This week we are spending a few days at L’Avenc de Tavertet, a small hotel perched at the top of a high plateau in the Collsacabra region of Catalunya. Words definitely can’t describe it. Even the beautiful images Brian has captured don’t fully convey the essence of this incredible place – and that’s saying a lot because his photos are amazing.
Our drive into L’Avenc was like something out of a dream. Like most dreams, it started out fairly normal as we caravaned behind our relatives along highway C-26 in northeastern Spain. We had lunch in the quaint town of Solsona and later stopped off to do a hike down to “a little swimming hole.” Our brother-in-law, Ori, is the king of downplaying and said very little about what we were about to see. (Insert hallelujah chorus here.) The kids got muddy, the parents relaxed, a fun time was had by all. After a couple hours there we continued our journey to our destination.
This is where the experience really starts to feel surreal and dreamlike. As we were leaving the “little swimming hole” Brian got something in his eye. After driving several kilometers in eyeball agony, he finally had to pull over and have me drive our manual transmission rental car. I was fumbling at driving a stick shift for the first time in years, when we followed Ori’s car onto a narrow, gravel side road. We began winding our way up the mountain through forest so lush and dense the car’s headlights automatically switched on due to lack of daylight. Just about the time our eyes had fully adjusted to the darkness of the canopy, we emerged back into brilliant sunlight with sweeping views of the valley below us.
Each turn in the road brought another amazing perspective. I ambled us along the narrow road, clumsily shifting from first gear to second then back to first, avoiding potholes and veering as far as possible from the sheer drop-offs that popped up alongside us. We continued with the view of the valley on our left and an embankment on our right for a short while. Then suddenly, we took a hard right and drove through a gate leading underground. A cavernous, modern parking garage opened up around us, leaving our eyes once again straining to adjust to the darkness.
This was a bizarre change from the rural mountain road we’d been on only seconds before. After parking, we carried our luggage to a glass-encased elevator, which brought us above ground and into a sleek, modern lobby. The manager welcomed us and gave us a tour of the facility and grounds before personally taking us to our two-story, two-bedroom apartment overlooking the valley. The whole experience was surreal. Yet, here’s the part where it really sounds like a dream – staying here costs the equivalent of $130 a night. Crazy, right?!
In addition to its natural beauty, this place has a rich history accompanying it. L’Avenc is a farm house built in the middle ages which stood empty and alone in this beautiful spot for 50 years. The owners, who partnered with the local municipality to purchase and rehabilitate the area in 1997, took great pains to maintain the historical value, integrate the natural environment, and highlight the local culture as they renovated the original house and added buildings to the grounds. Hiking trails and gardens surround the facility, every guesthouse and room has a breathtaking view, and the indoor pool is a tranquil place to relax (when it doesn’t have three squealing American girls playing in it.)
The girls also love it here, thanks to the sand box, tadpole pond, and friendly resident pets which have kept them entertained for hours. In fact, they love it so much we have a battle when we try to leave the hotel.
The Carisch family has found an amazing place in L’Avenc. So amazing that what was to be a quick one night stay has been extended to a three night stay. We will be here though Wednesday, and until then I will be soaking up every minute – even while I blog about it.