Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Christmas in Cartagena ..... Dec 2010

Christmas 2010 in Cartagena
15 - 28 December 2010

When we arrived back from our week long Spanish excursion we were delighted to see another New Zealand yacht in port.   Although New Zealand is a strong sailing nation there is only a small percentage of us that have stepped out and decided to circumnavigate, therefore when we see another kiwi flagged yacht it's like seeing a little piece of home.

Werner and Lucia off Kleiner Bar with their children Nina and Lucas were passing by late in the season.  They had come all the way through from Asia this season and were continuing on to Brazil, their original home.  So many miles to pack into a season but with Nina nearing high school age they were on a tight timetable to "get around" and back to New Zealand to resume a "normal" family life!!

It was great to have a family in port, especially for Christmas, livened us oldies up to see them enjoying themselves, keeping a watchful eye on Santa's red sack hoisted high up the mast!

Skipper with watchful eyes on his prawns

The build up to Christmas had various activities going on in Cartagena.  While all of Northern Europe was suffering one of its worst pre -christmas arctic blasts with record snowfalls Cartagena was going ahead with outdoor activities.  (plenty of those arctic blasts made it this far south!!!)

The Mid Winter harbour swim took place on a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon with about 30 crazy contestants, rather them than me.  Then there were two consecutive evenings with outdoor concerts, they would have been wonderful in summer but with the temperature at a steady 6c with wind chill dropping it further I am amazed the beautifully attired "black tie" orchestra didn't all suffer from hypothermia.

The local Belen "large outdoor (of course!!) nativity scenes" were actually very good, all set up in one of the plazas it must have taken days and days to piece all the settings together.  Some even had real tiny vegetable plants in the gardens.  It was an enjoyable stroll around it, the photos just didn't do it justice but we have the memories.

Lucia, Werner and  Mark at the Nativity 'Belen'

Christmas day dawned somewhat gloomy but it perked up in time for a late bar-b-que, a somewhat foreign idea for our small   European live-aboard community but they all partook in tapas and drinks as we soaked up the weak winter sun.
Kleiner Bar got a good weather window on Boxing Day and sadly we said our farewells.  They enjoyed a light downwind sail through to Gibraltar and onto the Canary Islands - and warmth at last!

We were happy to have a quiet Christmas as we had big plans for New Year.  We closed up Balvenie for the second time in a month on the 27th and caught the bus to Alicante.  It's 100 km's north along the coast and we took the slow local bus, over 3 hours via all the coastal so called "resorts".  What an absolute eye opener.  Thousands upon thousands of homes built mainly as holiday/second homes for Northern Europeans, all the way up the coast.  Many areas in a state of decline, weeds coming up through the roads, houses crumbling, hundreds of for sale signs - thousands of peoples dreams shattered as they struggle to maintain or sell these properties.  The recession has hit this area very very hard.
Christmas Tree in Alicante

To arrive in the old quarter of Alicante was a delight, beautiful old buildings, constructed solidly, pleasing to the eye and with thought given to the layout and environs.  Open plazas, age old trees, a palm tree lined boulevard along the foreshore.  Rather lovely really.  We found a great small hotel whose name we have forgotten.  I did the unthinkable for me a book-lover, I tore the Alicante page out of the Lonely Planet to take with us, and have now lost it.  But if you have the Lonely Planet it was the one with the small original Dali in reception and the hotel was beautiful, and we had a four poster bed!  Winter rate at just €45 was a great deal.  We also found a great tapas bar - details written on same lost piece of Lonely Planet - all tapas had toothpicks or skewers in them, keep eating and drinking and they just add up the skewers up at the end, great service, cheap and fun and was on the main road inland just past Burger King, opposite a square with a  beautiful huge old tree.

Next morning we were up early - it was still dark!!!! - walked a block and caught the airport bus.  Our Easyjet flight left on time and by 1pm we were in Geneva, Switzerland ........ It had been 20 years since either of us had been on the piste and we were heading for the Alpine slopes and a weeks skiing.

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