Tarragona – Full of surprises

Tarragona is a magnet for those who want to explore Catalan history as well as enjoy the beautiful Mediterranean coast. It is considered the most important Roman town in Spain, but the reason we returned was because 45 years earlier, we spent our honeymoon on the beach – we also had an unpaid parking ticket (but don´t tell anyone!)

We had forgotten how busy the city is, or perhaps that has just happened in the interim years. All I can say is we were very lucky in immediately finding our hotel. What we didn´t know was the day we arrived was the climax of a major celebration, Santa Tecla. The crowds were enormous, parking was horrendous, but luck was on our side. (You will get an idea of the number of people around from our pictures). We squeezed into the underground carpark directly opposite the hotel, told reception and they stamped our ticket so we could park for €13 for 24 hours. So far, so good, things seemed to be going our way.

One of the things I had planned to see was the Roman Amphitheatre situated on the coast, just off the Rambla Nova… and our hotel, The Lauria is 20 meters from the coast, and we overlooked the amphitheatre.

Having dumped our bag we crossed the Rambla and were in the historic quarter. We strolled through the ancient streets to the12th century cathedral, but it was closed, probably due to the crowds.

During festivals in Catalonian, it is a tradition to build human pyramids. This tradition has been around for hundreds of years and towers where people climbing up each other’s backs and onto shoulders to make the tallest human pyramid. These can reach 8 or 9 stories high. We didn’t expect to see this but once again, we were extremely fortunate. The towers walk from the Ayuntaminento to the cathedral but as you can imagine only a few make the journey without toppling.

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We finally returned to the hotel after seeing all the sites had a snooze and then went out in the evening for a stroll expecting to see some music in the old quarter

What we saw was a parade with kings, queens and lots of folk with huge heads, groups of people dancing with bells on their legs and attacking each other with sticks and lots of bands. The streets were crowded, everyone was singing and there was a great atmosphere.

We finally headed back towards the Rambla Nova to find a different kind of band – more like an orchestra and playing not the rock and beatbox we had been listening to but old-fashioned dance music.

I have heard the phrase dancing around your handbag many times but this could have been where it originated. There were circles of women and a few men who joined hands, tapped their feet, and moved gracefully around the handbags that had been placed in the centre of each group. These weren’t organised just people passing by that felt the urge to dance that was bought on by the music.

While we originally thought it might be nice to return to Tarragona after almost half a century, we didn’t expect to have such a wonderful time. It brought to an end this short break on the mainland and made it exceptionally memorable.

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