Day 10 was absolutely wonderful. After Barcelona, Tarragona was a breath of fresh air, and I have to say: we are smitten.
While I’m not sure how large Tarragona actually is compared to Barcelona, it is definitely less touristy and the city center is smaller and a bit more manageable. The medieval wall actually still surrounds much of the old town, and wandering through the winding streets was a delight. It was calm, quiet, and the buildings were beautiful. Pair that atmosphere with a shit-ton of Roman ruins and you have our perfect location!
So yes, the main reason we loved Tarragona so much may have been the wealth of visible ruins throughout the city center. We saw the original forum, the colonial forum (TWO fora!!), the amphitheater, the circus, the theater (ish – it’s being reconstructed so there want much to see), and we walked along the medieval walls which were built on the Roman ones and incorporated the Roman defensive towers.
Ancient Tarraco was the first settlement of the Romans on the Iberian peninsula – it started as a military camp during the Second Punic War, and then became a Roman colony at the end of the Republic. Augustus even chilled there for a bit! (Imagine how excited I was when I found that out!) Thus, the crazy amount of visible remains. We even saw Roman stonework (altars, funerary inscriptions, etc…) used in the walls of the cathedral, which was super cool.
In addition to the ruins, we went to the archaeological museum (of course), which has a lot of interesting stuff but no English descriptions and no real organization – things are just sort of dumped into various rooms. We also went into the cathedral, as I mentioned, which apparently witnessed a battled with Napoleon on its steps, so that’s cool. We also saw painted walls and statues inside – I had no idea that some Gothic cathedrals had painted walls! It was really neat to walk around and pick out all the little details of construction, such as masons’ marks on the stones or reused Roman stuff. (Chris is very indulgent when it comes to my art history streak)
Our lunch was also really great – a little spot serving mostly Andalusian food – and instead of dinner, we opted to check out the local wine festival that just happened to be going on. €10 euros got us six tastings tickets each and a souvenir glass. In addition to all the wine, there were also stalls selling cheese and sausages, as well as pastries. It was fantastic! We tried about 8 different wines (some “cost” two tickets) and some were truly phenomenal. And don’t worry, we were very responsible and made sure to eat some cheese as well as a tuna and olive empanada.
Those kinds of experience are what make travel truly special, especially since our interests are so narrow and focused. Sometimes we forget that we are visiting modern cities, with living, breathing people who have all the same joys and worries that we do. It’s nice to be reminded of that, to have an experience that pulls us back into the present. It was the best way to end the day.