Sunday 24th March
Today was sightseeing. We had found that Tarragona has a little hop on/hop off land train, so we headed for our nearest stop. We stopped for a coffee in a pavement café where the waiter, on learning that we are British, asked us why we want to leave the EU?? We told him that we don’t want to leave but, in a democracy, we have to do what the majority want.
We took the little train into the old quarter or the Part Alta. This was the Provincial forum which dates back to the 1st century AD when Tarraco was the capital of the Roman province Hispania Tarraconensis. The forum covered a large part of what is now the medieval city centre including the site of Tarragona cathedral. Today Plaça del forum is an attractive square surrounded by small bars and restaurants. We wandered around and chose a bar to have a drink and some tapas. We chose one under some trees as it was so hot, but it was a mistake as the food was not good at all – it would have been better to be hot!
We picked up the train again from outside the Cathedral, sadly we didn’t have time to go in.
Our next stop was the amphitheatre. This is the best known of Tarragona’s 13 UNESCO listed Roman remains, the amphitheatre was cut into the hillside leading up from the beach at the start of the second century AD and used to stage Gladiator contests and public executions. In 259 AD, during the persecution of Christians, the city’s archbishop Fructuosus and his 2 deacons were burned alive here. Years later, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, a basilica dedicated to the 3 martyrs was built in the middle of the by then disused amphitheatre.
From there we walked down to the marina to see if we could get some lunch. Sadly, we made another bad choice, but at least it was edible!
We caught the train again to go back to the hotel but, in fact, we jumped off at the fishing port as we could see a number of super yachts. One of them was the Black Pearl, a sailing yacht which is 350 feet long and almost 50 feet wide! She was launched in 2016 but then underwent sea trials until being delivered to her owner is 2018. Her owner is believed to be Oleg Burlakov, a Russian billionaire. It is rumoured that he paid US$ 200 million for the beautiful yacht. Black Pearl’s accommodations include a master suite, 2 VIP suites, 2 double guest cabins and a full beam beach club, that is convertible into a cinema. There is also an all glass lift to take you between decks. It is expected that Black Pearl can cross the Atlantic using only 20 litres of fuel, aided by regenerative technologies. One key technology to support this, is to use the speed of the vessel through the water under sail to generate electricity with a variable pitch propeller. The yacht also features heat capture technologies and large scale storage batteries to capture energy generated but not immediately used. I wonder if we could get all this put on Mary H!!!
We also saw the front end of what looked like a lovely old sailing boat with a fantastic figurehead.
Next stop just had to be an ice cream parlour where we had lovely ice-creams but it was so busy and it took us forever to get our change.
The fishing boats have massive lights on them to attract the fish.
Whilst waiting for the train we could hear drumming and realised that there must have been a drumming competition and the winners were about to march around the streets.
We got off the train and walked back down the Rambla Nova to our hotel where we collapsed. It had been a very hot and long day and my feet ached like mad!
This was the view from our hotel room.
Here is a little bit of history about Tarragona.
One Catalan legend holds that it was named for Tarraho, eldest son of Tubal in c. 2407 BC; another (derived from Strabo and Megasthenes) attributes the name to 'Tearcon the Ethiopian', a 7th-century BC pharaoh who campaigned in Spain. The real founding date of Tarragona is unknown.
During the Roman Republic, the city was fortified and much enlarged as a Roman colony by the brothers Publius Cornelius Scipio and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, who converted it into a fortress and arsenal against the Carthaginians. The city was first named Colonia Iulia Urbs Triumphalis Tarraco and was capital of the province of Hispania Citerior. Subsequently, it became the capital of the province named after it, Hispania Tarraconensis,
After the demise of the Western Roman Empire, the city was fought over many times until finally Franco's Nationalist troops took in on January 15th 1939 during the Catalonia Offensive.
The Roman ruins of Tarraco have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Tarragona celebrates the tradition of the 'castells' in spectacular fashion. This popular event involves people creating human towers up to a height of between six and ten tiers.
Have a look here at some amazing photos. Castells were first documented as a cultural form in 1801. They appeared in Tarragona, a rural and religious province of Catalonia. The 'castells' (human castles) have been awarded the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity designation.
Monumento a los Castellers
The base of a human tower