A Travellerspoint blog

Tarragona and more Barcelona adventures

sunny 14 °C

First, let me wish the best to those reading this and dealing with Sandy this week. Best of luck and stay safe.

Onward! It has been a while since I blogged last, and much has happened, but I'll try to keep it short and concise. First, I have finally become a legal resident in Spain. After jumping through all of the required hoops to get my visa and get here, and then to get a place to live and my empadronamiento (letter of residency), and then to apply for my N/TIE (Numero/Tarjeta de Identificacion de Extrajero) I picked up my tarjeta (card) today. Check it out! I have blanked out some important information like my DNI which is basically my SSN here, as well as the street that I live on. This is the internet after all.


In other news from Barcelona, having become comfortable enough walking around the city, I decided to add biking to my possible transport methods. The city sponsors a fabulous program called 'Bicing', which has racks of bicycles around the city. When a subscriber would like to use one, they only have to hold their card up to the machine and are given a bicycle. Upon reaching their destination, the user finds the nearest rack and returns the bike. With a 45 euro annual fee I get a half hour free anytime I need a bike. This is particularly handy for getting to places that are inconvenient by metro. Many of the roads have bike lanes here, and I have felt quite safe while traversing the city. The only problems with the program are that sometimes there are no bikes available, and other times the rack you want to deposit your bike to is full. For only 4 Euros a month, though, I can handle some inconvenience. In fact, the city has realized that this is too good of a deal, and will double the membership fee next year. Luckily I will be grandfathered in, but many of my colleagues have been grumbling about that change. Here is an example of the rack I was talking about.


This weekend, I decided to get out of Barcelona for a while, and took a day trip to Tarragona, which is an hour and a half train ride south of Barcelona, on the coast. Afterwards I was asked by several Barcelonins (and heard from others wondering too) why I would go there; since there really isn't anything to see. Au contraire, I had a fabulous day. This facade was one of the first I saw upon disembarking from the train.


As one tour book I read put it: 'If you are wondering what the Romans did for Spain, go to Tarragona'. Over the course of the day, I got to see well-preserved Roman ruins, including their amphitheater, circus, forum, city walls, and aqueduct, as well as two of the other old historical buildings (though not Roman-era type old). I will post some photos here, but as always, check out www.flickr.com/photos/douglasclift for the whole set. As a 'student' (I put that in quotes since I'm not technically a student, but my ID card for work says Institute for Bioengineering of Catalunya, so I think that impresses people enough to give me a discount), I was able to buy a day pass to all of the sites for 5 Euros. The first thing I saw was the Amphitheater. This amphitheater, home of duels between men and animal alike, is the best preserved Roman ruin in Spain, and it was an incredible feeling to imagine the drama unfolding on the same ground thousands of years ago.


Next on the ancient tour was the Roman Circus, originally a monstrous open space in the center of the city dedicated to horse and chariot races. All that remains now is a section of wall, which includes some stalls for housing horses, but I failed to get a photo spectacular enough to make the cut for the blog. There will be some on Flickr shortly.

After the circus, I went to the other largest attraction in Tarragona. And I mean largest literally, since Tarragona is home to the largest Catholic cathedral in Catalunya. Cleverly named 'La Catedral', this is a massive church perched on the top of the hill. It is stunning from the outside, and if possible, even more so from inside. I purchased an audio tour, which took me around the cloister and sanctuary, saturating me with facts.


After the Catedral, I headed to the Roman Muralles (walls). At one point, these stretched around the perimeter of the city, shielding it from the wrath of potential foes, but now only a section of wall behind the city remains. This was the only site at which I wasn't given an information pamphlet, so I don't have too much to say about it. Check out Flickr for more!

After the wall, I went to see arguably the most awe-inspiring site of the day. Not specifically part of the history tour, the Pont de Diables Aqueduct was also built by the Romans and is still in such good shape that the public can walk across it. How much of this is due to the modern engineering marvel called cement is unknown, but the aqueduct was one of the highlights of the day. Unfortunately, the juicy story concerns transportation to and from the site. The aqueduct is that is is located 4 km outside of the city. As I was trying to see as much as possible that day, I decided to take the city bus there. I knew beforehand which bus to take and that there was a stop at the site and after a quick miscommunication with the bus driver I found myself here:


Absolutely spectacular. Although the engineer in me was disappointed to see puddles in the middle of the aqueduct, I spent 20 minutes dragging my jaw in the dirt behind me while contemplating how a group of people with only the simplest of machines accomplished getting huge blocks not just up 75 feet in the air, but also from wherever they were harvested to the aqueduct site. Incredible. Now, I had to get back to the city. Unfortunately, there was only a bus stop on one side of the road since it is a divided highway there. Upon disembarking the first time, the driver had told me to get back on there. But again, my logic was screaming that getting on the bus going the wrong direction made no sense. Physically incapable of accepting the inevitable and just going through with the inefficient bus transport, I decided to hike back. There was a well-marked trail, and I was confident at the beginning that I would be fine. However, it had rained recently in the area, so as the path dipped down to follow along a stream nearby I saw this:


NOOOOO! No more path; no more walking. As I was about ten minutes away from the bus stop, I had to backtrack to the bus stop, my logical brain smarting from the TKO. As the buses were only running about 1 per hour, I also thought for sure I was going to be stuck for a long time. Luckily, I only had to wait ten minutes for the next bus... And then a half an hour as we went wayyy away from the city before returning back. A minor hiccup in an otherwise stellar day. Upon getting back to the city, I had a little while to check out the final Roman ruin: the forum, or marketplace. Although perhaps not as well-preserved as the other relics, I still found it intriguing. Also, other tourists that day were few and far between, which improved my experience immensely.

Finally, exhausted, I boarded the train back to Barcelona. And as this post has become a monster, I will quit there. No, actually, two more things: this Thursday is a holiday for All-Saints day, and I am going to Madrid to visit a fellow Whitaker Fellow. We will explore Madrid some and go to Toledo as well. I am looking forward to it. Also, the fall tradition in Barcelona and Catalunya (and maybe the whole of Spain) is that street vendors spring up all over the place selling freshly roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes. I have not had a chance to try them yet, but hopefully my next post will include a little review.

As always, hope all is well with everyone, and stay safe with this storm. Hasta Luego!!

Posted by dclift 22:52 Archived in Spain Tagged roman_ruins tarragona

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Great stories! I'm also impressed that these aqueducts are still so strong. I'm curious if the city of Tarragona has anything to do with the herb tarragon? Or is that just a coincidence?

by Stew

Stew! I think just coincidence. It is quite possible that the roots for these words converge in the past, but I think the entymology is the only thing they have in common!

by dclift

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