We are on the move again and after being in the one place for just over a month, I’m looking forward to some new adventures. But before we go, I still have one city to visit close to where we are staying, Alicante. Our friends are up for a visit and we book the local bus to stop at the campsite. John, being the modern man, has decided to stay at home and catch up on the washing, although I think the threat of us ladies doing some shopping is just too much for him! It’s an early start and after rising at 6.45 to catch the bus, our first port of call in Alicante is breakfast……a good old tostada, the staple breakfast, lunch and snack in Spain, best served with tomate, queso and jamo serrano…. yum. After breakfast we visit the 16th century Castillo Santa Barbara, via the lift. You can walk, but as the castle is perched on a small mountain, the 3 Euros 20 cent for the lift is worth every penny. On the roof of the castle the sweeping views over the city, bay and coastal towns beyond are stunning and it’s worth spending time here to admire the vista.
The vista from the top of Castillo Santa Barbara, Alicante
We then wander through the streets of ‘El Barrio’ (the old town), where the quaint whitewashed houses are decorated with geranium window boxes and the pace of life is slow. We stroll along the main Esplanade across from the marina and stop at one of the cafes for their ‘Menu del Día’ (menu of the day) which usually consists of 3 courses, bread, salad and often a glass of wine. June and I share a speciality Alicante rice dish, Arroz, similar to Paella but made with a more glutenous rice. Washed down with a glass of rioja wine it is delicious. We spend a few hours window shopping and catch the bus back to the campsite. On arriving Eddie quickly realises he has left his phone and credit cards on the bus, but after phoning his phone, the bus driver answers and offers to bring it to the campsite. ‘All’s well that ends well’ and it just goes to show that most people the world over will go out of their way to help if they can.
The old town of Alicante
It’s a 5-hour drive to our next campsite, which is on the beach, about 6km from the city of Tarragona. We share the driving and I’m gaining confidence navigating this 7m long machine on the wrong side of the road. We drive from Valencia into Catalonia and the landscape changes. Its greener here with less agriculture and tall thin cypress trees, poppies and spring flowers now line the roadside replacing the parched mountain plains of Valencia. The towns and villages seem more French, less Spanish as we drive North towards the French border. On our next day we walk into Tarragona, a city I hadn’t heard of before, but had been recommended to visit. A real treat was in store. We discover that Tarragona is a very old city and was first occupied by the Romans in 200BC when as the capital of Modern Spain, it was known as Tarraco. It was invaded in the 8th century by the Moors and rose to power again in the 11th century as a Christian settlement. Much of the original Roman remains and Medieval architecture has been well preserved.
The cloisters at Tarragona Cathedral
We visit the Amifeatre Roma, perched just back from the beach, it offers amazing views and the Pretori I Circ Romans which contains the vaults of the Roman Circus, where chariot races were a regular sight in the city. The Romans really did know how to party – who needs a night at the cinema when gladiators and wild animals are fighting to the death with a gorgeous seascape backdrop or chariots are speeding through the streets of the city at great pace? The 12th century Romanesque and Gothic cathedral and museum are also well worth a visit as is the Passeig Arqueologic, a walk around part of the old Roman perimeter walls. In the old town we wander down charming narrow, winding streets, past many picturesque little squares where Roman relics pop up unexpectedly on street corners. I loved this city and there is much more that we didn’t see on our 27,000-step day visit. If you are in the area, don’t pass it by, it’s definitely worth a visit.
The old town Tarragona, and Amifeatre Roma
The lady at the ticket office in Tarragona had smiled when John asked for a pensionista ticket (he can’t resist a bargain and after all his OAP discounts are subbing me on this gap year) and suggested ‘that he might be old on the outside, but still young on the inside’. This got me thinking that both cities we visited are very old, with centuries of history, but they have survived into the 21st century by adapting and perhaps for cities, but not humans, being ‘old on the inside, but young on the outside’ might be the best way to go!