We woke on our final (cold) day in La Morera de Montsant with full intentions of heading south to Malseig to take an olive mill tour. God bless intentions. It turns out most of the olive oil production had just ended a few weeks back closer to Christmas and the New Year.
Our friendly crew at the Balco de Priorat hotel. The gentleman closest to Brian was a new addition that morning, but he spoke perfect English and we learned that he has a home in Barcelona and splits time between there and here in Priorat. I can't say enough how much the people made our experience so enjoyable.
While out and about wine tasting, people kept telling us that we really needed to see Siurana, another little village, this one with ruins of an ancient castle and supposedly amazing views of the area. After eating breakfast and checking out of the hotel we stopped in Cornudella de Montsant to try to find the winery we skipped on our list the day before and ran across the city cooperative where we tasted this wine....Castell de Siurana. We took that as a sign and decided to head to Siurana next.
We saw several of these cooperatives along the way. They all have these GIANT cement tanks, they were all frightfully FREEZING, and this was the only one where we actually got to do a little tasting (of some very COLD wine) and a wee bit of shopping. (We bought some cold cheese with our cold wine.) We also bought a box of wine here! Yep, Spanish box wine! Table wine is typical fare in Spain, which is comprised of the grapes not picked during the sorting process for the nicer wines. The whole thing was 5 Euro and is equivalent to 3 bottles of wine.
After Cornudella, we found the road marked Siurana and subimos, subimos, subimos! (We climbed, climbed, climbed....in the little Ford Ka of course. Ka!). We were royally confused when we arrived at the top of the mountain and could drive no farther. There were several cars scattered about in a parking lot, so we followed suit and took in the majestic views.
This is the Siurana Lake which wound through the mountains. Looked more like a river to me, but it was called a lake, so I decided I'd chill out and let them call their river a lake. :) Our friends at the hotel said they were in dire need of rain, and we could see where the trail of water tapered off. Even though below freezing, it was a beautifully clear day, and the sun was dancing in sparkles across the water. Buenisimo!
After a little aimless walking around the parking lot, we finally asked a couple who appeared to be camping up there in their van where Siurana was. The guy pointed down a rocky path and said "you have to walk." Got it! So with camera in one arm and the other outstretched for balance, we traversed the rocky hillside, climbed down the parking lot, found the path, and hiked ourselves right over to the adorable little village of Siurana!
More cobblestone. More gorgeous views. I'm guessing these people start to get a little blase around here about their freaking awesome little villages. It's hard to find a street or building that doesn't have at least a little charm.
The village actually had two or three restaurants/bars and two or three hostels/hotels, which was impressive considering how tiny it was. We're using our college-educated minds to extrapolate that it must be quite the summer hotspot for bikini-clad dog-lovers because this restaurant has obviously had a problem with both. On a side note, the no smoking sign has been a welcome one for us all over Spain. We arrived in the country the day that the national smoking ban went into effect, and although people have been none too happy about it, they've actually complied this time around. I say 'this time around' because our British neighbor Carl tells us that there have been a handful of other attempts at outlawing smoking indoors, each with varying levels of success (as in days and weeks) before the people revolted and just started lighting up again. Ha! We're feeling super fortunate at the four weeks of witnessed success we've seen so far.
From high atop Siurana we could see the little village of Cornudella we had just left below! Just up and to the left a bit, you can also begin to see the village we stayed in, La Morera de Montsant.
I'm more of a beach gal myself, but Brian loves, loves, loves the mountains. So he really enjoyed exploring the mountaintop and drinking in all the amazing vistas.
The ruins of the castle. The road directly below the castle is the one we walked in on from the parking lot, which was situated on a clearing high and to the left out of sight of this photo. The castle was the last Muslim stronghold in the region, and there is a legend that the beautiful queen of the time, Abdelazia, road her horse off the cliff to her death to avoid being captured by the Christians.
After seeing the 360 degrees of gorgeous views, we could understand why everyone had recommended the trip up to Siurana, and why they had especially urged it on a clear day. A few more of the sights....
After Siurana, we decided to venture down to Falset, the capital of the area. We found a fabulous little restaurant called Quinoa for lunch (they did not serve any quinoa). And then we tasted wines at this bodega. We asked the waitress at lunch if there was anywhere to taste nearby, and she called the owner of this shop, had him open it, and then she walked us down! The owner was super-accommodating and had a host of wines from the area all separated by region. We probably got to taste 8 different wines, many from areas we had intended to visit, but didn't get to. So we felt pretty lucky! After tasting
we decided a trip to the chamber/tourist office was in order since we were in town after all. It was quite humorous sauntering into the tourist office and explaining that we were on our way out of town and we really didn't need any info. Ha! We actually wanted to pick up a few maps for our friends in case they decided to come. And then we were off! It was such a fabulous impromptu little vacation, and we were completely inspired to plan more little off-the-beaten-path Spanish sojourns.