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Castellers of Tarragona

Tarragona is surprisingly free of foreign tourists, which for John and me was one of its many charms.  We decided to visit the city to celebrate my 60th birthday: as pensioners we are always looking for somewhere a bit different that is not too expensive.  Since then we have retired to Spain and now live in the Murcia region, however we plan to visit other parts of our adopted country for holidays, which will include a return trip to Tarragona.

Our ideal holiday is not about lying on beaches soaking up the sun, which we both regard as a total waste of time; it’s more about visiting places, soaking up the culture and enjoying the local food accompanied by a few glasses of good wine.  This being the case, Tarragona proved to be the ideal destination for us.

We had looked at the Tarragona Tourist website beforehand, so that we could plan what to do and see to make the most of our stay there: http://www.tarragonaturisme.cat/.   Information is available in English and other languages, as well as Spanish, and the website is very comprehensive.

We decided to buy a one-day Tarragona Card, which gave us free entry to the city’s monuments, free bus tickets, plus discounts in many restaurants, shops etc.  Rather than try and fit everything into one day, we bought the card after lunch on our first day. As it lasted 24 hours, we could then spread our “site” seeing over two days.  We also made sure that we used the card at those monuments that cost the most, in case we couldn’t cram them all in.  For other penny-pinching pensioners, check whether you will in fact make a saving buying the card, as over 65s get half-price or free entry to many of the places listed.  The card cost us €14 for 24 hours, however it is now on sale at €15 for 48 hours, which is definitely a bargain!  You should be aware however that most museums are closed on Mondays, so that isn’t a good day for visiting them!

We spent our first day walking along Tarragona’s Roman route.  As the Roman archaeological complex of Tarraco has been declared a World Heritage Site, we didn’t want to miss any of it.  The highlight for me was the well-preserved Amphitheatre with views of the Mediterranean, although the Roman Circus, where you could almost hear the thunder of the horse-drawn chariots and the roar of the crowds, was a close second.  John enjoyed wandering around the Local Forum and also walking along the Walls, which had great views over the surrounding countryside as well as the city.  We had a lot of fun trying to find the Francoli River Paleochristian Complex until we realised that it was actually within the shopping centre, down in the parking area!

Approach to the city walls

There is more to Tarragona than its Roman remains, as we discovered on our second day when we walked along the Mediaeval route.  We explored the streets around the Cathedral, which was of course the star attraction, however there were many other monuments worth seeing, amongst them the Cloisters, the Chapels of St Paul and St Tecla. The Ancient Hospital of St Tecla,  and the King’s Castle.  St Tecla is the patron saint of Tarragona and we have been told that the fiesta of Santa Tecla, which is held in September, is well worth seeing.  We plan to visit Tarragona in September next time as we always enjoy taking part in Spanish fiestas.

We also appreciated the splendour of Casa Canals and Casa Castellarnau, which shouldn’t be missed if you like looking around magnificent old houses.  Other cultural highlights for us were the Museum of Modern Art, the National Archeological Museum and the Museum of the Port of Tarragona. 

Courtyard in Casa Castellarnau

If the weather is good and you don’t want to be indoors, many of the monuments I have mentioned are outside. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Rambla Nova and the Balcón del Mediterráneo, then pop into the Amphitheatre, before heading along Rambla Vella to see the Roman Circus and then make your way to the maze of streets around the Cathedral . 

All this walking increased our appetite, so luckily eating out in Tarragona proved to be a pleasurable experience.  We discovered that many good restaurants do a cheap menu del día at lunch time, so we would make that our main meal, having either one course or just tapas for our evening meal.

Tarragona is a charming city, with plenty to see and do. We crammed as much as we could into the four days that we stayed there, however a longer stay would have allowed us a bit more time just to relax.  In case I haven’t already tempted you to visit Tarragona, I should mention that there are plenty of shops and lovely sandy beaches too, making it the ideal holiday location for everyone – even those of you who aren’t interested in history and culture.

Top Tips

Restaurants

Down at the Port, which we expected to be pricey because of the location, we enjoyed a delicious menu del día at La Botiga on Calle Trafalgar for only €10.50. 

We also enjoyed an evening meal at Restaurante Passadis on Calle Estanislau Figueres, where we were given 10% discount using our Tarragona Card.

After a filling menu del día we went out for tapas in the evening.  Cañas y Tapas on Calle Apodaca had some good special deals but there are many other inexpensive bars and restaurants to be discovered.

