There is a seaside town not too far from Barcelona that is pretty, has a year-round-holiday feel, benefits of balmy weather and more than 300 days of sun each year. Sitges. It was also the location of the conference I attended.
The hotel and conference center stood on a hill, surrounded by mountains on two sides, a residential area made of summer apartments on another side, and a marina with a semi-secluded beach on the remaining side. The interior was new, minimalistic, but a bit sterile, in my opinion…to cold and uninviting, except for some bright red coffee tables sticking out between grey carpets and grey sofas. At least we ate well, and while we ate we watched the hotel guests suntanning by the hotel pool. Tough life.
Conference started on a Sunday, so I had to put myself together after the weekend in Barcelona, hop on a train and get myself to the registration desk. Now, I do really think that the conference organizers either didn't know what they were doing, or they knew very well. As I briefly mentioned, the choice of location already speaks for itself. Secondly, the dates: conference days were timed perfectly with the celebrations for Saint Tecla, ending with a spectacular firework display the night before my departure. Since I was on conference mode, I didn't bother checking any city events schedule…it was already too hard to stay at the conference while the beach out there was calling my name loudly. So, I knew about the fireworks only when I heard the rumble from my hotel room.
In any case, the various events happening around Sitges were not too different from those I saw for the Merce' in Barcelona, only on a smaller scale. The parade of dragons (drac, in catalan) I saw on the evening I arrived was mainly made of kids of all ages. It kind of tells how much the religious tradition is "forced" and embedded into people since very young age.
I then studied the subject a bit more, and learned that Sitges has two town protectors, Bartolome' and Tecla, whom the main church is named after. The main celebration is the one for Sant Bartolome' in August, known as Fiesta Major. And in that occasions, human towers, fireworks, giants, dragons and what not are in full displacement. Santa Tecla's celebrations, in September, are same, but just a few tones down.
The hotel I was staying at was near the main street, and rather far from the conference venue. I figured I wanted to stay closer to where stuff happened at night, and after I stumbled upon the firecracker dragons parade in the evening I couldn't be more satisfied with the choice. But I have to say that the mere 20 min walk to and from the conference venue was actually a very enjoyable one: pass through the main square, walk along the shopping street, bypass the church, cut through the exquisitely preserved old village, take the Balmins walk. This last stretch has a peculiarity: the beach below the trail features a beautiful cave, which is not visible from above, and welcomes nudists. I mean, it was not that the beach was exclusive to nudist, I am saying that there were ALSO nudists. Disturbing for some, maybe, but, hey, there are other beaches for those who can't suffer too much skin exposure.
Because the sun goes down pretty late at the latitudes Sitges and Barcelona are, even after a long day of conference one could enjoy the rest of the afternoon. I went jogging one day, running forth and back the long beach promenade, lined with cafes on the beach side and super luxury houses on the road side. I wonder who are those who can afford a mansion in Sitges…real estate prices, because of the town's fame, make Sitges a miniature Saint Tropez.
Spain is famous for tapas, and Sitges is well defending the culinary pride of a Nation with plenty of taverns and restaurants where to gorge on delicious food. More than tapas, I love pintxos (catalan for spike), sort of one-bite tapas typical from the north part of Spain. They are similar to tapas, but food is "spiked" to a piece of bread. All taverns have long counters filled with trays and trays of all possible pinchos (they come in endless flavors and ingredients), buffet style. I could feed on them for the rest of my life. Just. Too. Good.
Speaking of pride, this delightful town overlooking the sea is among the most homosexual-friendly town in the world. I found lovely to see all those guys (mostly it was guys) in a couple cuddle, rest the one's head on the other's lap openly and (yes, thankfully) without worrying about bigots, but…it was a torture at the same time: imagine a single, heterosexual woman surrounded by perfect, sculpted men she can only look but not touch…
Italian translation coming soon...