Lesson 1 of Travel School - Wing It
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Maps are wonderful aren’t they? The effort that someone has gone to to create this document showing all the streets and their layout, and how they all interlink, it’s fantastic. They are a fantastic tool for all to use. Which is probably why we forgot one…
…But, when I look back through my photos of Tarragona, I’m glad we didn’t take one.
So, for lack of any form of direction, we headed off. We had driven through what looked like the main town on our way through, and we made the error of thinking we’d find better parking if we kept going.
We did not
We ended up on the wrong side of the town, in the bit where the tourists don’t go. With no map, and only a general direction. And a big hill.
But we headed off anyway, pushing towards the town. We knew nothing of Tarragona, other than there was a fanatic roman fortress there, and the local Paella was to die for.
I didn’t know what to expect, but what we found was a calmer, quieter, and more colourful Barcelona. They share a coast, Tarragona lies an hour or so’s drive South, but that’s the end of the similarities. The hustle and bustle was minimal, the pace was set back, and the streets less rammed full of traffic. It was the Spain my parents knew, before the tourism boom.
As we bustled our way through the main square we happened into a sign, with the symbol for temple. We decided our temple we’d heard about was likely that way, so we headed there.
Pushing through the crowd of the recent bus drop off, we emerged onto the side of the main road into town, and these was our temple! It seemed odd, how the rest of the city had been built into it, but still it seemed out of place in the mid 20th century architecture filling the scenes. We made our way into the cool halls of the temple, a relief from the Spanish sun, and began to explore.
What seemed like 4 ruined walls and some foundations soon turned into a museum, corridors that withstood the test of time astoundingly well, and a deep structure that extended far beyond our expectations. A roman Tardis in its own wonderful sense. We emerged well past lunch time, feeling in awe of this wonderful city and its secrets from the past.
Okay so objective complete, we now felt a little lost.
Regroup, change objective, proceed. That’s how my friend the military would put it.
We decided to call it finding lunch.
And oh my, did we find lunch.
We headed uphill, towards the main square. The streets got emptier, shops more scarce, and the noise dulled down. We seemed to be walking away from town.
Until we found everyone. In the square. Eating lunch.
We joined them, as the main square in Tarragona housed a huge variety of restaurants, cafes, bars, and small eateries, we were spoilt for choice.
And this is where the Spanish food obsession began.
We sampled local beers, devoured local Paella, and drenched ourselves in the local scene. It was a good lunch, one of my favourite.
We had a way to go back to where we were staying, further up the coast, so after lunch we decided to head back towards the Port (and our car).
And then we discovered why it was so busy. It clicked.
Passover weekend, and we’d completely forgotten.
We followed a growing crowd toward drums, upbeat and fanatical sounding. The crowd had roman centurions, men and women dressed in black robes carrying instruments, and people of all ages eager to see the passing.
The Main Street through the city, the first place we stumbled into, had now become a mass of costumes, colours, and floats depicting the events of Good Friday.
The bands beat their drums, and floats seemed to swim through the crowds, and the whole of Tarragona seemed to emerge for the event. People of all ages had come out to witness the parade, as we stood there in awe, completely oblivious to the days events.
It was a brilliant good-bye from the little city as we headed back down through the industrial area, towards the port.
So next time you find yourself on the Costa Dorada or in Barcelona, hop on a train and head South to Tarragona. You won’t regret this one…