The bars and restaurants of the marina at Tarragona were constructed in a more upbeat economic climate and the designers probably envisioned restaurants operating with marina side extensions across the road creating a buzz as waiters crossed the traffic and people ate out looking over the assembled yachts. Now the surroundings have all the charm of a run down shopping precinct. No water side tables tempt the boat owners to linger and there is little to attract anyone across the railway tracks from the town. The only two bars still open are a belly-dancing restaurant and a go go dancing disco, each with appropriate images painted on the windows. They sit side by side, so perhaps their survival rests on the same girls shedding their veils in one and then running round the back to don lycra catsuits. Or maybe dancing girls are recession proof. Either way the clubs do not lift the ambience of the place. Yachts of our size were moved to the newly built marina to leave the old harbour free for superyachts. We had a wander along the front to see what we were missing.
To begin with we joined the cyclists and joggers out keeping fit along the harbour wall. Walking was easy on a sprung surface and there were distance markers every five hundred meters. Feral cats sunbathed on the concrete blocks on the seaward side. After a kilometer we turned back. A couple came towards us with a black cat walking to heel. As we passed the grouped moggies they had obviously all just been fed and were quietly eating following an agreed pecking order. We could not decide if the black cat belonged to the couple or if they regularly fed the strays and it was an opportunist. Once back to the road we made for the superyachts. There were four of them, docked in a huge harbour, three side by side facing us on the far side and one huge glass swathed structure with a nose like a 747 draped alongside. We walked along its length. It was hard to imagine any of them belonging to an individual, they were like mini cruise liners. The dock was not much more elevated than our own marina. Most of it was empty. At one end were the fishing fleet and all along the dock side where we were walking were long stone buildings that looked like old fish bartering halls. They seemed to be given over to bars and museums. In one they had apparently rebuilt the Titanic. The current fishmarket was surrounded by mesh fencing as men dug up the pavement with pneumatic drills. Beyond this were the fish restaurants, some very smart looking. John fancied eating in one and we thought we could come back for lunch, as they eat dinner so late here. In the meantime we head off up the hill and bought bread and saffron coloured chicken pies from a nice baker and then were seduced by the patisseries of a shop a little further along and went in for coffee. It was Sunday and in both the bakery and the patisserie people were coming in to buy treats to take out. We surmised they were off out to lunch and taking gifts for their hosts. Then we noticed the number of fancy cakes with MARE written in icing and surmised it was Catalan Mother’s Day. John bought me a cake to have with my coffee. We headed back to Lyra with our shopping and the forecast wind was tossing her about enough to worry John, so we put on extra lines and stayed on board to keep an eye on her. We ate our little pies with some salad for lunch and discovered that what we had bought as bread rolls were actually hollow, a sort of globular cheesy pitta, which we enjoyed filled with salad.
In the evening we headed back to the fish restaurants to find that most of them were closed. Obviously lunch is the meal on Mother’s Day. One place was open, sandwiched between bars. It was only nine o’clock so most of the people were drinking, but the tables were set so we sat ourselves down. The proprietor was a large man with a wonderfully resonant deep voice. He passed us the menus and a waiter took a drinks order. John asked for a large beer and I ordered a white wine “de la cassa”. John’s beer arrived in a large iced tankard and a label less bottle of white wine with a plastic stopper in the top was plonked in front of me. It reminded me of British Steel coach trips, when drinks were handed out in six packs. We ordered a shared starter of baby broad beans with squid and croquettes and I was about to order a mixed seafood main to also share, when our host told me that was what we should have and that would be enough. And with that off he went and brought us bread, olives and dips. The food was very good, which was just as well as our host was not a man to take no for an answer and insisted we clear each plate, proffering any item left behind to John with a nod of the head before he took it away. The beans were disconcertingly black from the squid ink, but tasted great and the seafood platter boasted some delicious pieces of fish along with excellent mussels and some intricately fretted shellfish I had previously only regarded as ornamental. The meat had to be winkled out with a wooden stick and looked a bit snail like, but I manned up and rose to the challenge. John let me. As we ate the tables alongside filled up with groups of older men, who clearly knew the patron and there was a lot of hand shaking and banter. It is a good job we are not planning an early start tomorrow.