Walking Tour of Tarragona, Catalonia

 

Today we went on a half day walking tour around the old town of Tarragona, in Catalonia, near Barcelona.  We’ve been here once before and stayed overnight on a toad trip through Spain and France.  Really enjoyed it so were pleased to come back.  It was a major Roman centre from the 200s BC, Augustus spent 3 years here and so,  as you can imagine, there are quite a few Roman remains to see.

The tour was for 4 hours and billed as including touring a number of the Roman sites, warning that it was 4 hours constant walking over rough, cobbled ground.  So.… it was pretty dismaying to note that quite a few people got on our bus with obvious mobility problems.  I’m afraid that this is a bit of a rant but I have rather lost patience with people who think its all right to disregard the stated mobility requirements of a tour and just come along and spoil it for everyone else.  And really the cruise company needs to take some responsibility and either group such tours by ability or police their own mobility guidance.  We had to proceed so slowly and with so many stops, toilet breaks, sit downs etc that we didn’t get to see half of what we ought to have.  And at the end, there was only about 15 minutes free time, not enough to see anything independently, shop or even eat a bit of lunch.  This is the second trip (out of 3) that this has happened on our cruise and to be honest, we won’t do another ship tour now unless we are absolutely forced to.

What did we see?  Well, we stopped to see the amazing remains of the aqueduct (double storey) and Devil’s Bridge just before Tarragona, built to feed water to the town.  Then once in town we walked up through the historic area, noting the Roman walls around the town, some of which were adapted into dwellings in medieval times.  They were unusual in that the base of the walls was formed from massive rocks, rather than rough stone or cut stone.

We walked through the narrow, colourful streets and our guide pointed out remaining evidence of the Roman area that still remained. We came to the Cathedral which is built on a site upon which originally an Imperial temple stood. The Cathedral is quite an interesting one and very light in design and atmosphere in comparison to many. Certainly not Gothic. We had a good walk around (rather too long, due to many stops) and also visited the cloister which was lovely.
From there we walked through what remains of the Circus. Only the curved end remains exposed. The main body of the track now forms a large square with buildings all around and the town hall is built at the sharp end. We ended up overlooking the amphitheatre, very ruined but clearly visible. There are two good museums of Roman times but we had no time to visit them. Tarragona is a fabulous place to visit, lovely squares, individual shops with great shopping, lots of restaurants, beach and….. all the Roman ruins. I do recommend it and am glad we had visited before. We will have to visit again. On our own!

One thing that was very interesting was the clear Catalan nationalism now running strongly through the area. At this time the Catalan government (or some of them) are held in Madrid awaiting trial on charges that could put them away for 75 years. They allowed a referendum on independence from Spain which was declared illegal by the Spanish government, and then when the result was for Independence, all hell broke loose. The Spanish government reacted with very heavy hand and people were killed and many people have been imprisoned, many of which were not directly involved in anything except publicly supporting the referendum. Catalan flags and slogans were much in evidence both in Barcelona and in Tarragona. Our guide was very passionate in his commentary and never referred to the area as “Spain”, always, “Catalonia” and was particularly hostile to the Guardia Civil whenever he saw them. He talked to us a lot about the struggle for independence and the historical case for it. He referred to the Spanish government as fascists and anti-democratic. We asked him if he felt Catalonia would want to be part of the EU if it achieved independence. There was a pause. “well”, he said. “in principle we probably would. But the EU is also run by fascists currently, so probably not. We would not want to swap one fascist dictatorship for another”. Yep……

Got back to the ship at about 230. Had some lunch and then I used my phone wifi to talk to the girls and catchup on some admin. We still felt disgruntled so we decided to treat ourselves to dinner in the steakhouse restaurant tonight, The Verandah. We had not eaten here before on any voyage but had heard good reports. We booked in for 830. Before that we went and watched some ballroom dancing in the Queens Room (ballroom). There were quite a few couples there, and some singletons dancing with the Cunard Gentlemen Hosts (dance partners) and the one Lady Dance Host. These hosts are all elderly and they get to come on the cruise for either no cost or a very low cost and in return they have to attend every dance event and dance with unaccompanied ladies (generally). There are all sorts of rules: they have to change partners, no hanky panky, no dinner invitations etc etc. To be honest, having studied the dance hosts over the years, none of these would be likely. Forget any idea of a slim hipped gigolo. These are all in the John Sergeant category of elderly, flat footed men. They are not actually good dancers. Which is a bit of a surprise, but they are willing partners, which is the point I suppose.

We went to the early show. It was an Eastern European couple who gave an extraordinary performance of Adagio dancing/acrobatic dancing. The woman was unbelievably supple and double jointed. The man was very strong as well as being very graceful. They did all that aerial stuff on silk curtains and also the balancing on each other and just amazing feats of strength, balance and grace. Muscles of steel, stomachs of iron and just incredible to watch. I said to Bob as we left that we really didn’t ought to have a go on the cabin curtains…….

Dinner was brilliant and massive and probably too much. It cost $39 each extra which was a bargain. I started with lobster cocktail and it was amazing. A huge amount of lobster, chunky and delicious. At least a whole tail. Served in a glass bowl with a salad of lettuce, mango and apple with melba toast and a cheese rarebit. Bob had clam chowder and it was really good. Not a hint of chicken soup about it. Deeply rich and well flavoured. The main offering of The Verandah is steak, although they do have other things. They brought us a board of the different cuts to choose from. I went for the 35 day dry aged O’Reilly 12 oz ribeye steak served blue with bearnaise sauce, creamed spinach, onion rings and truffle, parmesan fries. Bob chose the 12 oz 28 day aged US Prime strip, served rare with corn on the cob, Yukon Gold mash and a pepper sauce. We even had to choose our steak knives from a selection of different styles on offer. That was a first. Everything was superb and there was so much. We finished the steaks but not the rest. Washed it down with a lovely bottle of Argentinian Malbec – one of the ones we tasted the other day. Had to have a break after that. We were really full. In the end I just had a scoop of salted caramel ice cream and Bob had a strawberry pavlova with a strawberry champagne sorbet. We reeled out, took a turn around the deck to try and help some of all this mega meal digest and then turned in. A very special dinner with superb service and a nice atmosphere. We shamelessly earwigged the conversation from 2 couples on a nearby table. Outraged of Middle England 😊
Turned in, heading west towards passing Gibraltar tomorrow.

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