Lorca, a land inhabited for 5,500 years, still offers visitors that feeling of discovering something new. The inhabitants of this Murcian municipality, the historical border between the crown of Castile and the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, always hear the same thing from those who come to see it: “I didn’t think this city had so many things”.

And there are many: in the town center await the old collegiate church of San Patricio and civil Baroque architecture, represented in the Town Hall or the Guevara house. At the southern end awaits the regional park of Cabo Cope and Puntas del Calnegre, with its coves and beach bars where you can enjoy rice or grilled octopus. And on the hill from which you can see the Guadalentin valley, stands the medieval castle and the Parador de Lorca.

THE PARADOR AND ITS REGION

The people of Lorca love their castle, which they go up to on a pilgrimage every November 23 to celebrate the festival of San Clemente, one day a year to commemorate the Christian conquest in 1244 led by the Infante Alfonso de Castilla. After the opening of the parador, the reasons for climbing the hill more frequently have increased. Not only because of the use that Lorca residents make of the hotel’s cafeteria, restaurant and spa, but also because the existing archaeological park on this promontory benefits from the existence of the inn: greater use results in better conservation. The heritage is protected and the story is told to the locals, who do not have to know it all, and to visitors in search of visual and emotional richness. There is weight in everything that happened in that fertile area occupied since the end of the Neolithic. The Guadalentin river, today underground, it overflowed and filled the surroundings with silt, which explains the early settlements. Today Lorca attracts population and slows desertification and unemployment with the water from the Tajo-Segura transfer and with the incipient tourism, helped by the hostel.

INSIDE THE PARADOR

Enrique Perez, tourist guide and archaeologist, points out an enriching aspect for Lorca residents of the continuous excavations carried out for the construction of this four-star hotel, which have resulted in the discoveries of the Jewish quarter: “Advances have been made in the knowledge of the city , more is known about Lorca”. The location of the parador generated a bit of suspicion at first in some Lorca residents for fear that the hotel would engulf the castle, but the result is a harmonious building that has strengthened this area populated in the Middle Ages by Arabs, Christians and Jews: “Although they needed each other, they coexisted more than cohabited,” says Perez, without minimizing that coexistence, but avoiding idealization. The archaeological park of the castle, opened in 2003.

Gines Ros, head of Reception at the Parador, says that when Lorca residents cross the tunnel that leads them to the hotel, it is as if they had gone on vacation: “They come to eat, to have a drink, to have a massage…, to large celebrations such as weddings or communions”, he affirms. Another type of client that uses the 13,000 m2 of the parador are companies that celebrate an event or a convention. The hotel has a multipurpose area that can be paneled and versatile in which up to 350 seated attendees can fit.

LORCA: CASTLE, CITY AND MUNICIPALITY

They are clients who go down to Lorca to take a walk along the Corredera or who look out at the archaeological museum, which houses 27 glass lamps reconstructed from remains found in the synagogue. They also go to the local quality products store, which sells crespillos (crunchy breads made with paprika and oil), Zarcilla de Ramos cheese or Murcian flat sausage, a native breed of black-haired pig. “The client of the parador seeks quality. The opening of the hotel has brought another type of tourism to what we had”, says Encarni Llamas, the owner of the store. “Now, Lorca doesn’t know how to sell himself,” she laments. Llamas moved her business from the old town to a busier avenue to complete her clientele with people from the city. It may seem like a business designed for outsiders.

The recovery of the old town

The Lorca earthquake, which occurred on May 11, 2011, is still felt in the city. Some buildings are still propped up. Others have been rebuilt and painted white and albero: “The old town is increasingly recovering,” says Perez, referring to the fact that new businesses have opened and it is back to life. Not so much because of the damage caused by the earthquake, but because in cities of this size the inhabitants tend to go to the suburbs to live and the center loses steam. “Lorca is a city of services and that lives on agriculture and livestock”, he clarifies. Tourism is a sector with room for growth, something that is regretted in the present but that is celebrated in the future.

PARADORES RECOMMENDS

There are designated dates in which the city is filled with visitors. Holy Week in Lorca is highly regarded. So much so that it has been a festival of International Tourist Interest since 2007. Not only are there processions, but the Old and New Testaments are staged, with biblical characters and facts. The cloaks of the virgin, embroidered in silk and gold, reach 40,000 euros, according to Perez, the tourist guide. The two main brotherhoods, the Paso Blanco and the Paso Azul, compete to see who is best dressed. Nobody wins because there is no contest, although both are convinced that they do. There is rivalry. Perez, a 53-year-old from Lorca, points out that the folklore of choirs and dances is very rich in the area and focuses on the fair in September as another opportunity to continue attracting visitors.

Lorca has sea

Those who come in summer have the option of getting to know the city in the morning and going to the beach area to eat and take a bath. The municipal term of Lorca reaches the coast, to Puntas del Calnegre, a fishing village that has not suffered intervention in a century. The only concession to tourism is a series of paper tablecloth beach bars that stretch out on the beach and serve octopus and oily fish, what the Mediterranean offers in those waters, along with garden produce and rice.

THREE DEPARTURES WITHOUT LEAVING THE REGION

Claudio Perez and Marina Gelardo walk along the Calnegre beach. This woman in her thirties has been coming to town since she was born. They carry diving equipment near some rocks that divide Calnegre beach from the cove of the same name, more crowded because it is more closed and pleasant. Santiago Espin, a resident of the area, comes to talk to the couple. Retired artist of cinematographic special effects, he lives with his wife in a house that adjoins one of the beach bars, on the beachfront. He assures that before, for each boat there were 12 fishermen. He now says that there are only three men left who go out to fish. The town, being inside the regional park of Cabo Cope and Puntas de Calnegre, has been frozen in time. The protection covers 17 kilometers of coastline, something that the people of Lorca boast about. When the city has been walked.

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