Who wouldn’t thrill to a private performance of just about anything in a Roman ruin? Tom and I recently returned from a week aboard the sailing yacht Wind Surf, flagship vessel of Windstar Cruises. On a culinary cruise of Spain and Morocco, shore excursions enriched our stops along the way. We visited markets in several ports, seeing for ourselves, myriad manifestations of local culture. We toured Moorish and medieval monuments. But when we sailed into Catalunya, our private event–which culminated in an impressive ‘human-tower’ performance in the Roman Amphitheater in Tarragona–provided us with a sun-drenched afternoon to remember.
Tapas with a view
We were met by some of Catalunya’s Gegants i capgrossos (Giants and Big Heads), who led us to the Roman Amphitheater atop a hill overlooking the sea. Their antics were accompanied by drums and flutes. A Catalan aperitiu featuring local cheeses, ham, tortilla bits and olives was served on the verge overlooking the ruins. As we strolled along the overlook, savoring these treats, an ensemble made beautiful music to match the view.
Castellers of Catalunya
Each Windstar voyage includes complimentary private events designed to take guests closer to the people and places they visit. In Tarragona, we saw firsthand the unity and strength of community manifested in the human towers of Catalunya. Members of groups called Castellers–women, men and children–place their trust in one another, and aim ever higher. Groups such as the one performing for us are made up of volunteers who meet regularly (in facilities with very high ceilings!) to practice a prescribed set of formations.
Tom and I had seen human towers in action on previous visits to Catalunya, an always mesmerizing experience. This time, in Tarragona, the setting was as magical as the group was talented. We had ringside seats, as well as a high-quality audio live broadcaster interpreting what we were seeing (and cracking a few jokes). After several towers had been formed, some passengers were able to join in two formations, and have their own ‘casteller moment’. They reported that participating in a human tower was an intense experience they would not soon forget.
For a brief look at a tower formed just for us, here’s a short video clip [40 seconds].
“Tarragona, City of Human Towers” offers tower-building exhibitions and guided visits to the places where the Casteller groups Xiquets de Tarragona and Jove dels Xiquets de Tarragona practice, as well as expositions, conferences, technical sessions and training courses. In even-numbered years, the Concurs de Castells showcases the best of the best at competitions attended by as many as 6,000 spectators.
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Many thanks to Windstar Cruises for inviting us along for the first food-and-wine themed cruise in the James Beard Foundation Culinary Collection!