I am going to spend this Christmas in Tarragona and, even though you don’t know me, I am one of those people that they say lacks all the Christmas spirit, until I see the kids overjoyed with the presents that they want to ask the Three Wise Men or Santa Clause for, and it is at this very moment when I go through a metamorphosis that leads me to love my fellows from afar and count well the coins I have in my purse so I don’t overspend my tight budget.
I would like to recover the thrill of Christmas. I would like to spend Christmas in Tarragona. I’ve been told that there is an ice-rink in Plaça Verdaguer (from the 25th of November to the 8th of January), where families go with the kids to laugh at them every time one of them falls on their bottom and then they hug each other to heal the bruises.
I would like to see the re-enactment of the first Christmas in history, to see if my own being is moved, because this will be carried out in the city under the name of Anno Domini, with performances on Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th of December for just 10 Euro. It will be shown in Tarragona’s archaeological walkway, which seems to be a place full of the city’s history, and I will take advantage of it to forget my own personal past and take a step back to open my mind as to how I would have survived if I had had to live in Anno Domini. Maybe my story would be more similar to “Life of Brian” by Monty Python.
I would like to pull the “Nose Man’s” nose. And you would ask; what? Who? Yes! Every year, on the 31st of December, the Nose Man comes out, a mythological Catalan character that has as many noses as the days in a year and, because it is the 31st, he only has one nose left and he can easily blend in with everyone else… and that… gets up my nose.
I would like to see how those trying to be brave jump into the sea on the last day of the year just to get a little participants’ medal for the last dip of the year, lying to their families and friends saying it wasn’t so hard and encouraging them to share their daring and the likely emergence of the feared flu.
I would like to spend Christmas in this city where Their Majesties the Magic Kings arrive by sea at one of the most important ports in the country. Where they then parade with their pageboys and helpers throughout the city, handing out sweets. I want to have a battle during the parade with all the grandparents carrying umbrellas, which they use to mark their territory and then turn them inside-out to catch an enormous amount of sweets for their grandchildren and relatives, caught up in the Christmas spirit that the little smiles in their homes have rekindled in them. And in that way I will let myself get carried away with everything the city offers me and, finally, recover the thrill. And finish by saying that Tarragona, I like it.
THE WHOLE Nadal a Tarragona 2016 (PDF) PROGRAMME
Text: Sara García León
The restaurants of Tarragona present “Creative Rice Dishes from Tarragona”, a three-week gastronomic initiative that will bring the most delicious and surprising rice dishes to this Mediterranean city, elaborated exclusively with Delta de l’Ebre rice.
From the 27th of October to the 13th of November, rice will be the gastronomic star in a selection of top-class Tarragona restaurants that will offer a menu with a main-course
rice dish that will change each week.
3 weeks and 3 rice dishes to taste, paired with a bottle of Inedit, the beer created by Ferran Adrià to accompany the variety of flavours offered by modern gastronomy.
Seriously, check out these amazing and creative rice dishes made by the following restaurants: Cócvla (Hotel Urbis), Degvsta, El Terrat, Mare Nostrum (Holel SB Ciutat de Tarragona), Mas Folch, Braseria Passadís, Xamfrà del Fòrum, Els 5 sentits and Ona Restaurant (Hotel Husa Imperial Tarraco), and… you’ll get your mouth watering! Besides the restaurants taking part, Casino Tarragona and Totem Cafè will offer a specially designed cocktail elaborated from a rice licour. Don’t miss it!
More information at Gastronosfera (Catalan and Spanish).
The Marché aux puces (Paris), Porta Portese (Rome), the Naschmarkt (Vienna), San Telmo (Buenos Aires), La Boqueria (Barcelona) or El Rastro (Madrid) are markets or street markets that must be visited. In fact, a good traveller should always find a gap in their packed agenda to walk around some of the most traditional markets in their destination. Some are remarkable thanks to their architectural features; some, to their level of specialisation, or the food users can find, or their antiquities or second-hand items, or even thanks to diverse elements such as their colour, their culture variety, or the mere experience one gets by just walking into them and experiencing that very personal and intimate atmosphere…
Tarragona has, these days, 2 main markets (Central and Torreforta) and 7 mobile street markets (Rambla Nova, Plaça del Fòrum, Sant Pere i Sant Pau, Sant Salvador, Part Alta, the Mercal Municipal de Torreforta surroundings, and Bonavista). Among the latter, there’s one that stands out: the Bonavista street market, due on Sundays, which is the largest within the Tarragona area and a true pilgrimage destination for thousands of people.
