A Spanish Birthday Celebration - A Day in Sitges (Day 10)

September 8th, 2015

I'm not going to lie.  This day was filled with ridiculous moments.  It is the day I look back at with the most fondness.  If you equate fondness and silliness as the same thing.

This was the first foreign trip we'd been on that solely utilized a car.  Well, a car we drove.  Though I guess in a way, that isn't entirely correct.  I mean, we rented a jeep on Easter Island, but that was only for a little while.  Plus, there wasn't a chance we could get too lost on an island.  But driving in Spain was different.

I previously referenced a written, but unpublished post about our journey to Extebarri.  I still haven't decided if it ever needs to see the light of day.  There were frazzled nerves and short tempers.  Do I want to revisit those memories??  Not really.  The short version of the story was that driving in Spain was harder than we expected.  Sure, we expected to have a GPS that would actually get us to where we needed to be (you were not it, Jane.).  We expected roads would not change names (strike two).  We expected Adele's innate sense of direction would get us through anything (yes, but...see issues #1 and #2).  We expected me to keep up with the directions that weren't necessarily written down (and let's be honest, this was a big piece why things fell apart...I can barely keep track of directions when things are written down).  So there was a bit more stress on this trip than we'd had during other trips.  Enough time has passed since the trip ended that I see pieces a bit more clearly.  And I blame the car.

I bring this up because today was a long car day.  We were leaving our hilltop oasis in San Sebastian and driving to Sitges.  Never heard of Sitges??  Well, me neither.  Sitges has been referred to as the Saint-Tropez of Spain.  Sitting 35 kilometers outside of Spain, this is a summer destination for Spaniards.  And we were on our way.  It would just take us about five hours to drive there.

This drive was quietly stressful.  The directions weren't too bad.  Jane was quietly humming along (she did fine on the highways, but getting us to our hotel...not so good).  Our big issue became tolls in Spain.

Now it wasn't a surprise there were tolls in Spain.  We knew this was a thing.  We weren't entirely sure how much the tolls would be, but we were cool.  We had cash.  But as we drove south in Spain, the tolls began piling up.  The cash was quickly going away.  And for as lovely as a Spanish roadside oasis is (and they are magnificent), there was not an ATM to be found.  So we became more and more stressed out about having money to pay for the toll we knew was coming.

We scrounged up all of our cash.  Do I remember the total amount we scraped together??  No.  It was around 20 Euro.  And as we took the exit around Sitges, we drove up to the toll gate.  Adele gave the ticket to the gentleman and he announced the toll was 22 Euros (or so...just work with me here.  The exact amount is not important).  Our eyes darted around nervously knowing we did not have the cash we needed (not due to lack of trying) and one of us hesitantly said, "Do you take credit cards??"

"Of course!!"

I screamed "Hallelujah!!" and quickly fished out my card.  The toll guy chuckled and Adele explained we were freaked out about the lack of cash in our arsenal.  If anything, toll guy had a story to bring back home tonight about the crazy American Ladies who were praising Jesus while driving through his gate.

Jane, the GPS, got us close enough to our new hotel in Sitges.  But we quickly realized parking was not going to happen anywhere near the hotel.  Nor was there parking to unload our luggage at the front of the hotel.  As we planned our stay, we were looking for a hotel situated on the boardwalk.  We forgot there is never parking available on a boardwalk.  So we had to turn around and find some kind of parking we could feel comfortable with for a night.  Really, it wasn't hard to do.  And we didn't even care about how much it would cost.  It had been a long drive and we needed to not be in the car for a while.

The walk to the hotel was not far, but my luggage was acting up a bit.  So I had to both carry and roll the increasingly heavy bag at the same time.  Not easy to do.  During the walk to the hotel, we began noticing a theme.

I mean, I've never been to a Spanish beach.  French beach, yes.  Spanish, no.  So I wasn't sure what to expect.  Almost immediately, my brain recognized that Adele and I, being women, were clearly in the minority in this town.  Now, this is not a big deal, but to notice it immediately was interesting.  My research on Sitges before arriving was that this was a gay friendly town.  Ok.  Cool.

