|Tarragona's Roman amphitheatre has hosted battles between gladiators and |
wild beasts, public executions, and other wholesome spectacles.
Our second week of our winter 2017 road trip in Spain lands us about an hour south of Barcelona in the Mediterranean coastal city of Cunit. We can imagine that this Costa Daurada beach town would be a lively place in the summer, but this time of year, Cunit is unremarkable except for the outlandish quantity of dog doo on its sidewalks. We have no trouble filling our week, though, with several side trips. We even manage to connect with an old friend whom we met a few years ago at an English language retreat (designed for Spanish speakers to improve their English skills).
|From left, nou amic Roberto, Ken, vell amic Xavi, and I meet up for |
breakfast and a commemorative photo in Cunit, Catalonia.
The house we've rented is about a 10-minute walk to the train station so for most of the week, we leave the car parked and enjoy the ease of traveling up and down the coast by rail.
TarragonaWe stroll among 2,000 years of history as we explore the streets and Roman ruins of Tarragona. After the required stop at the tourism office, our visit starts at the Balcó del Mediterrani, the wrought-iron gates overlooking the Mare Nostrum (the Mediterranean) at the end of Rambla Nova — Tarragona's main street. We browse the street vendors' wares along the Rambla for a few blocks, before turning right towards the historic neighborhood of Part Alta.
According to one account (which you can read here), the Roman god Jupiter left one of his many wives, Tiria (a mortal) because he had fallen in love with the city that is now Tarragona. Here, Roman ruins stand beside medieval landmarks and modernist architecture — its plazas and winding streets surrounded by ancient stone walls. The city originally known as Tarraco was once the capital of the Roman Empire in Spain (Hispania Citerior), and is the oldest Roman construction in Europe outside the Italian peninsula. Tarragona has embraced its heritage and specializes in historical reenactments and celebrations, most notably the Tarraco Viva festival held each May.
|Completed in 1331, Catedral de Santa Tecla Tarragona |
blends Romanesque and Gothic styles.
|Prophets and apostles flank the facade of Catedral de Santa Tecla Tarragona.|
|A group of schoolchildren check out remains of the eastern wall of the |
Tarraco Provincial Forum in Tarragona.
|A Roman tower from the 1st century in Tarragona|
|A window looks out onto the sea in Tarragona's Roman Amphitheatre.|
|A bell rings above Plaça dels Angels near the National Museum of |
Archaeology in Tarragona.
|A mural-covered building in Tarragona's Plaça dels Sedassos|
SitgesAlthough we are notoriously early risers, we've slept in today and decide to spend the sunny afternoon in Sitges, a short train ride up the coast. This beautiful city is known for its ideal climate (thanks to being sheltered by the Garraf mountains) and its lively (and gay-friendly) nightlife. The city has a handful of museums, but all are closed on Monday, the day we stop by.
|A pretty city sign in a wrought-iron frame in Sitges.|
|Just 35 kilometers southwest of Barcelona, the Sitges seaside is |
a popular summer playground.
Although we can't check out the local art at Museu Maricel del Mar we manage to experience another side of Catalan culture — delicious sparkling Cava wine.
|'Cris' by Marta Solsona is one of several 'women and the sea' sculptures |
along Platja de Sant Sebastià in Sitges.
|Lluïsa Granero's bronze sculpture 'Dona Mediterrània' |
has a young admirer, in Sitges.
|Architectural detail in Sitges|
|Architectural detail on the Palau de Maricel in Sitges|
|One of six canons of the Sitges bastion that successfully defended |
four merchant vessels from an attack by two English frigates in 1797.
As we enjoy the sea views, street art, shop windows and of Sitges, we count ourselves lucky for visiting off-season. We speculate how these sleepy cities and villages we visit must be entirely different in summertime. Winter travel, apparently, is our perfect pace.
|A familiar movie poster in Sitges|
|Colorful building-topper in Sitges|