Tag Archives: Sitges

Getting Out Of The City

Right-i-o, it’s been a while. The truth is that my extended vacation around Brazil earlier in the year has left me on the back foot ever since in terms of catching up with work! So there’s a lesson for any freelancers out there… never ever go on holiday. It’s just not worth it.

One thing I did find time for was exploring outside of Barcelona. I guess it’s only natural that after several years in a place you are going to get bored of it, so it made sense for me this year to take the opportunity to step outside the city whenever possible…. here’s a list of the day trips and weekends away I enjoyed in 2014.

Sant Feliu to Girona Bike Ride (May)

Four guys, four bikes and not much of a plan, is always a great recipe for adventure and so it was we set off from Barcelona by bus to Sant Feliu, our rented bikes in the hold, after much arguing with a particularly miserable driver. Here we made our way along the so called “Green-Way” or “The Carrilet”, a one time rail track that has been turned into a cycling path, along which several of the old stations had been converted into wine bars. It was slightly uphill to Girona, our final destination, but with a beery picnic midway through, we found the energy to cover the 35km or so, passing through many a beautiful field and several picturesque villages en route. At the end of the ride there was just time for a nap in the hostel before heading out to explore the (disappointingly sleepy) Girona nightlife. Still we managed to have fun!

Trip Score: 8/10

The awesome foursome on the "Green Way" to Girona

The awesome foursome on the “Green Way” to Girona

Tossa de Mar Romantic Weekend (September)

I’ve stared enviously as way too many photos of stunning Costa Brava coves for way too long, whilst barely stepping foot on “The Wild Coast”. It was time to rectify that with a romantic weekend with my gf. As I was paying I selected the “economical” one star Windsor Hotel, which despite its budget pretensions had a wonderful swimming pool, a slap up breakfast buffet and a great location just near the old fortress and city beach. The sun refused to shine on our first day so we took advantage of the tennis courts at the hotel’s sister accommodation up the road, and followed that up with a pool photo shoot (had to test out the new camera!). On the second day we hiked along the coast through beautiful pine forest overlooking those photogenic craggy Costa Brava bays, finally arriving at the delightful Cala Pola for a sunbathe and a swim. By night and we dined like kings with nearly every restaurant offering a four course menu for €11 to €17. A resounding success.

Trip Score: 9/10

A typically craggy cove on the Costa Brava

A typically craggy cove on the Costa Brava

Sitges Birthday Weekend (September)

My girlfriend and I were kindly put up for one night at the four star Alenti Hotel, in one of the biggest and most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept on. Sadly – despite it being my birthday – the weather Gods were on poor form indeed with a deluge of Biblical proportions preventing any fun exploring on our first day. On our second the skies brightened up and we took a long walk northwards, past a gay nudist beach, over the marina and took a second breakfast (some delicious pastries appropriated from our first breakfast at Alenti… now slightly squashed!) on a patch of grass watching surfers riding the waves on a rough bay. There was time on the way back to stop off for a very VIP soft drink lounging on an Ibiza-style club couch overlooking the sea at restaurant Vivero, which was a nice highlight of a too short weekend. (For more on Sitges check out this post about the town’s raucous Carnival celebrations).

Trip Score: 7/10

Looking back over Sitges

Looking back over Sitges

Return To Tossa (November)

An invitation to check out the sensational Casa Granados was one we couldn’t refuse, even if we’d been to Tossa just a few weeks beforehand! Plus it was my girlfriend’s birthday and how better to spoil her than in this luxurious four star mansion that once belonged to the famous Catalan musician Enric Granados? The place is classy indeed, with a curvaceous pool, open air bar with views over Tossa and rooms tastefully decorated with every mod con. Sadly at this time of year not only are the days short but the town was closed for business pretty much… we struggled to even find a restaurant open on a Saturday night! Although in the end we did find a nice one and it even was showing La Liga… my girlfriend was delighted. She forgave me after I ran her a hot bath in our hotel suite and we enjoyed some midnight Cava and chocolates.

Trip Score: 8/10

The Catalan flag flying over Tossa

The Catalan flag flying over Tossa

Tearing Around Tarragona (December)

La Liga de los Ciclistas Extraordinarios reconvened in December for what was supposed to be a pleasant, easy-going jaunt around Tarragona and the surrounding countryside. Luckily the bike rental company issued us with mountain bikes as we sped off to see the celebrated Puente del Diablo (awesome UNESCO-listed Roman aqueduct outside the city) and found ourselves dirt tracking over flooded and rocky roads and over thigh-burning hills. We really should have worn helmets, because the going was treacherous and tough indeed. After lunch on top of the aqueduct (reminiscent of the four musketeers’ breakfast on the bastion) we fumbled our way through the forest to the coast with just 45 mins or so to go before sunset. My rather sensible suggestion that, as we didn’t have any lights or even high visibility clothing, we should get back to Tarragona before dark was heavily derided and so we went, cycling along the wet sand, in the opposite direction to Waikiki beach. Entry is through some wooded rocks only but we cycled as far as we could, then clambered down into this beautiful bay, just in time for sunset and a well deserved beer and some photos. The journey home was hardly pleasant or safe, but hey we made it. As in Girona, there was time for a nap and then a big night out. Great times!

