Well. That was an experience! Up until this month, I’ve associated Sitges with sleepy, relaxing afternoons on the beach and wandering through narrow streets hunting out decision Catalan nibbles. A very chilled out place.
But spending a long weekend there during Pride was something very different! And if I’m honest, it was just what I needed. As Sitges is basically Spain’s gay capital, Pride promised to be something special. It was basically a three-day party. Interspersed with time dozing on the beach and turning brown.
We had a wonderful start to the trip on Thursday late afternoon, with a speedy 25min trip down the motorway from Barcelona Airport and a lovely, friendly greeting at our favourite hotel – the Melia Sitges. The friendly greeting continued when we got to our room, to find a bootle of cava and some sweets waiting for us, along with a note welcoming us back to the hotel.
Our view of the bay and Sitges old town was great. I spent some time out on the balcony that evening just taking in the view, sipping the cava and adjusting myself out of London time to Sitges time. Less fuss and rush, more sun and sleep.
Friday morning, we enjoyed a spectacular breakfast at the Melia – their buffet breakfast is truly legendary – and then made a quick trip to the local Carrefour to pick up some supplies for the beach.
I spent a very hot, but relaxing Friday on Platja dels Balmins, which I’ve blogged about before. It’s an incredibly chilled out place usually, but during Pride, it went from next to empty at 10am to pretty much wall-to-wall gays by lunchtime!
What started with a lovely view of the sea turned into a sea of naked men and umbrellas. To be honest, after about four hours, I’d had enough sun for the day and was screening myself under an umbrella and reading my book. That’s not to say that the occasional arrival of what appeared to be underwear models didn’t pique my interest from time to time.
Friday night started with a walk into town and a wander through the bars on and near Placa de Industria – all the gay bars, basically. For cocktails and people-watching, just not necessarily in that order. And we weren’t disappointed! Unlike all my previous visits, it was actually tough to find a table outdoors and you had to have eagle eyes trained on the plaza to spot anyone leaving. But it was definitely worth the wait.
I’d say we deserved our cocktails by the time we found a table. Or at least, that’s what we told ourselves. One thing to note about Sitges is that cocktails are made with a rather ‘heavy hand’. The measures are generous, even if it does take a while to get served! So, you know…
Pride meant there was a large stage by the waterfront, featuring an eclectic mix of acts. And I mean eclectic. We didn’t really go clubbing, but each night I spent some time on our hotel balcony once we got back, listening to the music pumping across the waterfront. We got to hear an amazing Lady Gaga tribute act (there is such a thing) as well as the legendary Baccara (“Yes sir, I can boogie” etc).
But these relatively late nights and early mornings (to get a seat on the beach) meant that beach time was a mix of swimming, reading and sleeping. Actually, quite a bit of the latter, I’m happy to say.
When I wasn’t swimming or lying down, I was joining lots of other guys walking up and down the beach, working hard to get that perfect all-over tan. Honestly – lying still in one place is a short cut to interesting but unwanted tan lines! Plus it helped me get my steps in.
In such unrelenting sunshine, it was really important to keep moving, to avoid getting burnt and to reapply suncream regularly. While I did’t need a reminder, the several obviously British victims of sunburn scattered around the beach helped me keep this in mind. Like slightly drunk, cackling lobsters.
Platja dels Balmins is usually incredibly laid back and friendly. Pride meant the quota of pecks and abs was ups significantly and I reckon if you added up the cost of the designer beachwear on show, you could’ve bought us all dinner and drinks for the whole weekend. Still, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly friendly and the weather was magnificent. The loudest sound anywhere was laughter. It was a joy.
Despite the ‘gay invasion’, the beach still had a healthy number of local Spanish families enjoying themselves, with an impressive age range of people. We had newborns all the way up to people who looked like they were in their 80s. All having fun on the same short strip of beach and water.
It just meant it took longer to navigate the patchwork of towels on the sand to get from my lounger to the sea. The queues at the beach bar were also longer and it’s the first time I’ve seen people opening bottles of champagne there. I really, really wanted to take a panorama photo of the beach to show just how busy it was, but it’s just not a good idea to be the guy with a camera on a naturist beach!
Friday, Saturday and Sunday were basically a case of rinse and repeat. An impressive attack on the breakfast buffet, camping out on the beach on a well placed lounger, tanning for hours and then hitting the bars that night. We also made it back to our favourite tapas bar ever, L’Avinyet and had a superb meal.
Sunday evening, we got to see the tail end of the Pride parade saunter through town and enjoyed the buzz around the place. We got talking to various visitors and my new pride strap for my Apple Watch started a few conversations!
We spoke with people on their first visit to Sites Pride, as well as some seasoned regulars, all enjoying the atmosphere. Including some Belgian nuns (see below) who couldn’t wait to get a photo with me. This is the only photo with them that I can share on this blog. They had…wandering hands!
It all took its toll and I admit that I slept for part of the flight home to London. Several shades browner and enjoying a review of all the photos I took while we were out and about. But I’m no longer cut out for three late nights in a row – I freely admit that!
Don’t hate me, but I’m actually back in Sitges again in a few weeks, combining a business trip in Barcelona with a couple of days back on the beach. If I’m honest, I’m hoping it’ll be a lot quieter. Pride was incredible fun, but I’m looking forward to having my sleepy, relaxing Sitges back. And far fewer perfect washboard stomachs all around me on the beach.
You can only hold in your gut for so long before it’s a chore…