Located on a terrace between Bonavista and Campclar, the market gathers a great number of people that spend hours either working –in a sort of modus vivendi– or as a kind of Sunday sport session, a habit, a true bargain search, or a mere excuse to socialize, just like Greeks used to do in the ancient agora or Romans, in the forum markets.
The Bonavista street market has everything you might expect: clothing, footwear, leather goods, costume jewellery, home items, food… Walking around it is being overwhelmed by a burst of colours, by people picking and choosing, by sellers shouting to call everyone’s attention, by lights and aromas, and also by very peculiar characters.
And if you feel like having a bite –before, during or after the tour–, we recommend that you enjoy the various and excellent tapas bars distributed all across the neighbourhood: great quality at low prices. Enjoy the market and have a nice meal!
The pulvinar, the original Tàrraco’s Circus platform where authorities would locate themselves in order to attentively watch chariot races, has been integrated, after over two thousand years, to one of Part Alta restaurant’s interior that actually adopted the name of this area of the circus. Not many people know though, while being surrounded by nibbles and wine sips, that their meal is being held in one privilege area belonging to the old Roman city, and that it is underneath their feet that Santa Tecla’s marble blocks, once extracted from Mèdol’s quarry with over one metre wide, are kept completely visible and restored.
The owners of Pulvinar pizza restaurant, aware as they are of the establishment’s singularity, tell their customers, by means of some paper tablecloths, that one of the semicircular staircases that provided access to the very same platform had also been rebuilt. From the main dining room, one can see the long Roman wall built following the opus quadratum building process, which still preserves part of the original cornice. If you ever book a table in Pulvinar, ask them to show you the transversal vault of the Circus’ structure, that remains intact and that can be accessed using the underground stairs that are connected to the lower dining room.
Outdoors, at the establishment’s terrace –full of Italian tourists today- we find yet another singularity: the wall that separates the restaurant from the exterior, which was part of the original wall erected in the 12th century in order to minimize the effects of a city that was devastated by looting and, mostly, to restrain diseases. Pulvinar offers a set menu at 12.50€, built onto the Mediterranean cuisine’s philosophy, and it is open every single day, from March until the beginning of November. From then though, the restaurant only opens on weekends until spring is back with us again.
The case of Pulvinar though is not the only one in Tarragona; not even slightly. In fact, the whole neighbourhood is built on top of three Tàrraco terraces at different levels: the Circus, the ludic area; the Provincial Forum, the administrative area; and the temple, the building of cult. Part Alta then, is full of buildings where remains of the Roman and other periods are preserved.
Underneath the Pulvinar and the Baixada de Misericòrdia, in Trinquet Vell street, we find another establishment bursting with heritage: Les Voltes restaurant. This is, unquestionably, one of the architectonic jewels of the gastronomic Tarragona. The establishment, located underneath three vaults of Tàrraco’s Circus, was first opened in the 80s and has always been run by Maria Jové and Francesc Sas.
Les Voltes restaurant offers high-quality Mediterranean food thanks to a 10€ (plus VAT) set menu, and an average à la Carte price between 20€ and 30€. In general, the establishment remains closed every Sunday night and Monday, but they will open it for groups, prior reservation.
We go out from Les Voltes and back to Baixada de Misericòrdia and Carrer Major and, if we then turn into Carrer de l’Abat towards Misser Sitges street, we find Els Arcs restaurant, which is recommended by Michelin guideline. This is a building raised during the Middle Ages that still preserves eight Gothic vaults in the interior. The building, initially used as a sort of cottage, still keeps a peculiar charming look to it, and the excellent local and seasonal cuisine served is both precise and appreciated. Carles Llobet offers an executive menu on working days at 23€, while tasting menu is around 38€.
