After Arles, the next stop of our French-Spanish Spring 2011 Road Trip was Sitges, Spain. Sitges is a small town about a half hour away from Barcelona. I had never heard of it until I received a Trip Advisor newsletter that listed Europe’s “Top Ten Most Charming Towns.” Or something like that. And somewhere on that list was Sitges. I did a bit of research on Trip Advisor and googled some images of the town, and figured why not? It looked and sounded interesting enough. One might wonder, however, why we would choose it over Barcelona (given that Barcelona is a pretty awesome city), but we had already decided in advance that we would try to avoid staying in any big cities with the car. We just figured it would be more stressful to navigate around a big city with a car, and parking costs could start to add up, too. So we intentionally searched for smaller cities/towns or more remote places to stay for this trip. We ended up booking five nights in Sitges. We knew it had a nice beach (although had no idea whether it would be warm enough to actually enjoy it), and we figured it would be better to stay in one place for a bit longer rather than constantly moving from hotel to hotel. Plus, Barcelona is so close we knew could always take the train there if we got bored in Sitges.
Well, after getting stuck in a 45-minute long traffic jam just a few miles from Sitges (a small truck had broken down on a curve on the top of a hill), we finally arrived and drove into town. My first impression was “uh-oh.” The bit we drove into wasn’t so nice. It wasn’t bad, exactly, but it also wasn’t really “charming.” Then, as we drove nearer to the beach, we spotted high-rise apartment buildings. Then I really started to get worried. We knew this was a resort town with a popular beach, but somehow “charming” and high-rise apartment buildings don’t really seem to go together. We finally located our hotel, Los Globos, about a 10 minute walk from town and one block from the beach. We were immediately charmed by its lovely and welcoming outdoor patio seating (breakfast area in the a.m., bar in the afternoon and evening) and friendly staff. Our room was fairly spacious and comfortable enough, and our balcony even had a view of the ocean one block away if you stood in the corner to see around the building directly in front 🙂 We dropped off our things and decided to walk into town.
Sitges has a lovely beach promenade, perfect for walking, jogging, rollerblading or cycling along. It stretches from the very end of town all the way into the center, with gorgeous multi-million euro homes facing the beach along the way. We were curious what kind of people could own such impressively beautiful beachside properties, so asked the receptionist at our hotel if she knew who any of the owners are. Apparently apart from the odd Hollywood celebrity (Nicolas Cage owned one of the houses at one time), they mostly belong to Barcelona football (or soccer, for you Yanks) players. I heard or read a report recently that they are some of the best paid in the world, so it makes sense these multi-million euro properties would mostly be owned by them. Once you start getting close to the center, you start to find beachfront restaurants and bars with views looking out directly to the ocean. You could tell the season was just beginning as most restaurants were open, but fairly empty. It seemed like things gradually got busier during our five-day stay, but even when we left there were still plenty of seats in any bar or restaurant you might choose to visit (which would definitely not be the case in the high season, we were told). And I think this was the key reason why we ended up loving Sitges so much: it had everything you could ask for in a tourist destination, but at this time of year, was practically empty. It was perfect.
The next day, we wandered more into the old town center. Cute little streets wound their way around, with almost too many restaurants, bars and shops to tempt. And the more we wandered, the more we discovered interesting little corners and quiet streets. Sitges is nice. Sitges is really nice. We also got very lucky with the weather. Our first day in town, we had perfect conditions for lying on the beach. It was so warm that after lying on the sand for about 45 minutes or so, even I felt hot enough to go a bit into the ocean and get wet (the Mr. went in straight away swimming). We easily filled our days in Sitges hanging out on the beach (though it did get a bit windier and a bit chillier) and strolling into town for food or ice cream or to check out the shops. We loved Sitges so much, in fact, we only ended up leaving for one day trip to visit the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat. Stay tuned for more on this impressively situated mountainous monastery….
But first, a few other shots from Sitges:
Sitges has more stray cats that I’ve ever seen in my life. They seem to be sort of taken care of (like these guys with their own home right in the town center near the beach), but they were very afraid of people. The Mr. and I often call to and pet kitties we come across when we’re out and about, and we couldn’t get a single cat in the entire town to come to us even once, which was really odd. You’d think some of them would have owners and wouldn’t be afraid to be petted, but apparently all Sitges cats have stranger phobias.
Ahhh, Sitges…you’re a charmer.