Despite raised eyebrows, we headed to Southern Spain for 10 days in October 2017 when our baby was just 4 weeks young. We received an invitation to stay at a holiday apartment in the region as wedding gift and the husband initiated our first family trip there; so we can bond as family away from everyday life.
Before the trip, googling Torrevieja conjured up fantasies of us burying our toes into the sand while sipping refreshing iced lemon juice by the beach, basking under the warm lovely sun.
Fantasy because there is no way we were to expose our precious little angel under direct sun and worse, the risk of inhaling sandy air. As new parents, it goes without saying our vacation is no longer all about us vacationing anymore.
Our main priority is accommodating the little one and our mutual keywords are short trips, stroller-friendly, walking under the hot sun longer than 15 minutes is a big no-no.
Driving through squat apartment buildings and ongoing construction sites from Alicante airport to Torrevieja gave me a hint that we were not to relive our dreamy Andalusian honeymoon experience during this trip. It was quite a disappointment for me, despite my husband's repeated warnings.
Andalusia being my first Spanish region visited where whitewashed houses perch on the hillsides overlooking breathtaking landscape, it was impossible not to be disappointed. In Torrevieja, the terrain is flat making it look less picturesque and most of the housings are boxy rows of modern apartment complex painted in either crisp white or flashy beige, adorned with high security gates and artificial grass.
There is a large British population in this town but we also overheard conversations in Dutch, German and Russian at restaurants and common areas. From our observation driving on the streets (you cant get anywhere here without a car), most of the residents seemed to be older, retired expats.
That being said, if you are looking to practice your Spanish, look elsewhere because even the workers in the service industry greet the customers in English, some even with proficient British accent.
Things we did with a newborn baby
1. Afternoon and evening strolls by the beach
With an average of 320 days of sunshine per year, Torrevieja attracts beach-goers throughout the year. Out of the five public beaches, we visited three in four different visits - two for a nice lunch by the sea, one for an afternoon walk and one for a stroll in the evening before dinner.
Fair enough, the beaches were great, at least the view as we neither buried ourselves in the sand nor went into the water. But honestly, once you step away from the beaches, you are just left with buildings, construction sites and plenty of gigantic advertisement boards and fast food outlets along the highway.
Obviously we cant stay by the beach for 10 consecutive days especially with a newborn baby so we did few daytrips to the neighbouring cities namely Murcia, Cartagena and La Manga Strip.
2. Visit the old city of Murcia
One hour drive through vast and sparse landscape from Torrevieja, Murcia is situated in the province of Andalusia so you will find a splendid combination of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architectural styles. The Cathedral of Murcia City (pictured above) is one striking example of Gothic and Baroque design located in a huge square amidst the modern shops and cafes.
Note: Visit blog site to view youtube video attachment.
We returned to Murcia for the second time not only because the old city was more of our style, but also because we cant get over our lunch experience in one of the best tapas place in the world.
3. Explore Cartagena
Situated about 45 minutes drive from Torrevieja, lies one of wonderful yet less celebrated cities of southern Spain namely Cartagena. It is a lovely town by the sea, often confused with the one the Caribbean coast of Colombia, despite the fact that the Spanish Cartagena has a rich history dating back over 2,000 years.
To get to the highest point of the city (as shown in the picture above), we took a vertical glass elevator that whisked us up from street level up before we (I) tiptoed on a vertiginous metal walkway to the sheer side of a hill. The views from the top made the (dangerous) ascent worthwhile; a 360 degree vista with the harbour to the south and a ripple of mountains to the north. Laid out below us is Cartagena's most impressive historical remnant - The Roman Theatre, which we did not manage to visit as it was not stroller-friendly and baby-wearing in the hot weather felt counter-intuitive.
4. Visit the Salt Lake
Entering Torrevieja, you will pass between two salt lakes - The Green Lake (The Salt Lake of La Mata) and The Pink Lake (The Salt Lake of Torrevieja). Curiosity of witnessing a lake in pink has brought us only to the latter as we wanted to limit the amount of time spent under the sun.
The pink color of the lake was partially caused by the pigments of certain bacteria that lives in extreme salty environment which are also found in the Dead Sea. Also, caused by an algae called Dunadiella Salina - a type of halophile green micro-algae especially found in sea salt fields. What is also fascinating about this salt lake is that you can find flamingoes in lovely shade of pink due to feeding on brine shrimps, which lives on the bacteria found in this lake.
5. Drive through the La Manga Strip
Described as as paradise between two seas, La Manga Strip is a piece of land approximately 21 kilometres long, 300 width that separates the Mediterranean Sea from the Mar Menor, or the Minor Sea (of Mediterranean Sea).
To give a clearer picture, here is a screenshot from Google Map.
Basically, you can see the sea from both sides of your car window as you drive along the strip - if there were not too many tall buildings crowding the tiny land. This small strip across the Mediterranean Sea is overdeveloped with high rise modern buildings, some unfinished and abandoned. Sad but true, it sounds more special than it looks.
Funnily enough, it was off season when we were there and coincidently we were the only driving on the street. It felt somewhat creepy, like being in a zombie apocalypse. I guess this is what motherhood did to me; being super sensitive to my surroundings and my mind was already thinking what to do, where to go, if real zombies appear. Or even worse, bad guys!
We drove until the end of the strip and stopped at quite a nice resort by the sea and spent our whole evening there. It was probably the most relaxing time of our vacation.
Experience is subjective. Had I not experienced Andalusia as my first Spain visit which resulted in super high expectation, probably I would have given Torrevieja a fair shake from the beginning.
We would have done more (ie. mud bath, visit the inside of the Roman Theatre, burry ourselves at the beach, etc) and have more positive experiences had we come just as a couple.
Furthermore, things would have been really different had we came straight from cold and gloomy winter in Switzerland, the sunshine alone would have made it a great place to be.
All been told, we knew we came with one purpose - to bond as family away from everyday life and it was a mission accomplished. Although honestly you won't find us there again anytime soon.