Last weekend we headed out to the Ribeira Sacra, to Lugo, on the banks of the Cañones do Sil. It's a great place to visit in fall, as it's one of the few places where there are leaves that change color. And we wanted to take advantage of the Outono Gastronómico, a special annual event that couples rural hotels with fall-themed dinners and is a great way to discover new places.
We had planned to stay at a Casa Grande, which is, literally, a large house. Also sometimes called a pazo, it was usually the house of the richest guy in the neighborhood, and they're not kidding when they call them Big Houses. Some of them, which used to be single family homes, have more than a dozen bedrooms. One of these houses is where we had our wedding. A lot of the ones I've visited were built between the 15th-18th centuries, and this one, the Casa Grande de Rosende, was no exception. Originally built in 1511 by a man returning from Mexico (laden with riches, no doubt), it doesn't seem to have changed much in the intervening 500 years. Not only is the property original in its details, it also is stuffed to the gills with antiques and items proper to the time period. Sometimes, visiting places like this feels like walking back in time. ...And other times, it feels like walking into a horror film. This was one of the latter...
(I apologize in advance for the quality of the photos. I forgot my beloved Canon camera and was stuck with my supbar iPad.)
Everything that could be creepy about this house was creepy. It was huge and labyrinthian; we never quite knew which doorway or secret staircase (no, seriously) to take to get to where we wanted to go. We forgot about rooms and would come upon them unexpectedly, such as the chapel, decked out with a few too many crosses on its dingy painted walls. Some of the doors were locked, and some doors and windows were burnt black from a fire that had destroyed a lot of the building some years past. They'd saved those doors because, even though they were burnt, they were still historical, but now they looked scaly and ominous. There were antique baby carriages (shudder) and a headless mannequin wearing a black period costume, strategically placed near our room. After Isaac and I saw The Woman in Black last year at Halloween and scared ourselves silly, this mannequin was an unwelcome sight.
We both managed to sleep fairly soundly, but we woke to see the whole house and surrounding village blanketed in thick fog. It gave the house a very eerie feeling, as we could even see the white fog pouring into our room through the open window, billowing like a witch's cauldron.
After breakfast, we decided to take a hike through the surrounding vineyards (the area is famous for its wine production). But first, we wandered through the house's large gardens.
There was a fountain, but it didn't work and seemed covered in a green layer of algae, as if from disuse. There were grapevines, but the grapes had long since been collected, leaving the vines to die through the winter. There was an apple tree, but many of the apples had fallen to the ground and been left to rot. There was even a hedge maze, but it was strung with spiderwebs that crisscrossed the paths, as if nobody had been there for a long time.
The fog was so thick we couldn't even see the houses across the street, or the vineyards we'd walked through just the evening before. But we headed out to hike anyway, and soon the fog lifted and the sun emerged, revealing quite a different picture. It was as if, the further away we got from the old house, the better the weather seemed.
From the river, it's impressive to contemplate how vines are grown on these cliffsides with extremely steep inclines and little road access; from high above it was no less impressive.
The sun shone brightly and soon we were shedding jackets and sweaters. When we reached the end of the trail (or at least, the end for us), we headed back...but not before noticing a few vultures hovering ominously above the direction of the house.
We headed on to Monforte de Lemos, where we visited its fortress, walked around and had lunch. Afterwards we headed back home to our house, where we watched some scary movies from the comfort of our not-haunted, well-lit living room couch.
I would like to clarify that our experience of this hotel was actually pleasant. Even though the place was old, I don't want this to seem like a negative review of it - it was just fun for us to stay in a place that could be haunted. The caretaker was friendly and the room was up to our standards of cleanliness and comfort (an unclean hotel bathroom? Now that's frightening). It was quiet and the breakfast was delicious, and there were several other guests staying there, so it seems like a fairly popular hotel.
....But, as I said in the title of this post, this was still only the second-scariest hotel I've ever been in. Here's the first: the Farrington Inn in Boston - an experience I will never forget.