My wife wanted so much to go to Barcelona for her 40th birthday, but I had booked a seaside resort instead, thinking our 6 year old daughter might get bored spending 4 nights in a city. Sitges is a well known gay resort, so I wasn’t too sure how well it would cater for families. So was this a mistake? Well, no, as it turned out.
There are about 17 beaches in the Sitges area and our hotel was right on a designated family beach. There was an adjacent children’s playground and a pleasant promenade with cafes and bars. My daughter was in her element, playing in the sand and paddling in the sea, interspersed with a trip to the playground. There were plenty of other families there on the Sunday in October when we were present, although it was quieter during the week. When we tired of the beach, we wandered through the old town, past the church, which dominates the seafront from a little promontory, and onto a lengthier palm lined promenade stretching as far as the eye could see.
Sitges retains an elegant feel, as it escaped the costa del concrete excesses of the 1960s and 70s, to which many other Spanish resorts succumbed. It has a relatively low rise seafront, with many attractive older buildings facing the promenade. This is backed by narrow and often cobbled streets where you can lose yourself browsing the assortment of shops, bars and cafes. Everywhere we ate and drank was family friendly (although didn’t always have lower priced children’s meals), and some gay run establishments made a special effort with our daughter. In one, she did blurt out “there’s a man dressed as a girl!” as she saw her first drag queen walk past along the street. Afterwards, she got on with her egg and chips, which wasn’t on the menu – the chef had cooked it especially for her.
So Sitges wasn’t such a bad call for our daughter. But what about my wife, so desperate to see Barcelona? Well, not so bad for her either, as there was a train about every 15 minutes to the Catalan Capital. At the ticket office, our daughter was pleased to be given a cut out cardboard train, and became very excited when she boarded her first double decker carriage. We had to sit upstairs of course!
Our first stop was the city’s most famous landmark – Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrada Familia church. We gazed in awe at the original façade. Luckily, some genius on a par with the great architect had placed a playground in the park next to it. This gave us far more viewing time than I had anticipated. Next up was the Passeig de Gracia, which I think of as an upmarket version of the Champs Elysees, with an additional splattering of architecture to admire by Barcelona’s most famous son, among others. I tried to get the Hansel and Gretel like Casa Battlo to appeal to my daughter’s fairytale imagination. It didn’t quite work. She was more interested in the fountains at Placa Catalunya, which produced a rainbow. After a walk down the Ramblas, which was disappointingly devoid of street entertainers on a Monday afternoon, it was time to go to the Ciutadella Park. (Un)fortunately, we arrived just in time for the young children’s play session in the playground area. We were in for a long stay which took us right up to home time. The next day, we came back for more. This time, we hit the old town and the Gothic Quarter. We saw the remains of the Roman temple, the cathedral and even got our daughter eating decidedly Spanish tapas with no hint of chips or fish fingers. We finished in the interesting chocolate museum, which as well as telling the history of chocolate, had sculptures of famous Barcelona landmarks and people made out of chocolate. Lionel Messi took pride of place, but I had to explain who he is. This was a sign of the sacrifices I had made for my family. No Olympic Stadium, no Camp Nou and no El Clasico on the itinerary, although we did dine in a restaurant that had audio commentary on Barca’s victory over Real Madrid. That is about as far away as you can get from this fixture, for which the whole of Catalonia stops.
But, my wife had a great time sightseeing in Barcelona and my daughter thoroughly enjoyed playing on the beach in Sitges. The holiday went just as I’d hoped.
Sitges is on the Costa Dorada in Catalonia, Spain, about 40kms down the coast from Barcelona
We stayed at the Hotel San Sebastian Playa