You don’t have to wait long after the snows melt for the wildflowers to begin appearing in the Pyrenees. These fabulous mountains divide Spain (Catalonia) from France, and they’re easily visited in a day trip from Barcelona, or on a longer hiking trip, either organised with a group or on your own staying in a hotel.
In the mountains closest to Barcelona is the lovely Vall de Nuria where I went for a day trip. During winter there is a ski resort operating out of the valley with ten runs (three green, three blue, two red and two black) but come the spring thaw, it’s all about the lake and the wildflowers. From Barcelona you drive to the south side of the valley, to the town of Queralbs and then catch the rack railway into the valley itself – there are no roads. If you’re coming from the French side, you have to walk into the valley. That’s how peaceful it is. Mind you there is a hotel and several restaurants and bars in a majestic lakeside building in the valley, centered around the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Nuria, which hails back to 700 AD when Saint Giles arrived in the valley and crafted an image of the virgin.
One reason people visit Vall de Nuria is its fame for blessing couples with fertility. A short ritual of praying before the cross, placing their heads in a pot and ringing the bell has made many couples parents. Whatever your reason for coming here, it’s easy to take a walk away from all the settlement and be alone in nature. And in springtime, that means wandering through an emerging carpet of colorful flowers.