Sitges Tango Festival July 18 – 22

warm tropical nights… milonga under the stars… the crowd watches a demo by Sebastian Arce & Mariana Montes

We carried the rain with us as we flew from from Paris to Barcelona one gray day last July. From the airport we drove through the midsummer drizzle 30 km south to Sitges. By sunset that evening the skies were clearing, though the wind continued through the night. In the morning the sky was still cloudy, but, intrepid beach-goers that we are, we walked half a block to the beach with our giant sunbrella and his & hers beach towels. After an hour the clouds had flown away north (to drench Paris again, no doubt, as they’d been doing all spring) and the day turned sunny and hot. Here’s my personal bodyguard testing the water…

the water is warm!!!

captured web photo… it actually wasn’t this crowded!

Known as the St. Tropez of Spain, Sitges is a small city known for its beaches, nightspots, and historical sites.  A wide boulevard winds along the Mediterranean, with cafés, restaurants (fresh fish! tapas! clams oysters mussels calamari, lobster…) beautiful old houses, historic churches, alcázars, plazas… tango on the beach, anybody?

white sands, white tie…

and Tango.

Sitges became a counterculture city back in the 1960s… and it still resonates hip and cool. One of the hottest gay beaches of Europe, too. Franco was still in power in those days, but apparently rebellious Sitges managed to skate by … or maybe I’m just desperately under-informed.

main beach and plaza

pretty tiled fountain

in the historic center

a beautiful old portal

I really go for historic buildings, and Sitges is full of them.

looks Art Deco to me

This retro wedge-shaped building was one of the landmarks I used to orient myself while walking around the old part of town. The streets are winding cobblestone paths, most not even wide enough for cars, and even though they mostly all lead down to the beach, it’s easy to get lost in the maze (unless you’re looking for the beach, of course). But since being lost is my normal state, I actually felt pretty much at home. Everywhere you look are restaurants, cafés, colorful shops and marketplace stalls selling tango-fashionable loose trousers, and loads of more pretty things.

Every day is market day in a tourist town, and the food on display was appetizing and delicious!

CJS pizzas (just say “CJ’s”)

the olive seller

CJS deli

CJS salmueria

a portal in the historic center

la Sirenita de Sitges

Our room in a small hotel a half-block from the beach overlooks a beautiful house, three floors, dazzlingly white walls with blue shutters, an intense cobalt blue (one of my favorite colors!) with a terracotta roof. Classic mediterranean. Sorry! I didn’t get a picture. But here’s a serene spot on the hotel terrazza, where breakfast is served till noon, and you can order drinks and/or snacks the rest of the day and evening.

Hotel Los Globos

If you’ve had too many mojitos you can just hang out and talk to the resident parrot.

Pieces of Eight! Pieces of Eight! Isn’t that one of the last lines in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, Treasure Island?  The Hotel Los Globos resident parrot-greeter talks and whistles loudly whenever anyone walks by. He seems really sweet, but then I didn’t risk sticking my finger between the bars. We humans always want to believe animals have thoughts and feelings just like us. I guess we just can’t imagine anything different, but… birds will be birds! And they have brains the size of a pea. Of course it helps if you use all the brainpower you have!

The afternoon we arrived we walked all around town. The main church is perched on a high point of the malecón, the walkway along the waterfront.

la iglesia principal

There was a wedding party outside the church, with lots of chic people standing around, waiting for the novios to exit. I felt like I’d stepped into an episode of La Reina del Sur, but fortunately there was no exchange of gunfire. I should have taken a few photos but, shy me, I didn’t want to be the intrusive tourist. Later, as we walked along the beach, we happened upon the sweet ending of yet another wedding! The couple was wrapped up in a big piece of  cloth which was then knotted around them, like a giant pretzel. Trapped forever! or so it would seem. A day of domestic mergers in sunny Spain.

Sitges evening milonga

The Sitges Tango Festival had world-class teachers: Miguel Angel Zotto, Sebastian Arce & Mariana Montes, Rubén & Sabrina Véliz, Sebastián Jiménez & María Inés Bogado  (winners of the 2010 Mundial de Tango in Tango Salón), Marcelo Ramer & Selva Mastroti, and Marcela Troncoso. All Argentines, all professional tango dancers and teachers. Miguel Angel Zotto was flying solo — he had a lovely assistant who was filling in for his wife, who had just given birth to twins! Way to go, Miguel! Nice guy, by the way, totally unpretentious, the way I like my tango teachers. <www.festivaltangositges.com>

Ensemble Hyperión under cover at the Jardines de Terramar

Classes were held every afternoon (no morning classes, thank you! you gotta sleep sometime!) at three locations, organized by the customary levels of beg-int-adv. (Or is that beg-int-tango teacher? ja ja) I took one class per day… my usual limit. Ben took lots… the Energizer Bunny. I took a DJ class with Gabriel Sodini, also Argentine. More of a chamuyo, really, a question & answer session, but informative. Gabriel is buddies with our old friend Gato Valdéz, who DJ’d the all-nighters on the beach, starting at 2 am, after the official milonga ended. What a fun time we had!!

the gala Saturday night milonga & show… fabulous!

I highly recommend this tango festival. Super location, super teachers, great shopping, cheap street food, tapas, fish… sun and sand… and reasonably priced classes!

dinner on the beachfront

Life is Good.

Ciao from Sitges!

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