It is currently high summer here in Catalonia. Fortunately it doesn’t get nearly as hot here as it does further south in Spain, but sometimes you just feel like going up into the mountains for some fresher air.
Last Monday was just one such occasion. It was 35 degrees at the coast so we packed a picnic and took the family, who are visiting from Norway, up to Nuria where it was a refreshing 25 degrees.
Nuria was once a sanatorium where patients with TB were treated. Even today it is an oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the coast at the height of the tourist season when you need eyes in your backside to look out for Dutch campers on electric bikes taking a short-cut the wrong way up a one way street. What happens to people when they go on holiday? They seem to leave their brains behind at home! But enough of that.
One of the main attractions of Nuria is that you can’t drive all the way up. We take the car as far as Ribes de Freser – famous for its drinking water; or a little further up to Queralbs, a very quaint mountain village from where you can either take the rack railway up to the Nuria Valley or walk the Cami de Nuria – a marked mountain track which takes about four hours and whilst not quite a walk in the park, it is taken by young and old alike. You need good boots, drinking water and plenty of sunscreen but it is quite doable.
The village of Queralbs decked in Catalan flags ready for “Fiesta Major” – every town and village has one and it is a good excuse for a party and some fireworks.
Having said that, we chose the train – I must confess that my idea of a long walk in the country is an out-of-town shopping centre, so the thought of walking for four hours up a mountain track just doesn’t appeal. The train has a summer and winter version – the summer one is more like a tram with big windows from which to enjoy the magnificent views, whilst the winter one is more robust to deal with the snow and ice in the mountains. It takes just twenty minutes from Queralbs to Nuria and costs around €20 return (a bit less for over 65s) and there is an optional extra to take a cable car further up the mountain to a ski-station which takes another five minutes or so, but is well worth it for the view.
Once up at Nuria it is delightful to wander about – there is much to see: a mountain lake where you can hire canoes or rowing boats it you want to take to the water. You can stroll along the mountain trails some of which are cross-country ski tracks in winter. From the upper ski station down to the main buildings there is a Way of the Cross with several modern pieces of art relating to Christ’s Passion. You can have a picnic by the rushing mountain stream – as we did – or treat yourself to lunch in the restaurant – visit the beautiful sanctuary and spend some time peacefully admiring the Virgin of Nuria who resides in the Church most of the year but processes from the Church to the Chapel on 8 September each year. The Virgin – or Mare del Deu – of Nuria is believed to give the gift of fertility and Nuria is a popular girls’ name – possibly for those resulting from perceived Divine intervention.
For the less active there are expansive lawns on which you can just stretch out in the sunshine and for younger visitors pony rides are available.
For those wanting to stay longer, there is a hotel – the Hotel Vall de Nuria – and self catering apartments. The complex has two restaurants, a self-service cafeteria. a bar and a small shop – although those staying in the apartments would probably want to bring supplies with them as the selection in the shop is very limited.
A visit to Nuria is a wonderful day out for us “locals” but it would also be a very peaceful getaway for a weekend – both for summer walks and winter skiing. We certainly returned home refreshed.