Quiosc de l’Alba may seem at first glance to be a fairly typical newsagent’s shop that also has a few books on display in the window. But on closer examination of that window, you will find books on a somewhat surprising range of topics in several languages, to start with, along with a row of classic LPs up above and a few figures of the local giants/gegants down below. Step inside this small shop on Carrer Angel Vidal, down towards the popular Sant Sebastià beach, and you will discover a treasure trove.
Not surprisingly for Sitges, there are newspapers and magazines on offer in English, French and German, but there is also an interesting array of books in those languages.
Local authors in Catalan, Spanish and sometimes English are prominently displayed, as well as best sellers in various languages and local guidebooks in even more.
The walls of this small space are lined with engaging and ever-changing rows of books. Besides, the proprietor, Carles Batalla, will happily order a book in any language and let you know how soon you can expect it. Catalan and Spanish books tend to arrive in just a couple of days, though foreign-language editions will take longer, and sometimes the wait is indeterminate.
Carles is a bassist who has played in a series of local bands of different styles, and is now with the excellent retro-rock group, Vanilla Sound, that plays regularly in the Retiro bar, among other venues in the region.
He is a true aficionado of rock, soul and blues, and declares himself ‘a fanatic of The Beatles and Elvis’, from way back. The selection of LPs on sale is truly fantastic, and though he was only able to bring this in a few years ago, ‘the revival of vinyl’, as he says, has helped it grow. He usually has an album playing on his turntable that he will gladly discuss as much as the influx of customers allows. Between whatever is playing and the rock T-shirt he is likely to be wearing, you will get a little music fix for the day!
He seems to know not only the name and preferences of his many regulars, but also a lot about their lives, and shows a real interest in people, and in their interests that can also bring him new stimuli. As people generally do around Sitges, he will happily speak either Catalan or Spanish, and help out those who want to practise either one. He can also manage a good-natured exchange in his basic English. He is an efficient worker and keeps things moving while at the same time carrying on joking or serious conversations with customers.
The shop began in 1967, the year Carles was born, and he took it over from his parents at the age of 20, remodelling the small space several years later and giving it the name of Alba, his first daughter.
It was largely a newsagent’s then, with a few beach articles on sale besides, but more and more books appeared as people asked for them, since Carles himself is interested in all sorts of writing. There are always a lot of books in Catalan and Spanish on music and biographies of musicians, as well as on cinema – with more of course during the Festival de Cine Fantastic.
There is also quite a variety on food, chefs and different sorts of cuisine, as well as comics and graphic novels, and a very good range of children’s books. And there are some attractive coffee-table books on Sitges, Barcelona, cinema, food, and, naturally, music and musicians always!
Despite his wide range of interests, Carles complains that he has little time to read. The shop, his family, and long walks with his Catalan sheepdog (gos/sa d’atura) take up most of his time, along with the constant rehearsals and performances with the band. So he is always eager to hear about what his customers are reading or want to order.
Quiosc de l’Alba is at Carrer d’Angel Vidal 33, Sitges. Tel: (+34) 93 811 1076.
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