I’m going to spoil this right now: this was, hands down, the best beach experience we’ve had on this trip.
BTW, today is Friday.
Here’s a picture I took today… first one because that is what goes on Facebook, and I didn’t want it to be a picture of the map 🙂
The first beach we went to, Barcelonata, was “the tourist beach.” The next two days we went to the picturesque Costa Brava beaches, north of Barcelona. Someone recommended that we go south of Barcelona because the water is warmer and you can wade out really far since the sand doesn’t drop off. Warmer water sounded great, but too much beach and too much sand sounded touristy and not good for snorkeling (which is what I was most interested in).
I looked up the best beaches south of Barcelona and found Sitges (pronounced kind of like “seetchays”), which was a little more than 45 kilometers from our hotel… that sounded great! I wasn’t looking forward to an exciting beach day, really. Aside from what I mentioned above, we were all burned, and I was definitely feeling it. Also, my feet had sores from rubbing against my sandals and sand… bleh. But hey, this was our last beach day, so let’s make the best of it!
We get to Sitges by around 10 a.m. (yes, it was a miracle to get out that early!) without a problem… there was a little bit of traffic, but aside from that, I think I got this driving in Spain thing down. I didn’t have to drive through any crazy small streets… and parking was very easy to find (and way cheaper than yesterday). We unloaded and went across the street to the beach… easy. I immediately set off to explore while the Trio set up and got ready to get in.
The first thing we noticed was at Sitges there were lots and lots of awesome shells! We haven’t seen anything like this at any other beach so far.
Like people said, the water was definitely warmer and you could wade way out… so that was cool. The beach was divided by what looked like man-made docs, but they were just beach dividers. Maybe this helped keep the waves under control… I don’t know. I figured if we would do any cool snorkeling, it would be around those. Not excited, but it was all this beach seemed to offer.
I went up to the north end of the beach, which was just a few dividers up. At the end was a big Spanish cathedral (not my picture):
Photo from: http://www.elcotidiano.es/tic-tac-carnaval-de-sitges
When I got back to our spot the Trio had buried Ellie and where making art around her.
he said that a lady said “oh, that’s Instagram-worthy, can I take your picture?” And two young guys came to talk with her, but since they didn’t speak English “I didn’t understand a thing they said.” Missed opportunity… you gotta learn Spanish!
I set off to the south end of the beach to see what I could find. Surprisingly, there weren’t many people at the beach. I figured it was because we were there so early in the morning, but it stayed fairly empty the entire day (which was great!).
I made my way from beach to beach, past the dividers (which mean up and down stairs)… the sand at the beach we chose was really fine and awesome, but as I went further south the sand got more rocky. There were also some man-made “islands” about 30 feet out where some people swam to, climbed up (they were made out of boulders), and set up their towels.
Finally, I got to the end of the beach… and what did I find? An inlet… like a bay, which was almost completely closed, except for about 30 feet. There were hardly any waves, and because it was enclosed, I thought this would be a great place for snorkeling. It was by a lot of other rock walls, which is where all the good stuff under the sea is (as far as snorkeling goes). Here’s part of it:
Contrast that with this view, of just sand and water:
Also, at the beach we were going to move to, there was a four-foot long area that had what looked like specs of gold… it was right by the edge of the water, and it was really quite awesome. I honestly thought “this is gold!” Turned out to be fool’s gold, I think. I got my hands in it, then started back letting my hands dry, hoping I could make it back with enough gold sand to show the Trio. It was a LONG walk back… probably almost a mile (at least it felt that way).
When I got back I showed my gold-covered hands to the Trio (“COOL!”) and said “let’s go grab lunch,” (because our three hour parking was about up) “then when we come back we have to go to the beach at the end. It will be better for snorkeling and I want you to see the gold.” So we pack up, shower off and head to the car with ten minutes to spare before our car gets impounded :p
I put “restaurant” in the GPS and chose the closest one… we were hoping for paella, which is what everyone says we have to eat while in Spain. The restaurant was (supposedly) only five kilometers (or 3.2 miles) away… so we head out and to our surprise, go outside of the city of Sitges and on the highway. WHAT? We got off the highway and went up the mountain… I think we were about 10 kilometers into this restaurant now… and we weren’t close yet! We kept going up the mountain into this really small town wondering what kind of restaurant they would have up there. It was desert + mountain, and very, very hot. There were no stores or anything… just houses. Finally, almost at the top of the road, we found a restaurant. The GPS said to keep going, which we did until a dead end made us turn around, and went back to the only restaurant with five kilometers.
Note: I have asked people where a “restaurant” is… usually they say it’s far away. We just want a place” that serves a “meal.” You know, like a restaurant. But I think in Espana restaurante means something very specific. What we should have asked for was a “bar” because all bars serve meals, or if it’s after four and the “kitchen is closed,” they serve tapas (appetizers).
