On Top of the World

I’m typing this from an incredible vantage point, but more of that later. 

Another great night’s stop at Poblet monastery. We were totally on our own in a vast carpark, and the only real disturbance was bells at 4:51am – these guys must be really devout. Now I have no objection to praying, in fact I’d strongly encourage it, but I have every confidence that a 5am prayer has no obvious advantage over a 10am one, or whatever time for that matter. 

We didn’t visit in the end as research told us that it could only be visited via a guided tour. Call us philistines, but the word “yawn” comes to mind. We like the key points but not a lecture that lasts hours, with all that standing around, and probably in a language we can’t understand at all, and did I mention that we’d have to part with €15. 

Dorling Kindersley’s “Backroads of Spain” then told us to expect a complete change in terrain as we left en route for Prades. The book was not wrong as we wound torturously up a mountain on a road that was wide enough for a couple of cars to pass, or a motorhome and a car, just. Anyway, we had no one behind us all the way and probably passed one car in a spacious section. Didn’t meet a coach fortunately. 

We eventually reached the little town of Prades, which we visited and thought we’d hunt down some fresh bread for a change. Dorling Kindersley recommended a restaurant called L’Estanc, which was not a name that immediately drew us in. Up until now we’ve been spoiled with multi-language menus, although we’d yet to venture into a Spanish restaurant. When faced with a menu in a completely foreign language, and likely Catalan and not even Spanish, then it is a daunting proposal to walk in. 

Anyway, we saw a friendly young chap waiting at a restaurant and were prepared with the phrase “Do you speak English”, ie “habla Ingles”. Fortunately he knew a bit and explained the full menu to us. €10 for 3 courses, and did I mention that this also included a bottle of wine. What was there not to like about that. So we sat outside and enjoyed a simple but filling lunch, although sadly had to leave some of the wine. Sophie asked whether I’d be able to drive in straight line after lunch. Obviously I only drank 2 small glasses, but I did explain that knowing where we were about to head that driving in a straight line was last thing we’d want to be doing. 

All went pretty well language wise until I ordered coffee with milk, “un cafe con leche”, followed by pointing at Sophie and saying “nothing”, ie “nada”, as she didn’t want a drink. He questioned this, asking if we were sure Sophie didn’t want a coffee, which we confirmed. My coffee then arrived, but also a bowl of cream on its own for Sophie. So we have now learned that the Spanish word for cream is “nata”, and so we’d better be careful how we pronounce our words in future. 

I then asked Sophie what she thought about undertaking another likely windy route and she agreed given that it would only be another 20 minutes. So after a good climb here we are at the incredible Siurana. A former medieval stronghold, which is now a tiny village, impossibly perched at the top of a mountain, 2,400ft up. 

The views are remarkable and the geology/geography spectacular. I’m now running out of superlatives. This is a majorly popular place for rock-climbers from all over Europe. Their common language is English which is handy for us, so we’ve been chatting to a few of them. As I finish this email, we’re sat outside with a bunch of camper vans, and very unusual for us we’re quite content for them to be playing their reggae, and Sophie’s keen to join in & take over a couple of beers later. Whatever next? Let’s see how we feel later when we’re trying to get to sleep. 

Progress so far:

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