Before looking to the future, a glance back at the finale of 2022. Ahead of the holiday season shifting into overdrive, we drove five and a half hours from St. Rémy de Provence to the stunning seaside enclave of Sitges, 30-minutes from Barcelona. This delightful town—around 30K residents—had been on our radar for a while. A dear friend regularly visits and raves about it, a daughter of neighbors lives there and adores it, AND the New York Times journalist Alexander Lobrano finds it irresistible too. After a week in the captivating town, it’s easy to understand why.
First of all, the Mediterranean coastal setting is stunning, with countless opportunities for water sports from boogie boarding to kayaking to surfing. Add to that the fabulous foodie scene, welcoming locals, vibrant ambiance, impressive Catalan Art Nouveau architecture, and intriguing museums like the Museu Cau Ferrat, featuring works by Spanish Impressionist painter Santiago Rusinol. Plus there are cool birds, like the striking blue Kingfisher and lime green Rose-ringed Parakeets!
In the San Sebastian neighborhood, we rented a contemporary apartment overlooking the beach—Sitges has no fewer than seventeen! From our balcony, people-watching was top-notch, as locals and tourists converged on the wide promenade below—strolling, jogging, pushing a pram or snapping selfies. From the Sitges church to the Terramar Hotel, the walkway skirting the sand stretches for over 2.5 kilometers.
And we took advantage, walking and peddling our foldable bikes in both directions. Good thing we got some exercise because we attempted to eat at most of the restaurants noted in the NY Times article plus a few our friends told us about. My favorite dish was probably the deeply rich paella at Costa Dorada—heavenly. But other eateries offered delicious dining experiences like the venerable Salseta and bustling Bon Estar. (Reservations recommended.)
But sitting down for a full meal wasn’t the only option for delectable nourishment. It just happened that during our visit, the town was hosting a program called Tapa a Tapa Sitges. Participating restaurants offer a particular tapa and a glass of wine or beer for four euros. A detailed brochure (in Catalan and Spanish) describes and shows a photo of the tapa on offer and outlines the days/hours it’s available. At Vento at Hotel Sunway, we sat on a huge terrace across from the sparkling Med and enjoyed espuma de setas con butifarra de perol y crujiente de iberico. Basically, it was a large shot glass filled with a flavorful mushroom foam topped with minced mushrooms and pork sausage bits. But perhaps the most surprising was the one at Pic Nic. There we were served a tiny toque of dark chocolate stuffed with a corn meal mush made with onions, carrots and fig.
Not that lively Sitges lacked for enticing discoveries, but alluring Barcelona beckoned. So one day, we hopped the train for the 30-minute ride to the metropolis for a quick look-see and lunch with a delightful friend from St. Rémy who’s settled there. A single day allows only enough time to barely scratch the surface of this astounding city, but we hit some highlights: the sprawling Plaza Catalonia, renown Boquería market, snazzy shops on La Rambla, Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia, and transformative mussels and yummy tacos carnitas at the hip restaurant Fiser with our bonne amie, not to mention birdwatching—Rose-ringed Parakeets populated the palm trees!
During our all-too-brief week in this vibrant Catalan region, we made some intriguing discoveries and marvelous memories, reminding us of the magic of curious exploration. Here’s to the adventures to come!
All the best for New Year 2023 delivering good health, happiness and hope.
Caught these prancing beauties on New Year’s Day in the Camargue. Could they be speed-dating?
*Alexander Lobrano is the author of the NY Times International Edition article, A long-awaited return to Spain, 21 Sept. 2022.