Mediterranean Manna (Spain)
The Sitges Esplanade With La Punta Stairs And The Church
A Pearl White Villa Rises Alongside The Beach
Sand Artist At Work
A Walk Through The Bosc Street Playful At Sea
A Guitarist Playing For Tourists,
A View Of The Beach Town
SITGES in Spain offers a breathtaking landscape, 17 beaches, active nightlife and a busy festival calendar
The sun is at cheek level. The streets are deserted. Cars stand desultorily in front of the houses, baked by the Mediterranean sun. There is not a soul on the lanes or bylanes, town square, market place, eateries, shops et al.
We looked at each other incredulously and wondered whether we had come to a deserted town; a town with slate coloured buildings, dust free roads, trees swaying in the breeze?
Interestingly, the surroundings do not give you an eerie feeling but
an impression that if the church bell were to chime, people would rush out of their homes.
“It’s the charm of siesta,” announces Claes Akerblom of Catalunya Tourism as he drives us into Cal Blay restaurant, which opened last June in Sant Sadurni D’anoia and offers excellent Catalan cuisine. “Catalonians have perfected the art of siesta. There are people inside those villas snoring in their beds.”
It is March, the sun barely harsh, the sky dotted with puffy clouds. But Catalonians are like the way they are - you cannot keep them away from their customary siesta.
We are in Sitges (pronounced Sit-jez), a beach town of the rich and famous, and a
two-hour drive from Barcelona.
We had arrived the earlier evening as lightening struck the skies and showers descended on the parched roads. Days earlier, I had come across a Financial Times report about how Barcelona authorities were combating drought ferrying water from different places and hotels asked not to water their lawns. “For 18 long months it has not rained; thank God it’s raining now,” the taxi driver informed us.
As we step into the lobby of Hotel Estella and move into our respective rooms, murals stretching from the walls to the ceiling and dropping near the pillows greet us. This has given the sea-facing Estella the sobriquet of ‘Art Hotel’.
Formerly a fishing village, Sitges’ population swelled at the turn of the 20th century with expat Spaniards who had made
their fortunes in the Americas and returned to the beach town for a life of leisure.
Sitges offers a breathtaking Mediterranean landscape, 17 beaches (including a gay beach and a nude beach), active gay nightlife and a busy festival calendar. Beaches with pristine waters, some of which have been awarded the blue flag eco-label and the proximity of the mountains make Sitges a privileged destination.
With 300 days of sunshine each year, it is not surprising that motor scooters, bicycles and walking shoes are the preferred methods of transportation along Sitges’ narrow streets.
Having grown to become one of the main quality tourist destinations both in Europe as well as worldwide, the high season in Sitges is June through August, when affluent families from Barcelona arrive in large numbers to enjoy their holiday by the sea.
Most have their villas, painted pearl white, which they rent out to tourists during the off-season. March is an off-season and
the villas are empty. The right time to be here is September after most of the Europeans have gone home.
The town has beautiful religious buildings such as the churches of Santa Bartomeu and Santa Tecla. Casa de la Vila, a nineteenthcentury Gothic revival building and Palau Maricel, with Renaissance, Baroque and medieval elements, are other interesting places to visit in the city.
Architectural gems like the Cau Ferrat Museum, the different homes belonging to the ‘Americanos’ and the house-studio of
writer and painter Santiago Rusiñol are worth a visit.
Rusiñol moved to Sitges in 1891 and turned it into a meeting point for artists and intellectuals, giving it the bohemian air that it still preserves. The house-studio of Rusiñol exhibits his works next to paintings by El Greco, Zuloaga and Picasso, among others.
The Maricel Museum has Romanesque, Gothic and Modern art collections. To delve more deeply into nineteenth-century Catalan society, you must visit the Romantic Museum.
All around - in the historic quarter, the harbour and along the beaches - are innumerable restaurants where you can try the local cuisine. One of the main dishes is xató, made with curly endive, cod, tuna, anchovies and olives, with a Romescu dressing (made with roasted chilli peppers, toasted almonds, garlic and olive oil).
Stewed cuttlefish with potatoes and ali-oli, tuna hotpot and fideuá (paella with elbow macaroni instead of rice) are among the delicacies you can enjoy in the 46-odd restaurants. These dishes should be had with some wine with Denominación de Origen Alella, Penedés, or Pla de Bages (Designation of Origin, the seal of quality and origin given in Spain to exceptional products
from specific regions).
Set aside few hours to go shopping for fashion articles, jewellery, footwear, decoration and accessories that avoid commercial depersonalisation. At K De Paper you will find paper figure sculptures made from resin, all signed by reputed sculptors and numbered. Or at Melaza Zona 20 you can have clothes brands like Stanley Parsons, Jeep, Schott and Franklin & Marshall,
which come from Australia, Italy, Sweden, New York and Barcelona.
You may not know Catalan, the language mostly spoken in Sitges but do not lose heart for there is abundant signage, namely whether your pet is allowed in a shop or a eatery, whether you are in a wi-fi zone, the availability of local cuisine, private parking etc.
Sitges is not only a place to lie under the sun but do things after it has set. The place to go is Sin Street. The street is crowded all day long, but after sunset is when the place comes truly alive. The action begins here after 3 am and continues until the wee hours of the morning.
We walked from Estella at 12, had our food in a local eatery, of which there were plenty and hoped to see lot of skin but came back disillusioned - for there were couples dancing at discos playing loud music, elderly men selling roses and garishly dressed girls and boys waiting for things to happen.