Segways are just the uncoolest form of transport going… until you get on one and understand that what you’re riding is not a geeky looking stick on two wheels but a 21st century version of Trigger. Segways are urban steeds and, apart from Seat 600s in Barcelona, they’ve been the most fun way of touring a city that I’ve experienced to date.
I’ve always been intrigued by Segways – how do you not fall over when you stand on one? So was slightly apprehensive about how I’d cope, especially after an embarrassing scooter experience in Lanzarote had convinced me that two-wheeled machines were not my forte. But within a couple of minutes of tuition by Segway Tarragona I could spin that baby on a centimo, safely whizz past pedestrians closer than a barber gets to his client’s chin, and stop instantly when a baby or, even more importantly, a puppy strayed in front of me. How do you not simply topple over? I don’t know, you just don’t. To move forward, you lean forward; to stop, you lean back. To turn – and this is going to sound nonsense – you think ‘left’ or ‘right’ and the machine responds. Okay, that is nonsense but Segways are so incredibly responsive that’s exactly how it felt. I was at one with my machine.
This was supposed to be about a tour of historic Tarragona as well… and it was, but the Segway was such fun that it sort of distracted from the history bit. Our guide Paco from Argos Serveis Cultural spotted early on that we (or some of us at least) viewed ourselves as easy gliders so kept the historic elements short and sharp as we ‘saddled up’ and silently sped through streets where Roman and Medieval architectural icons were ten a penny.
From outside the town hall in Placa de la Font (a good place to get to know your Segway) we headed first to the Balcó del Mediterrani (Balcony of the Mediterranean) before negotiating narrow alleys and pedestrian crossings on a speedy descent to Platja de l’Arrabassada. Once there, the promenade gave us scope to see what these babies could really do when unleashed (quite an exhilarating lot as it happens). After that it was history time with a pause at Tarraco’s Amphitheatre. Built in the 2nd century AD, it was the Romans’ version of a multi-cine where ‘now showing’ included public executions and animal v gladiator battles á la Maximus Decimus Meridius. It’s gladiator days are far from over as it’s still used for some truly bloody fights during events like Tarraco Viva in May.
With tales of gladiators filling our heads it was difficult not to imagine we were astride modern day chariots as we paraded through the old streets of the Jewish quarter. The route took us past architectural classics, teeming markets (that we could manoeuvre through crowded streets easily and safely is testament to the responsiveness of the Segways) and pavement cafés in the lovely Placa Rei that, had we been hoofing it, would have been by this point prefixed by ‘inviting’ for sure.
Although the fun of riding a Segway is a distraction, you are aware of your surroundings maybe even more so than if it had been a walking tour. On a Segway you’re able to cover… well a city without experiencing any pavement crunching fatigue. By the time we arrived, over an hour into the tour, at the glorious Tarragona Cathedral with its red-tiled dome sparkling in the sunlight and its sombre but beautifully detailed sculptured guardians, we were as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as we’d been at the start.
Thereafter we zipped through more atmosphere laden streets before arriving back at our starting point in Placa de la Font.
My looking-down-the-nose at Segways days are well and truly over. This was a fun way to get to know Tarragona, a lot of Tarragona, in an hour and a half and I don’t think there’s a better way to learn than when something is fun as well as being educational. There was only one downside to the historic tour of Tarragona on a Segway and that was when I had to hand it back.
We terrorised pedestrians and small animals as guests of the Catalunya Tourist Board. This particular tour was the Mare Nostrum Route offered by Segway Tarragona. It costs €49 and lasts one and a half hours.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+