One fun thing we are doing here in Spain is learning about the places around us. It’s a truism that you rarely explore the place where you live, but we’re trying to be the exception to the rule.
Some information we’re learning is about specific places in Torrevieja. A longtime resident whom we met last week told us that the local casino (that’s a social club here, not a gambling establishment) was the hangout for the Facist elite during the days of Franco. Apparently the Republicans hung out a few hundred feet away at Bar La Marina. Presumably these opponents made rude gestures at each other across the busy street that separates the two structures. That must have been interesting, but I’m okay with having missed that.
A more genial focus for local lore is Tabarca Island, which we visited last Saturday. The island now has an official population of 68 people, but its terrific beaches, good restaurants, and big bay where boats of all descriptions anchor draw lots of visitors. Parts of the old city wall and gates remain, as well as a tower from the fortifications that Spain’s King Charles III had built in 1760.
Tabarca Island has a twin with the same name near Tunisia, which seems fitting. Our Tabarca was held at different points by Rome, the Kingdom of Genoa, the Bey (ruler) of Tunis, and, finally, Spain. Legend has it that St. Paul visited Tabarca. More unwelcome visitors were pirates from Tunisia, who used the island as a base for raiding shipping in the Mediterranean. These would be pirates of the ilk that the nascent US Marines fought in Tunisia during the Jefferson administration. That campaign, of course, is remembered in the first verse of the Marine Hymn: “From the Halls of Montezuma/To the shores of Tripoli,/We fight our country’s battles/In the air, on land, and sea….”
Tabarca is a peaceful place now, except for the tourists scrambling down rocky paths to the beaches and crowding into the souvenir shops to buy one last T-shirt before boarding the ferry back to the mainland. And it has a few small neighbor islands that are uninhabited by people but which form parts of a large marine (little m this time) reserve. But mostly Tabarca has its beaches and small town with narrow streets and overhangs of bougainvillea. It’s lovely.
And while we’re on the subject of islands, it’s worth noting that we now live on what used to be an island. Mark and I found a map of our area in Roman times, and the coastline extended much further inland than it does now. Torrevieja was an island on the edge of a shallow bay. So I guess I really am an Island Girl!