Day 5/221: A Pinch of Tarragon

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Well, Scott, Keira and I went along to the Camp Nou that Wednesday (2 weeks ago) and saw an absolutely brilliant Barcelona totally dominate Sevilla, not a bad team themselves remember, and run out easy 3-0 winners. They scored all their goals in a wonderful 8-minute spell in the first half, including a super overhead-kick from Suarez and Scott was delighted when Messi scored the first of his double as it was the first time he’d seen Leo score a goal live.

But the score wasn’t the story of the day! Oh no, it was the thunderstorm that rolled in about 10 minutes before half-time! One tiny point of which to take note: the Camp Nou has no roof! Meaning that, after my gallant gesture of giving my weatherproof to Keira, I had to sit and get soaked until I could take no more then dash back underneath the terracing and sit out the half-time break with a thousand other very wet fans. Keira stuck it out as did my coat while Scott had a moment’s relief from the downpour fetching her a drink from inside. But it was Barcelona playing so out we both went to take up our seats again. Once completely drenched, we were able to forget the rain itself, but the flashes of jaggy lightning overhead when we’re sitting exposed a hundred feet or so off the ground meant I kept at least one eye on the sky for the rest of the match.

Keira and Scott at the Biker Bar

The kids flew back to Scotland the following day and I raced back from the airport to take part in a game of Walking Football which was a whole load of fun. Unfortunately, soon afterwards, my lower back/hip began to play up and I was to spend the next ten days or so hirpling around and getting other people to tie my shoelaces! Getting in and out of the car was agony, while Mary’s application of deep massage was that weird combination of pain and pleasure. By the grin on her face, she really enjoyed making me scream as she dug her elbow forcefully into my Gluteus Maximus. I’m glad to report that I’m a lot better now and managed a game of golf – minus full swing – with Joke last Thursday, scoring another 66 which is rapidly becoming my average score now.

I’ve got back into writing again so life has become a lot simpler here on the campsite, what with Mary still working. Our days are now much more ordinary, following a bit of a pattern and we no longer get as involved as we used to in the socializing with our friends, despite the fact that there’s still tons of dinners, parties, happy hours and general merriment going on. Mike and Het went to Portugal in the autumn, Fred and Jeanette are busy preparing for their wedding, Dick and Linda are unable to come out this year and Jeremy has gone back to Leeds.

One thing we did both attend last week (because Mary was on holiday) was the Wednesday dinner but this time it was not at the campsite restaurant as usual but down at the Wok which we’ve been to a couple of times. The food as always at a free buffet was copious and excellent and we all ate until we were bursting. To help the party digest their food, I provided them with a quiz all about Scots and that made up for Lise’s weekly quiz at the bar. I was a good boy and did the driving for Mary, Tom and Margaret, sticking to the “agua con gas” all evening.

It was great having Mary all to myself for a whole week over Easter and we made a point of being alone together as much as we could. Stop it now you lot: don’t get any silly ideas in those warped minds of yours! But we did make a decision to go to Tarragona for Good Friday and stay in a hotel, to give us the chance to attend the processions for which the town is famous. We drove down on Friday morning, left the Audi at the hotel just out of town and took the bus to the centre where we had lunch then went to the Placa del Rei to watch the Roman soldiers head off to escort the floats back up to the square. They would all be leaving from that same square at eight in the evening to parade through the streets of the old town.

Ecce milites romani!

While we were thrilled at the sight of the Roman escorts, we were even more taken by the floats themselves, although “floats” is a misnomer and in no way captures the reality of these objects. They are large heavy wooden platforms depicting the stations of the cross and they are carried around the town by volunteers from various “societies” – Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods – each person strapped to the platform by a sturdy leather belt. There are about 15 people visible carrying them, but I did manage to get a peek inside one and there was a group of big muscular types actually inside supporting the frames on their shoulders. As it was 25 degrees outside on that Friday, the carriers must have been grateful for the frequent pauses in the procession. Those on the outside all wear robes to denote their provenance and many of them wear quite sinister hoods, reputedly copied by the Klu Klux Klan!

Spooky!

The platforms themselves are beautifully ornate and have been sculpted by local master craftsmen. Their depiction of the passion of Christ is very accurate (not that I was there!) and they certainly make you turn your head.

The Last Supper

Having seen enough for one afternoon, we made our way back to the shops then sat down for a meal at about seven in the evening. An hour later we were back on the streets to see the main procession crawl its way through the narrow Roman vennels, this time by candlelight. The music to accompany all these was provided by all sorts of different kinds of bands, some mainly drums, some trumpet and flute, some bagpipes but all in uniform and sober-faced. There were lots of women and children in the procession and we even spotted a baby and a dog!

The night procession

Coming up the Rambla Nova

“We are the Romans …….”

As you can imagine we barely stayed awake on the ten o’clock bus back to the hotel and we were quickly in the Land of Nod. The following morning, we breakfasted at a McDonald’s, bought a 4-venue visitor pass and set about taking in all the main historic sites of Tarragona. These were the Praetorium, the Circus, the Muralla and the Forum. All gave us an insight into the establishment of this first Roman outpost in Iberia about the time of Jesus Christ and just how important the town came to be. I won’t bore you with stuff you can read up for yourselves but here are a couple of photos which include us enjoying ourselves.

Mary with a new friend

Shooting from the hip!

                 Lady Burton of Tarragona!

Tarragona old town

The inevitable selfie!