Hotels

We stayed at the SB Express*** on Plaça de les Corts Catalanes, which we chose on the basis that it was a budget hotel and looked fairly central.  We discovered that it was actually a bit of a walk into the centre of Tarragona, so it was fortunate that we are both pretty fit.  The hotel was in a quiet area and for the price we thought it was good value.

The Husa Imperial Tarraco **** on Passeig de Las Palmeres is in an ideal location for sight-seeing, although obviously you pay the price for that, especially with its four-star facilities.

For those on a strict budget the 2-star Catalunya Express is worth considering, and as a bonus it is close to the regional Railway Station.

Don´t miss

 

Tarragona is renowned for its Roman archaeological complex, and even if you don’t enjoy history you can’t fail to be impressed by the Amphitheatre and Roman Circus.

If you like the sea no doubt you will want to head for the beaches, but don’t forget to visit the Port too, especially at lunch time when you can enjoy the fresh fish.

After that delicious lunch, why not walk off all those calories and enjoy the views with a promenade along the city walls?

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Semana Santa Jumilla 1411 – 2011

 

Semana Santa statue

The Dominican missionary St. Vincent Ferrer was born in Valencia in 1350 and preached in many different parts of Spain.  In 1411 he visited Jumilla where, after being inspired by his sermons, the town celebrated their first Semana Santa. 

600 years after St. Vincent Ferrer’s visit, Jumilla is preparing for some extraordinary celebrations to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Semana Santa and is hoping that many visitors will join them to share in the passion, colour, music and pageantry of this momentous occasion.

Children’s Semana Santa

Children's Tamborada

The following events are specifically organised for the children, although many children will also take part in the main processions, plus some parents will be seen carrying babies dressed in traditional costumes.

Thursday 14 April

17.00. 3rd Tamborada Infantil at Plaza de Arriba.  Children under the age of 12 will take part in this procession, playing their drums with much enthusiasm – and skill too!  The event is being organised in collaboration with Caritas, who will be accepting donations of non perishable foods and household products. The procession will start in Plaza de Arriba and end outside Teatro Vico.

Sunday 24 April

12.00 Easter Sunday and the traditional meeting between Jesús Resucitado and the Virgen Gloriosa in Plaza del Rollo.  Lots of excited children will be waiting along Calle Cánovas, because after the procession comes the traditional Caramelada, where the children will be scrambling to grab handfuls of sweets.

Children scrambling for sweets

 

Main Semana Santa processions

Friday 15 April

Semana Santa will officially begin on Viernes de Dolores, the Friday before Palm Sunday, with a procession at 21.30 from the Iglesia de Santiago. 

Sunday 17 April

12.00  Procession of the Palms  In this procession, a group representing Jesus riding on a donkey with the Apostles around him will be accompanied by children dressed as Hebrews.  The procession leaves from Iglesia de San Juan and continues to the parish church of Santiago via Plaza del Rollo and Calle Cánovas, with Jesús declaiming his prophesy about the destruction of Jerusalem.

Palm Sunday procession

21.00  In previous years the statue of “Christ tied to the column”, made by the renowned Murcian sculptor Francisco Salzillo, was brought down from the Monastery of Santa Ana in solitary splendour.  This year, as part of the 600th Anniversary, the Franciscans have agreed for the statue of “Abuela Santa Ana” to be brought down to Jumilla at the same time.  The procession through the streets of Jumilla will be from the Ermita de San Agustín to the Iglesia Mayor de Santiago, and I imagine the streets will be lined with both young and old for this historic event.

Cristo Amarrado a la Columna by Francisco Salzillo

Tuesday 19 April

23.30 Celebración Penitencial  This is held in Iglesia de Santiago, followed by the Procession of Silence where the penitents, all dressed in black, and many of them with bare feet and dragging chains behind them, walk through the dark streets of the old town.  All the street lights are switched off during the procession, and the only light comes from bonfires lit in the streets.

Procesión del Silencio

Wednesday 20 April 

17.30 Re-enactment of the Capture of Christ, in Plaza de Arriba, with 18 actors taking part.  “Los Armaos”, the Roman soldiers, will also be participating in this act.

21.30 Procession of “Jesús Prendido”, plus other statues representing Peter’s denial, Judas’ Kiss, St John the Apostle – ten in total – from Iglesia de El Salvador.

