Reub's journey

15 August 2011

The mysterious cat

Look how tiny I am, cat-shaped there on the right, and how little the windows are. John's photo.
After a couple of nights in this centuries-old stone farmhouse outside of Solsona, Spain, we departed in our little rented Leon. Maybe you know that leon, translated into English, means puma or lion, but at the time I didn't think about that.

This mountain in the Pyrenees resembles the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan.
John's photo.
I just admired the good job John was doing navigating the tight curves, and thought how strange it was that we had the mountain roads completely to ourselves, like we were the last people left on earth. But suddenly, after an hour or so of this dizzying drive all alone, we rounded a curve and were confronted by two cars heading towards us: SURPRISE. There was just room for the three of us on that narrow road...and then, while I was still taking in my breath...

I saw a shape in the brush at the side of the road.
It was a cat.
A big one.
For one astonished second, the cat looked straight at me, then turned and disappeared over a fallen log.

Living in Oregon, a place were large wild cats are considered plentiful, I know many people who have seen cougars; our house lies on the circuitous path that mountain lions take through our area. I've wanted so badly to see a cougar, but they don't show themselves to me, ever. At the same time I've always thought that Europe-so long settled and "civilized"- is basically without wildlife, and relative to Oregon, it is. There just aren't big wild cats over there.

After the stunning moment of eye contact, I said matter-of-factly, "That was a cat." And to my relief, John said, "I saw it too."

Subdued, we made our way through the countryside and up to this house, Cal Paller.

Cal Paller sits in a remote, impossible location deep in Catalonia.

Recommended to us by Spanish friends, this was our big splurge before roughing it on our hikes in the mountains.

It was a room made for meditation and yoga, somewhat marred by the Joni Mitchell Christmas tape that was continuously playing.
We were greeted by a friendly woman, who said that we were "los unicos aqui" and chatting away, she showed us around. " Este es la sala d'chell-ow" she explained as she opened the room next to ours. A "chill-out room!" Just what we needed after our strange drive to this dramatic place where we were the only guests.

Also just what we needed: beef steak and potatoes. I almost never eat steak, but just this once...

Oh, and this, too: an exquisite dessert. Dark chocolate shell, filled with custard and kiwi, topped with a razor-thin pineapple chip.

When I went to bed I was still thinking about the wild cat. It had happened too quickly to get a picture, and, aside from John, probably nobody would ever believe me.

But here's the thing. Before falling asleep we opened our shuttered window to let in the cool mountain air, and what should appear on the sill but a pure white cat, greeting my outstretched hand.

She came into the room and regarded us for a long while, in the moonlight, from beneath a wash stand. Then like a ghost in the night she left. Call me a crazy fool, but I took her as an affirmation. There are wild cats in Europe.


  1. oh neat! half way around the world to see one! that's great!

  2. What a cute post! And I loved the photos too. How neat it was to have that white cat visit you in the moonlight. If you live to be 100, I would guess that you'll never forget it.

  3. what a fabulous trip. I am seriously envious.

  4. You know Kerry, Ed and I, as long as we're at your side, would never allow a cat near you. Got that? No. Damn. Cat.

  5. twg: Yeah! Ha! All that way, who could've guessed?

    Snow: The white cat was a peak moment and still takes my breath away.

    Ellen: Suuuuch a good trip.

    Reub: I know. Say, isn't it time for your Prozac?

  6. Lots of images and symbols here. You are traveling in a very mystical area of the country, it appears

  7. lovely and mysterious. how on earth did you find such remote and lovely places in Spain - literally. haha Reuben :)

  8. Sounds like my kind of trip. I cannot believe that think pineapple slice!! AMAZING!!

    The cats... I agree. The white one in the end was an affirmation that cats do exist around there. I wonder what the big one was all about. Would have startled me!!

    And yeah, your dog follows your blog?!

  9. Wow! I wonder what you saw?! I had no idea there were wildcats in Spain. (I LOVE Spain!)

    That dessert with the pineapple slice is truly breathtaking!

  10. Wow!! Clearly the cat is an animal ally of yours, at least when you're visiting wild and wonderful Europe.

    When I'm in England I notice lots of animals everywhere so it's interesting that you've thought of it, in the past, as being tame. Very cool that the land is showing you something very different!

    Love the shot of the mountains. They do have a very raw look. Cool!!

  11. Snowbrush and Furry: Yeah, my darn dogs follow me EVERYWHERE...don't yours?

    Tabor: There was definitely a feeling of "brujeria" (witchcraft) that day. The word even came up at dinner when I inquired about the odd cavern in the nearby mountain, and proprietor extraordinaire, Pep, said that it was a natural geologic formation which the locals sometimes associated with brujeria.

    Val: We found these places with the help of Spanish friends who knew that we like to get away in a literal sense. If you checked the Toprural website you might find something like this. Helps to speak a little Spanish when you wander this far.

    Steve: I'm glad you asked. I've been puzzling over what kind of cat that was. A wildlife expert suggested that we might have seen an exotic species that someone set free (more of this goes on than we realize). But after doing some research I think it might be a European Wildcat:

    The cat was maybe a meter long, striped face, a tawny body with no markings that I could discern in the split second that I saw him, and a long tail. The fact that the body looked tawny and not tabby is a bit puzzling.

    Reya: I am such a wildlife snob. Deer, elk, cougar, black bear, coyotes, bobcats, all abound here; plus the valley is a major flyway for migrating birds of N. America. So I know I don't give credit to other places like I should. This incident in Spain was unexpected and absolutely awesome.

    Have you read The Golden Compass? In that book every person is born with an animal ally, and I was so jealous of that idea. I never imagined mine might be a wild cat. I always thought it was a tortoise. Seriously.

  12. "Yeah, my darn dogs follow me EVERYWHERE...don't yours?"

    Mine is blind, can't smell any too good, and is losing her hearing. This makes it easy to sneak away from her when I don't want to be followed.

  13. Great illustrated short story, really!

    What an incredible region of the world to have such exquisite looking food...jealous! :-)

  14. wow what an experience! I totally believe that the "white" cat that came to visit had something to do with your sighting? Nice to think that way...and a great story to tell! Boy oh boy that is a remote location! the food looks wonderful! I am sure you are treated like a king and queen!

  15. Snow: Well, she would if she could, I bet.

    Jo: I know! Isn't it wildly unexpected to be sitting in on a mountaintop in rural Catalonia, eating a dessert like that? Crazy.

    Linda: I love thinking that the white cat in the night was a message to me on the very day that I saw a wild cat. I'm gonna continue to think like that even though I know she was a funny, curious, pesky house cat!

    The food was so fantastic, and the location so unreal that we really did feel like royalty.


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