Sunday, September 20, 2009

Los Pirineos

We arrived in the Pyrenees on Friday night after a winding 5ish-hour drive up the mountains. We checked into our hotel and had dinner as a group in the restaurant there. (Upon inspection both before and after our meal we determined that there was not a whole lot else going on in the town of Boi.)

We woke up on Saturday morning to a view of the gorgeous mountains and charming village. Not a bad start to the day.

The group loaded back onto the bus and we drove to Taüll, a nearby town that is home to multiple original 11th-century churches. This is where much of the artwork we saw in MNAC came from.

While in the town we inspected the interior of the church, climbed a bell tower, and happened upon a shepherd and his
giant herd of sheep.

We departed Taüll by foot and embarked on what we
thought was going to be an easy stroll on sidewalks, but was in fact a hilly, rocky hike. discoverd

As we made our way through the mountain-side, we discovered delicious blackberry bushes along the side of the trail. The whole experience felt less Spain and more "Sound of Music."

We spent the afternoon in Pont de Suert, the most happening of the local towns.

With five hours to fill, we opted for the serious Spanish lunch — 4 courses, after all of which the waitress asked if we wanted more food. No, we most definitely did not.

We walked around and met back at the bus at the appointed time, but discovered that we couldn't leave because there was a mini protest (scheduled to last for exactly 45 minutes) blocking the only route out of the town. We were told we could sit on the bus or go participate and with that, a few of us took off running.

We were handed a flyer by one of the older women at the helm, but it was in Catalan, so she
explained in Spanish what was going on. The roads connecting the villages in the Pyrenees are horribly maintained and both the Spanish and Catalunian governments have promised to repair them, but nothing has happened. (The big signs in the photo translate from Catalan to say "Cars cannot go by highways of promise" and "Cars can go by highways of truth.")

The protesters were thrilled to learn we were Americans studying in Spain — and even more excited when we demonstrated our 15-word Catalan vocabulary. We stayed for the duration of the manifestación and even wound up on video camera.

We had dinner at the hotel again and spent the rest of the night there. This morning we packed up the bus and drove 3 hours down the curvy mountain roads. There was not a whole lot of warning as to the nature of the roads, and so I had a nice window seat in the very back of the bus, but disembarked the bus in Seu d'Urgell entirely in one piece.

We checked out the Seu (cathedral) and spent some time walking around the town before getting back on the bus and heading home to Barcelona, with a brief stop at the Castell de Cardona, a beautifully preserved castle atop a very high hill. (Props to the bus driver for maneuvering that one.)

Now we're back in Barca. Up for this week: the start of real classes (sort of). More on that as it happens...

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