Quick point: we don’t do paid or sponsored hotel reviews, in fact I hardly every write about accommodation, unless it is exceptionally recommendable, as is the case here… With that in mind:
There’s nothing like going on a holiday that leaves you with a feeling not just of relaxation and rejuvenation, but with a renewed sense of inspiration, purpose, and dedication all thrown in.
We’re obviously getting lucky with (or better at selecting) our Spain trips these days, because the last two places we’ve stayed have done just that.
First there was the extremely inspiring art retreat at Cortijada Los Gazquez, that left us convinced of the possibility of living with almost zero environmental impact (and left me better at drawing too!), and now we return particularly inspired from Posada del Valle in Asturias.
Like Cortijada Los Gazquez, Posada del Valle is the exceptionally well executed realisation of a brilliant dream. The idea is set out clearly in a well-worth-the-read document produced by the British owners Nigel and Joanne Burch, called What We Do And Why (PDF download link here). The “overall philosophy and aims of the hotel” are:
To be a viable business.
To offer an enjoyable high-quality experience for our guests.
To have a low environmental impact.
To co-operate with likeminded producers, especially in the local area.
To integrate our farm into the hotel.
To further our guests understanding and appreciation of biodiversity, nature conservation,
and food production systems.
To share our beliefs and experiences with others.
How many hotels have a philosophy, for a start? And one that aims to leave their guests wiser than when they arrived? Just reading the document above alone leaves you feeling like an expert in how to run an organic vegetable patch and a small, bio-diverse, sustainable organic farm!
And after a few conversations with owner Nigel (at my instigation, no preaching involved here), and strolls around the farm trail, I certainly do have a much greater “understanding and appreciation of biodiversity, nature conservation, and food production systems“. Plus I know all about the environmental dangers of chemical-based mono-cropping, and have lots of ideas about how I can make more simple changes to ‘do my bit’ for the health of the planet.
Philosophies aside, the location itself is also rather exceptional. Perched on the side of a steep valley a few kilometers from Arriondas, it is surrounded on all sides by the Picos de Europa, the Ponga mountains and the Sueve range, making for fairytale views – as I said in another piece about Asturias years ago:
The mountains are so fierce and sit so close to the coast that you imagine them put there by some imaginative storyteller, who would have giants sliding down them each morning for a quick wash in the sea. The foothills behind the cliffs are so green, the cows that graze them so picture-perfect and the woodlands and vegetable patches so ornate, that one would hardly be surprised to stumble across Hansel and Gretel, or houses made of chocolate.
All of this lies before you as you set out each morning from the hotel, or wander the grounds, exploring the farm, accompanied by friendly chickens, with the smell of wild mint under foot.
Our favourite trip was to La Pesanca, deep in the valley above Espinadero.
Travelling with our toddler, we had no chance of following the whole trail up to Les Vizcares, but the starting point of this, one of the hotels many meticulously detailed guided walking routes, was stunning in itself – just a picnic area above a raging mountain stream, beneath a dense forest of trees – pure green nature, of the kind it’s easy to forget exists any more when you live in Madrid.
So why was the stay so inspiring?
It was inspiring to see a business so well run – to be personally helped to choose your days activities over breakfast, and given a wealth of personal notes and guides as you set out each day, to be using hand-made organic soap in the bathroom made with the hotel’s lemon verbana leaves, to be drinking organic apple juice made from the farm’s apple trees, and to be eating delicious organic suppers from the farm’s fields (and to look from the supper table at Nigel chasing his horses away from a delicate tree in the field below the restaurant windows one moment, only to find him seconds later at your side asking what you’d like to drink with your meal!)
And it was inspiring to learn so much (to see so much in action) about organic sustainable farming, and to come away with the inspiration to live more ecologically, and to have fallen into deep streams of thought like this, that I scribbled down in my notebook one afternoon as I wandered along one of the farm trails:
If all the world’s great minds and powers turned their attentions to improving the lot of the whole planet, its ecology, ecosystems, species, and biodiversity, instead of just the lot and comfort of humans as the ‘top of the tree’ species, I have no doubt that very quickly the quality of life, and health, of not only the planet, but of all those that inhabit it, would soon improve immeasurably, and not only for the poor, but for the rich too, whose material and spiritual health and conscience would reach new previously unknown states of welll-being in as little as one or two generations.
I’ll leave my further expanded thoughts on this for myself (or for a later date), but I certainly do like holidays that make me think, that inspire me in areas of thought that I’d long meant to investigate.
I’m also pretty sure that you can go to Posade del Valle to simply do some exceptional walking, and some extremely easy relaxing, and I highly recommend that if you have Asturias in mind, you do just that.