Dino and Amanda are the type of hosts that every Wwoofer dreams of: fun, sociable, passionate and accommodating. What’s more, they cook great food and live in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited!
Right from the beginning, when our Wwoof Espania membership came through in the post and long hours were spent pouring over the host list, I knew I wanted to stay with Dino and Amanda at Can Col. They’re Wwoof profile said it all: “young couple living in a 17thcentury renovated farmhouse in the lower Pyrenees… surrounded by woods and silence for many miles around… we make our own bread, pasta, game sausages, pâtes, marmalades and jams… and we grow our organic vegetable terraces from which we eat all year round.”
After arriving in Figueres, we were met off the train by Dino, Amanda and their two dogs, Rita (mother) and Lucy (daughter). It was a wonderful reception full of tongue kissing (from the dogs) and excited yelps (from the dogs also).
Dino (Italian) and Amanda (Catalan) spoke brilliant English, and it was nice to be able to talk freely about their lives, as well as our adventures on the road.
After several peaceful miles driving through fertile valleys we began the ascent into a rugged uninhabited mountainside, covered in a forest of holm oaks, chestnuts, walnuts and wild apple trees. Great ridges and crusts of limestone jutted out like stern eyebrows.
The stone house that we pulled up in front of was ample, regal, solid and splendidly beautiful – encircled by mist, with views in all directions… green mountains and bottomless valleys where streams flowed effortlessly – needing neither a visa, nor any sort of human permission, to cross the border between Spain and France.
“There, that building there,” Amanda told us, pointing in the direction of a tiny speck of a building in a clearing on a mountainside some 3-4km away, “that’s France.”
Life on the mountain brought us many pleasures: early morning meditation; late nights feasting; good wine; walks in the forest; feeding the chickens; admiring Lucy and Rita’s energy as they dug about in the damp leaf litter, smelling smells and chasing falling rocks; inhaling the clean mountain air; watching petals fall from the cherry trees; transplanting tender raspberry canes; and learning the names of wild mountain herbs and medicines. We harvested ‘butcher’s broom’ and dug a new bed for the artichokes.
Richie got busy messing about in two stone/cement tanks (diploma project 4) while I spent time in the kitchen with Dino… he made food only an Italian slow-food foodie could dream of: asparagus and fungi omlette; chickpeas sauteed with nettles served on cous cous; wild boar and potato stew; pasta with tuna, herbs and parmesan. He even put a new spin on an old favourite of mine – spinach pie – by adding nettles (Amanda’s suggestion) and substituting filo for his own home-made pastry.
A lot of what we ate was taken fresh from the garden. And a good deal of the rest was taken from jars in the pantry, where last year’s vegetal abundance was stored in the form of delicious chutneys, jams and preserves. We even got to try the home made wild boar sausage – cured downstairs in the remarkable stone cellar.
After one week of hard work, great conversation and meals that stretched late into the evenings, we said our goodbyes to Amanda, Dino, Lucy, Rita and the mountain. I could have stayed for longer, and if I’d had more pluck and courage I would have asked to stay on downstairs in the self-contained apartment, where I felt sure I could write in peace and good humour for days, weeks, months – I would have liked to have learned more about the lives of our hosts, gone for a long hike with Amanda, and see the promise of spring transform into the actuality of summer.
But it was time to go.
“Ciao” dear friends. We hope to see you again one day, in the not too distant future.
If you would like to stay with Dino and Amanda at Can Col, watch this space – they are in the process of setting up an English and Spanish website for their agritourism business. You won’t find better hosts, more delicious food, and a more memorable location.