Roman Relics and Magic Fountains

Roman Relics and Magic Fountains

May 2018 – Music and Markets Barcelona Tour
Tarragona & Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne

About an hour west of Barcelona is Rome’s first outpost in the area, the city of Tarragona, so we head out from nearby França Station for a trip back in time to this Unesco World Heritage Site.
We approach the city right along the coast, waves nearly lapping at the train tracks, and as we walk up to the center from the station we get a great view of the Roman Ampitheatre.Our preferred approach is along the Roman walls, entering near the archeological park entrance to take a look at the excellent Maquette of Roman Tarraco, which gives a clear impression of what the city looked like centuries ago.
Walking through the city, we appreciate the traces of ancient Rome incorporated right in to daily life – a bit of a wall here, an impressive cathedral up the steps where the ancient temple was. We even eat lunch in the shadow of Rome – in Les Voltes (The Vaults), tucked right under the arches of the Circus in the middle of town.
Pilate, of Biblical notoriety, is said to have been born in Tarraco – his statue stands not far from exposed tiers of the Circus. Another of Tarragona’s claims to fame is their expertise as Castellers, a Catalan tradition – giving them the name  City of Human Towers. Sure hope we can see it in person someday!
A watery musical extravaganza ends our day  back in Barcelona as we join the crowds to take in the Magical Fountains of Montjuic, the lavish flow choreographed to snippets of music.


Tarragona Through the Ages

Tarragona Through the Ages

Spring in Spain – – Saturday, May 12, 2012

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour in Provence or our featured (and expanded!) 2012 Amsterdam/Belgium tour!

All aboard for Tarragona!
Today’s day trip takes us southwest along the coast to the Roman outpost of Tarraco, much more important than Barca, as Barcelona was called, millennia ago.

We walk up from the train station past the Roman Arena, used for varied concerts and events today. We visited in November, planning this daytrip, and have been looking forward to sharing this many-layered town with our guests.

Throughout the town Roman relics jut into daily life – an ancient arch in the middle of a market square,

a restaurant tucked under the ancient vaults of the Circus.

We enjoy spotting more recent touches of beauty and history as well – a sinuous Art Nouveau boutique,

and a really lovely patch of decor high on a wall – like a lace doily etched into the façade.

At the base of stairs ascending to the Cathedral medieval arches lead to the Call, the Jewish quarter of town,

and on the site of the Roman forum, the peaceful cloister beside the cathedral invites us to relax,

as doves coo and lush roses perfume the air.

Sights, shopping, and lunch fill our day, and we return to Barcelona in time for an evening concert in the fabulous Palau de Musica Catalana.

Inside and out, it’s a masterpiece of Modernista design, and we fill our eyes with the beauty of the stained glass ceiling and surrounding garden- like decor.

We’re thrilled with our seats, just above the musicians – beyond my knees Ivan Fischer, the charismatic conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra seems almost near enough to touch!
Our perch is the ideal spot to enjoy the concert, enveloped by the music beneath us.

Roman Relics by the Sea

Roman Relics by the Sea

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Tarragona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Next on the itinerary: New Year’s Jazz in Italy

Two thousand years ago the happening place in Spain was not Barcelona or Madrid, but the Roman town of Tarraco, now Tarragona, an hour south by train from Barcelona. And before the Romans arrived, this was an Iberian town, perhaps even the most important town in Iberia.
Exiting the train, we can hear the boom of the hearty waves pounding the sandy shore not far from the station. Up curving streets and flights of steps we climb to the “Balcony of the Mediterranean” ,

where, just like the guidebook says, men stand and watch ships approaching the port, one of Spain’s biggest.

Capital of Roman Hispania, Tarragona slants uphill from a Roman ampitheater to the sit of the ancient forum which crowned the town.

A cathedral has long stood where the Romans once ruled.

Human castles, Castells, are a part of Catalan folk tradition, and Tarragona is quite proud of their castle-building ability. In addition to ceramic and frescoed depictions, there’s a life-sized Castell sculpture on the edge of town.

The town is a fascinating mix of Roman, pre-Roman, medieval and modern. Portions of millenias-old walls still stand, clearly showing the massive Iberian stones at the base, topped with rectangular Roman stones, and smaller medieval stones higher up.

Roman columns dot a spacious walkway ascending from the lower town,

with intricate pebble mosaics underfoot.

Open a front door, and you gaze down on the bleachers of the Roman circus.

A playful façade introduces more recent history beside the two thousand year old pleasure arcade.

This proud ruler in front of one of the remaining Roman towers is Pontius Pilate, reputed to have been born here.

Throughout the town roman walls make their presence known, as in this colorful square.

Traces of medieval beauty remain as well.

We join a few romans for lunch at Les Voltes, a welcoming restaurant constructed under the vaults of the ancient circus, and then train back to Barcelona.

A Lakeside Day in Italy

A Lakeside Day in Italy

Saturday, May 29, 2010
Cremona, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!

The Italian lakes never disappoint – even in the rain!
We arrive
at Sirmione’s guardian fortress on Lake Garda just as the sprinkles get more serious.


By the time we climb to the top of the stone tower the rain is really coming down, so we shelter high above the town, sitting in the ancient stone guardian corners and checking out the less-than-stellar views.

The deluge lessens and we make a ru
n for a cafe, where we while away a half hour or so, sipping coffee and cocoa to warm us up. The original plan was lunch on a sunny square… but we make do with a sheltered view of the rain-splashed piazza.

Another quick dash gets us into pretty little Santa Maria Maggiore church. Such a big name for such a little place. Faded frescoes of saints and nobles adorn one wall

an angel reclines against another.


We walk further out on the peninsula, enjoying a garden vista here

and a trompe l’oeil charmer there.

We’re hoping the sun will appear as we drive north to the hills overlooking Lake Garda, and by the time we get to hilltop Albisano we can see across the lake.

Far below us is the t
own of Torri del Benaco, glistening in the sun.

Zigging and zagging down the mountain, we make our way to the pretty lakeside town.

Albergo Gardesana, built in 1452 by the Serenissima Republic of Venice, who ruled over this part of Italy, for meetings of the council of the Captain of the Lake, is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a quintessential sip – an Aperol Spritz, which we first tasted with our dear friend Jill in Cremona a couple of years ago.

Aaaah – bliss to sit in the sunshine
and just soak in the atmo- sphere…

The town’s citadel, now a museum of local traditions (mostly fishing and olive growing) is a favored vista from the water and the lakeside.

Back to Verona, past fields of scarlet spring poppies

and we walk past the Roman arena, where crowds are already lined up for this evening’s musical event (which sounds like an American Idol type show). Aida is obviously on the upcoming opera itinerary…there are lots of pharaohs

pyramids, and sphinxes lying around.

Dinner tonight is at a place popular with both locals and tourists, and it’s bursting with convivial chatter as we’re seated at a prime corner table.

We can watch the salumi master as he turns the wheel of the slicer, and we order an assagio (selection) for ourselves.

He brings it to the table, proudly introducing his young wife who has been serving us, and with a smile tells us what e
ach type of meat is – dig in!

Shall we choose
something from each course? says Candice…
Why not?!

So we nibble our way through primis, secondis….. and a cheese course?
No, we can’t manage that, tempting though the selection looks.

But we’re nabbed at the desserts – can’t resist, and tell the waiter to bring one each of the three chocolate choices… we’ll try them all!
And it’s worth every delicious bite!