We decided to stay in the village of Taüll because Paul read somewhere that it´s a very picturesque and a less touristy place. Well, no kidding. You´d be hard pressed to find any place more picturesque than here! (Although for me Torla was lovely, too.)
Interestingly on the weekend we were there there was a Fiesta Mayor, or village festival although we´re not even surprised by this as it looks like wherever we go there´s a market or a festival of some sorts. These Spanish don´t seem to do anything else. We were surprised though when on the way to the hotel a bunch of people came down towards us and a lady stopped the car. We looked at each other alarmingly but opened the window for her. She said they´re collecting money for the Fiesta Mayor. Then she gave the sign and a little orchestra made up of old men started playing very loudly. Paul gave them some coins and the young, already drunk guys all shouted ´thank you!´ in the car. Then the old guys started to speak to us in Catalan, then switched to Spanish but we didn´t understand that either, then when they confirmed that we´re English they gave up on us and the whole group finally moved on. We just looked at each other with Paul trying to comprehend what just had happened in the last few minutes.
Paul had to work in the afternoon so we finally had an easy day even though we were forced to have one by nature as it poured with rain, then in the evening we set off to find a restaurant.
The village has almost the same characteristics as Torla, except the chimneys. It has dark grey stone houses and it boasts two Romanesque churches. The first one was adorned with a separatist Catalan flag (you can never forget that you´re in Catalonia, NOT in Spain, even in the middle of the Pyrenees).
We soon realised that we´re out of luck. It was Sunday and everything was closed. In Barcelona the people do have some business sense and generally speaking the restaurants, bars and most shops are open all day and on the weekend, too. I think we got used to this treatment but as we step out of the city the reality hits you in the face. 2-3 hour siesta in the afternoon and the shops close on Saturday at midday and don’t open until Monday morning. There’s a saying I heard and I think it’s so true: Spain is the best country. Siesta during the day and fiesta during the night.
We went down to check out the other Romanesque church that is 5 storeys high and belongs to the National Park’s cultural heritage. Right next to a church a bit hidden away we found a nice looking restaurant that was for some mysterious reason open. We walked in …and had one of the best dinners in Catalonia.
We started with a homemade paté with toast that was lovely. Then we asked the waiter to help us out to find something typical of the area. He suggested butifarra, a typical Catalan meal and we gave him our consent. This is what he put in front of us.
Apparently this sausage is the simplest and purest meal, proper ‘clean food’. A lady makes them in her home using traditional methods. It has a very simple, ancient recipe that basically means fatless, lean meat (pork) and spices (salt and pepper). All this is stuffed in a case from the large intestine of a pig. (Now all the Hungarians who read this will find this an everyday thing as the Hungarian hurka is made exactly the same way but some of my other readers will find it strange.) It had a characteristic simple taste with a slightly salty, spicy flavour.
For dessert we asked for ice cream but not just any ice cream! We got three scoops. One tasted like thyme, the other like raspberry and balsamic vinegar and the last one like walnut and ratafia, the local liquor. These were the strangest but definitely the most unique ice creams we´ve ever had! Apparently the guy who supplies these can make ice cream with mushroom or olive tastes as well. Genius!
When we heard about this local liquor, Paul wanted to try it straight away so this was our digestive after the meal. It is made in one of the little villages in the Pyrenees. We asked for the bottle so we can translate what it said. Apparently the raiers were people who used to take logs down the river. This is where the name came from.
We had a lovely meal, not one of the best ones but definitely the most interesting one so far. After the meal we had a quick look around the village, and took some more photos of the lovely church.