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Monday, 14 June 2010

BON VIVANT

We had the opportunity to visit a valley we have never been to before, the Valley of Benasque which is quite a schlep from here, tucked away in the corner of the province not far from Catalunya. We normally visit the Valley of Broto which we know quite well now so Benasque was a new view of the Pyrenees. It's one of the larger more popular resorts especially in winter with the ski resort of Cerler nearby. It has a different vibe to the one we are used to and quite a few surprises.

It has grown in the last thirty years with a lot of urbanisation but still has managed to look after the old part in a far better way than the one we have here in Huesca. In fact the people in the mountain villages seem a lot more open and sophisticated than the ones down here and there are a few theories as to why this is. One that they are closer to France and have more dealings with the French but also people up there are more used to foreigners in general and rely on tourism to make a living. There seems to be more of an entrepreneurial spirit too and you can find products and service that you wouldn't get here ever.
It is a village that has everything you need including a bar called Rabason,, resplendent with ancient cobwebs, Miles Davis and vino dulce. We had coffee outside the Hotel Aneto and later were invited to view the rooms which would probably be described as 'state of the art' but were designed and furnished with lots of wood and stone themes that fit in with the surroundings. The sculptor goes by the name Vicente Garcia Plana and uses a lot of natural materials. There was one space I wasn't sure about where you could sit and read which had heavy stones hanging from wire above your head. I think it's the kind of hotel that is busier in winter during the ski season as there were hardly any folk about. I love hotels and although we always seem to have friends to stay with I wouldn't mind sampling this joint.

We had dinner in a wonderful little restaurant called Ansils in the village of Anciles. Apparently, this was the only village not to get burnt down during the Civil War but I need to find out if that means in this valley or the whole of the province. These restaurants offer fine dining at a fraction of the cost you'd pay back in Britain and in beautiful countryside. I had the 'recao' de Anciles, which is like a potage and for the main course, partridge. The wine was from Riglos de los Mallos, another beautiful part of Aragon. The next day we visited the ancestral home of our friend Cristina's children. I have never seen a house like this in Aragon and it was more akin to a French chateux. The key was enormous and reminded me of the keys The Jews took with them when they were expelled from Spain hoping one day they would be able to return to their houses. Inside I came across many old books from the 17th century which were just rotting away and looked as if they had been rescued from a fire which is possible with all the stories of burning and ransacking during the Civil War. There was also a framed piece of a flag allegedly dating back to the battle of Lepanto which took place way back in 1571 in the Ottoman- Habsburg wars. The house was full of 'ghosts' and it was difficult to find its heart. Like the bar we visited the night before, the corners and walls were full of cobwebs the like which make a tearing noise as they scrape against your arm. The flag intrigued me and has inspired me to find out more on the battle.

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