Friday, May 2, 2014

The Rock, The View, Oh Siurana!

Brian and I departed for our most recent adventure after the work day ended on April 11th.  After a long but pleasant flight to London’s Heathrow International Airport,  a seven+ hour layover, which wasn’t as torturous as I anticipated it would be (sleeping a few hours helped) and another brief flight, we were finally in Spain.  We were ready to pick up our rental car and begin the first of our two part Spring Break adventure.  It didn’t take us long to realize that the Spanish we were so excited to make use of wasn’t actually going to get us very far.  You see, the people of Catalunya (Catalonia in Spanish) are extremely patriotic and have held onto their own language, Catalan, a dialect that seems to be a unique combination of Spanish and French.


Nonetheless, we were able to get everything settled at the rental car company and hopped into our sporty ride. The GPS unit we rented failed to download the necessary map to actually tell us where we were going; thus we blindly headed out in the direction of Siurana, and as the GPS unit eventually became partially functional, we arrived in Siurana, a quaint, noiseless hill town in the mountains, after about 22 hours of travel.  Carefully, Brian attempted to navigate extremely narrow cobblestone street into town. We dropped of our bags, returned the car to the parking space at the edge of the town, checked into our room and went promptly to bed.

Hotel la Siuranella, our home in Siurana 

our room (with mountain views)

We awoke to the beauty that is Siurana – lush greenery, blue-green water, and rock as far as the eye can see.  We enjoyed the first of many traditional European breakfasts, meats and cheeses, bread and yogurt, fruit and freshly squeezed orange juice, during which Brian proudly proclaimed his love for European breakfasts – part of me wonders if he doesn’t suggest trips to Europe simply for the breakfasts and the wine! We headed out to the cliffs after our meal and quickly discovered just how warm the Spanish sun can be in the spring.  We headed to shadier climbing and chatted it up with a very nice couple, locals to the Siurana area. After a nice day out at the crag, it was time to take on dinner in Espana. Aside from the patatas bravas, potato slices with a spicy creamy tomato sauce atop them, the meal wasn’t much to write home about.  As we made our way back along the quiet streets of Siurana, we knew we weren’t going to want to leave this place….and it was only our first day!  It was clear, already, that Siurana would be on our “We Have to Come Back Here” list!

walking through town

The next day, we  decided to take a break from climbing and drove to Montsant to visit the  park and walk around the small town.  It was another warm day, and our walk was tiring thanks to the heat , but we were greeted by sights of olives growing in giant groves and jutting rocky cliffs every time we turned a corner.  It was amazing….until we turned a corner and came face-to-face with three dogs that weren’t beg fans of us passing by their home. A giant German Shepard was the worst of the three and came barreling at us, barking and growling.  I stopped in my tracks and hoped that the dog would back away (I didn’t want to seem scared or run…though I really wanted to run!), and just as true panic was setting in, a sweet local woman came around the corner and yelled at the dog in Catalan until he backed up and allowed us to pass by.  As we walked on, I had flashbacks to last Spring Break when Patty and I had to make our way through a pack of angry dogs while in Kentucky  - I could do with this tradition ending, I think!! On our drive back to Siurana, the last stretch of which is a climb up the hillsides to the inhabited part of town, we pulled along side the road to check out another climbing area.  The climbs we wanted to do were blanketed in sun, so we made a mental note of where to find them and headed back to our ‘home’ to rest our feet before heading out on a run.  That night we had a good meal made even better by the very inexpensive jug of wine (wine is suggested at every meal and is often very inexpensive) and plate of cheeses.  Dinner hours are typically from about 8:30 until 10pm, so after our meal, we headed back to our room to take in the views from our balcony and get some rest. 

getting water before we head out for the day 
olives grow everywhere 

the sleepy 'streets' of Montsant

we had it all to ourselves, save the three angry dogs and the little old woman who saved us from them 

scoping out rocks

A trip to nearby Margalef was on the agenda for the next day.  After a long and meandering drive, surprisingly painful considering how close the town actually is to Siurana, we arrived in town.  Brian headed out on a mission to find the climbing shop and procure a guidebook, while I waited in the car and tried to shake my  carsickness.   We made our way to the climbing area and found a climb, which we both enjoyed, and then headed off to another area. Thanks to climbs that were scarier than we expected and a climbing team doing laps on the ‘must climb’ route at the crag, our day was not filled with nearly as much climbing as we had hoped for.  Frustrated as we were, it was hard to be too disappointed when we looked around – the views were impressive and we were enjoying a vacation in Spain!  I started to feel worse and worse as the day went on, but after getting back to Siurana, I was desperate to climb, so Brian and I headed out to the climbing area just outside the town’s entrance.  As dinner time approached, I was feeling my worst, so I sent Brian out to eat alone, and though he swears he missed my company, he enjoyed his best meal of the trip that night.

Margalef - amazingly beautiful

Thankfully I was feeling a lot better the next day (thought I was not completely back to my normal self for another full day), and we did a bit of climbing the next morning before making the drive back to Barcelona, where we would be spending the second half of our trip.  It took us a few hours and several (hundred) trips through round-abouts to get back to the airport in Barcelona, where we were to drop off our rental car and catch a bus tour hotel, and we were greeted with some pretty specular views throughout our excursion; we saw countryside and vineyards and we saw the Mediterranean.  We both were sad to leave Siurana, and in retrospect, could have spent the entirety of our time there, but we were both anxious for the next part of our adventure, which also did not disappoint!

There's nothing like watching the sun rise and set from your very own room

It seems I leave a piece of my heart behind every time we visit Europe, and Siurana was no exception!

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