This is part 4 of a series documenting my Memorial Day weekend trip to Sitges, outside of Barcelona. You can read an overview of the trip here.
I blogged about Sitges two years ago, and not a ton (or anything of note) has changed. My concerns about it being dead for the beginning of the season were unmerited. Two of my three days were beautiful beach days, and the bars and clubs were still pretty full. Although it was only in the low 70s, the sun was strong and it was quite pleasant. The routine of cocktails outside Parrots people-watching on the Placa Industria, then dinner, then drinking outside on Carrer de Joan Tarrida, then inside to the clubs and less-savory bars after midnight. The crowd definitely skewed a bit older than I remembered, but that could be an issue of memory. I also managed to run into an American traveler who I had met in Medellin in January – small world!!
In this post, I’ll just touch on the things I did differently this time.
Whereas I took the train to Sitges two years ago, this time I took the bus, and it was much easier, particularly since I flew into Barcelona’s Terminal 1. It took me awhile to find the right area, but the bus to Sitges and points west is in the area marked “Interurbanos.” There, there are a bunch of different bus companies that do regional trips. The bus is operated by Monbus and runs every 30 minutes or so. I had to wait about 20 minutes or so, but it was fine.
The bus costs 7,10 EUR and you buy your ticket from the driver. It goes all the way to Tarragona, but Sitges is the first stop and it took 25 minutes with no traffic. The bus was basic, but clean and newish. It wasn’t very full, and there was room for luggage below, though it might be more crowded in peak season (and was more crowded on my way back, as Sitges was one of the last stops en route to the airport and onward to the city). It’s a pleasant ride and drops you right near the train station in the center of town.
Hotel Galeon Pavilion
The hotel I stayed at this time, the Hotel Galeon, was closer to the town center the hotel I stayed last time, but farther from the beach. I still didn’t use any mode of transportation other than walking my entire time in Sitges, but I still liked the location of the other hotel (now the MiM) better and would probably stay closer to the beach next time. (There are tons of grocery and other stores right around the hotel.)
Everyone at the hotel was super-friendly though. There was a bit of a hiccup as I had booked a room in the “newer” building, the Galeon Pavilion, but you have to check in at the main Hotel Galeon which is around the block. So, I got some exercise walking to the wrong hotel first, back around with luggage, and back again. Once you check in, there’s a back gate that allows you to just cross the street rather than going all the way around, but it’s still a bit of a schlep to the pool, breakfast, etc.
Even though it was only about 10am, the front desk told me they’d have my room ready in about an hour. They gave me a voucher for a welcome drink at one of their sister properties roof bar on the beach, and explained to me all the facilities. Over all, the facilities were fairly basic, but well-maintained. No gym, and I didn’t make it to try and find one in town. There was a small bar and a lobby in the main building, where there was afternoon tea every day from 4 to 6 (which seemed to be leftover pastries from breakfast, and coffee/tea/lemonade), and there was always fruit water available.
Behind the main building was a small pool surrounded by lounge chairs, along with a whirlpool. There was always pollen, unfortunately, as well as older, loud English people (a mix of straight and gay), which made it less than ideal for relaxing. Beach/pool towels were available for a 15 EUR deposit.
In the building I was in, there was a weird lobby and computer that seemed to serve no purpose, along with vending machines, including a free coffee machine (with no cups). There was also a security guard in that building at night. On the roof, there was a “solarium”, which was just a deck with a hot tub and a few chairs – small, but more relaxing and private then the pool.
Although I’d booked a “Superior” room, which was the third level up, I think, the room was pretty small and an odd shape. Still fine for the price, but not really luxurious. There was a tiny little desk/table thing next to the bed, that basically just served as a table for the tea kettle and ice bucket, with a mini-fridge underneath (with two free bottles of water in it). There was a flat-screen mounted against the wall, a single small chair in the corner, and a closet. There was a nice painting of the town over the bed at least. The bed had some weird pillows: one huge one, one small foam one, and then two more normal ones. All rooms in my category had a balcony, but mine had a less than pleasant view, so I never used it.