I guarantee there were places in Sitges that would have been great, but the GPS said all of the restaurants were outside of town. Anyway, we’re now at the mountain restaurant which is owned by a dad and his six sons (the one we talked to was in his 40’s or 50’s). In one entrance was where you at the “menu,” which is like the meal of the day… you choose between six things for the first course, then five or six things for the second course, a drink, and a postre (like: ice cream, yogurt, or flan). Just outside and up the stairs was the restaurant (in the same building/area) where you could actually choose from a menu they give you… not so structured.
But we were already there, and the menu seemed fine… for $12 euros each we would have a proper Spanish meal, all inclusive! The only problem was it was all in Catalan and we couldn’t make heads of tails of it. After a lot of asking “what’s that?” and then asking for clarification on what they said, and even another customer holding up his noodles and red sauce to show us what we just couldn’t conceptualize because of their descriptions, we ordered. William and I got the steak (very thin) and fries, the girls got (I don’t remember what), and salads and “macaroni” which was not macaroni noodles, and it had some kind of tomato sauce… it was interesting. Oh yeah, my first course was a tostada… that seemed like a good idea. But, instead of a tostada, it was toasted bread with sundried tomatoes (I think), some other thing I couldn’t figure out, two kinds of fish, and I don’t remember what else. Definitely not a Mexican tostada, nor anything resembling one! But hey, we were at a Spanish restaurant and willing to be all-in!
The staff (owners) were all very cool, and patient with us… it was a very friendly environment. We were wondering who would come all the way out to this place for a restaurant, and figured it was (a) locals, and (b) tourists who put “restaurant” in their GPS!
$40-something later, we went back to our car. Realize that this is a stick-shift, like most cars in Europe, and I parked at the edge of the parking lot. This edge had a beautiful view of the valley, which meant that right in front of us was a drop-off! The Trio had suggested that they wait outside of the car while I back it up… you know, in case I drive it off the cliff in front of us while trying to get it to engage in reverse!
Of course, we made it, and found our way back to Sitges, and the south beach. We get park right by the beach (again, surprised there were not many people here today), and as I’m getting ready to pay for parking at the kiosk, a nice guy asked how long we were going to be there. He had an hour let on his ticket, which he gave us. Yeah… we saved a euro! He was with his wife and daughter from Finland (or was it Sweden??), and was just putting on his underwear (right on the sidewalk by the cars). When we were talking he said “sorry for standing here in my knickers!” It was funny… we said we didn’t mind, but his wife said she minded! LOL
I think it was around 3pm… give or take an hour.
We go down and set our stuff down, put up our $10 beach umbrella that was worth it’s weight in gold, and then the Trio sets out to swim around the wall, on the outside, by the open ocean. I suggested they swim all the way around, into the inlet, where there were no waves… but I’m not sure they heard me.
When they came back they said it was cool… I saw this and that… etc. But it was cold. Ellie was ready for a break so I borrowed her mask and snorkel (fins were too small for me) and I went with William and Sam to the inlet. Sam was already up on the rock wall looking around and totally into it… that was fun to watch her explore and poke around. We all made our way to the water where I left my shirt, hat (borrowed from Ellie… I didn’t bring one), and my glasses (for sure no one would steal this stuff, right?) on the rocks, and we went in.
Like I said, this was really calm water since it there was only a small opening to the ocean…
I went slowly along the rock wall, and loved how warm the water was. It was only two or three feet deep… but it was fun to go slow… within the first thirty feet I saw something like a jellyfish (someone said it was a jellyfish egg… I’m not sure about that)… here’s what it looked like (but this is from a pic from New Jersey)… this is from an article about “salps” found in New Jersey… very interesting!)
I also picked up a sea cucumber that was about a foot long… COOL! I love weird wildlife… especially in the ocean. I showed these to Sam and William, and we were all like “ELLIE NEEDS TO BE HERE! THIS IS AWESOME!” This isn’t my pic… there are a lot of beautiful sea cucumbers (see here)… ours looked like this:
I found something really cool looking… I hoped it was an octopus but couldn’t tell because i didn’t have my glasses on (seeing underwater was okay, but I was above water to see it). William came over and said it was a crab (now I could make that out)… it was about seven inches in diameter… the biggest one we’ve seen so far. Awesome.
This wasn’t it… but it’s close enough to get an idea of what we saw:
A little further up I found a sea slug… it looked kind of like this but orange… it was SO COOL and about three inches long:
By this time I realize I’m in heaven!
We all swim around more, looking at cool things (like hundreds of little mounds with lines on them on the sandy floor), tons of schools of fish, from about eight inches big to some that were about a centimeter long and very, very thin. I found a sea anemone (like the one Nemo lived in) and thought heck, you only live once… I’m going to touch this thing. Is it soft, rubbery, or what? (not my pic, photo cred: National Geographic)
expected it to sting me, but it didn’t… it felt like my finger and the tentacles were velcro… they stuck to my fingers! It was so cool!
