I don’t do relaxing very well, but this last week body and brain had a private conversation, and it was decided that a weekend off was very much in order. Marina and I booked tickets to Malaga on the new super-fast AVE route, and found a great deal in a 4 star hotel. Then we realised that going from one big city to another for the weekend wasn’t a good start, cancelled everything, and went back to the drawing board.
What we needed was countryside, but where do you find that these days? If you stop getting out of the city enough, ‘countryside proper’ starts seeming like this weird semi-forbidden construct, something from the past that you can go and look at to see how things use to be, but mustn’t touch, just as it becomes in scary future-fiction, like 1984 or Brave New World.
Still, after a weekend very much in contact with nature, I can report that it’s still there, in all it’s glory, not two and a half hours from Madrid.
The mighty Sierra de Gredos, in the Province of Avila, is as magnificent as the Alps. The air is achingly pure, the streams oxygen-clear, and even in April, the sawtooth peaks are covered in a thick white topping of snow. We stayed in the Parador de Gredos (for just 80 Euros a night, a special offer for being ‘friends of the Parador’ – free to sign up), a low, granite edifice set in the middle of a quiet pine forest.
The walking starts at the door, with a short circular route that quickly cleans lungs, heart and mind, but reception will give you a print out with other even nicer walks a short distance away. We headed up to the still-snow-bound Plataforma de Gredos, a base for hikes much higher into the mountains (there is a refuge after two and a half hours, you can spend a night there, then head for the top peaks), and to a lighter trail along a burbling mountain stream that started in the next village along from the Parador.
The result? We managed to relax. Enormously. We were pampered by the comforts of the Parador. We discovered that the wilds are very much ‘still there’ and we reveled in them. We want to spend more time in them. Soon.
Are you a city-dweller who occasionally wonders if the countryside is still really there? (Or a country-dweller who won’t go near the city?!)
Update: When we finished our half an hour jaunt upstream from the Plataforma de Gredos, we arrived back at the car and, to all of our amazement, bumped into Katie, fellow blogger and friend. She was just about to embark on an overnight stay at the refuge 2 hours uphill, before attempting the summit with friends the next day. See her awe-inspiring photos on Flickr, which really show that the Sierra de Gredos is indeed a mountain range to be reckoned with.