We reached Sitges by sundown on Monday 31st October, 2016, watching as the Dog Star emerged in the clear blue skies over the Med. Arriving to meet Samhain on the nose and see close up how the local town marks this liminal moment in the ancient calendar.
We reached Sitges at about 4.30pm, having travelled on largely empty roads from Zaragoza, ducking under the curve of the Greenwich timeline (which I called the Greenwich meanline). After the tundra of the spaghetti-western style terrain (featuring torres on hills) had passed us by, and the largely empty motorways had drilled down into single lanes, we hit upon a beautifully undulating stretch of road that took us through the Parc del Foix (thanks to the grace of step-father Ian’s internal navigation system, a navigation system so uncanny, I’ve always thought it must be due to a darn hefty shard of Magnetite lodged in his head).
Yesterday we’d taken the road to Zaragoza from Anglet (where we stayed to be close to the medieval majesty of Bayonne and the surf style cool of Biarritz), arriving there four days earlier after a night in the Ibis Budget in Niort following a foggy, soporific drive out of le Havre the day previous. Le Havre had been our port of return to France, having set off from Portsmouth on Monday 24th – just a week ago. Wow. A week today. What a fantastic journey to make in just a week.
(What I’ve realised is that I do better with someone else’s itinerary pushing me on. On my own I stay too long in just one place. What else I’ve realised is that I really like driving (although a road trip means not nearly enough movement of the body.) And that I prefer the cities, food, temperature, and – oftentimes – nature, of more southerly parts of Europe.)
Sitges on Halloween has been a delight: everywhere well-considered, fantastically-executed horror made-up faces merged into the night. Some of the best were dramatic and yet understated, always worn by the girls. One lady at a table we passed had half a sugar skull painted on her face; in profile, one side was untouched, the other deadly. Families were out in droves and multiple little witches and werewolves wove around our feet, setting our imaginations alight. Being English, we chose to dine before 10pm so of course the restaurant, quite appropriately, had many empty places set out all around us.
This is a perfect moment to arrive in a city I lived so close to all of 12 years ago, to allow the past to revisit the present and measure how far we’ve come. I can make my main marks in the sand along the lines of experience, friendships, and places travelled since those days in 2003 and 2004. Otherwise, I am the same starry-eyed traveller enchanted by the mild autumn air, the red of the sunset, the enticing boutique city streets. Only this time I have a car and will continue to travel, amongst the living and the dead.