Imagine with me if you will, or better yet dream with me if you can. We’re driving in a new convertible on an old windy road through mountains lined with olive trees, almond trees and grapevines. As the night chases the day away, with the moon two days from full smiles in the cloudless sky, we round the bend to find a wolf standing in the middle in our path. We stop. Our eyes meet his and without a word he says “follow me.”
So we do. We travel up the mountain trailing the wolf with the car barely able to keep pace. He winds us up to and through a quiet stone village, trapped between now and then, to a ten room inn. “Welcome,” says our guide, “Park the car and I’ll meet you at the bar.” Our wolf guide turns and disappears inside.
We’ve awoken at the top of Gratallops, in the heart of Priorat, at the Hotel Cal Llop. While our dream of the wolf may be finished, we have unwittingly stepped into someone else’s dream.
Opened in 2006, Cal Llop is the passion project of owner Christina and her husband to marry old world charm with brave new world technology. Originally built in roughly the 13th century, the building was last structurally renovated in the 18th century, prior to Christina putting her dream for Cal Llop into reality.
Its primary use was as a residential dwelling, but it also housed a granary and stables. Sitting atop the village it boasts stunning views of Serra de Llaberia, Serres de Pradell-l’Argentera, and Riu Siurana i Planes del Priorat from the front, very much unchanged since the 13th century. Panning from landscape to the human habitat of Cal Llop it’s easy to see the past as the strong features of ancient stone, old wood and wraught iron run throughout the hotel. If you look closer as you approach the hotel, you’ll notice the transformation as you step into Christina’s dreamscape.
Crossing over the threshold and through the weathered wooden front doors, you’ll notice iron locks now make way for fingerprint scan technology, a way for guests and employees alike to access the hotel after hours. Once inside you’ll see as you pass through antiquated doorways, watch original wood beams dance with modern lighting, and archaic stone walls bleed into new, vibrantly colored plaster. Today, people enjoy traditional Catalan cuisine where once horses consumed hay, while the four story old granary now lets in the light of day to diners in the restaurant.
The ten rooms of Cal Llop follow the same line, with flat screens sharing walls with paintings from another time. They are an elegant balance of the creature comforts of convenience with the cosiness of rustic simplicity. The rooms give the illusion of spaciousness, due to a good use of interior decorating.
However, making the most from what you have is not new idea and one which has been a long Catalan life practice. The hotel’s Michelin-recognised restaurant, Boca Del Llop, embraces this philosophy, and sources everything from the area. Christina starts early in the morning to choose ingredients for the day’s menu, from Mediterranean seafood to the olives we passed on the way in, fresh local meats, seasonal vegetables, and the wine. Don’t get me started on the wine, for that is a tale for another time. What we can say is only wine from Priorat and Montsant are in Cal Llop’s cellar, not that they would need any other wines.
Christina’s dream is exactly what you want in an accommodation when you visit Priorat. It allows you to step back into a time long gone, while bringing you all the things from today you cannot leave behind (yes, there is wifi). She expresses her dream to share it with you through her tirelessly attentive service. In our current space and time, this seems like a concept lost to the past, but not at Cal Llop.
Do we like this dream called Cal Llop? Yes we do, and we think if you choose to follow the wolf to Gratallops, you’ll appreciate Christina’s dream. Perhaps just enough to make it recurring. Come and join us, choose to follow the wolf.
Persuaded to spend a few days at Call Llop?