A shadow of our former selves!

On Easter Sunday we watched the Pope’s Mass from the Vatican, had breakfast then went down into Vilanova where we wandered around the front taking in the sight of the Spanish folk celebrating the Resurrection. The weather was once again quite beautiful and the afternoon went by in a flash, but not before we had taken advantage of the Sunday opening to go into the deep-water port for a closer look at the really big yachts which use this facility. I pointed out to lady Burton that my pension just wouldn’t stretch that far!

Yacht to see the others!

We also managed to find time to roll our eggs (cream egg size but hollow) down by the café at the beach so at least a wee bit of tradition was maintained. When we got home to the caravan, we had some FaceTime with Gavin and Ari but couldn’t contact the rest of the boys so they’ve been written out of the will! I told them this on Messenger and they are queuing up today to wish me a belated happy Easter, old man! Hmmmmmm!

The next post will probably be in a fortnight when we get back from our weekend in Madrid to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. My, how time flies. Don’t tell Mary, whatever you do, but I’ve loved every minute! (except that time she walked in front of the TV just as Germany scored in the World Cup Final!)

 

Day 210: Happy Easter

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This was probably the best Easter Sunday we’ve ever had. Here in bed tonight we reflect on what we’ve done today and feel it would be unreasonable to have asked for more, other than to have shared it with you all back home. That is the price we pay for the opportunity to have days like this, days we could not have foreseen, days filled with superlatives, days of sheer and utter pleasure.

Mine started quite early, eight o’clock to be exact, when the alarm reminded me I had to get up and meet my friend Mihail at reception then follow him in the car to the place where he plays football with his mates every Sunday morning. The venue was in the next town, Cubelles, on a rather fancy Astroturf pitch which was part of a really nice sports complex. I was delighted with the chance to take part in the kick about before the game started and that brilliant feeling quickly came back to me, a reminder of how much I simply adored playing throughout my 35 years with all my amateur clubs.

My friend Mihail

My friend Mihail

Mihail delivered the goods as he had promised, scoring 2 fine goals and clearly showing he was one of the best on the pitch. The quality was fairly low and, had I pushed it, I could have had a game, but the thought of getting carried away and ending up with a torn ligament or worse restrained me from taking to the field and showing them a bit of gallous Scottish showboating! I was intrigued by the universality of petty niggling between friends when a game of football is involved, but it was still a surprise when one of the blue team chinned his mate in the red team. There then followed a scrum with 22 players, 20 peacemakers making matters worse and 2 guys desperate to put their moment of folly behind them. Priceless!

A Catalan game similar to pelota.

A Catalan game similar to pelota.

I left well before the end and drove back to the campsite to pick up Mary and get down to Santa Maria in time for 11.30 mass. After fulfilling our religious obligation, we took a corporate decision to spend the day in Tarragona so I found the motorway and drove down to the town which is known for its Roman heritage. Victoria was called upon for the first time in ages to get us to the old town where all the best Roman remains were and she did a reasonably good job of taking us to within striking distance where we found a good underground car park.

The highlight of our visit was when we found the Roman amphitheatre down by the beach, but by then we had had a terrific lunch outside in a populated square and even managed to roll our eggs in a wee park. I had the traditional chocolate egg while Mary was disciplined enough to stick to the hard-boiled variety. The weather was nothing short of magnificent, unbroken blue sky and temperature in the mid-twenties. We thought ourselves blessed!

Venue for lunch

Venue for lunch

Lady Burton rolling her egg

Lady Burton rolling her egg

Unfortunately, many of the Roman exhibits were closing by the time we got to them, but that mattered not a jot when it came to the amphitheatre whose magnificence could be seen perfectly well from outside its gates. The setting for this venue, poised high above the beach, was truly splendid as hopefully the photo will show.

Amphitheatre in Tarragona

Amphitheatre in Tarragona

Victoria then earned her corn in style by pointing out for us exactly where the Roman aqueduct was. This piece of ancient engineering was actually 5 miles away from the rest of the attractions but our dear electronic navigator got us close enough so that we found the access road ourselves and parked up. We were not disappointed by what we found, a conserved section of the original aqueduct spanning a short valley and doing a fair impression of the wonderful Pont du Gard near Avignon, one of our most beloved holiday spots. We spent an hour or so at the aqueduct, walking over and back then enjoying the views from the hill near its top before heading back to the Audi. I think the car was also enjoying getting asked to do something serious after so many weeks of relative inactivity. It purred with satisfaction and responded beautifully when I pushed the accelerator on the way home.

The aqueduct

The aqueduct

Hope they don't turn on the water!

Hope they don’t turn on the water!

The site was still bouncing with Easter revellers when we got back, but we retreated to the Magic Caravan where we had tea then spent time in the awning skyping my cousins and faithful blog followers, Renée and Stef, catching up on their news and what’s been happening locally. We even ended up in another threesome, this time with 2 French cousins on Renée’s late father’s side of the family. Technology linked Woodside, Coupar Angus with Vilanova and a town near Lyon in a three-way conversation at no cost whatsoever. Wonderful!

Even by candlelight my cousins could see that the top of my head had taken another beating from the hot sun today and I will have to be more disciplined in taking a hat with me wherever we go now as I can’t see the weather getting any worse from now on. I’ll no doubt pay for it tomorrow.

P.S. During the night I was rushed to the hospital suffering from sunstroke and heat exhaustion.

P.P.S. Check the date!