In my fantasy inspiration would strike and I’d come up with a cracker idea for a novel, an idea so good that I’d auction the publication rights and pocket a huge advance. Now all I need to do is write the book away from harassing phone calls from Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson who would be after the film rights. Where would I go? High up on my list of hideaways is my own Spanish Shangri-la: Arnedillo.
|Arnedillo, La Rioja, Spain|
Spanish tourists do go there but these are Spanish tourists, mainly from nearby Logroño. The shops aren’t filled with souvenirs: no “Arnedillo a Noche” postcards, Chinese-made castanets or even miniature bagpipes with “Requerdos de Arnedillo” printed on them. (Forget the flamenco---this is flute, drum and bagpipe country.)
|That tower is the little that's left of the 10th C castle of the bishops of Calahorra.|
|Vultures nest in the peaks around the town.|
|Looking back along the Cidacos River to Arnedillo.|
There’s another walk to see dinosaur footprints but I’ll save this one for when I’m really stuck.
|Iglesia de San Servando y San Germán|
|17th Century organ in the Iglesia de San Servando y San Germán|
|Jill outside our hotel, the Hospederia Las Pedrolas.|
It is also a gathering place in autumn for mycologists. One of the restaurants, Casa Cañas, hosts the annual Jornadas Micológicas de Arnedillo. For mushroom and funghi aficionados there are lectures, guided mushroom collecting walks and the restaurant serves mushroom degustaciones for those mycologists who have a gastronomic as well as scientific interest in their subject.
|photo: Casa Cañas|
|photo: Casa Cañas|
Arnedillo’s main attraction is its hot springs. At one side of the normally-icy Cidacos River, which skirts the town, water comes out of the ground at 52.5 degrees Celsius. The town has built a series of pools, one flowing into the next. By the time the water reaches the lowest pool it’s not too hot to get into so the usual procedure is to work your way up from the warm pool to the almost-painfully-hot one. Once in the hottest pool it’s very hard to move a muscle, even to get out, but somehow you feel good afterwards. There is a big hotel and spa on the outskirts of town with mud baths for those who believe in the medicinal benefits of the water and have a bit of loose change.
|Arnedillo's thermal springs.|
Anyway, Arnedillo would be one of my perfect retreats: good restaurants, good accommodation and just enough to do to kill the boredom but not enough to not so much that I couldn’t get my work done. At least that’s my fantasy.
I didn’t just happen upon Arnedillo by taking a wrong turn between Barcelona and Bilbao.
Many years ago as a teenager living in Madrid, a young woman came to work for for my family. Charo---diminutive of “Rosario”---was not only an excellent cook and tireless house-keeper but she soon became a well-loved member of the family. Much of what we learned of the Spanish language and Spanish customs we owed to her.
|Charo on the right and another friend on a picnic in the 1950s.|
|Jill, Charo and me in Arnedillo a few years ago.|
|Some of our Arnedillo family.|
|Roberto and I check the wine in his bodega and declare it ready for drinking.|