The bathroom was pretty spacious, but also sparse. There were actually good quality toiletries, though, and the shower had good pressure. The free wifi was fine, and the air conditioning worked well. I oddly blew a fuse the one time I tried to use the tea kettle – odd, since I had nothing else plugged in at the time! But I flipped the breaker and was back in business.
The worst aspect of the room was that it was super loud. I heard housekeeping in the halls and in other rooms, and guests in other rooms, including folks who seemed to be having some wild sex!
The best part of the hotel, on the other hand, was its buffet breakfast. Unfortunately, I only made it to it once, as I slept through it on day 3 and left before it opened on day 4. (You can request a packed breakfast if you’re leaving before breakfast starts at 8am, but have to request it 24 hours in advance, which I forgot to do.) There was a full buffet of cold meats, salads, and cheeses; tons of pastries and desserts; and a range of hot dishes, including oxtail ravioli and chicken wings. In addition, you can request egg dishes cooked to order. There was champagne and a full range of beverages as well.
In all, if you’re looking for a well-priced just to stay, the Hotel Galeon was totally fine.
There are a number of small museums in Sitges, which are a good way to spend time not at the beach. The one museum I wanted to go to was the Casa Bacardi, which is owned by the Bacardi rum company and is an interactive experience. Mr. Bacardi, it turned out, was born and raised in Sitges. There are only a few English tours a day, though, and they sell out, so you need to buy your ticket in advance. Unfortunately, it was sold out for the day that was supposed to be bad weather (and ended up being not sunny) before I even left the U.S., so I booked a ticket for another day I was in town and ended up leaving the beach a little earlier than I would have otherwise on my final day.
The experience is very weird, in that you check in and wait outside the building. Lots of people came up trying to get tickets, only to be turned away, some of whom were shocked. The crowd was almost exclusively British, but a mix of ages and configurations of groups otherwise.
The museum is basically one large hangar type building divided into three segments. The first portion was a small room with a bunch of exhibits on the walls, along with a brief explanation of the history of the company given by the guide in not-the-best English. There was a 15-second video where lots of people said one word about Bacardi, that seemed like it might lead into something else, but, it didn’t.
From there, we moved into a section with a bunch of casks, which came with a description of the rum distillation process, along with tastes of rum at three different stages of production.
Finally, the best part was the bar area, where we divided into two groups and bartenders taught us how to make three different drinks: the mojito, the Cuba Libre, and a house cocktail, the Murcielago. The bartenders were friendly and explained well, though at the end of each drink they allowed everyone to taste the drink out of one glass with separate straws, which seemed unsanitary. Once the demonstration was done, visitors had the choice of making their own mojito or Cuba Libre. I went with the more complicated mojito, and they provided each guest with a cutting board and all of the ingredients, including fresh mint and limes.
For 12 EUR, you actually get something and it’s a nice break from the beach. Not a must-see by any means, but worth thinking about.
Eating and Drinking
Just briefly to touch on the eating and drinking. First, I made the mistake of having dinner at Ribera, one of the seafood places right on the waterfront, and, maybe we ordered poorly, but it was an expensive mixed fish grill that wasn’t even that good. In general, eat away from the waterfront. It is total tourist fare. The food was so disappointing and unfilling that we went to a tapas place, El Bitxo, which was awesome, with great service and people-watching, yummy fare, and reasonably-priced cava.
Second, I returned to the French restaurant I went to last time, L’Angle d’Adriana, and it was still fantastic and remarkably affordable. I think my four-course meal, with a duck entrée, plus complimentary champagne and a glass of wine, was about 20 EUR. The food was great and the service was wonderful.
Finally, there’s a new gay bar, away from the main strip, called Bar 7. Owned by a couple from the Netherlands, it was by far the friendliest gay bar in town, and a good place to go if you want to chat with other visitors, the owners, or whomever, as opposed to just stand outside a bar and drink on the main rowdier street.
Overall, a great place to spend 3 nights to kick off the summer!
Next up: My return home on Aer Lingus