Monday, October 17, 2016

ALQUEZAR, SPAIN - VACATION COMMENTS AND PICS

Built by Moors as a fortress in defense of a nearby town, what became the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria in 1099 dominates the skyline of the village of Alquezar. The year-round population of just a few hundred swells ten-fold during high season due to Alquezar's majestic views, interesting architecture, the surrounding national park, and the many nearby opportunities for adventure travel. Cathey and I chose to visit during October, a quiet time that would have been just a touch quieter if there hadn't been a cadre of youth on the streets freed by mid-term break from their Spanish schools. Not many, and not too rowdy, but just enough to add a bit of color.

We chose the scenic route to Alquezar from our home in Quarante, heading for Toulouse and then turning southwest and climbing over the Pyrenees. Even with a six-page printout of directions from the Michelin website, we strayed off our route more than once and, when the road turned into what amounted to a paved cow path, we found it necessary to inquire of a family having lunch on their patio if we were indeed on the right road. To our surprise, we were. On arriving, we found parking toward the top of the village, located our Hotel Castillo on a quiet side street below, then struggled with our luggage. After we spent a couple of days learning the layout, we realized that we could have driven to the hotel's front door. I'm glad that we didn't try that initially, though. Tiny streets with dead ends, not wide enough for cars traveling in different directions to pass, can make for nervous driving especially if you're not certain of your directions.

The Hotel Castillo was perfect. Quiet. Great view from our room. Perfect little breakfast. Check out their website HERE for more info. But a slight caveat. The photographer who took the pictures of the rooms really knew his/her stuff. Our room was adequate to be sure but not as spacious as the website made it appear.

Since high season had passed, not all restaurants were open during our Monday through Thursday stay. But we found the available choices perfectly satisfactory. The norm seemed to be a simple, three-course lunch or dinner, wine included, for 14 euros - interesting starts, grilled meat (beef, rabbit, lamb, chicken, sausage) and frites for a main, and an assortment of sweets for dessert. All good. I'll be putting up reviews on this blog over the next several days.

We didn't raft or canoe or hike the gorge. Our days were quite simple. We enjoyed our breakfast, walked around the village - more hiking than strolling given the changes in elevation, found a place for lunch, returned to the room for an afternoon nap, then chose our dinner stop. Simple, quiet days. Eye candy and good food. A vacation.

So...here are the pics. Enjoy.

One of the better roads through the Pyrenees.
For those of you familiar with the Languedoc, think of Alquezar as a fully realized Minerve with better restaurants.
Our room named Blancal..
Night time view of the Collegiate Church from our room's balcony.
View of the gorge of the Rio Vero. We didn't take advantage of the many goat tracks leading down from the village.
Whenever I enter a new church, I light candles for Florence and, more recently, Mae Brown. This was a new experience, though. Put 20 centimes in a slot and an electric candle lights up for an allotted period of time. It's probably cheaper than tapers for the church but I prefer real flame.

Huge altar piece covered in gold leaf. Truly impressive.

Wall paintings - I don't know if they qualify as frescoes - surround an upper gallery.
Everybody who has seen it wants this letterbox.

Stairs everywhere.

Everywhere...
I'll be doing a restaurant review but I just had to give a shout out to L'Artica. Great for a late morning cup of coffee and a tasty, hearty lunch. Staff pleasant and attentive. And, of course, the view.

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