcia is the name of the capital of the province of Murcia. When I first arrived many years ago what first struck me were the abundant palm trees and orange trees lining the streets. This is due to Murcia's semi-arid climate which makes for a mild winter and a summer which often sees thermometers around 40° Centigrade. The city comes to life around May time when the weather gets better and people begin to spend more time outdoors.
Before visiting Murcia I had been to several towns in Andalusia, and I was struck by the contrast between the well-kept white-washed walls of the villages in Andalusia and the browny-grey apparent abandonment of some of the villages around the capital of the province. In the capital the architecture is rather 1960-ish except for the contrast to be found in the cathedral square. The modern council building opposite the Cathedral provides a topic of conversation for most visitors.
Despite its lack of water Murcia is called the 'Huerta de España' which means the vegetable garden or allotment of Spain. The reason for this is the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables available which is great news for vegetarians! One of the downsides to the lack of water is the occasional bad smell from the river.
Apart from the typical festivals to be found around the south of Spain (ie Holy Week processions, the May fair and the carnival) Murcia is renowned for the 'Entierro de la Sardina' or the burial of the sardine. The sardine, which symbolizes the abstinence of Lent, is burnt after a long parade through the streets of the city.
Another advantage of Murcia over other places is that the coast is only a thirty minute drive. La Manga (where the English football team train) is a natural lagoon with great restaurants selling fresh fish dishes. Apart from golf there are also lots of water sports going on in the area.
Murcia is a city of contrasts which means there is something for everyone!