But as we got to the room after checking in at the hotel, we both turned to each other and said, "I mean, there are a lot of Bears here, right??"

Cut to an hour or so later.  We came to realize we had arrived in Sitges at the beginning of International Bear Week.  Seriously.  You can't make this up.  Once we saw the pamphlet, other pieces of information suddenly made sense.

We were surprised as we began booking this leg of the journey.  Hotel rooms were overly expensive for the time of year.  Bear Week.  And rooms were very hard to come by.  Bear Week.  When we were researching hotels, we would see a room available one day, then when we revisited the hotel the day after, it was gone.  Bear Week.  The hotel we ended up staying at was the epicenter of Bear Week.  It was all so perfect.  If anything, we knew we weren't going to get hassled by Dudes here.  Because they could not have cared less about us.

The hotel we ultimately booked happened in a fit of "Cava is available for free?? Seemingly at all times??  Let's do it!!"  The Hotel Platjador was lovely.  Remember yesterday, when I said I forgot to take pictures in San Sebastian??  Yeah, it's a little bit of deja vu.  I didn't take pictures here either.  Whoops. 

There was also a wonderful surprise waiting for us in the room.

I have mentioned before that I love adding notes to hotel stays.  Just to see what happens.  Nothing happened in Hawaii.  Cava happened at the Marques de Riscal.  And in Sitges...the love of the Platjador was increased monumentally as we walked into the room to see a chilled bottle of Cava waiting for us.

In the hotel notes, I mentioned how excited we were to celebrate our 40th Birthday at the hotel.  And a little something got lost in translation.

Awww...Happy Anniversary to us!!
Our first stop at the hotel was to drop our crap in the room.  Obviously.  The second stop was to the rooftop for free Cava and Tea.  We just so happened to arrive at the precise moment the complimentary Cava began pouring.  Fate??  I have to believe so.

Another lovely welcome to the Hotel Platjador.  We loved this place.
Once we had loaded up on Cava, Tea, and various pastries, we set out around the town.  And really, it just meant we walked up and down the beachfront.  We knew dinner would be had shortly, so we began scoping out places we thought would work.  And our one goal was to consume the dish we hadn't yet sought out.

Beach Dog.  This dog's owner was right behind me and totally noticed me taking the picture.
We wanted paella.

Sure, there was some TripAdvisoring.  But our ultimate decision came as we were walking up and down the street.  We were in a beach town.  And we found the most beachside restaurant we could find.  We went to a place called Pic Nic.

The sun was setting, but it was still probably early for dinner in Spain.  Who cared??  We were in a slight Cava-haze and we needed paella.  We ended up sitting in a section of the restaurant all by ourselves, but it didn't matter, because paella was coming and we could look out at the water.  Summer was ending in Chicago and this was our last hurrah for sunshine and warmth for the year.  We had to grab a hold of the moment.  The beach guys stacked chairs for the night, covering them with a tarp to protect from the nighttime elements.  Couples walked arm in arm on the sidewalk, breathing in the saltiness of the beach air.  And Adele and I shared a lovely bottle of white with a giant pan of paella.  Most of the stresses of the driving and of the trip melted away.  We ate our weight in paella, then had a taste of the official dessert of Barcelona, the Crema Catalana.  This was creme brulee/flan type of dessert that was not actually needed, but still enjoyed.

The paella was plated for both of us and I did clean my plate.   I also went back for seconds.  You know.  As you do.
The Crema Catalana is not normally as "mousse-y" as this one was.  I didn't have a problem with the mousse, but would have rather had a more traditional version.  I never was able to have a traditional version.  I guess I have to go back, huh??
We rolled back to the hotel.  It was dark now, but the waves were behind us.  We knew the party from Bear Week would be heard from our room, but it didn't matter.  The day was exhausting.  And we were spent.  Sleep was calling our name.  At least my name.  I was fine with that.


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