Day 5: Cornudella to Poboleda, 22km, 994 CSUs
(although we forgot to turn Strava on at the start, so was actually 23km and 1000m elevation!)
Pierre from Fonda El Reco had assured us last night that there would be sol today, and sure enough he was right. We were greeted by glorious sunshine this morning – chilly though, at about 8 degrees. After an 8.30 am breakfast, we set off, heading towards this – the mountains of Montsant, which apparently we were going to climb:
But, he was oblivious to my protestations: I’m not a hardcore walker, I’m an Eyore Walker; I’m a let’s amble along between cafes and pubs walker; I’m a let’s move on from the cafe con leche to the white wine walker. And so, onwards and upwards we went.
But of course, what goes up must come down, so we eventually started to climb down from the top towards the lovely little town of La Morera. The climb down started in a pretty gully, carpeted with wild Rosemary, thyme and sage and the splashes of trees bearing their autumn foliage,before moving between dramatic rocks.
Looking back up to where we had been it was amazing to think we had climbed up there – and then down again.
Finally down in La Morera we found the recommended Bar L’Unic and both enjoyed a salad prepared by the very charming owner. A peek into her kitchen showed that she was using a wood fire to grill the meat and vegetables.
From La Morera, it was a relatively easy walk through vines, olive groves, and pine forests to the Escaladei Monastery. This was a Carthusian monastery, founded in 1194, that grew to have great power and land ownership in the 16th & 17th centuries. But, with the confiscation of lands belonging to the Church in the early 1900s, the Monastery fell into disrepair. However, recent restoration work is restoring some of its former glory. We did not however visit the monastery given it had been a long walk (and, we saw plenty of monasteries in Portugal).
And then it was a bit further again to a small collection of bars and wine outlets, where the notes suggested we could have a drink and, if tired of walking, we could ring our hosts at Hostal Populetus and ask them to come and pick us up – thus saving the final 1 hour and 20 minutes of walking. My feet thought that was a very good idea, but they were talked out of it by the husband – good thing as it turns out, as the hosts don’t speak a word of English and I doubt I would have been able to make my desires known to them!
So, on we went for the final onslaught, through vineyards and almond trees. I have never been so glad to see a town emerge around the bend as I was to see Poboleda.
We are staying around the corner from the church (is that why there are ear plugs provided??) at Hostal Poboleda, where we have a simple but very clean room. And, a well cooked evening meal – served by the very lovely young Sarah, whose English was very limited but enthusiastic. Somehow we muddled through.
Day 6: Poboleda to La Vilella Baixa, 16km, 611 CSUs.
Today was the last day of this walking journey, and we spent it in the heart of the Priorat region. Apparently, the Priorat has become a famous wine region thanks to the American wine critic Robert Parker giving a Priorat wine his first ever 100/100 score. Certainly we spent the day immersed in grape vines.
We had a leisurely start to the day as it was a relatively short walk for hard core walkers such as us, and the notes advised us that our hostess at our final destination does not open for guests until 6.00pm. Although this may be adhering to the Spanish siesta hours, it is not very practical for walkers, and despite a later start, and waiting for a cafe to open at the next town for a lunch we neither needed nor really wanted, we still arrived at La Vilella Baixa at 4.15!
But, back to the beginning of our day. Again, we were blessed by sunshine as we set off from Poboleda. We were immediately in amongst the vines, olive groves and almond trees as we climbed up and away from Poboleda.
We arrived in Torroja at around midday, and, as we have become used to, all was quiet in town. The walk notes had suggested an early lunch at Cal Joc, which did not open until 12.30. So, we sat in the square opposite the church for half an hour, watching cars carefully negotiate the tight bend through that archway, which seemed to be the Main Street.
Cal Joc finally opened so we wandered up to have lunch to fill in time. It is a lovely place, with a sun filled room overlooking a leafy square, run by a young woman who was both waiter and cook. I ordered a Priorat speciality, which turned out to be cooked spinach with cannelloni beans mixed through the spinach and all of that covered in minced garlic. Hmm, no wonder it has remained only a speciality of the region.
I accompanied it with a glass of the house Grenache. It was the last glass in the bottle, and upon sniffing it I immediately rejected it as the aroma was very off putting. I assumed it was because the bottle, despite being vacuumed sealed, had been open for some time and the remains had oxidised. She, and one of the two young men who were having a drink there, had a sniff and didn’t know why I was rejecting it, but she obligingly opened a new bottle – it was exactly the same, and tasted pretty awful to boot. But, she was in such a fluster with my original rejection that I didn’t like to hurt her feelings further so made a show of accepting it, and even drinking some. Hopefully, this is not a typical example of Priorat wines or I’m wondering what Robert Parker is on about.
We then set off for the final part of the walk. The young lads we had come across at Cal Joc soon passed us in their van, shouting Hola as they drove past. Shortly after we came across them almond harvesting: a very sophisticated technique – put a tarp on the ground and whack the tree with a huge stick.
Our accommodation for the night is Casa del Pont, which, surprise surprise, is just next to the lovely old arched bridge. It is owned by Pilar Romero, who last decorated in the 1920s, as evidenced by our charming room:
We showered and changed into something less able to stand up on its own, and went and explored the streets, looking for somewhere to have a drink to celebrate the end of our walk. A local winemaker was open so we went in for a tasting . He had 3 reds and one white – all made using the Grenache grape. The reds were not to my liking (all smelt a bit like old socks), but the white was intriguing, so we bought two bottles to take back with us to Barcelona.
Next it was into the local deli come bar for a glass of wine. I had the White, Pete the red (difficult choices) while we listened to the locals chat loudly in Catalan around us. Then back to Casa del Pont for our evening meal, which is cooked by Pilar and you eat with her. She is a lovely lady, probably in her late 70s, but speaks no English – and we of course speak no Spanish, much less Catalan. We tried our best, sometimes with the help of Google Translate. She served what she called a typical Catalan meal – zucchini soup, followed by char grilled tomatoes, cannelloni beans and sausages (which were all very tasty) and finished with a custard type dessert.
We three (which includes Michael, the English man who was also doing the walk) then escaped – planning to return to the bar for a post dinner drink. It was closed tight – at 9.30pm. After walking the streets we stumbled across another bar, that was not only open but even had some people in it. We shared a bottle of the house red, whilst some of the locals went out the back and shared some wacky baccy, and then we all watched a documentary (in Spanish) on the Montsant mountains, followed by the David Lynch film ‘Wild at Heart’ (in English with Catalan sub titles). It was a bad film back then but now is even worse – the over acting makes one cringe. We managed about half an hour of Wild at Heart then made our exit.
It has been a terrific walk – lovely scenery and very pleasant accommodation. Thank you to On Foot Holidays and Joanna, the walk host. Tomorrow we return to Barcelona, and I get to spend 3 nights with my gorgeous girls Sue and Joyce, whom I haven’t seen for about 5 years, so am very excited to get there to give them a big hug.