Trip Score: 9/10

We ate our lunch on top of this, the Devil's Bridge

We ate our lunch on top of this, the Devil’s Bridge

So there you go, a few trips to imitate or not as you please, but hopefully some inspiration at least to go and see the great sights surrounding Barcelona in every direction. More weekend and day trip ideas right here.

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Sitges Beach Resort… New Guide!

If you read my post about the Sitges carnival, then you’ll already know that just down the coast from Barcelona exists a lovely little summer retreat/beach resort called Sitges! With its famously good light – there was a school of Modernista painters who relocated here specifically to capture its radiance on canvass – seventeen beaches (count ’em!) and charming, bar-laden alleys, it really is the perfect place to escape Barcelona for a day or five.

Looking back over one of Sitges seventeen beaches

Not that Sitges is a quiet little village, with nothing going on. It’s reputation as a gay party resort means that all kind of tight-speedo-wearing hombres turn up to make eyes – and quite a lot more – at each other, especially during the summer months when the nightlife is in full swing; but as long as you’re not a homophobic type then you’ll find there’s plenty of room for all. The only thing Sitges doesn’t tolerate is intolerance, and this liberal laidback town is popular with families, couples and straights too. Plus around 30% of residents are from outside Spain so the vibe is very cosmopolitan and international.

I would tell you a lot more about this charming little place, just a day trip away from Barcelona, but it would be pretty pointless as my friends at Barcelona Life have beaten me to it… by launching a brand new travel guide to Sitges, called Sitges Life of course! It’s literally fresh out of the box, so you’ll have to give it a couple of months before every hotspot has been discovered and charted, but you’ll find much of the wisdom you’d expect from such a website, starting with the lowdown on tourist attractions, to information about Sitges hotels, apartments, restaurants, bars and clubs, plus of course a map of Sitges and the latest weather.

If for some reason you can’t find what you’re looking for then check out the official website of the city, which should be able to help out.

Sitges Carnival: A Fancy Dress Fiesta!

For most of my life I have been inclined to see fancy dress parties as a royal pain in the @ss. Choosing who or what you are going as is the first hurdle, then going hunting for whatever you need round every second hand store in town (or your mum’s wardrobe if you’re lucky enough to not have been kicked out of the parental nest… ah those were the days!), then coming home trying it all on and realising you have just spent 50 GBP to look like a prize tw@t. At least, in this scenario, no could accuse you of not making the effort, whilst the other alternative – to turn up with a sheet over your head with two holes cut out, or possible a sword and eye-patch made out of the back of a cereal packet – guarantees you the social acceptance of a known sex offender.

More recently however I’m coming around to the exact reverse way of thinking… I can only assume that because I go out a lot less, making the effort for one big night seems less of a hassle. I’ve even started enjoying putting together a costume (I like to think of it as a creative challenge) and I understand now that the effort and expense you put in before a fancy dress party are all part of the anticipation – the build up! That’s why I was really looking forward to the Sitges Carnival this year, and I must say it didn’t disappoint. Yes, there were a few lame devil horns and plastic forks, but by and large the costumes on display were fantastic. Babies were a popular theme, as were air hostesses – the best ones for my money being the cross-dressed ones, and a wag in a Zapatero mask proved a big hit with the cameras. Others went to further extremes, coming as giant-sized multi-coloured clothes pegs, Barbie dolls still in their boxes, 1980s rally drivers, or a troop of Flintstones, complete with the iconic foot-powered car (which was a bit of menace in the narrow streets of Sitges!).

If you’ve never been to Sitges Carnival then there’s really not too much to explain. It’s basically a big piss up on the streets of Sitges, just down the road from Barcelona and is pretty much considered the best place for Carnival in Spain, after Santa Cruz in Tenerife and Cadiz. Everyone descends on Sitges en masse, usually via train from Barcelona, and trawls the streets booze in hand shouting and singing and laughing at one another’s costumes. Whilst there was no denying the party spirit here in Catalonia, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of official entertainment. In our, admittedly limited, wanderings we didn’t come across any live music or DJs, although of course all the bars and clubs were open and improbably dressed drunkards stumbled between them all. If I were to go next year I’d probably choose either the Sunday, which boasts the enticingly named Rua de la Disbauxa (‘The Debauchery Parade’) or the closing night, which falls on Tuesday. The Tuesday is marked by the Rua de l’Extermini (‘Extermination Parade’), another huge affair this one known for it’s proliferance of drag queens… and I did see some nice flamenco dresses when I was out second-hand shopping…

Some quick tips for those thinking of going to the Sitges Carnival in future years…

1) Aim to get there about 11pm, this is when things start going
2) You can catch the train from Sants Station in Barcelona. Buy a return ticket (6.30 euros in 2011), the police were out in force at the station.
3) The train timetables can be found on www.renfe.com. I think the first one on a Sunday morning left around 5am. We got one at 5.30 or so.
4) Dress warm. It may be Spain/Catalonia but it’s still February/March time… I was wearing a helmet, gloves, leggings, and four layers and still got cold after a couple of hours of being outside. Mind you there were plenty of guys dressed as Baywatch Lifeguards who seemed fine in just a red swimming costume, blond wig and pair of fake tits.
5) Bring your own supply of booze… but not in glass bottles as police will stop and search you at the train station and glass not allowed. I recommend a carton or two of Don Simon sangria available at all good supermarkets for around 1 euro.