Beach, Sun And Carnival! – Sitges, Catalonia, Spain
This is a really, really cool town.
It was the very first impression both of us had when we first saw the place and we hadn’t been able to stop saying it since we arrived. We were smack in the middle of Sitges, a beach town ~45 mins from Barcelona on the Southern Coast of Spain, and it had exactly the kind of Mediterranean seaside vibe that we had dreamed about when we first started thinking about RVing in Europe.
Miles of sandy beach with the deep blue sea gently lapping at its shores, a long boardwalk lined with palm trees, open-air restaurants grand buildings decorated with colorful Spanish tile and everything bracketed by a stunning church at the end. Temps were perfect too, a cool and sunny 17°C with nothing but clear sky and sunny days ahead.
We couldn’t have landed at a better first beach spot.
The Drive Over Was Lovely
Our drive from France had only been a couple of hours and had been quite lovely.
We decided to take the mountain pass over the Pyrénées because….pourquoi pas? It’s a gorgeous drive and our little rig has the power to do it. Plus we’re rapidly falling in love with driving LMB. She has great suspension and is SO easy to maneuver and turn that you’d think you were coasting along in a regular car. She’s pretty darn sweet.
As an added bonus, the paws are starting to like her too.
Polly is already all-in and very happy to be exploring again. The cats have not quite settled down yet, but over the past few days they’ve started to find their routine. They’ve adjusted to their new mini-living-space and now have individual day and night-time spots in which to catch their ~14-hour beauty naps. Plus they’ve stopped hissing at each other and started sleeping together again, a sure sign that General Feline Peace has returned. Yeah!
What’s even more telling is that they barely react when we start-up the engine. Our old “beast” had quite a roar and, like all big rigs, the rear suspension was somewhat bouncy, which the cats tolerated but never really liked that much. LMB drives much more like a van or a car, and the cats are totally relaxed when she fires up to go. It’s a positive (and totally unexpected) bonus. They literally slept the whole way across the mountains.
We’ve Unexpectedly Hit Carnival!
Another serendipitous bonus we hadn’t planned for, was that we rolled into town right in the middle of the biggest party of the year…..CARNIVAL!!
Now to to put this properly in perspective this isn’t just any little ol’gathering. The Carnival in Sitges is claimed as one of the top 10 Carnivals in the world with over 250,000 people attending. The celebration goes on for weeks with both children’s and adult-themed events, starting early in the day and going on throughout the night til dawn the next day. It is a PARTAY and a half, and during the event Sitges is a happening place! In fact the running joke in town is that if you want a more relaxed Carnival, you should go to Barcelona because it’s much more laid-back in the “big city”.
We simply hadn’t thought about Carnival, and didn’t really catch on until we noticed folks walking around in costume at the campground check-in. What a cool bonus!
Campgrounds Are Still Easy To Get Into
Despite this we had no problems getting a site, even without reservations.
One of the things we both looked forward to when we acquired LMB was a more relaxed mode of travel. In the “beast” we always had to plan ahead and make reservations, especially if we wanted to be in certain areas (e.g. Oregon Coast, Maine etc.) during high season. Not all big rig owners do this (there are certainly folks who just “wing it”), but we’ve always been really picky about where we wanted to stay, so to get into those spots for the exact time-frames we wanted, we simply had to plan.
Driving around in our ~23 foot Mini Bête is much, much easier. We can pretty much park in any regular parking spot (just about), and can get into any campground site without an issue. Plus since we’re traveling in low season (i.e. NOT summer) we have even less to worry about.
Camping El Garrofer in Sitges proved that out. They had lots of nice shaded sites just a short walk from the beach and a few km from town. Plus they had plenty of availability for our size when we arrived in Friday afternoon, and were actually pretty cheap too. We got the ASCI discount card, which is basically the European equivalent of Passport America (big thanks to our friends Iain & Kate who recommended ASCI before we set off!) so the site was only EUR 20 a night. Totally reasonable for a nice place to stay.
The Town Was Happening
Over the next few days we explored Sitges by bike and foot, soaking in the fresh ocean air (oh, how I’ve missed the beach), exploring the narrow alleyways of town and partaking in a few of the evening festivities.
It’s a pretty large town, boasting over 26,000 permanent inhabitants, 17 separate beaches and a history that stretches back over several centuries. Some of the older buildings still stand today, including the central church but the majority of the town is made up of more modern houses stretched along the extensive beachfront. It’s got a fairly laid-back vibe, but is also quite fancy in spots, so because of that and it’s near-perfect location it’s often nicknamed the Saint Tropez of Spain. This is the place where folks come to relax and play…
Like most Spanish towns, things are pretty dead in the early mornings (great time to roam around if you want to see things in peace), and don’t really ramp up until around midday. Evening meals don’t start until late (past 8 or 9 PM) and things don’t REALLY get rocking well into nighttime. It’s simply the Spanish way…
Seeing the Carnival here was a perfect little bonus. It was everything we could have hoped for and more with over-the-top floats & costumes, music and dance. There were gals in skimpy costumes, Queens in elaborate dresses, gladiators in gold, masses of rainbow flags and pretty much everything in-between. The Carnival in Sitges is an all-inclusive party where absolutely everyone is welcome, and it was a total blast to experience.
Aaaand We Saw Our First Lighthouse!
The final cherry on top from our stay in Sitges was that we caught our first European lighthouse! Well I say “caught”, but sadly it was closed when we went by so we didn’t get to see her inner workings. El Far de Sant Cristòfol is a fine old lady dating back to 1866. She’s built in stone and her 21 m (68 ft) tower shines a light 19 nautical miles to sea.
She looked AMAZING from the outside, so we were rather bummed not to get in, but thankfully there’s a very nice dog-friendly beach right in front. So we consolidated ourselves with a relaxed stroll in the sand (Polly is SO HAPPY to be back on the beach!) and a view of the fine lady behind us. There’s another ~200 lighthouses in this country so maybe we’ll get lucky next time? Either way, I’ll happily take it….
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