If we walk towards Plaça de les Cols, we’ll find El Gallo Morón, of which interior keeps part of the perimeter vault of the great Forum. The restaurant has a couple of very charming areas in the interior, which add value to their cuisine, also around the Mediterranean style. From Tuesday to Saturday, El Gallo Morón offers a set menu at 12€, 13.50€ on Sundays. If what you want is having dinner, the restaurant provides you with a 14€ option.
Walking up the stairs that lead to the Cathedral and turning then right towards Les Coques street, we find AQ restaurant, one of the most sublime cuisines in the city, which is meant to enter, one of these days, the universe of restaurants awarded with a Michelin star, which already is recommending it. The establishment, located on the inside of the Provincial Forum cult enclosure, still preserve Roman remains on the back wall perfectly kept and integrated that belonged to the cult area of the old temple. Before going in though, don’t forget to take a proper look at the 20th century Sgraffitto you will find in the restaurant’s main door. Having lunch in AQ Restaurant is a unique experience for all the senses, way beyond the fact that you are provided with archaeological remains at the entrance. The restaurant offers three different menus: the Menú Gran, at 50€ plus VAT; the Menú Petit, at 40€ plus VAT; and the weekly Menu, at 18€ plus VAT.
Then, go down towards ‘Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Tarragona‘, at 22, Sant Llorenç street, and you will come across Barhaus restaurant which, by means of its decoration influenced by the art school founded in Germany in 1919 by Walter Gropius, still preserves, in one of the private dinning rooms, an ashlar wall of the Provincial Forum, dated back to the 1st century. You will find a great terrace, at street level, and another one in the first floor. Barhaus offers set menus from Tuesday to Friday at 12€, while dinner and weekend is served à la Carte, with an average price of 30€ approximately.
The Middle Ages have always been a dark period, with both good and bad things, full of stories and legends that defined history. Tarragona was also the protagonist of some of those legendary chapters, some of which are now part of a new guided tour: “Perseguits” (literally, persecuted). This is the new project by Argos Serveis Culturals specially designed for those visitors willing to know more about history.
Camp de Mart is the very first location. The tour starts outside the Walls, just by the fortifications, where allegedly witches gathered to create medical potions, result of their herbs extensive knowledge. All this wisdom though, ended up costing their lives, as they were implacably persecuted by Joan Malet, a Moorish born in Flix that had become a true professional when it came to chasing witches.
In the shelter of the Cathedral, we find the second story that tells us about the Templars, the warriors that took part in the crusades, and that were persecuted during the 14th century by the Church and some monarchs, aiming their economic power. In Tarragona though, Templars managed to save their lives after the favourable decisions taken in the four provincial councils held in the Cathedral’s cloister in the beginning of the 14th century.
However, we can’t fully understand the Medieval Period without talking about the Jews. Tarragona presents clear evidences of this people in the Part Alta area, where a numerous Jewish community used to live until 1492, among which we can highlight doctor Benvenist Samuel, who –among others– was known for having translated treatises about asthma into Latin.
Argos ends “Perseguits” telling us about how, during the Middle Ages, labour slavery wreaked havoc. This story, as the epilogue for this guided tour, has a happy ending. It is about the life of the artisan Jordi de Déu, who worked –among others– in the construction of the tympanum located in the Tarragona Cathedral’s façade, under the orders of the master Jaume Cascalls.
“Perseguits” by Argos is an excellent opportunity to get deeper into the darkness of the Medieval Tarragona, and try to get some light through the stories led by the ancestors of today’s Tarragona people. Feeling curious about it?
Price: 10€ per person
Shedule: 1 or 2 tours per month. Join in at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Tarragona, one could already find guided tours on foot, by bike (regular and electric), by Segway, using the Tourist train, and now, by electric cars! The company Electrokars, property of Txema Prats and Raquel Conesa, have bet it all on pushing eco-friendly tourism, and have been offering for some months now (together with the guides of Arrel) guided tours using tiny little electric cars that, truth be told, are very easy to drive. We’ve tested it, and it is a very recommendable experience.
