While my weekdays are spent here in Manresa, filled to the brim with Alicia-work, my weekends are always free for roaming the Catalan countryside. There are a number of places I’m hoping and planning to visit: Barcelona of course, and Costa Brava and the Pyrenees. Montserrat, a mountain with a historic Benedictine Monastery at its peak, is another must on my list of places to see. This destination is nearly a stone’s through away – the jagged mountains make for a spectacular view out our car window every morning on our way to work. But for other trips I’ll be venturing further away. I’m hoping to even stray a ways beyond Catalonia once or twice, perhaps take trains to Madrid and Seville. And of course, I’ll make sure to keep you updated on my whereabouts.
For my first excursion I chose a little seaside town, about a half-hour’s train ride south of Barcelona called Sitges. It’s a picturesque little village, with whitewashed buildings and narrow winding streets that twist and turn all the way to the Mediterranean. I spent a perfect afternoon poking in and out of shops and reading a novel on dock. And I treated myself to a delicious lunch at a cozy little restaurant tucked away down a cobblestone alley.
My menu choice was easy: Paella. This was something I’d always wanted to do: eat Paella in Spain. The traditional meal of this country, Paella is an absolutely gorgeous rice dish. It’s flavored usually with an earthy but bright combination of saffron, garlic and paprika, and it’s completely chock-full with any variety of seafood (clams, lobster, shrimp, mussels, whitefish, squid etc), sausages and vegetables (like peas, peppers and tomatoes), depending on where exactly in Spain it’s made. Each ingredient is added one-by-one to a special paella pan, and the flavors of earth and ocean build upon each other creating complex layers of taste that add up to pure fabulousness. And the best part: As all this goodness simmers away in a rich shellfish broth, a crunchy crust builds at the bottom of the pan - the true sign of a perfect paella. Mine displayed all the hallmarks of perfection – rich and earthy broth, sweet crustaceans, briny clams, tender squid, succulent peas and yes, that oh so satisfying bottom-crust!
My choice for dessert was just as simple a decision. I caught a glimpse of the fig tart when the couple at the table next to me shared a slice. The deep pink slices of fresh figs layered atop the cream filling shined like jewels – I didn’t even peek at the dessert menu! To wash it all down, a half-bottle of Cava, produced only miles away. Cava is Catalonia’s version of Champagne. A simple and light sparkling wine, it has all the delicious fun of Champagne, but it’s much, much cheaper!
All in all, it was a quick trip, but completely splendid in a dozen ways. The quaint streets, Mediterranean view and delicious lunch made Sitges the perfect location for my first weekend jaunt. A bit off the beaten path, but a wonderful spot for an easy afternoon.