A Little Bit of Magic in the Pyrenees

Every traveler hopes they can find magic.

It doesn’t happen often; every once in a while, you find yourself captivated in a moment of transcendence.

Maybe it’s a the ruby wonder of a glass of red wine, the way a café table peered out onto a city street, or the otherworldly glow of an ivory beach tucked away amid palms and emerald brush.

It’s the place or moment that makes you say, “I have to experience that again.”

Cervoles: Finding Magic in the Pyrenees

My wife and I stumbled upon that place and that moment this past October amid the crumbling stones of Cervoles, a rustic village that clings to a dark-green ridge in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

All the credit for this experience goes to my wife. For three weeks, she sifted through countless AirBnB search results in the hope of finding the perfect mountain getaway for us and our little terrier, Charlie.

I’m the one usually hunched over the laptop researching our vacations. Thankfully, my wife was the trooper this time. I admit, like any research-crazed traveling husband, it was hard for me to idle my Google engines as she crafted our vacation. But, like any research-crazed traveling husband, I realized my wife knows what she’s doing.

After a few weeks, she decided on a cabin named “The Watchtower of the Pyrenees.” You can take a look at it here, on Airbnb.com’s site: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/599697.

(Don’t worry…we paid for this rental with our own money. No publicity deals or discounts for this blog entry.)

The Watchtower: A Cozy Paradise

I will spare you the details of the drive from Barcelona to Cervoles. I will say, though, that the transformation of the land from the should-to-shoulder apartment buildings of Barcelona to the graceful lines of the Pyrenees foothills was a welcomed change.

The Watchtower, with a makeshift wall to thwart our terrier Charlie’s attempts at escape.

The Watchtower is one of eight or nine stone homes still standing in Cervoles. For many years, farmers and hunters occupied the homes. Over the past few decades, tenants left the village. The homes suffered. Once proud stone houses were now overgrown with brush. Rock walls fell. Gone is the roof of the village’s only church.

Yet the despair of passing time was beautiful.

The old church; without a roof, but not without hope.

Stubborn stones: Hope amid ruins

The weathered rocks now gripped by the ground are laden in old history, but hopeful of a new future. Dreamers from all parts of Spain are renovating some of the homes. That was the story of the Watchtower.

A husband-wife architect team bought a barely-breathing lot of old stone and dirt, then transformed it into a modest cabin.

The Watchtower includes a wood-burning stove, a conventional stove powered by propane, a modern bathroom and loft bedroom with a bathtub that sits flush with the golden wood floors.

The living room window gives way to a view of the valley that crawls toward the plains of Lleida.

An outdoor shower, a yard and a wood-covered patio complete the charm of the Watchtower property.

Like the village around it, the Watchtower is not beautiful for it’s glamour, but rather for it’s inherent stubbornness to maintain its rustic feel, while constantly wondering at the magnificent views bursting from the north and the south.

The views to the south of the Watchtower
The views to the north of the Watchtower, courtesy of Charlie and my wife, Heather.

We spent our days ambling along the trails that criss-cross the ridges and valleys around the cabin. A well-marked trail departs from Cervoles and ascends a small peak a few kilometers away. The views, again, were tremendous.

An emerald valley below the knob of a summit  played the part of a giant green mattress. We plopped down amid grass and flowers and laid quietly for about an hour.

At the top of the hill next to Cervoles. To the right, you can see a part of the village.

At night, we fired up the propane-powered stove and cooked loads of comfort food. We washed it all down – soups, croquetas, fuet, cheese – with wine and vermouth.

Our pup loved his new home. He claimed kingship over the front yard, roaming back and forth with confidence and curiosity.

Four months later, we find ourselves saying, “We have go back to Cervoles.”

Beyond Cervoles: Serene Senterada

The winding road that snakes its way from Cervoles to the valley below terminates in the tiny town of Senterada. Calm during the offseason, Senterada acts as a gatekeeper for this section of Pyrenees. It’s normally tranquil streets teem during the winter with the eager eyes of snow-hungry travelers.

Stop by Casa Leonardo for a slice of cake and cafe con leche. The town’s creek gurgles by on its way toward a reservoir at the base of the mountains.

Hop on the L-503 to head to explore La Torre de Cabdella and other ski hamlets. The road terminates at a reservoir wrapped with nearly 3,000 meter peaks.

Parking is available for hikers, selfie addicts and wearied legs in need of pavement and fresh air. Picnickers dot the valleys along the L-503.

Take the N-260 from Senterada to reach El Pont de Suert.

-J.R.

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