It’s a strange experience to walk around Tarragona as the city is always there, somewhere in the background, somewhere in your mind. Beach walking is not much different, you look at the Mediterranean stretching before you and there is a glimmer, a shadow of the old city in the corner of your eye.
Tarragona has some beautiful beaches no further than a hill stroll away. You descend the steps from the old city and the first you encounter is the Platja del Miracle, Tarragona’s urban beach, which is fine if you know no better but there is more behind the corner and it’s called Platja de l’Arrabassada.
The beach is reached after a 10 minutes walk through a posh residential area made of sunken and secluded villas overlooking the sea. Among those lies the secluded British cemetery, occupying a small plot of land and unfortunately locked up till future notice.
According to a fascinating extract by Marta Quismondo from her research papers ” … Jans’ Cemetery was built in 1849 at the 26 Passeig Marítim Rafael de Casanova in Tarragona. The cemetery has belonged to the British Queen since 1850, but first it belonged to the Tarragona town hall. The cemetery is composed of several elements: a building that includes two open crypts with tombs, a garden in front and a garden in the back. This garden is on top of the two crypts, so it seems that the crypts are tunnels. The entire place is surrounded by a tall fence with a metallic door. All that it is possible to see from the street outside is the front garden and the two crypts. In one of the crypts, there is a funeral statue only visible from the inside. The statue is an obelisk to honour a British consul. In both crypts, there are 93 grave sites but only 82 are occupied. In the middle of the two crypts, there is a third crypt but this one is closed with a brick wall. However, behind the wall there is nothing.
The last part of this cemetery is a common grave containing the remains of three hundred British soldiers who died in the War of Succession (1700-1714) and during the War of Independence against France (1808). This protestant cemetery is an important part to understand the history of Tarragona…”
It is a fascinating place even seen from the outside, like a secret garden and doorways leading to dark spaces.
Walk further and the view opens to the sandy stretch of the Arrabassada, a wide semi urban beach, today almost deserted aside from hikers and dog walkers. You can fill you lungs with the clean blue air, sit on the sand and watch the waves erasing footprints.
Above rocky outcrop, partially enclosing the beach is La Savinosa, a dark place, partially forgotten, left to decay in its own past. It looks like a prison, a fortress, uninviting and bare. It was built in 1929 as a sanatorium and then used as a “holiday home” for orphans and children from poor families during the Francoist regime. The children were subjected to a brutal regime of extreme discipline and deprivation and accounts of the horrors encountered can be found on this blog. The Savinosa block is surrounded by a high fence guarded by dogs and despite the occasional breach one is deterred from exploring further. Yet some urban explorers have managed to get inside and what they saw is something which could have escaped from Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labirynth” [see http://www.forbidden-places.net/urban-exploration-Sabinosa-s-Sanatorium#gal]
There is talk now to remove the building and return the area to an open space that everyone can enjoy and a petition has been set up to back up support .
Despite all this all else is truly breathtaking: the deep blue sea crashing in, waves burying in to submerged caves, the path that continues from coves to pine covered hills, wide open sandy stretches, and urban sprawls, as this is the Costa Daurada, the Gold Coast of Catalonia.