It’s that time of the month again. This week we made the move, once more, bringing us to our seventh host and yet another one-of-a-kind location. A mere half an hour from our previous host, this was by far our easiest relocation yet. This spectacular south-facing canyon of the Spanish Pyrenees (northern Catalonia) branches out from the western tail of the Cerdanya, the opposite end of same valley which we were overlooking for the last five weeks from our balcony in Osseja, France. A sunbathed plateau at 4000 feet above sea level, the locals call it an island in the sky, and we are more than happy to call it home for as long as we can swing it.
For the moment, we are lodging in the servants’ quarters, just upstairs from the bar and restaurant of an out-of-business and more-or-less abandoned hotel and resort. When the current owners bought it 22 years ago, it was already out of commission, and for the last two decades it has only fallen further and further into disrepair. Now in their late 70s, the owners—at least when they are not being institutionalized for mental health treatment across the channel—are comfortably ensconced in the bar and reception area downstairs, standing firmly in the way of their son, who is more than eager to unlock just an iota of this place’s astronomical potential.
Covering more than 30 acres of pristine mountainsides, riverbeds and hot springs, not to mention the breathtaking southward vistas of jagged snow-capped peaks, the property includes a four-story hotel, an adjacent bar and restaurant, two geodesic domes (one made of bamboo), a swimming pool, a playground, horses, gardens and miles of hiking trails.
As the late autumn wind blows through the trees, breaking the silence and scattering sycamore leaves across the grounds, it’s all to easy to be reminded of a lonely mountain hotel in an old Jack Nicholson movie. Just our mild-mannered family and the year-round groundskeeper, keeping watch over the place and waiting for the first winter storm to blanket us in snow. Throughout our trip we’ve been seeing twins at every turn: a pair of two-year-olds at our first gig, two pairs of twins at our second place, an 11 and a 12-year-old who could have passed for twins at another house, and scads of identical twins at every random playground and shopping center.
The thought that this derelict hotel could be haunted by little twin girls from “The Shining” does keep me up at night. Picture, if you will, a four-year-old boy racing up and down the halls on a tiny two-wheeler, and you’re not all that far off the mark. But you can rest assured, none of us is prone to psychotic bouts of cabin fever. So long as you don’t see a blog that reads “All work and no play makes Fred a dull boy” repeated for a hundred and fifty lines, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Except maybe the other psychotic sociopath, the one who’s on the cover of every news magazine around the world this week.
Still, the Kubrickesque parallels go on and on, and I think the only thing missing here is a good labyrinth. Which I can tell you is a great relief. Although, it’s worth mentioning that our previous host had a pretty serious labyrinth. In fact, it was the logo for her relocation business based back in Montreal, Canada. Not a bad logo, evoking the story of Ariadne who led Theseus out of the Cretan labyrinth, in the same way that she guides her clients through the maze of relocating and adapting in a new country and culture.
But now that she’s in France, she’s starting a new business, incorporating English teaching with her expertise in cross cultural training. Of course, she needed a new logo and website for that, and my wife was more than happy—and qualified—to deliver. Yet another satisfied customer. (We’re especially grateful to her for putting us in touch with the son of the owners of this property; it’s not a Work-Away listing, but just a friend of a friend with an unmanageably large project.)
Our new host here is also interested in revamping the website for the hotel/restaurant/hot springs/resort. So it’s possible that there could be a great deal of work for us here, if the old folks don’t insist on getting in the way. One or both of them (mother and step-dad) will be returning from England on Tuesday, and they might just chase us off the premises. As always, our fate remains uncertain, but nowhere near as uncertain as Shelley Duvall’s fate when her husband Jack comes home from a long day of chopping wood. So maybe I’ll just stick to raking leaves and tending the greenhouses.