Wild Parrots, 17 Beaches, and Rum!
by Barb Harmon
In the still of the early morning we strolled along the palm tree dotted seafront. To our right the Mediterranean Sea is calm – smooth as glass. To our left, the shop and restaurant owners hose off the sidewalks in front of their establishments preparing for a busy day.
As we chat, my husband and I stop midstep startled by a deafening roar above our heads. We look up but can’t see anything. Suddenly, a large group of screaming squawking parrots swoop out of the palm fronds. Bright green, vibrant yellow, I’ve never seen birds like this in the wild. A morning jogger approaches and points up to a tree top saying “those are Monk Parakeets. They are loud but harmless. Just watch your heads.” At that point we knew our time in Sitges Spain would be anything but dull.
Located in the Catalan region, Sitges is 32 kilometers southwest of Barcelona by train. Only a half hour away but a world apart. Facing the Mediterranean, this former fishing village was nicknamed the “Golden Shore” as it was a holiday spot for the wealthy. Now, it is a welcoming spot for everyone – singles, couples or families will feel welcome here. If you arrive by train you’ll notice the streets slope downward. Just head down and you will end up on the promenade by the coast.
Perched on a rocky promontory high above the coastline is the Parish Church. The Church of Sant Bartomeu and Santa Tecla appears to sit guard above the Sea. Construction of the baroque church began in the 17th century and is built on the remains of a church from 1322. La Punta as it is called has the best view in town. When the sea is quiet vendors set up their wares on the steps that lead up to the church. If the sea is active, waves crash along the seawall and steps soaking you if you are standing too close to the edge. We escaped in the nick of time while others weren’t so fortunate.
There are cafes with patios close by where you can have a drink or snack while drying off. While sitting at one of these cafes, several couples that had been drenched while climbing the steps to La Punta sat down at the table next to ours and started removing wet garments. The waiter said “this is normal.”
We can thank Sitges for Bacardi Rum. The founder, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso was born here in 1814. He emigrated to Cuba in 1830 looking for a better life as many young men did at that time. In 1862 through trial and error, he developed a unique way to distill rum. His wife Amalia suggested the bat as the symbol for the product. She noticed bats in the distillery – easy to see as the rum is aged in white oak barrels. The symbol can be seen throughout the town. Bacardi is still a family owned business – the largest privately owned spirits company in the world. Take time to visit the Casa Bacardi Sitges Museum. You will experience the history of the brand, see how the product is made and of course sample the beverage.
While Sitges can be visited on a day trip from Barcelona, it is worth setting aside at least two days – three would be perfect. The narrow, twisting turning cobblestone streets from the middle ages are filled with inviting shops and restaurants. History and beauty can be viewed around every corner. When walking through town, take time to get off the beaten path and continue to the residential streets. The tree lined streets are quiet, the homes worthy of Architectural Digest. On a windy day when the ocean is churning you will hear the sound of waves crashing against the shore.
The perfect way to end a day is a walk along the promenade watching the sun sink into the horizon. This is a tradition. You’ll find families on their evening stroll, joggers getting in the last run of the day and couples walking hand in hand.
If You Go:
Casa Bacardi Sitges Museum
Placa de l’ Ajuntament 1
Tel: + 34 938 94 81 51
Students and seniors €6 with ID
Minors (under 18) free with a parent
Can Llopis Romanticism Museum
Built in 1793 as a private mansion, this museum shows what life was like as a wealthy citizen. It also houses a collection featuring hundreds of antique dolls and toys.
Carrer de Sant Gaudenci 1
+ 34 938 94 29 69
Admission: Varies according to the package purchased
Restaurant Pic Nic
Passeig de la Ribera
Tel: +34 938 11 00 40
Located on the Mediterranean, the view is majestic.
About the author:
Barb Harmon’s love affair with travel began in high school as an exchange student in the Netherlands and continues to this day decades later. As empty nesters, she and her husband travel as often as possible looking for the next adventure. She is a member of ITWPA and ITWA. Visit her blog at www.chasingthenextchapter.com.
Photos by Barb Harmon:
Strolling along the promenade
Green Monk parakeet
Church of Sant Bartomeu and Santa Tecla