Book Review: Going Native in Murcia by Debbie Jenkins and Russ Pearce

Here in Algorfa, we’re very close to Murcia, in fact we can be in Murcia city, or Santiago de la Ribera on the coast in around half an hour. But how much do you know about the province of Murcia, and would you know the best place to go for a paella, to enjoy a great diving experience, or where to find the best beaches? If you answered No to all three, then you need Going Native in Murcia (4th Edition) by Debbie Jenkins and Russ Pearce.

First released in 2005, Debbie and Russ have updated the book to include more information on sports and recreation facilities, and have also removed establishments that are no longer in business and included new attractions and services. Published in 2020, the Covid pandemic will probably have caused a few more disruptions to the information, but this is indeed a Murcia Bible, with real-life stories from people who have made their home in Murcia and personal anecdotes on all sorts of topics.

Sand erosions at Bolnuevo, Murcia. Image by Sandra Piddock

Debbie’s tale about a baby wild boar following the family on a walk particularly warmed my heart, even if the encounter left Debbie in need of a brandy after worrying that Mummy or Daddy Boar would turn up with their tusks to defend their baby. (or at least, that’s her excuse!) The baby even chased sticks like a dog, and snuffled around the teenagers in the group. Find the story on Page 15 – and if you didn’t know, a baby boar is called a jabali.

Some of the information also applies to the rest of Spain, for example the section on eating at motorway ventas. (P.138). Ventas are like service areas on UK motorways, but you don’t need a second mortgage to eat there. In fact local families will often head to an independent venta at weekends for the Menu del Dia. Don’t be intimidated by the language barrier or the noise – you’ll sample great tapas at very reasonable prices, and there’s usually a mini market to pick up those last minute bits and pieces, so the venta can be very handy when the local shops are closed on red days.

River view of Murcia city. By Russ Pearce

The town and city guides are comprehensive, and include recommendations from the people who actually live there, and use the services on a regular basis. For example, Sue Walker informs us that the best sepia (grilled cuttlefish) and mushrooms in Jumilla can be found at the bus station cafeteria. (p. 143) For a great paella in an unusual setting, Martine Cherry suggests you head for Restaurante San Antonio in Los Alcazares. It’s a converted bathing hut on the Mar Menor, set on stilts. (P. 167) Worried your Spanish isn’t up to ordering when you’re off the tourist trail? There’s a comprehensive cheat sheet on Page 315, with a printable version on Debbie’s website.

Souvenirs of Cartagena, Murcia. Mini Nazarenes figures, as seen in the Semana Santa Parades at Easter. By Russ Pearcer

There’s plenty of suggestions for things to do, and as the towns, villages and cities are organised into alphabetical order, it’s easy to find what you are looking for. Or if you’re looking for inspiration, browse the location report boxes, where you’ll find honest appraisals of the pros and cons of various locations. The contributors have been chosen for their enthusiasm for where they live, so they write engagingly and with authority, and the main parts of the book by Debbie and Russ are written in an informal, easy to read style. This is not the type of book to pick up and read cover to cover – with well over 300 pages, that would be a bit of a marathon – but it’s great to dip into and learn more about the various places in Murcia, whether you’re just visiting or thinking of making your home there.

Cabo de Palos, Murcia by Russ Pearce

If moving to Murcia is your thing, there’s lots of practical advice, whether you’re a student, moving over with the family to work or retiring there. Find out all you need to know about building permissions, where to find bank repossessions and what to grow in your garden in the Essential Information section. (P.277 onwards). There’s even advice about how to deal with the inevitable homesickness!

Debbie and Russ have collaborated on an excellent reference work that’s packed with useful information and great fun to read. Why not treat yourself and get to know Murcia better? The link in the first paragraph takes you directly to Amazon in Spain, but if you’re buying in the UK it’s also available here. This is the only guide book to Murcia you will ever need, we promise!

Image Credits: Featured image courtesy of Debbie Jenkins

Seafront at Santiago de la Ribera, Murcia by Sandra Piddock