First of all, we must make clear that anyone interested on the activity can either hire the electric car plus a guided tour or drive it on their own, with the only help of a Tourmaster GPS system, which includes tourist content and descriptions of the different routes in Catalan, Spanish, Basque, English, French, Russian and German. The reason why we say ‘different routes’ is because Electrokars provide tours within the city, but also on the outskirts, round the Pont del Diable, the beach of Tamarit or the surroundings of the river Gaià
In fact, one of the main characteristics of these Toy electric cars, made by Comarth, is their versatility and adaptability to any terrain. Unlike a normal car, these models have two pedals instead of the more usual three; a throttle and a break pedal, while turning the engine on and reversing is done by means of a little switch next to the steering wheel. Speed is limited at 30mph, fuel is 100% electric and it has a range of about 30 miles. Other than that, few more differences. Despite the fact these cars have doors, they can be removed all together during the summer, which provides a better view and a cooler driving experience; and the truth is, it is a great idea.
In order to drive it, users must only be in possession of a driving license. Nothing else. Once on board, you soon realize it has no further complications. Our route started at the street Nou del Patriarca, next to the Cathedral, where the Electrokars headquarters are. After getting used to it driving along the Part Alta streets –it is very easy to drive! –,we headed the Rambla Vella, towards Via Augusta. The peculiarity of the model makes it the ideal target for furtive photo enthusiasts, which should lead to no surprise when you find yourself on Instagram. Next, we drove to the beach, and then back, following the coastline by the promenade, until we reached the Autoritat Portuària building, where we turned left towards Far de la Banya. The fact these cars are limited makes them easier to drive while enjoying the landscape. Back in route, we enter the Serrallo neighbourhood; then, it is Manuel de Falla, Pere Martell and Rambla Nova streets before returning to the Part Alta along the Passeig and Portal de Sant Antoni.
Prices for these tours and audio guides, detailed down the page, vary according to distance and time, and go from 20€ (per car) on a urban tour within the city of about ninety minutes, to 80€ (per car) if we go to the surroundings of Gaià river. For what rental cars is concerned, prices go from 8€ (1 hour), from Monday to Friday, to 42€ for 10h. Price includes fully comprehensive insurance, and free parking on blue, green and red zones.
Electrokars Tarragona Tours
Contact: Txema Prats and Raquel Conesa
Phone numbers: +34 672 00 72 28
Address: C/ Cós del Bou, 20-22
The Odyssey, Homer’s immortal poem, explains how Ulysses, after becoming victorious in the Trojan War, begins his trip back to Ithaca on a journey that, far from being placid and triumphal, ends up being a true adventure full of perils. One of the most famous episodes during this voyage takes place between Sorrento and the island of Capri, in the south of Italy. Ulysses had been previously warned about the fact that he would come across an island full of mermaids that will sing to the crew and make them loose their minds and jump out the boat, which would then cause their boats to sink. Thus, Ulysses decides to use wax to block their crew’s ears. He, on the other hand, can’t help the need to see and listen to these mermaids and orders his people to tie him to a mast, so that he can enjoy the moment without putting his men in danger.
The legendary mermaids, sea-ladies that attract navigators with their beauty and their sweet singing, do still swim across the Mediterranean Sea these days, but over a year ago they left the Amalfi coast and moved to the warmer Mare Nostrum’s waters near Tarragona. Here, they can be seen while shaking their tails and performing all kind of figures at Cala Romana, Capellans beach or Tamarit at the beginning of the summer.
The descendants of those mermaids though, have lost some of their virtues and gained others. However, these mythological creatures do no longer present any risk for the boats sailing round Tarragona’s coastline. The exact opposite, in fact; today, they have a far more friendly relationship with locals and tourists that visit our city, teaching them how to swim, perform complex figures and play games, to such extent that they have actually founded the very first mermaid academy in Europe, the so-called Sirenas Mediterranean Academy.
This experiential activity, which started a year ago with a remarkable success, is open to everyone willing to play and swim in the water, but also want to have a good time while learning something about the sea and health.