Thursday 21 April

17.30  Visit to the monuments  This is one of my favourite processions, where the lovely señoras in their mantillas and lace dresses parade with proud señors (also dressed in their finery) as they visit the monuments in Jumilla, accompanied by local bands.

Señoras wearing their best mantillas

 

21.30 Procession of the Virgen de la Amargura  The procession leaves the Iglesia de Santa María, going through the streets of the old town, and finishes in Iglesía del Salvador.

Friday 22 April

09.30 Procession “Antigua” This is the first of two extraordinary processions to commemorate the 600th Anniversary.  Starting at the Iglesía de Santa María, ten of the oldest Semana Santa statues (pre 20th century) will be carried through Jumilla’s old town.

11.00 Procession of the Calvary  One of the largest processions takes place on Good Friday.  Sixteen statues are carried from the Iglesía del Salvador around the steep and winding streets of Jumilla, then along Calle Cánovas and up to Calle Canalejas before returning to the church.

Saturday 23 April

19.00 “Magno Entierro”  The second extraordinary procession for the 600th Semana Santa. If you only watch one procession this year, this is the one to watch, with 35 statues being carried through the streets of Jumilla.  The procession leaves from Iglesia de Santa María and finishes at the Jardín del Rollo, next to the tourist office.

Sunday 24 April

Easter Sunday procession

12.00 Procession of “Jesús Resucitado”.  As mentioned above, this is the final event where the “Risen Jesus” meets the “Glorious Virgin” in the Plaza del Rollo.  After this the procession departs from the Plaza and goes along Calle Cánovas, with sweets being thrown to the eager children, clutching the plastic bags that they hope to fill to the brim with sweets.

Semana Santa Mini-feria del Vino

Many people will know about Jumilla from drinking the wine produced by the many bodegas in and around the town.  There will be the perfect opportunity to sample some of the best Jumilla wines on Saturday 16th April, when the Mini-feria del Vino is being held in Jardín del Rey Don Pedro between 12.00 and 15.00.  Entry will cost 3€, which is a bargain when you consider around 20 bodegas will be offering you the chance to try their wines.  Hope to see you there!

Mini-feria del Vino

 

Vino y Cuaresma

If you are visiting Jumilla on Friday 15 April, why not visit one of the ten bars and restaurants offering a tapa and glass of Carchelo wine for 2€?  On Saturday 16 April, the same establishments will be offering dinner for 15 to 30 euros, which includes a bottle of Carchelo wine between 2 people.  Finally, Sunday lunch on 17 April will cost you from 22 to 30 euros, including a 500ml bottle of Vino Canalizo per person.

Look for the distinctive posters outside participating restaurants!

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Sue and John Walker – your guides to Jumilla

 

John and I have lived in Jumilla for nearly two years, and we love showing friends and family around the town.  We have been on the excellent guided visits organised by the local Tourist Office, but we know some people can find them a bit daunting as they are all in Spanish, so we came up with the idea of Walkers Tours of Jumilla in English.

If you come on a Walkers Tour of Jumilla, your guides will both speak fluent English, as I am English and John is Scottish (OK, John’s fluent English may be debatable!) 

We are also happy to tailor the tour to suit your needs.  If you love looking around museums, we can time it to allow you to indulge yourself wandering around the Archeological Museum, the Semana Santa (Holy Week) museum, and the new Museo Jesus Nazareno.  With enough notice we can even arrange for you to visit the private wine museum, which is a fascinating experience even if you aren’t a wine lover. 

If you prefer gardens and plazas to museums, a walk out to the Botanical Gardens can be included as well as a stroll to see the many lovely gardens and squares around the town.

A popular option at the end of the walk is a visit to one of Jumilla’s many bodegas: after the tour of the bodega you can indulge yourself with wine-tasting and nibbles.

Prices are very reasonable.  Depending on the size of your group and what options are included, you can have a guided walk around Jumilla, a visit to the bodega plus wine-tasting for less than 10 euros.

Please contact us through this website if you want to book a tour or for further information.

Comments from Kathy and Tony (San Pedro del Pinatar) after their Walkers Tour of Jumilla:

“John and Sue took us to all the local historic buildings carefully explaining about each point, last of which was the wonderful castle with views of the town and surrounding areas, absolutely breathtaking. These guys were good, their knowledge of the town second to none , and good fun to be with. 

Thank you so much Sue and John, for giving us a truly memorable and enjoyable weekend with fantastic hospitality, and a guided tour not to be forgotten,  far beyond what we expected and recommended to all.”

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