Saturday, 31 March 2007

Why visit Vilanova i la Geltrú?

In my daily work in sales, my colleagues and I often talk about the ratio of price versus quality. What we sell is an expensive product concept but in the end that is usually justified, since we do deliver very high quality.

This ratio comes to my mind when thinking about my new hometown Vilanova i la
Geltrú. Although I am sure there will be many local people who will loathe me for what I am about to say, let us be honest for a while. From more or less any point of view, our neighbour town Sitges beats Vilanova on quality aspects.

In Sitges, you have a nice historic church framing the horizon of the beach. In Vilanova you have to look at the certainly not so beautiful port area. In Sitges, you have fancy bar streets leading down to the waterfront. In Vilanova you have either the rambla de la Pau, still scarred by the Pirelli factory which historically used to occupy this site or, worse, the rambla de Lluís Companys, which must have been constructed to be able to serve as an emergency landing strip for the Barcelona Prat airport judging from how oversized and sterile it is. In Sitges, you have a maze of picturesque and clean small alleys while the centre of Vilanova often feels like a huge, dusty construction site. In Sitges, the beaches are flocked with the rich and beautiful people from Barcelona and the rest of the world while Vilanova tourism is dominated by people from the Spanish inland and I will spare you further comments on looks and wealth.

So, if you are one of those lucky people to whom money does not matter any longer, do not come here. Go for the best and spend your holiday in Sitges. If you get bored with the small town during your stay, take a day trip into Barcelona. Only in the Catalan metropolis will you be able to find more exclusive stores than you find there.

For the rest of us, anyone who reserves a certain budget for the vacation, Vilanova is a very good alternative. As you will have understood by now, under no circumstances can our town beat Sitges on quality, but neither do we charge the same prices.

Vilanova i la Geltrú has a lot to offer to tourists, especially to families with children. You have the whole town at a walking distance and moving around is easy on our broad ramblas, even if you bring a baby stroller. Although even our beaches tend to fill up for a few meters right next to the water, they are large and anyone who wants to avoid having their towels touching those of the next family, will find calmer places up in the dry sand. The beaches are, if anything, even shallower than those of Sitges. Last summer our biggest son was three years old and while we certainly kept an eye on him while in the water, we were not afraid to let him run around freely, since there are no stones to tumble on and there is plenty of time for a parent to react before a child can reach deep water. Thanks to the Red Cross our preferred beach, platja de Ribes Roges, is guarded and there is a first aid station close to the sea.

The same beach has a number of kiosks, xiringuitos, where you can buy drinks and snacks. If your children would ever get bored from being on the beach – ours do not – there are a number of playgrounds not far away and in the weekends, the club of local steam engine enthusiasts operates a mini-train service which all children seem to find very exciting.

Once the beach day is over, our town centre caters to most tastes and needs. Some evenings you might want to eat a full meal in a restaurant, while you might limit yourself to an ice cream or a beer during the others. Life is buzzing from all the people walking by and even a family with small children will be able to feel that they are in the middle of the action. The commercial area of the town is very concentrated and almost all of it is a pedestrian zone. You will not find any luxury shopping, but will recognize most of the mainstream brands which foreigners tend to associate with Spain; Zara, Massimo Dutti, Imaginarium etc. There are several supermarkets and pharmacies and in No. 10 rambla de Josep Tomàs Ventosa there is a shop being open until midnight every day.

In between the two main shopping streets, the rambla Pricipal and carrer Caputxins you have the Plaça de la Vila and the beautiful local town hall. In the late afternoons, this square is usually flocked with playing children while their parents are having a coffee, a beer or a glass of wine at the café on the square.

If you want to seek calmer parts of the town for a walk, we especially like two areas. The more obvious one is the picturesque centre of la Geltrú with its narrow, shady lanes and historic church and castle. The other one is the residential area leading up from passeig de Ribes Roges. Here you find some of this town’s best examples of “American villas” – big stand alone residences, usually with palm trees in the garden. In the 18th century, quite many people emigrated to Cuba and got so rich that they could move back again and retire in houses built in different styles which they had seen during their journeys.

Usually, we have a cinema downtown called Bosc, but it is currently being renovated. Foreigners should be advised, however, that in Vilanova movies for adults are usually dubbed into Spanish while those for children are in Catalan. In order to see movies in their original language version, you have to go to Barcelona.

With very few exceptions, Vilanova’s best dinners are being served in proper indoor restaurants. However, for a more exotic, with a tourist’s perspective “typically Mediterranean” dinner you can head back to one of the terrace restaurants along the beach promenade. There are in fact some places serving decent paellas and other local dishes, but I would recommend you to be a bit picky in your choice here, not to end up in a tourist trap. Again, the pavements are broad so there is plenty of room for restless children to play in.

When summing up your vacation expenses, I am confident that Vilanova will come out favourably when comparing quality to price. While Sitges is a place where you will be challenged to show off and pay a little extra in order not to look poor in front of your neighbours, in Vilanova you can relax and be sure to avoid pricy temptations. Just like you, the people at the next table will not order real champagne but go for the local cava.

And if you ever get bored with our rudimentary offer and want to splash out for an evening, relief is available next door. One of my colleagues at work likes to spread evil jokes about my adopted town but there is one advantage he can not deny us: Vilanova is very close to Sitges.

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