Sometimes the hustle and bustle of Barcelona is just a little too much after a stressful week of looking for jobs and flats. Add this to the fact that I live on a main road and listen to the traffic throughout the night, it’s enough to drive anyone into escaping the city for a day. This weekend myself and the usual gang took the hour train ride out of the city to peaceful seaside town of Tarragona for a wander around its Roman ruins, a look at one of the biggest churches in Spain and to get a few photos of the Monument a los Castellers.
Our priority once we got off the train and into Tarragona was to find something to eat for breakfast as we had gotten an early train. Tarragona definitely isn’t lacking in places to eat at any hour of the day but the town was very quiet, which we had expected as it was out of tourist season but it did make me wonder what it was like during the summer months. Once we had consumer enough coffee and pastries to wake us all up we set out in search of the Old Town and the Cathedral. Tarragona isn’t very big so it didn’t take long to get there and begin marvelling at the beautiful architecture and crooked streets. Every building was painted in warm hues of orange and pink giving the town a very welcoming and easy vibe.
We followed the narrow streets until we reached the Cathedral and I was blown away by its magnitude as soon as it came into view. Now, I used to live in York and passed the Minister almost everyday so large churches aren’t exactly new to me but the Santa Maria Cathedral was so different from anything I had seen before. The architecture had gothic elements for sure but the execution gave the building a less daunting feel despite its large size. To segue a little, my Mum loves to visit churches when we are on holiday and this desire is something I have definitely adopted from her. This lead to me and one of my best friends, Helen, venturing into a church in Montmorillon only to come across a dark corner that was home to a perfectly preserved body of a man in a glass coffin. It gave me such a fright that I very quietly just walked over to inform Helen of the presence of the body before leaving rather quickly. Despite this experience, I have not been deterred from wanting to look inside churches so Santa Maria was no exception. As this is Catalonia, we had to pay to enter but it was instantly worth the 5€ as the interior was simply stunning with large vaults spanning the entire length of the church and dozens of chapels all uniquely and ostentatiously designed. The highlight of the entire building for me however, was the cloister and the beautiful garden in the middle of it. The spot was wholly peaceful (no pun intended) and there was little pools of goldfish that were enjoying the sun close to the surface of the water.
After we had spent plenty of time admiring the Cathedral we headed to the square nearby for some lunch and somehow ended up standing in the middle of the final stretch of a marathon. So whilst people were displaying their athletic prowess we, naturally, ate fries and pizza with lots of cheese and planned where we would head to next, which happened to be the Praetorium and the Circ Roma. Tarragona has plenty of history to keep your mind occupied and it was fun to wander around the Roman ruins. Of course, we had to pay entry for this too but it was very cheap for students at only 1€70 and that was a very fair price to pay. The best part about the Praetorium was climbing up a lot of stairs to get to the roof and look out over the city, the sun was beaming down on us by then so we have a great view of the azure sea as well as all the fantastic buildings. Seeing how beautiful the beach looked from there made us want to venture that way so we headed to the beach in the vain hope of finding a gelato place but as the tourist season was over, everything on the beach was closed. Instead, we enjoyed sitting on a wall above the beach and watching a very large group of surfers riding the waves.
Once our feet felt well rested enough to set out walking again we headed back into the town to track down the sculpture of the Castellers. It is one of the best sculptures I have ever seen and we sat to look at it for quite some time and also to make fun of the people who were posing awkwardly next to the few figures who weren’t part of the main huddle. Each face has very distinct features as well as its own expression and it is overall a perfect representation of Catalonian culture. Its silhouette was very impressive as the sun set behind it and signalled us to make our way back to the train station (after a quick stop for gelato as we found a place!). The train ride back was just as packed as the train ride there was but everyone was in good spirits and the people I was sat near offered me a beer and some crisps, which I politely declined as I just wanted to go to sleep but it did put a smile on my face and made me even more welcome in this beautiful country.