Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another World

It's hard to blog here everyday. At the house, we do have a computer connection, but very low speed. We have to wait and go to the Parador in Monforte where the high speed connection is free while we have coffee or snacks.

Monforte is the nearest big town (or small city, depending on how you look at it) about 8 miles from our little hamlet. Up a high hill in the center is the Parador, an imposing castle/monastery/tower that was one of the many properties given to Count de Lemos centuries ago by the king to reward his loyalty. Our Spanish isn't good enough to track the whole history, but at one time it was a monastery and presently the main (huge) structure is a tourist hotel. (There is a whole system of paradors throughout Spain, where castles have been converted into tourist hotels.)

On the ground floor of this one is the hotel lobby, a restaurant and a cafe, all situated around an open patio with a stone dome in the center. Rooms for the hotel clients are on the first and second floors. Outside,a lovely cathedral abuts the hotel and is still regularly in use. And one can go up the many flights of the tower at appointed hours to see historical relics and peer out at spectacular views of Monforte spread below.

I journal most days about the area, but every time we come, there is so much more to learn. At this time of year, the late summer is still richly green, although fields have turned golden, and this week some of the trees started turning a faint russet. The air has become cooler. Orchards are lush with peaches, apples, figs, walnuts, and chestnuts that are just starting to fall, still in their prickly green cases. Blackberries are ripening. Wooded areas are thick with red pines, oaks, eucalyptus trees, and birches or aspens (I haven't decided which). As you go through villages, geraniums crowd wrought iron balconies, and hydrangeas bush up from the ground, next to fuschias and some wonderfully fragrant magenta-blooming plant. Ferns line the roads in abundance, whether in sunlight or shade. Pastures are thick with wild fennel, wild sage, wild mint, and Queen Anne's lace. And stinging nettle is everywhere. (I have found out the hard way that this is not a weed to pull.)

Every small farm has its grapevines, with ruffled leaves and lush fruit hanging in purple and green bunches. Yesterday Eva told us that this year the vendimia, or wine harvest, will be on the 26th of this month. And then it will be time for everyone to make up their batches of new wine for the coming year. And the cyle goes on.

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