One of the best parts of living in Barcelona is having so much history in such a compact space. People have been living here for a long time but the city really had its first growth spurt during Roman times. There's still evidence a couple blocks from our apartment in the form of an old aqueduct-turned-building facade, columns from a forum inside another apartment building, and various building foundations throughout the city. Sort of like noticing the palm trees every day when I lived in San Diego, I never get tired of it.
For the last day of our trip to the Ruta del Cister, I wanted to visit the town of Tarragona, which is located on the coast about 60 miles south of Barcelona. Back in the day, Barcelona was a bit of a backwater and Tarragona was the big city. It was the first major Roman city on the Iberian peninsula and they have a bunch of Roman ruins, including an amphitheater right next to the sea, that you can visit.
After leaving Joan's place, we drove about 30 minutes through mostly farms to Tarragona and parked under La Rambla Nova. Immediately after coming up, we came across a fundraising event for a dog rescue. There were a bunch of dogs for adoption (no, we didn't get one much to Diana's continued frustration) and lots of dogs and their owners were dressed in costumes.
Tarragona and the surrounding area are respected as one of the powerhouses of castellers so much so that the annual castellers competition is held nearby. They have a surprisingly big sculpture celebrating the tradition about half-way down La Rambla Nova. After my time as a casteller, I couldn't help myself and pitched in with the pinya:
We spent some time walking along the old city wall and through neighborhoods near the old town center. One of my favorite things was seeing all the orange trees lining the streets. Diana sampled one of the oranges but it wasn't very good - not sweet at all. But they sure do look nice.
After a quick stop at the cathedral, we walked down towards the sea so we could visit the Roman sites before they closed for the day. The first thing we came across was the old Roman theater, which is built along a natural rock formation. It's been partially renovated but not by so much that it looks new. (Note how crazy blue the sky is in these photos.)
There's a Roman-history museum that opens up into of the ruins. You know the tunnels that you have to go through at some stadiums or the hallways behind the seats at the theater, well here's the ~2000 year-old version:
From the museum's rooftop, there's a nice view of the sea and surrounding city. That's the cathedral in the distance.
On the way out, my mom's voice popped into my head as I spotted this Romulus and Remus sculpture just like one I saw in Italy. "Were you raised by wolves?" she'd always ask when we did something foolish like leave the door open, be rude to someone, or perhaps, sometimes, just generally annoy her.
The final stop on our planned-to-be-lazy-do-nothing trip to the Catalan countryside was at the very scenic Roman amphitheater. It surprises me that this has managed to survive for something like two millennia.
If you'd asked me just a handful of years ago if I'd be spending my Sunday afternoon checking out Roman ruins along the coast of Spain, I'd have laughed. Even more if I'd have thought about giving up the palm trees and lovely Pacific for the history of Barcelona. But, it's been an amazing "trip" and our vacation to La Ruta del Cister and Tarragona was one more feather in that cap.