When one thinks of Spain, they typically think of sizzling Spanish tapas, flowing Fandango dances and a gorgeous, sunny climate. So when a lovely host family invited me to spend a winter month at a rustic stone village in the “Northern Spanish Mountains”, I was understandably hesitant.
“Mountains? Is it cold there?” I asked.
“Colder than Barcelona,” the host replied.
Not off to a great start. If I wasn’t going for the sunshine or the beautiful Gaudí architecture, what was I going for?
“Oh, there’s lots to do here,” said Pacha, mother of the family. “There’s hiking, skiing, gorgeous restaurants, and you can always jam with me and my husband. I play accordion, he plays guitar.”
Talk about an enticing sales pitch. I was sold, and I booked my plane ticket that night.
THE PLANE TO SPAIN
One of Europe’s many charms are the insanely affordable plane tickets available between countries. For only €15 - €20, you can fly just about anywhere. However, there’s one important condition: if you have any extra baggage, you’re looking at exorbitant fees that would almost be enough to purchase the plane itself. So as a backpacker venturing across the continent with a guitar, I had to get creative. Fortunately, I wasn’t travelling with just any old fashioned guitar.
When folded up, I relished in the fact that my KLOS guitar was small enough to fit under the seat. I stuffed my backpack in the overhead bins and made a proud mental note to invest the saved baggage fees in carbon fibre stocks when I returned home.
WELCOME TO MONTELLÁ
After a 3 hour train to the nearest Spanish city, the family picked me up in their Jeep and we cruised into the mountains. The road snaked around a variety of hills, revealing a breathtaking vista with every turn and corner. Each mountain climbed taller than the last, some whispering with the clouds while others basked in the sun. We arrived in the village of Montellá 30 minutes later, and what I saw was pretty surreal.
The village was entirely made of stone—large uneven slabs of rock strewn together into tall, muddied buildings. The roads were barely wide enough to fit horse carriages, let alone vehicles. But somehow, the Jeep squeezed through the alleys, giving me heart palpitations in the process.
We unloaded the car and entered this narrow building that was cracked with antiquity. Fortunately, on the inside, modernity had taken the reigns from history and had galloped ahead with them. The appliances were stainless steel, the walls freshly painted. The fireplace roared next to comfy IKEA couches with thick blankets on their cushions. It was homey and cozy in a way that spoke to my Canadian roots.
That first night, we could hardly wait to whip out our guitars and have a jam session. Once dinner was done, we ran upstairs and let the music take us away. The kids danced with the music, and I was pleasantly surprised that they were well versed in the ways of The Grateful Dead and The Rolling Stones.
PICK A TRAIL
Over the next three weeks, me and the family would go on countless hikes into the Spanish mountains. Every trail we trotted through was mesmerizing, enriching. On one hike we took in the early morning, I brought my KLOS guitar and a few picks. Safe to say, guitars and sunrises go together famously, like Bert and Ernie or peanut butter and jam.
I’m about to leave the mountains with a heavy bag and an even heavier heart. Life doesn’t have many moments where you can live in a stone village that only has traffic when sheep are moving fields. Fortunately, after three weeks in the mountains, my eyes are filled with unforgettable sights. My stomach is replete with memorable Spanish dishes. And my ears will forever carry the tune of the Spanish songs we played on the mountain with my favourite KLOS guitar.