We’ve just come back from a weekend with Emily. Every time we go to see her in Barcelona we’ve stayed somewhere different. But now we’ve cracked it. Sabadell does it for us.
The accommodation was the first thing that went well: an art deco factory converted into a smart and well-priced hotel, the Arrahona, not too far from the town centre.
We liked Sabadell itself straight away. It’s not Barcelona: there’s not a tourist in sight. And that’s one of its attractions after the hurly burly and stimulation of a day spent sight-seeing. We had feared Sabadell might be a bit down-at-heel and depressing, because it is, like many towns in our part of the Ariège, a place whose glory days as a centre of the textile industry are long over. It seems to have successfully reinvented itself however, and despite Spain’s present undoubted economic problems, Sabadell and some of the surrounding towns like the one where Emily works, Sant Cugat del Vallès, seem to be in some protective bubble. The bars and restaurants are full, shops are functioning and selling well-made and desirable goods, and this weekend at least, all seemed well with the world.
Because on Saturday and Sunday Sabadell had a festival. We’ve struggled to find out why. It doesn’t seem to have been for Corpus Christi, which provided nearby Sitges with an excuse to carpet the streets in flower petal pictures. It looks as if perhaps it was just an excuse for the inhabitants to dust off the drums, unpack the ‘gigantes’ – papier maché heads surmounting giant bodies, dig out the costumes, order the fireworks and have a good time.
We happened upon part of the festival by accident on Saturday night when we found hordes of people gathered in the main town square. Quantities of drummers in red costumes – adults and children – kept up a regular and stimulating rhythm to warn of the approach of whirling dancing devils whose horns disgorged sparks, flames and loud bangs. These demons leaped in frenzied groups round the church and through the back streets until their ammunition ran out.
And then, as darkness fell, the crowds who had been watching wandered off to one of the dozens of restaurants in town and sat in large friendly groups at outside tables, laughing and chatting about the evening’s events.
We didn’t find out till later that the festival was happening all the following day too. We caught up with things again in the evening when children dressed as dragons, dogs and mythical creatures took pride of place in the central square.
Showers of golden sparks spun into the crowd as the children wheeled and pranced through their routines. It turned out though that this was the Grand Finale. Market stalls were beginning to pack up. The ‘gigantes’ were shrouded in dust sheets and slid ingloriously into workmen’s vans, and once again the crowds finished off the evening in the bars and restaurants.
The main Rambla had been closed off to traffic, and it seemed as if the entire town’s population was enjoying strolling around, settling occasionally for a drink or some food with friends or family.
We’d chosen to stay in Sabadell because it was near enough to Emily, and seemed to have a hotel that would meet our needs. We didn’t expect that being there would be such a positive and enjoyable part of our short holiday. We’d like to go back and explore it again