Sitges – the Town of Rusiñol
We’ve visited Sitges twice, both times on a sleepy summer weekday. There is no better time to visit this beautiful European town known for its minimalist white washed buildings, sea vistas and a collection of paintings by Santiago Rusiñol, the main reason why Sitges is not just another pretty seaside town, but a place that is significant in the history of Catalan art.
We took the train from Barcelona to Sitges – it is about a forty minute ride. From the station into the city, it takes only a few minutes by foot. We were immediately charmed by the beautiful, stately haciendas, and the simple but elegant apartments along the narrow streets of the town.
The main attraction of Sitges is of course the beach, and the three museums located along the waterfront – the Cau Ferrat Museum, the Palau de Maricel and the Maricel Museum. All three buildings are in some way tied to Santiago Rusiñol.
The Cau Ferrat Museum was once his workshop, Palau de Maricel was the extravagant home of the American industrialist, Charles Deering, Rusiñol’s patron, and the Maricel Museum hosts a large collection of the painter’s finest works. I fell in love with the Maricel Museum the moment I entered it. Its white washed walls and serene interior instilled a sense of tranquillity the moment I entered. I also highly recommend paying a visit to the washroom behind the giftshop, as it has such a magnificent view of the sea.
This view is surpassed inside the museum in the sculpture section, where there are several nude sculptures reclining in a large atrium, facing an expanse of blue stretching out into the horizon. Sadly, we don’t have any photographs from the museum, I’m not quite sure why.
Across the Maricel Museum is the Palau de Maricel. The American industrialist, Charles Deering, had built it to be his permanent residence. I can’t quite remember the story – there was a lot of drama surrounding it as is fitting for a really big, eclectic house, but whatever it was, the American didn’t get many years to enjoy his beautiful and strange home, for he died a few years after the completion of its construction.
There are many rooms in the Palau, all done in the “Noucentista” style, a type of Catalan architectural style that has Oriental influences – mostly these influences are from the Middle East, but there were also influences from China on the rooftop terrace. Being Chinese myself, I was quite surprised to find I was reminded of a Taoist temple when I stepped onto the roof, it was a very strange feeling since a lot of Orientalism takes from the Arab world and not much from anywhere else.
The architecture was, on the one hand very unique, yet there was something very familiar about it. If you were taken through a portal and placed into the Palau de Maricel, you would immediately know you were somewhere in the Mediterranean. I think it’s a special mix of light reflecting off a salty sea, the expanse of water seen through Greco-Roman style pillars, and spacious courtyards that are like the sort you see in Middle-Eastern Riads, but not quite.
The city itself has many quaint and cosy cafés, restaurants and boutiques. It’s great fun to walk through, but nothing beats the view of the sea seen from the Maricel properties. Inside the museum, there is a sculpture room with a glass wall overlooking the water – I think this is one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever been in. The combination of the beautiful sculptures cast in the cool blue light reflecting of the ocean and the view of the unbroken watery expanse stretching out into the horizon make you feel as if you are in a place beyond time, somewhere truly special. Sadly, we were unable to make a photograph of the room at the time, but will do so on our next visit to Sitges. In the meantime, a link to an image on Google, to give you an idea of how it looks.
Sitges is also one of Europe’s top gay destinations. To be honest, the city and its beaches didn’t seem to hint that this was the case, but I suppose it must be, considering the number of boutiques that have some of the best menswear this part of Spain. Danijel had a great time shopping in any case. It’s a great place to go shopping for festival and club wear, or really just to keep up with the locals in Barcelona.
I read Dan Simmon’s Hyperion some time back. In the book, there is a character with a house that spans worlds. Its many rooms are distributed across the many habitable planets of the hegemony, connected by portals. In this house, every door was a waygate into another earth, and every window a view unto a foreign land. One of these rooms looked out onto the sea that washed up on the beaches of Sitges.