Monty goes to the Ordesa Valley, Spain
We’re all off to sunny Spain, viva la spaniel…
Well hola, amigos! Just call me Señor Monty. This week, we’re off to spend a couple of days in Spain which is just over the border from my home in the French Pyrenees – a mere seventy miles geographically, but a long way culturally. There are two road tunnels through the mountains, connecting France and Spain, and it’s an easy drive to get there – I don’t even need my passport, although of course I have one.
We’re staying in the Ordesa Valley, a stunning area nicknamed the ‘Spanish Grand Canyon’ for its towering limestone cliffs. The area is very busy in summer, but quieter now, out of season. Our hotel, also called the Ordesa, is a modern building just outside a little medieval village called Torla, and has a dramatic, mountainous backdrop.
As we check in, Sara is disconcerted to find that no-one here seems to speak French. We’re only a few miles from France, so she assumed the language would be commonly spoken here, but the locals’ French seems to be as non-existent as Sara’s Spanish. Ho hum. As I haven’t been able to find even a dog-eared copy of Spanish for Dogs, I’ll have to rely on my natural charm and charisma.
Our room is modern and spacious, and we’ve been given a room with an outside balcony especially for me, so that I can stretch my legs. As we go back down through reception on our way out, we realise that the receptionist actually speaks English. Embarrassing.
We’re spending the first day on a six-hour hike through the adjacent National Park, and I’m a little miffed to see that dogs are required to stay on the lead here. This is really going to cramp my style – I’ll have to pull Sara round all day like a drag anchor. I just hope no-one I know sees me.
We set off along a broad, level path, surrounded by the most stunning scenery. The leaves are just starting to turn, and the distant slopes look like they’re on fire with bursts of orange, yellow and red. Distant waterfalls slide like silver ribbons down the cliffs, splashing into unseen pools far below.
Along the valley floor, we cross a lively river on stepping stones and I discover an excellent new game to play, called ‘Can I make Sara overbalance?’ It involves winding my lead round the rocks, then forcing Sara to hop awkwardly from stone to stone in the wake of my gazelle-like progress.
We stop briefly for lunch, and while the humans stuff themselves with heavily-laden sandwiches made with local bread bought the day before in Torla, I get…a biscuit. Ho hum again.
The meal is eaten to the tinkling accompaniment of cow bells – there’s a small herd of cattle grazing here, with soft grey coats that look like brushed grey suede. Sara thinks they’re a breed called Swiss, but if that’s true then they’re lost. Very lost.
As we start to climb the other side of the ridge, the views get better and better, with spectacular cliffs and tree-lined slopes all around us. During the first half of our walk, there’s been a steady stream of people, mostly photographers snapping the autumn colours and wildlife. Now, we’re on our own as we circumnavigate the ridge and start the steep, rocky descent.
Suddenly there’s a movement in the trees, and I spy a Spanish native – a black squirrel! No-one told me they had squizzers here! Desperate not to let my national side down, I hurl myself off the side the mountain in pursuit, only pausing when I find myself doing a cartoon-style scamper in mid air. Oh. So this is why I had to stay on the lead. I’m slightly red-faced as Sara hauls me back to safely, but that squirrel won’t be trying it on again.
Once safely back at the hotel, we head out to experience the nightlife of Torla. The village, a half-mile walk from our hotel, is very pretty with narrow cobbled streets, and almost all the shops and houses hung with colourful windowboxes. We’re checking out the restaurants for tonight, and I’m surprised to see that several have ‘no dogs’ signs outside. I’m so used to being able to stroll into any restaurant I fancy in France, that I’m quite taken aback. We eventually find a lovely backstreet restaurant called La Duende, which is apparently Spanish for ‘the elf’. This place looks much more like it – the resident restaurant dog, a Golden Retriever, is lying across the threshold, and the owners are welcoming. We book a table, and head back to the hotel to get ready.
In the event, however, I’m sleeping so soundly after my busy day that Sara decides to leave me in the room, and I never get to see the inside of the restaurant – but my staff report back that the food is tasty, and good value. The restaurant is even unfazed by Sara’s requests for a vegetarian meal.
The following day, after another short walk along the valley, we check out of the hotel. I’m annoyed to see myself detailed on the bill as ‘Mascotta, 5 euros’. Mascotta? Me? I see myself more as the leader of the expedition than a mascot, thank you so very much.
After a brief stop so that Sara can stock up with the obligatory cheap olive oil and cans of olives, we head back to our own side of the Pyrenees. I’ve enjoyed my break, and I’m keen to go back, although I don’t think I’ll be agitating to move here – whereas in France they adore me, in Spain they seem to ignore me, and a dog’s just not used to it.
Until next time, adios amigos! (That’s Spanish for ‘Bye, chums!’ I’m multi-cultural now).
Phileas Phact Box:
- The Hotel Ordesa, a four star hotel with a spa, is at Carretera de Ordesa, 22376 Torla (Huesca). Telephone 00 34 974 48 61 25. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hotelordesa.com to book online. Prices start at 59 euros per night during the low season (October to March), dogs 5 euros per night.
- La Duende restaurant can be found at Calle La Iglesia, 22376 Torla (Huesca), telephone 00 34 974 486 032. For sample menus, visit www.restauranteelduende.com.
- For more information about the Ordesa valley and surrounding area, see www.ordesa.net.