After swimming around a bunch, and not finding what I was hoping to see the most (an octopus and a starfish), I was ready to trade off with Ellie. William came up to me and said he saw a starfish… I was like “WHERE? I’m going there?” But he had actually picked it up and put it in a shell, so he could show Ellie. It was only a three-legged guy, a little over an inch long, but it was so cool! Here he is… all those white spots on my hand were from touching stuff underwater. I had forgotten that in Puerto Rico I had diving gloves.
Speaking of owies… snorkeling is definitely a contact sport. Sam cut her finger a day or two ago, and Ellie got this this time… but it’s all so worth it 🙂
Then, just as I’m getting ready to get out, Sam says she saw an octopus. “WHAT?? WHERE??” So she leads me over to a cavern on the wall but we couldn’t find it. Darn. Can’t win them all.
On the way out I thought (hoped!) I saw the deadly stone fish… (photo cred here)
But I think it was just a goby. How disappointing! (photo cred here)
Sam and I get out of the water and go back to our towels. She convinces Ellie to change back into her swimsuit and go back in the water… this little paradise was just too cool to pass up! this was our last beach day, and the best snorkeling we’ve done, and she HAS TO go experience it with us!
After some persuasive reasoning from Sam, and maybe a little talk about “last day!” and “debbie downer,” Ellie finally relented and put on her swimsuit and went out with Sam. William was still out, so I walked down the beach a little (and paid for parking two more times)… just down the beach I found a ton of nice seashells washed up… that was really cool. I made a note to go back with the nice camera and get some shots (and have the Trio get the last of their shells). Here’s some of our loot:
William was going through the shells and notice that a sea urchin had snuck into one of our shells… glad we found this the easy way:
At one point, William and Sam were out, and Ellie was in the water on her phone. Turns out, she was journaling some stuff… while standing in the Mediterranean Sea… what a cool place to write in your journal!
Sam had already come back, and then William comes back. “I found an octopus!” His was in the middle of the inlet, in a sandy area, under a rock perhaps the size of a bowling ball. He said the octopus was about the size of my head… he saw it squirt out ink, and kind of “chased it,” and saw it turn different colors… HOW AWESOME!
Very sadly, this is not my picture :p (wikipedia)
I didn’t see what I wanted (I had when I was a teen, in the Virgin Islands), but my two kids did, and that was more than awesome for me!
Here’s a rare shot of me… that smile is the result of an awesome snorkeling day! I don’t look burned but I feel it!
This little place goes down as a MUST VISIT as far as I’m concerned. The reviews online weren’t very favorable about Sitges, but for me, this was the best!
Finally, it was about 8:something, and we were ready to call it a day. But first we had to get smoothies at the shack that we were by… they were only $4 each but we were desperate for some good, clean, wholesome food. Here’s the Trio… William just looks grumpy but he wasn’t… he was doing the cool pose thing:
Of all the choices, we all four chose coconut and pineapple. It was very good, but not as good as a pina colada. The lady running the show was in her forties or fifties and really cool. She was the daughter of the owner, and even though she was shutting down she made the four smoothies for us. I asked her where she was from and she said “seechays”… I was like “where is that?” And that’s how I learned the pronunciation of the town we were in :p
We collected out stuff and jumped in the car. If I can just make it back home without getting in an accident, I’ll almost be home free with my car rental!
Traffic was light, and the drive was great. Except for this one super confusing roundabout, which had about four traffic lights IN the roundabout, and a bunch around it. It was really confusing, especially when a dude parked IN the roundabout, then got out and walked away… it was the weirdest, most confusing roundabout we went through!
On the way home we’re looking at the gorgeous mountains and hills, and we come up to the top of a hill and WHOA! The most amazing sunset! As soon as we saw it the car dipped down the hill, and Ellie had her camera out to grab it, but just thirty seconds later when we were in a place to see it, it was gone. Oh well, it’s in our heart camera!
We got in, exhausted, showered, cleaned our gear, and tried to sleep. Our room is SO HOT, and we are sunburned, so it’s not that easy. But this was the first night of the whole trip that William was zonked out before me… he was OUT. I love it when they are so tired that they just crash.
I figure if I ever do an epic trip like this again, it will be to somewhere like the Virgin Islands to go diving… or perhaps Costa Rica, for some diversity (jungle, diving, etc). I sent William a cool video of people “cleaning” the Florida waters of invasive Lionfish with guns (so cool, but if you are an animal lover and hate the idea of shooting animals, realize that these fish are destroying the whole ecosystem there). Here’s the video.
I wrote the blog post from the day before, and then finally crashed. The plan tomorrow is to go to the Sagrada Familia, but I still haven’t gotten an email reply back from them with an answer about the tickets… we’ll see what tomorrow is. For sure, I have to return the rental car by 1pm.
Buenas noches, desde Espana!