Thursday, 12 June 2008

Viva Catalunya!

Tarragona, formerly known as Tarraco, was the Roman base in Spain, housing 150,000 Romans. There are ruins dating back to two centuries before Christ. I would be able to tell you more but the best museum was closed on Mondays!! An amphitheatre, circus, governor’s (praetor) stronghold, forum, and remains of the city walls.. But let’s be honest, it’s not the spruced up, restored and cherished set of buildings that we’re used to in Mallorca and even Barcelona! It’s all a bit dark and depressing for all its historic realness.

On arrival at the marina, we called in on VHF Channel 9 to let “them” know we were here. We’d previously booked a berth over the phone. The marina receptionist said we would be met at D52 by someone who sounded like “the cleaner”! Surely I must have misheard! Surely it must have been a Spanish word that sounded like “cleaner”! I had asked for help getting off the fuel/waiting quay, as there was a fresh wind blowing us onto the quay. None came. It was a Sunday and we realised that the same “cleaner” couldn’t be helping us off the fuel quay, helping us into the berth, and no doubt sticking a brush up his posterior and cleaning the loos at the same time. As Ian calmly put it, “There’s a lesson in this, and that’s not to plan to come into marinas out of season on a Sunday”. It turned out that there were only two staff on, one on reception (who finished work at 3pm on Sunday) and one to berth all the boats. Not that it was busy and that should have told us something. Knees jumping up and down with nervousness, we successfully got the boat away from the fuel quay, and berthed, thanks to my umph pushing the boat off the quay, Ian’s super docking skills and, as it turned out, a Spanish cleaner, who was good at multi-tasking!

To walk into the city we had to cross a main railway line, sorry, railway highway! Bizarre! Cars, trains and pedestrians, all trying to stay out of each others way. The marina is in effect cut off from the rest of the city. There are a few struggling restaurants, and several closed, badly maintained, sixties monstrosities bars and discos, graffiti-covered stairways, and a sad, dilapidated look to the whole place. We needed a chandlery to repair a compass which wouldn’t light up in the dark, and was told by a very friendly German neighbour that you wouldn’t get anything like that there, because they only sold cushions and crockery, nothing technical. He said he was planning to move on because this marina was a “disaster”! I remembered reading somewhere that the mainland Spanish were not keen on you doing your own maintenance on your own boat, because it took away work from the local Spanish labourers, so maybe that’s why they only stocked “fluffy” things rather than serious hardware. The “old” days when yachties went out for a jolly day’s sailing and left all the grubby maintenance to some local Juan or Pedro!! Hang on a minute, that’s still happens now, but not with the Webbies!!

One fascinating aspect of this city, which is clearly not a regular tourist destination, is the total lack of information in anything other than Catalan, on Castillian Spanish, which we’re used to, and certainly no English or German. Road signs, restaurant menu signs and all public info signs. Fortunately I’d given myself a crash course in Catalan on the journey over. It seems a bit like Portuguese to me, in that when it’s written down you can spot a pattern and recognose some words, but when spoken you haven’t got a chance!
Anyway back to Mallorca tomorrow. Were thinking of setting off at 4am to make landfall just as its going dark, but the forecast is for some fresh winds to settle as the day goes on both here but particularly in Mallorca, so planning on leaving it to a little bit later. Showing next few days as thundery and showery, whilst I hear from Kate that you’re having lovely weather back home. O, Joy!!

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