Photo Story #3: Cal Mestre
In my Photo Story series, I focus on a particular picture and tell you the story behind it rather than writing about a destination. Sure, Cal Mestre Hostal looks beautiful by itself - set among the winding cobblestone streets of Vilallonga de Ter, a small medieval village tucked away deep in the Pyrenees mountains of northern Spain. But getting there and securing ourselves a place to sleep for the night proved anything but ordinary and once again reminded me how comical traveling could be when you don't know the local language.
A year ago, while attending a travel blogger conference in Spain, I was faced with a tough choice of selecting a hotel I wanted to stay at for free after the conference. Cal Mestre was on the list, but it was literally all the way out in the middle of nowhere so I went for something closer to the beach. At the same time my friend and fellow blogger Dustin of Skinny
Backpacker Escape was offered a complimentary rental car, so after I was finished basking in Mediterranean sunshine, we decided to head for Andorra through the magnificent Spanish Pyrenees.
By the time we finished with Dali museum in Figueres, we realized that we won't make it to Andorra that night. So naturally we decided to see if we could stay at one of those complimentary accommodation places along the way. We figured that even if we can't score a complimentary stay, at least we should be able to communicate with them in English - after all, they were on the list of suggested accommodations by the Costa Brava tourism for, well, tourists...
Turned out that both of those assumptions were a stretch.
I don't think they even spoke Spanish for that matter - with Catalan being the language of the Pyrenees. So, it made for quite an uncomfortable, somewhat embarrassing, and a very confusing phone call. Still, with my twenty words of Spanish and Dustin's five words of French (hey, I thought Canadians were supposed to be good at it, eh?) we were able to make a "reservation" for the night.
Well, it would be a stretch to call it a reservation. I'm sure I got through with something along the lines of "Two people. One room. This evening."
At least we hoped they understood that. And they had a room. With two beds. And they will wait for us since we wouldn't get there until later in the evening. Because they kept telling us something on the phone that neither one of us could make sense of.
When we got there, the place was closed and as we were starting to fear the worst, two old ladies finally opened the door for us. After more fierce butchering of Spanish, lots of gesticulations, and even more giggles, we were finally given a key to our room. With two beds. And I think they also told us that there will be breakfast at 9 in the morning.
That hunch also turned out to be true!
Was it humbling? Yes.
Was it embarrassing? Very much so.
Dit it all work out? It did!
Even with a language barrier, it is still possible to get what you need in places far away from home and I am always reminded of that whenever I stumble open this picture of beautiful Cal Mestre.