I first discovered Sitges in 1992. I had been sent to Barcelona for a year as part of the IT team working for the Olympic Games. As well as having an apartment in Barcelona, I was given the use of a small apartment in Sitges.

I remember taking the train to Sitges for the first time, thinking that I would probably only visit it once. However, I immediately fell in love with the town and ended up spending many wonderful weekends here. The Garraf tunnels had not yet been completed, so it was a much smaller, quieter town and much more conservative. I remember the widows, dressed from head to toe in black, were the town’s morality police, and who would scold you if left the beach area without a shirt on or did anything else that offended their sensibility.

Back then there were no chain stores; all the restaurants and shops were family-run, and the many fantastic meals that I enjoyed always included a small free tapa to start and complementary chupitos to finish (El Patio is one of the few restaurants that I know of that still does this today). It was also the heyday for the large discos such as Atlàntida, Trailer, and Pacha. The town at that time still relied on wells for its water supply, so the tap water was quite saline-tasting and undrinkable. The finite supply had also limited the growth of the town, so it was able to maintain its small fishing village atmosphere. As a result, I got to meet some wonderful people during that year—people who I am still friends with today.

A couple of weeks after the Olympic Games had finished, I reluctantly returned home. My love for Sitges, however, brought me back year after year – often bringing friends who had yet to experience this unique, magical town. Finally in 2015, I bought an apartment close to Sant Sebastien beach, and now that I am retired, I am able to spend most of the year here with my partner.

In 2021, during the lockdown, I decided to learn Catalan and, as a consequence, a whole new world has been opened up to me. There is an incredibly rich social life in Sitges that is largely invisible to a lot of expats as it is only advertised and takes place in Catalan. I now attend many plays, book readings, political debates, and other cultural events that previously I would not have been aware of and/or been able to understand. Probably one of the highlights for me this year was to join my neighbors on the eve of Corpus: sitting in a circle on the street plucking petals from thousands of carnations while chatting away in Catalan until the early hours of the morning.

I am looking forward to spending many more years here, continuing to improve my Catalan, and enjoying the incredible, rich social life that this town offers.

Visca Sitges!

David Harding