A town of stone houses carved into the mountainside, overlooking a canyon or two, in the region of Leon de Castillo. Twist my arm. We booked a guesthouse on booking.com, which is the backbone of our travel plans. The place looked like something from the roman ages, crossed with a Tarantino country and western. We wasted no time getting there, mostly because Matisse fell asleep in the car so there was no way we were waking her just to have lunch at Lerma.
We were not disappointed. Its magic was glowing from the distant arid planes as we approached. The roads were narrow, cobblestoned paths that wove across this hill in no particular fashion and left you constantly disorientated. Our GPS did us no favours finding the guesthouse, it kept thinking houses were roads, and cliff edges were intersections. There were only two handfuls of roads, so we eventually found it. We banged on the big wooden door for a good five minutes before someone came to rescue us.
We entered the fortress. Everything about it was perfect. The warmth of the wooden decor, the friendly owner, chess sets in the loungeroom, manicured lawns. I have never been to a Mexican castle, but this is what I imagine it would feel like. In fact, I love this whole village. It is peaceful, ancient and charming.
It was menu del Dia time so we took the guesthouse recommendation and went to cocino de Pualino. It looked like the scabbiest bar from the street, but we went in anyway.
"Menu del Dia?" We enquired.
They directed us to a back door. Great. We were going into the sewer. Actually, it opened into a cliff side restaurant with views over the village. Flowerpots lined the window sills and there were three wine glasses per seat. Not the kind of restaurant you order coke at, so we made good use of the glassware. Over the next two hours we had three delectable courses, bread, wine and coffee, for a grand total of €23. Heaven on earth.
In case you are wondering what Matisse does over our leisurely lunches. At first she demands to eat all your food, banging the table between mouthfuls and making a racket like she has never been fed. Much to the amusement of other diners within a 5km radius. There is not a spare second between mouthfuls for you to even taste the food yourself. This has bitten her once, when my seemingly innocuous soup hid the chilli flavour until mouthful ten. The look on her face was priceless. After her feast, she hits the decks, roaming around, hunting down attention from strangers and failing that, hazards. Her favourite are the European power outlets, so many holes in a little cave. One for each finger and her tongue as well. We are constantly prying her from them and hiding them with our bags. In other words, the lunches are not as relaxing as they may appear.
After a a siesta, we went to take a look around the village. We walked up one hill, then down the other side. Karl joked about which road to take "the high road or the low road, the age old predicament in life." We took the low road. Soon, the village was disappearing behind us and we realised it was the wrong choice. We found this overgrown staircase, so we climbed it. Karl had to invent a new pram carrying technique to navigate the narrow climb. Soon we were back in "civilisation."
But wait. We weren't. The road we were following turned to a dirt path, and then a goat trail. We were trekking around a mountain atleast four times the girth that I had envisaged. It was a long walk. We had even wandered into random discussion territory where I was dribbling on about how good Pantera were compared to Sepultura, and that they didn't even belong in the same category. This had stemmed from the fact that Sepulveda sounded like Spanish for Sepultura. As opposed to Metallica, which means metal in Spanish. By the way, Karl is still losing it over that one, and how lame he thinks it is.
Soon, I spotted a church up on a hill. Surely a church would have a road and lead us back to the village. As we climbed the mudslide, four wheel drive access only excuse for a road, I noticed I was feeling hot. Hallejuliah, finally a church that didn't chill me to my bones. I think it had more to do with the fact I was mountain climbing in jeans, scarf, jacket aaaaaanddd socks and thongs. This was a stark contrast to the 12 degree and rainy weather that we had visited the other churches in, without the socks.
Well. The "church" turned out to be a cemetery. But we got a good view of the village, in the distance, that we needed to head toward, just a few more kms. The cemetery also led us to the church, which descended on the village. Matisse had had enough of the pram so Karl was carrying her and I was pushing the pram by this stage. Classic image of sightseeing parents, might I add. We eventually made it back to the village, and our western movie set. We are off to have a shoot out.
That night, we had reports that it had bucketed down in Karama. The strange thing was, when we went outside, our car was wet, but the car parked next to us was dry. A mini Karama cloud had rained down on us too. And it was only 9am, so the owners of this other car were certainly still asleep. Spppooookkkyyyyy.....