Tarragona has long been out-glittered by Sitges, its sister city to the north. However, as guest blogger Nancy Todd explains, Tarragona, also on the Mediterranean, holds its own in the sparkle category…
Tarragona is a tame get-away from the noise and crowds of Barcelona. For history hounds, a day trip from Barcelona to the city of Tarragona is a treasure hunt. Founded in 218 B.C., Tarragona is only one hour from Barcelona by train. It offers two tree lined Ramblas, or walking boulevards, Rambla Nova and Rambla Vella – the new and the old Ramblas.
The first dates from the late 1800’s, and is lined with Art Nouveau buildings, the latter from the Middle Ages. Shopping is plentiful and restaurants with outdoor seating bustle during the warm months. Melissa, my daughter, David, my son-in-law, and I had a great Menu del Dia on Plaza de la Font. It was a cool day and sitting in the sun with a bottle of red wine reminded us that spring was on the way.
Roman ruins surprise as they are scattered about and suddenly appear jolting your awareness of that ancient culture. Tarragona was a prosperous trading city, in its Roman heyday, 40,000 inhabitants loved, did laundry, gulped wine, governed, and galloped their horses. Today a quiet city, it is easy to saunter without a map, to visit old churches, museums, and of course bask on the beaches. David was especially impressed as in his home city of Baker, Oregon, one hundred years is really old for a building.
Those Roman dudes knew about building sites. They chose to build their Ampitheatre, home of gladiator fights, right next to the Sea. As you exit the train station and face the Sea, hang a left and walk up on the promenade which takes you to an aerial view of the Ampitheatre. Climbing to the top of the Amphitheatre brings you to one of the best views in the City. Developers in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Detroit probably imitated the Romans by building their stadiums on the water for their gladiator fights.
The Archaeological Museum was founded in the beginning of the 1800’s. It houses intricate mosaics and tall marble sculptures of men in drag with long white dresses. This small and manageable museum has a variety of oddities that depict everyday life: nails, anchors, perfume bottles, coins and terracotta vessels to hold olive oil.
Walking the Roman wall gives another sense of Tarragona ’s early history. Archaeologists have determined that the wall is the oldest Roman fortification in Spain and was built at the time the Romans first ventured outside of Italy. The night time view of the wall is especially beautiful. Wandering the excavations, I imagined Romans walking through the streets, the Forum, Temple and plazas.
I love rose windows in cathedrals, especially catching them as the sun shines through their small glass forms on the cathedral walls and floors. David, Melissa, and I lucked out at the Cathedral of Santa Tecla where the rose window made it’s spattered rainbow.
This Cathedral is a fine example of transitional architecture that combines the Gothic and Romanesque periods dating from the 12th century. The bell tower houses fifteen bells which I wanted to hear ring but I could not find out when the bell guy went into the tower to do his ringing job. Locals did not know exactly when the bells would peal but assured me they rang often.
Wandering skinny medieval streets by the Cathedral takes you by restaurants, balconies overflowing with flowers, and twenty-foot high doorways. The tranquillity of Tarragona allows the mind to imagine many different civilizations wandering about. No roaring motorcycles or discos in this city – a perfect day trip from the crowds in Barcelona.
GETTING THERE – RENFE train leaves from Barcelona every half an hour or whenever it moseys on down the tracks. Board at Sants Station or Passeig de Gracia Station. A scenic ride takes you next to artichoke fields and along the cliffs of the Mediterrean Sea.
Do check out Nancy Todd’s great Spain website www.thespainscoop.com