Behind the Sirenas Mediterranean Academy project, we find Susana Seuma and Alejandro Rodríguez. Alejandro says Susana used to be a huge scuba diving and sea enthusiast but, due to a car accident, she was forced to give it up for 3 years. One day, still convalescent at home –absolutely full of scuba diving pictures–, she had an idea. “Why not founding a mermaid academy?”, she said. And indeed, she did so! Today, Susana and 4 instructors teach their students –of all ages– how to move like a mermaid or a newt would.
The academy provides two different levels: the “baptism” (at just 39€) and the “advanced” level (at 49€), which varies depending on the pupil’s experience and the actual toughness of the exercises. This activity takes place in open areas, such beaches and lakes, but also public and private swimming pools.
Besides, Sirenas Mediterranean Academy offers a number of shows that can be hired for celebrations, openings and other public and private events.
Do you fancy swimming like a mermaid or a newt? Sign in for experience now!
Sir Laurence Olivier once said: “in a great city, or even in a small city or a village, a great theater is the outward and visible sign of an inward and probable culture”. Tarragona has two large theatres and some other smaller ones. But what about the whole city becomes a single larger theatre? This is the actual challenge set by the third edition of the Festival Internacional de Teatre de Tarragona, or FITT (literally, International Theatre Festival of Tarragona): to turn some emblematic or historical spots in the city into actual theatre stages on which to present new projects by contemporary playwrights and directors, both national and international. The FITT, organised by Sala Trono, is willing to become “an open door to emerging talents put on an act in several languages”, as said by its director, Joan Negrié; the door of a city that wants to be open to culture.
In its first two editions, FITT transformed into theatre stages the following local spots: Antiga Audiència, Conservatori de Música de la Diputació de Tarragona, Volta llarga de la capçalera del Circ romà, Voltes del Pallol, Casa Canals and Col·legi d’Arquitectes, besides Sala Trono and Teatre Metropol. This year, it will add Praetorium’s Gothic terrace, with the staging of Llibert by Gemma Brió, awarded with 2015 Serra d’Or and Butaca awards for the best theatrical text and the best small-format show. Llibert, also Max award’s finalist for the best breakout show and best playwright, is a true delicatessen in this year’s FITT, but not the only one.
The French theatre company Cirque le Roux, for example, will catch the spectators’ attention on the opening day, Wednesday 17th of June, with a contemporary and innovative theatre show what mixes and excellent circus technique with a refined theatrical narrative. The play, An elephant in the room, which will start at 9pm in Teatre Metropol, is a comedy-drama about human relations.
The so-called Capçalera del Circ is the ideal location for the play programmed for Thursday 18, the Homo ridens Tarragona, by the Italian company Teatro sotterraneo; a play that is designed as a sort of experiment with the audience… and the laughing. More clues? The purpose of this surgical proposal is to analyse the human point of view towards laughing, and to measure its limits and complexity.
Mi gran obra (un proyecto ambicioso) is David Espinosa’s new show that will take place at Voltes del Pallol. This is a criticism about those mammoth projects that, according to the author, are often garnished with ornaments but not much content, and that picture our society of today at the same time. The play will be represented four times: Thursday 18 and Friday 19, at 6pm and 8pm.
The 2015 FITT festival will also include a double itinerant show through the streets of Tarragona by the company Kamtchàtka, on Friday 19 and Saturday 20, at 8pm. Fugit remembers the story of those who left and those who will leave, and wants to become a tribute to those who had the courage to get rid of the superfluous, to abandon the known and move forward inspired by the hope of a better world. Sounds familiar? Those attending this play –access is limited to 90 people– must be ready for non-returning breakthrough.
The festival’s closing act will be carried out by the company Le Crupier, which show will vindicate the character Esperança Dinamita, one of the most popular and controversial showgirls back then. The play is due on Sunday 21, at 9.30pm, in Antiga Audiència; unquestionably, the best possible icing to this cake.
Single tickets cost 18€, but the FITT festival provides spectators with a 50€ pass that includes any 3 shows, and an 80€ pass which provides access to all shows. Tickets are available for purchase in Teatre Metropol and Tarragona Tourism Board office, and online, on www.tarracoticket.cat.