Spellbound By Sitges

I was lost in a train station alone in Spain…

Flying from Liverpool to Barcelona, I got out of the airport and into a crowded train that I was hoping would take me to my connecting platform.

 

On my first solo trip abroad, I was nervous about traveling alone, navigating the language barrier and getting to my destination in Sitges, Spain.

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As I got off the first train, I tried to hide my nervousness as I came up to a woman waiting on the platform and showed her my train timetable in Spanish.

Spellbound By Sitges5I pointed to the sign, and back to my paper and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to disturb you, but if you speak English, does this train go to Sitges?”

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The woman smiled at me warmly and replied, “ Yes, I am going to Sitges, you can sit with me.”

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The entire train journey from Barcelona to Sitges, I was glad I had approached a stranger. We talked about everything from the best food in Barcelona, the typical weather in Spain, and what beaches to avoid if I wanted a quiet afternoon by the sea.

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Out of all we talked about during our 30 minute train ride, Sitges seemed to come up the most. How she had grown up running around on the sandy beaches and how thankful she was that she lived her life around the sea town rather than in bustling Barcelona.As the train travelled on, I looked out my window and witnessed many of these sites; small mountains crashing into the sea, and vast farmland beside the roads as cars and bikes wound through the mountains.

As we neared the station, I thanked her for her help and was proud I had made it to Sitges from the airport. I stepped out of the train station to meet Paola Gheis who owned the apartment I was staying at, Casita Sitges, in the heart of the city .

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As we walked through the narrow streets, the buildings’ styles ranged from as far back as the 10th century , to Art Nouveau during the 1800’s, to modern architecture. Filled with cafes, art studios, fresh food markets and boutiques, I couldn’t wait to start exploring the next morning.

Relaxing at Casita Sitges

Casita Sitges, situated on a lovely narrow street, is not far from the beach. As I stepped through the front door , a large plate of fresh strawberries and a bottle of wine with my name on it awaited, courtesy of Paola.

The apartment’s bright colors, quirky decor and comfortable furniture made me want to gr ab one of the books Casita Sitges had to read and curl up on the sofa as the sun sank.

My favorite part of the apartment was, of course, the terrace. Paola made sure to make me feel as though Casita Sitges were my home during my stay in Spain. I couldn’t believe for the next few days, I had an apartment where I could lay out on sun beds, have a meal on the dining table and take a relaxing shower on this sea view terrace.

I was surprised that I could just open up the doors to the terr aces to let the sun in at Casita Sitges, without any fear of bugs or the elements finding their way into the apartment.

The sun shining through every part of the apartment was such a change from the rainy and windy climate I had been used to since living in Wales. I was worried I might never want to leave.

Paola had thought of everything when it came to Casita Sitges. Whether it was beach towels for laying out, bikes to ride around the city, or Bluetooth speakers to play music throughout the apartment,

I wanted for nothing.

I was glad to grab a bite to eat after traveling for many hours so I could try some famous Spanish food and get to know Paola a little better.

She took me to a restaurant right across the street called El Cable, where I tried a delicious dish called Papas Bravas. Made with fried potatoes, aioli, red pepper, and paprika, my taste buds were exploding with happiness!

Coming back to Casita Sitges, I noticed how decorative many of the surrounding buildings were in the area. Paola explained to me how a good number of the homes in the area would compete every year in the Best Balcony Annual Competition in Sitges.

The winner of last year’s contest is right across the road from Casita Sitges, and was such a refreshing view to look out upon as I came and went from Casita Sitges.

As the sun sank in Sitges, I was thankful for a warm shower in the mosaic tiled bathroom and settle into the apartment’s large double bed.

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Exploring a Town full of Festivals

Looking around Sitges with Paola and on my own, I loved the fact that it felt like such a small town with so much to offer.

Though the population is around 30,000, with the area having 17 beaches, most of the streets are blocked off from cars. So, you can roam the streets and pop in and out of stores without the busyness of traffic.

The historical sites built around the sea are unique and picturesque. Lying on the beach, I loved looking at the skyline and seeing The Church of St. Bartolmeu and Saint Tecla. Built in the 1700’s, it is one of the main staples of Sitges and has a grand staircase leading up to its doors.

Other sites, such as the Palau Marciel, are interesting to walk about because there are so many ornate details around the mansion. In the 1800’s, many wealthy home owners commissioned architects and artists to build detailed gothic homes for them in Sitges. This architecture is why places like Palau Marciel, built by American collector Charles Deeling, are so impressive to visit.

The Passeig de la Ribera is a great stroll along the edge of the beach. The boulevard features sculptures of renowned artists that were influenced by the town, famous restaurants, lawns for people to picnic on and chiringuitos (temporary beach bars) to enjoy a drink.

What is so fun about Sitges, are the many festivals it has going on during the year. From vintage cars to poetry, zombie, flower and dance events, Sitges knows how to throw a good festival. The Carnival Parade Festival is one of the most popular with huge floats, dancers with elaborate costumes, colorful decorations and lively music.

Sitges even has a prestigious Film Festival every year in October, where many of Hollywood’s famous come to celebrate horror and fantasy films and new movies debut and compete for a wards. Paola told me that one year she was able to get her face painted with makeup effects that made her look like she was in a horror film!

