It’s Carnival in Rio on Speed(os) and the June jamboree known as Gay Pride Sitges is turning up the volume year-on-year, writes Laurence Dollimore.
IF you’ve never been to a Sitges Pride T-Dance, don’t take your maiden aunt.
It’s not the kind of dance where you sip lapsang souchong from bone china cups and take a turn around the room to a resident orchestra. Although the Gay Village venue should give you a clue.
At 5pm sharp during this feisty five-day festival of sexual diversity, the LGBT world and its significant other gather on the paseo to get down to some dirty dancing, and the live DJs don’t stop spinning the discs until la madrugada.
The dress code is sporty Speedos, slinky thongs, brazen budgie smugglers or trompe l’oeil – nothing at all but body paint! No one wears tuxes and only the boys wear dresses.
Sitges is just recovering from its sixth such extravaganza, a highly-organised and well-oiled fiesta that hosted more than 55,000 ‘rainbow warriors’ this year, quite a feat for a town half that size.
This Catalonian gem of a seaside city, 40 minutes from Barcelona, has been gay-friendly for decades but Gay Pride proclaims that affinity like a town crier … from the poptastic Queenz Bar, from Privilege, where you can catch the odd drag queen show, and from the more hardcore XXL, where deep house and dim lights ensure that what happens in Sitges stays in Sitges …
When night falls, 30 or more bars and clubs that look unremarkable in daylight flick on their fluorescent lights, turning a traditional pueblo into a hedonistic Mecca.
The starting point of every night for pride-goers is the main events stage, where nightly tribute acts pay homage to LGBT icons like Cher, the Spice Girls and Lady Gaga.
Every generation is catered for, whether you’re a hairless ‘twink’ or a brooding ‘daddy’; and every predilection celebrated, from leather lovers and ‘bears’ to those who just love a policeman in uniform.
After the party, Sitges’ 2.5 km of sand beaches offer the perfect hangover cure.
The shallow shores and calm, clear water offer a tranquil respite from the crazy scene that takes over after sunset … although you can hardly see the playa for players, as it’s groin to groin with loungers and beach towels.
Beaches are called platjas in Catalonian. Platja de la Rodona is one of the most popular gay beaches. Or, if you’re feeling particularly free-living, you can bare all at the infamous Platja dels Balmains, a secluded nudist haven east of Sitges church.
The festival highlight is the Sunday afternoon parade when local bars and businesses ride their extravagant floats along the packed promenade.
Speedo-clad go-go dancers bounce along to the latest club-bangers atop of double decker buses, while drag queens sprinkle the crowds with confetti and sing along to timeless show tunes.
And when you need a break from the boozing, Sitges’ culture and gastronomy offer other indulgences.
Sant Bertomeu and Santa Tecla church is a 17th century gem, while beautiful Maricel Museum exhibits a collection of 3,000-plus artworks, ranging from Romanesque murals to Renaissance carvings.
The dining scene is another sybaritic pleasure. Foodies flock to La Picara for tapas; El Trull which has been serving arty Mediterranean cuisine in a spectacular clifftop setting since 1968; and trendy 33 for Thai-style duck, sesame-crusted tuna and sea bass barbecued with ginger and tamarind.
And there are many other temptations during Gay Pride week but if the revellers give in to them, Sitges isn’t telling…