When I was traveling in Barcelona during the summer of 2014, many other travelers I had met in the city had asked me, “Have you been to Sitges yet?” I even had a friend from NYC who lived there, and she had invited me for a visit, but I never made it too far outside of Barcelona, as I was discovering a whole new world there. Kind of ridiculous, considering Sitges is only a 40-minute train ride from the city, but I was in my groove and enthralled with my current adventure.
I had heard stories about this place that sounded almost legendary. Some claimed it was like a slice of Greece on the Spanish coast. Others spoke about its charming cobblestone streets, and still others spoke about it like a hidden paradise. Each storyteller had something enchanting to say about this seaside village that was originally inhabited by fishers.
When I finally landed in Europe as an expat, I had it on my to-do list to make it out for a visit. Lucky for me, I had a group of girlfriends who loved hiking on the weekends, and one of my banker students who was from a nearby “pueblo” suggested doing the coastal hike from Sitges to her hometown of Vilanova i la Geltrú. So I mapped out the route, and we made a day of it.
An Expat’s Dream
We finally arrived, and it truly was a place that expat dreams are made of. A picturesque coast, dotted with colorful seaside architecture and white Grecian-inspired structures, nestled alongside the Mediterranean Sea, with crystalline waters and gentle waves – it was breathtaking and blissful to see such beautiful views, and I immediately understood what all the fuss was about.
The vibe was so trendy, with house music pumping from the waterfront restaurants, and attractive crowds, most likely half of them tourists and half locals since it is a popular tourist destination.
Over the years, I have become quite familiar with Sitges because I have a close friend who lives there with her husband, and they do indeed live a charming life there.
She’s a fellow American and her husband is Swiss, but they have been settled there for the last 12+ years.
They live right in the city center, with only a 5-minute walk to the main beach, in a flat with two terraces (it’s all about the terrace life in Spain, and if you can score one, you will be so happy you did!).
Anyhow, back to the hike…
Familiarity From Back Home – a Gay-Friendly Place
That first day in Sitges, we set off on a coastal hiking route that follows the Renfe train tracks to the next village over.
Now, I had always heard that Sitges was a gay-friendly place, but it was on this hike that I discovered why it had that happy reputation.
When in the city, it is clear – not only can you feel a sense of ease and openness in the general carefree attitude of the visitors and its habitants, but you can also see rainbow flags proudly displayed in the windows of most public establishments.
Super bonus points for me, being that I grew up in a very gay-friendly city – it truly reminded me of one of my favorite neighborhoods back home.
I could see myself living in such a wonderful place (and I still often toy with this idea).
And this is an interesting point…
What I have discovered during many moments in my journey as an expat is that it has been these moments of familiarity that reminded me of something back “home” (yet where is home really for many of us global citizens?) that has fostered me with a sense of belonging so many miles away from where I came from.
There are many aspects about Spain that felt like home for me before I lived there, and perhaps it’s part of why I was always so drawn to this part of the world.
There is an unmistakable beauty in the unknown, but there is also something special about feeling like you know this place that you hardly know. It’s a feeling, a familiarity, perhaps from a past lifetime or ancestors who came before.
Sitges is magical, and for me, it’s a place that always conjures up joy and gratitude for experiencing its treasures.
So tell me… where have you been that already feels like “home” to you? Can you see yourself living there?
by: Marjorie Vera