I’ve just come back from a rather splendid trip to Catalunya, where I spent a few days in the port city of Tarragona. My friends Gregor and Maja have been living there for the last 2 months by way of the Erasmus student exchange and have kindly invited me and another friend called Blaž to come over. They rented a snug apartment just outside the city overlooking the beach and as this also meant free accommodation, we just couldn’t refuse the invite.
Having someone who’s done the trip there definitely helped planning. After looking for the best flight option we booked a return flight from Treviso (IT) to Barcelona, but that still meant getting to the airport and from Barcelona to Tarragona itself, which is about 100 km down the Catalan coast.
The other part of Blaž’s family decided to spend a few days in Rome and they luckily dropped us off along the way, which spared us a lot of bother just getting to Treviso, which is about 330 km away. Tagged TSF, the airport is a small affair mostly used for low-cost airlines such as Ryanair Besides their regular and quite affordable connection with Barcelona, they do a lot of internal flights in Italy, while others may take you to places like London Stanstead and East Midlands as well.
Unsurprisingly, as this was the beginning of the 1st of May holiday weekend, the flight was packed. I booked my seat 2 months ago and just managed to snatch the last spot. I’ve only flown twice before, a round trip from Vienna to – you guessed it – Barcelona and was excited to relive the sensation of takeoff and flying. It was much as I remembered it. Seats only slightly more comfortable than your local bus, young couples and the
ir kids, taking pictures and acting wildly excited, safety instructions reminding you of the worst and prettily made up cabin crew smiling the biggest smile while trying to sell you overpriced snacks and local guides over the intercom. I still can’t comprehend how humanity has been able to walk on the moon, but failed to produce stewardesses who one might understand during their safety-dance demonstration.
Comparatively, BCN is an airport worthy of it’s name. Ryanair and other budget carriers land at Terminal 2, from where you have a direct train line to Sants, the main railway station in Barcelona and the trip costs about 4€. Everything is well marked and people mostly speak English well, which can’t be said for most Catalunians. From what I’ve experienced, public transport is reliable, well organised and indeed much used both in Barcelona and Tarragona.
Now, you’d think travel these days is quick, but it still took us almost 15 hours of switching between cars, planes, trains and busses to reach our friends Gregor and Maja. Luckily it all went smooth and without complications. A welcoming party with a lot of vodka was in order which lasted well into the morning and left Gregor a bit worse off the next morning. Alcohol is surprisingly cheap in Catalunya.
But most people don’t have friends in Tarragona, so why would you ever want to go there? I’ll let you glance through the gallery below, and it should be easily evident.
Plenty of reasons to consider Tarragona for your next destination then, or at least a short stop if you’re in the vicinity. The city is also popular with exchange students from all over Europe. Gregor and Maja have made some acquaintances during their stay, and we had the chance to meet two French girls, Lou and Sarah and went out for a couple of drinks at Placa de la Font. They easily broke the stereotype that people from France don’t speak English and it turned into an absolutely amazing evening. Tarragona lights up after dark and people take to the old squares in search of drinks and maybe seeing FC Barcelona play. We sat down at the Barata Bar and had a few beers, then hit a couple of clubs and danced until 3 am.
Then you realize perhaps the biggest irony of travel – you meet great people and share stories from around the world, and it seems like you’re living a dream. Then the evening ends, you say goodbye and chances are, you’re never going to see them again. For me, a sudden feeling of melancholy sets in then, even though I might be dancing at a great club and having the time of my life. It’s like life itself comes round and reminds you that you can’t dream forever. Sooner or later we all have to wake up.
Some other local customs I found worth sharing;
- bars mostly close at or around midnight. Only clubs remain open then, and come in an interesting variety of settings – from an Irish-themed one such as Highland (we got kicked out of that one because the waitress apparently didn’t understand Gregor’s order) to a big wine cellar called La Cova. A lot of the music is local, a nice break from the international club scene.
- you’ll have a hard time finding something to eat in the early hours of the morning. I don’t know why, but no one sells any kind of snacks, pizzas or kebabs during the night. We heard of an old man selling such things illegally out of his apartment – the crowd of people waiting at his front door, then going up in pairs to get food looked quite silly and amusing.
- city busses cost 1.5€ per ticket, no matter if you’re riding the whole line or just down to the next station. Useful for foreigners, as drivers generally don’t understand much outside of Spanish and Catalan.
- If not traveling in full summer, be sure to pack a sweater and jacket. Days are generally warm, but evenings can quickly turn cold and there are strong winds usually blowing from the sea, making life tough for the hot-blooded. We found poor Lou wearing a skirt and flip-flops and it was clear she wasn’t enjoying it too much as we sat on the Placa drinking beers.
- The custom of siesta is still respected here and the general tempo of life isn’t very fast. You’ll often see shops closed even during the day and especially on Sundays and holidays.
Why not have a go then? My time in Catalunya was amazing, and there’s still so much to see. I merely passed by Barcelona, which will require a visit all of it’s own. Fingers crossed I get a chance to return soon.
The world is out there and it’s waiting for you to explore it. So make the most of it – meet new friends, see new places, have a beer on that golden stretch of sand. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
For more info on Tarragona, visit the official tourist website and follow my blog for similar posts to come.
And thanks for stopping by! 🙂