A buzz of excitement spread around the coach as we passed the Estadio Mediterráneo on the outskirts of the city, many would be seeing Almería through the eyes of a tourist for the first time.
We were given a potted history of the city as we passed the magnificent façade of the old railway station (1895) and the El Cable Ingles, the restored (2.8 m euros ) mineral loading bay built in 1904 for shipping ore from the Alquife mines.
At the Refugios we split into two groups, one started the guided tour, whilst the others went off to take in the various sights, the 10th century Alcazaba, the monumental Cathedral or the various museums on offer. Some even went Geocaching.
Our visit took about 90 minutes and thanks to our interpreter Jill Firth we were able to enjoy the experience much more as she kept us informed whilst we wended our way through the myriad of underground passages below the bustling Paseo de Almería.
The shelters were quite innovative for the time and included lighting, clever air holes a pantry stockpile and even a basic hospital operating room to treat the wounded. Once the war ended some of the many exits were cleverly covered by a series of street kiosks in case they were ever needed again.
Of the 4.5 km of tunnels built, only 965 metres have been restored to date, and about 756 metres are open to the public, we exited outside the Escuela de Artes so we took time to visit another location from “Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade”.
After lunch we drove home through the La Molineta area to the north of the city, once a suburb of the wealthy, where many of the magnificent mansions had been left to decay. We saw Villa Pedicaris used in the opening sequences of the “Wind and the Lion” (Sean Connery) and the now restored Casa Fischer, Montgomery’s HQ in the film “Patton” (George C Scott). We then drove past the Roque Caves, once the location for many films such as “Conan the Barbarian” (Arnold Schwarzenegger), “Blindman” (Ringo Starr) and “Red Sun” (Charles Bronson) but now being demolished to make way for a shopping centre.