Travel – Murcia
Adrian Gillan meets mucho machos in the emergent gay Mecca of Murcia, in South East Spain!
You mightn’t have heard of it, but the city (pop. 400,000) and region (pop. 1.2 million) of Murcia in South Eastern Spain – with its glorious Baroque architecture, gushing River Segura, amazing food, tasty local Jumilla wine, access to hills and sun-drenched Costa Calida coast, not to mention nearby historical Lorca, Caravaca and Cartagena – is fast becoming a holiday hub of choice for those in the know. Check it out before the crowds really start to throng – not least all those sexy, unspoilt Murcian men.
- Hotel Arco de San Juan (Plaza de Ceballos 10; T: +34 968 21 04 55; www.arcosanjuan.com) – Restored 18th Century palace, now a modern, plush, central gay-beckoning hotel with droolsome restaurant – a mere spit-and-a-spunk from the Cathedral and nearby gaybourhood.
Start at the city-dominating Cathedral, with its stunning Baroque façade and celebrated, exquisitely-carved chapel within. Then stroll up Calle Traperia, past the historic, ornate Casino club, to the bustling café-filled Plaza de Santa Domingo. Cut down an alley westwards to the impressive Teatro Romea (even more impressive on the inside, if you pop in to see some Spanish-language show); and then yet further westwards through a warren of streets to the Museo Salzillo (www.museosalzillo.es) housing the work of its eponymous 18th Century sculptor who wood-carved and hand-painted dramatic religious figures and biblical scenes, most notably his passion-week “pasos” which feature in the annual Santa Semana procession through town each Easter. You will especially enjoy the spectacularly androgynous St. John and the sexy topless angel mounting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane! Then flit to down fresh local tapas with a few small cold beers in the café-brimming social hub that is the Plaza Flores.
- Los Zagales (Calle Polo Medina 4; T: +34 968 21 55 79) – Feted, authentic joint, trading since the ‘20s, offering locals (and you) top quality tapas, for a mere snip of a song! Try bacon stuffed with dates; or anything with fried quails’ eggs!
TO DANCE, BOOZE ‘N CRUISE
Most gay venues are pretty central, within five minutes walk of the Cathedral.
- Ocio (Calle Victorio 20; no phone) – Tiny but buzzing DJ-bar. Mixed but very stylish and friendly.
- Sentido de Noche (Calle de la Trinidad, off Calle Victorio; no phone) – Camp long bar, near Ocio. Chic mix of class and kitsch. Candelabras, zebra-skin wallpaper, pseudo-guilt furniture. Get the pic?
- Pisces (Plaza Santo Domingo 6; no phone) – Large, busy gay venue with two bars, a big dance floor and lots of darker areas. Crammed with young cuties bopping their stuff.
- Metropol (Calle Portada, off Carretera de Puente Tocinos; www.metropoldisco.com) – Thursday to Sunday, 2am ‘til late. Vast modern dance space just east of centre. Brilliantly designed with bars aplenty, a show stage and hanging bridge-cum-catwalk dominating the entire venue, plus cruisy darkroom adjoining gents.
- Blakey’s (Calle San Antonia 1, easy to miss, down a passage; no phone) – Popular after-party, mere yards from the Cathedral. Opens at 6am, as other clubs shut. Shuts itself around lunchtime.
Sauna & Cruising
- Nordik (Cartagena 72, entrance around corner; T: +34 968 25 91 20; www.saunanordik.com) – Tad down-at-heal sauna just south of the river with an indisputably aging clientele – if that’s your thing.
OTHER USEFUL CONTACTS
- Low fares airline flyMonarch.com offers year-round flights to Murcia from Birmingham and London Gatwick, with new flights from Manchester launching on 8th February 2008. Fares, including taxes, start from £31.50 one way (£47.99 return). In addition to year-round low fares, flyMonarch.com also offers a unique range of tasty hot and cold meals onboard, with prices from £3. Seats can be pre-booked at £5 per one-way flight to avoid the last-minute free-for-all experienced on some other airlines; or, from only £15, why not try one of their 48 extra-legroom seats which offer up to six inches more space? Regular travellers are rewarded too, with a range of benefits through the airline’s loyalty scheme, Vantage Club. Passengers travelling on scheduled flights can also avoid the queues at the airport by taking advantage of online check-in which is available between 24 and 4½ hours prior to departure; or from 36 hours if you are a Vantage Club member. Book at www.flymonarch.com or on T: 08700 40 63 00.
- General info about Murcia, both city and region: www.murciaturistica.es
- General info on Spain: www.spain.info/uk; or request a brochure via 08459 400 180 (24 hrs)
- Spanish Tourist Office: PO Box 4009, London , W1A 6NB; T: 020 7486 8077; F: 020 7486 8034; E: email@example.com
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Visuals: 2x hi rez Murcia jpgs attached on accompanying email. Please also kindly include the Monarch image (small) provided, in the ‘Contacts’ section, next to text, since Monarch kindly assisted.