Mediterranean Spain

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Sun and beaches and antiquity

When you're sipping Sangria and nibbling tapas, you don't really think about the Western history on which you're sitting. For example, Cartagena is so named because it was settled by the Carthaginians (Cartagena = new Carthage). Successive conquerors were the Romans, the Vandals, Visigoths, Byzantines, and so many more. The result is that the remaining infrastructures are rich with millennia of technology and architectural influences on both the surroundings and the culture.

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Roman Theater in Cartagena
This 6000-seat Roman amphitheater in Cartagena wasn't even known until the 1980s. Since then, restoration has unveiled a huge structure right off of the main street in town, and a museum has been built around it to showcase the find. Imagine living in one of the houses that overlooks it.
Bullring in Cartagena
This nineteenth-century bullring in Cartagena has fallen into disuse, but it was actually built over a Roman gladiator arena.
Modernist architecture
In the early twentieth century, growth in industries such as mining created a lot of personal wealth, which was captured for the ages in stunning Modernist buildings along the coast. Here in Cartagena are many examples, including the Town Hall, and this former hotel, which now houses a bank.
Parks for strolling
These towns are made for sunset strolls, and many of the coastal resort towns and big cities have made it easier by carving out large pedestrian boulevards. Alicante has made the seafront road an all-day park, with large shady trees and benches for admiring the fountains and public art. There's even a concert shell.
Salt factory in Santa Pola
As far back as the fourth century BC, the Romans were salting fish at Santa Pola. Today, the salt factory is a museum, where you can sometimes catch a glimpse of a flamingo fishing in the surrounding flats.
Street performers
When there are tourists outdoors, there are street performers, and the better ones do draw crowds. These tango dancers carved out a little stage for themselves, gave a quick performance, collected their donations, and left the crowd wanting more.
Central market
Spain loves its cured ham, and lots of restaurant ceilings look like a Rockette horror flick, with dozens of disembodied legs hanging from the ceiling. But the locals do buy their own ham for slicing at home, and the central market is the place to get them. Some of these legs cost hundreds of dollars.
Summer concert
Along the coast, the population swells in summertime, and municipalities fan the flames with open air concerts at dusk (which in Spain means just after lunch.) Often these concerts are held in public plazas where the grandest buildings are now city offices or museums, so you get a chance to enjoy both the music and the backdrop of a stunning building.