Blai and I had decided to head out of Barcelona during our recent visit and with the weather in the city improving over the Easter weekend (my flight arrived in a downpour), we decided to visit Sitges, only a 40 minute train ride away. I had always thought that Sitges was just a place for tourists looking for the beach but was corrected and told that it was indeed a beautiful town and well worth a visit. It was still a bit too chilly to actually partake in traditional beach activities but it was a beautifully sunny day to stroll about with no cares in the world.
Walking from the train station to the beach, we encountered a number of very grand houses, many of them built by Indianos, the name for residents of Sitges who went over to Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century to make their fortunes. On their return, they used their newfound wealth to build big beautiful houses that add to the uniqueness of the town.
One particularly famous Indiano was Facundo Bacardí Massó, who yes, founded the Bacardí rum company in Cuba. I was surprised to see both a Bacardí distillery tour (Casa Bacardí) and a sculpture on the beach commemorating him.
Apart from the big grand houses though, the rest of the old town of Sitges was very pretty with its small winding streets and illustrated tiled street signs.
We ended up by the beach, of course – it’s impossible not to. It really was a stunning scene and I was again surprised to see lots of artwork scattered about by the beach. I can imagine how crowded it must be in the summer. Strong winds that day certainly didn’t stop the sunbathers though!
The church of Sant Bartolomeu i Santa Tecla, overlooking the beaches, wasn’t open that day and I’d like to return to see inside.
By this time, it was about noon. Blai’s brother had suggested that we go to fer el vermut, a Catalan tradition of having a drink and a bite at one place before moving on to lunch at another (lunch being the main meal of the day in Spain). It’s particularly popular on Sundays and can be had when going out or eating at home. He recommended a chiringuito (beach bar) and it was to that we went to – El Chiringuito, right by the beach and established in 1913. It was only when I got back to London that I discovered that this Chiringuito was the first in all of Spain and it was its name that was given to beach bars all over the country.
We didn’t drink any actual vermut but had a couple of Cokes with olives and fried calamari, both very traditional snacks to have. Other common things to have are potato crisps and anchovies.
After our vermut, there was time for a little stroll again before heading to La Marinada, our chosen restaurant for lunch. When by the sea, it’s hard to resist all the local seafood available. This seafood restaurant was right by the beach but not overlooking it and was very popular with locals looking for high quality seafood all caught nearby. We nibbled for quite a while on delicious little arbequina olives as we perused the menu full of amazing fruits of the sea, finding it very difficult to decide what to eat.
We’re both suckers for crispy, creamy croquetes though and we had to start with these excellent ones.
To follow, a plate of navalles (razor clams) cooked on a planxa and drizzled with a picada made with parsley, garlic and olive oil. They were, hands down, the finest razor clams I’ve ever eaten – perfectly tender, not at all rubbery and so delicious. Underneath the clams was a bed of lettuce and grated carrot and we ate all this salad that had soaked up all the fabulous oil and clam juices.
For our main course, we ordered Arròs amb Llamàntol for two, thinking that this was a rice made with a particular type of fish. Imagine our surprise when this arrived – it turned out that a llamàntol was a kind of lobster (llagosta)!
It was amazing though – the freshest fish, clams, giant prawns, that lobster all mingled together in the pan and the rice was infused with all their gorgeous flavours. And it was huge – we managed to finish most but not all of it. It was quite the feast.
Other dishes that were very popular at the restaurant were their simple fishes cooked on a planxa, their anchovies with escalivada and their paella. Most of the other tables were sharing huge seafood paellas. Of course, all that seafood came at a pretty price and with just sparkling water, a lemon ice cream and a coffee, our meal cost about 90 euros.
After lunch, we waddled our way over to a temporary exhibition set up with the major pieces of art in Cau Ferrat, a house once owned by the Catalan artist Santiago Rusiñol. It’s beautifully set by the sea but unfortunately, during our visit, it was closed for refurbishment. The art is well worth a visit but I need to return to see inside the eclectically decorated house.
We continued strolling along the beach and back through the old town, wishing we had more stomach space for the goodies we saw. As the sun slowly started to lose its warmth, we walked slowly back to the train station and caught the first train back to Barcelona. I’ll be seeing you again, Sitges.
All my photos from Sitges can be found in this Flickr photoset.
Restaurant La Marinada
Carrer Rafael Llopart, 49