Even when a festival isn’t going on you can feel the diversity and joviality of the people, both local and visitors, through the music, artwork and food. The temptation to forget about the stresses back home was easy to give in to and I found m yself delighted in my surroundings.

Trying Out Tapas

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During my stay in Sitges, many of the restaurants were participating in an event called Tapa a Tapa, a 10 day event where each of the restaurants create a signature tapas and have its customers vote on which is the best.

I was given a brochure showing all of the tapas available throughout the town, each only 2.50 Euros with a drink. Menu items included Iberian hamburgers, roasted peppers, stuffed squid, an apple and caramel cheesecake and even an American barbecue dish.

Exploring this “Gastronomic Route,” as the event described it, was like a scavenger hunt to find which restaurants went with which dish, and which ones I wanted to try out. In confession, however, I kept coming back to the tasty Patatas Bravas!

As my time in Sitges was coming to an end, I grabbed a margarita pizza and sat out on the terrace of Casita Sitges admiring the view . The distant sounds of life outside, the cool air and Paola’s sweet strawberries were a perfect end to my first solo trip in Sitges.

As I left, I was sad that my few days of paradise were over. However, for my last night in Spain, Paola invited me to her home in Barcelona, so I was eager for an adventure in the city. It was great to see how accessible Barcelona was as a da y trip from Sitges, only about a 45 minute train ride to the city.

Exploring Barcelona by Bike

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When I met up with Paola at the train station in Barcelona, she brought her motorbike to take me back to her home. Zipping through the city streets, I loved looking around at the buildings and people as we weaved through cars.

How many tourists get to say they’ve seen Barcelona from the back of a moped?

With only a day in Barcelona, I wanted to get a general feel of the city. Known for its unique architecture, modern art and rich history, Barcelona is one of the top ten visited cities in the world, and for good reason.

I first popped into the Picasso Museum and Barcelona ’s European Museum of Art. It was a we-inspiring to view so many pieces of artwork I had seen growing up in art class right in front of my eyes.

The city, known for influential artists like Salvador Dali and Joan Miró, is meant to foster modern talent today. That talent is evident in the character of the streets, buildings and galleries.

After two big scoops of tasty gelato, I opted to take a three hour bike ride around the city. I wanted to feel the fresh air , get a little bit of exercise, and see as much city landscape as I could. My tour went all over the city, where I heard about the ancient history of Catalonia, the controversial practice of bullfighting and Barcelona during the Olympics.

The bike lanes in Barcelona are right in the middle of the traffic lanes, which, at first, was nerve-wracking to navigate. After a while it was an exhilarating feeling to be bustling through the city , seeing all the sites and traveling by bike.

In the same steps as Christopher Columbus

We rode up to a square in the middle of the city that had large steps leading to the entrance of a museum.

As the tour guide explained the area, I was in a we when I learned about the steps leading up to the museum. These were the same steps that Christopher Columbus climbed when he returned from America in 1492 to his patrons, Isabelle and Ferdinand, King and Queen of Spain.

The Plaça del Rei, built in the 14th century , was occupied by The Kings of Aragon who reigned during the medieval period.Today, the museum is used as the Museum d’Història de la Ciutat, a museum dedicated to the history of the city.

Seeing Barcelona’s Famous Architecture

The La Sagrada Familia was more impressive than any photo I had seen before coming to Barcelona. The Basilica, which was built by Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudí, towers above the city with its colossal size and many towers.

Construction began in 1883 and continues today, in the hope of its becoming the largest religious structure in the world by the proposed finish date in 2028. With a gothic influence, the Basilica has many spires, circular windows, quirky figurines and themes of Christ’s life in its many façades.

The tour also went to La Catedr al, which is another impressive religious structure, a significant feat of mankind. Built in the 1300’s, the church still holds services, a Christmas fair and is home to 13 white geese that live around the fountain in the Cloister.

Other highlights of the tour were Barcelona ’s famous Port Vell, the city’s own Arc del Triomf, and the old city council of Catalonia during Medieval times.

A Dinner with the Host

I was spoiled after my bike ride, as Paola had dinner waiting for me in her home when I returned. Her flat, which had huge French doors in the dining room, was open, in viting and everything you’d imagine from an apartment in Barcelona.

Paola told me of how she hoped she could provide this service to any of her guests in Casita Sitges; they could opt to have a day out in Barcelona and a dinner with their host in the city.

I smiled knowing that anyone who opted to stay at her apartment would not only be getting a place to stay in Sitges, but would also meet a friendly host. A host who would provide them with an experience that was much more than just a bed to sleep on at night.

The best part of my trip was seeing how much Paola cared about Casita Sitges and how she genuinely wants her visitors to have an amazing experience in Spain. I was sad to head back to rainy Wales, but I felt lucky that I had met Paola, who proved hospitality is alive and well, wherever your travels take you.

My train trip back to the airport the next morning could have been a somber one, but an accordion player and a trumpeter were playing oldies and tango music for the passengers. As I stepped of the train with the musicians, I hummed along to them pla ying “Hit the Road Jack” as I looked to find where my connection was back to Liverpool.

I found myself once again lost in a tr ain station in Spain…and I couldn’t have been happier.

Visit Spain and Enjoy the charming seafront village that is Old Town Sitges
Casita Sitges

Article by Kayla Jones
Photos By Paola Gheis

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