To the mountains

Montserrat Travel Blog

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Looking up the mountain from the train station.

Saturday

One of the things I really wanted to do in Barcelona was travel out to the Montserrat monastery, about an hour outside of Barcelona. I'm fascinated by monasteries and other religious communities and I also wanted to check out the hiking, since it's up in the moutains.

I figued I'd be going alone but Jeff and his parents wanted to join me, so we hopped on an early train and,  much to our satisfaction, it was actually the right train and we got there in a timely manner (with no profanity on the part of yours truly).

Once you arrive at the train station, you get to choose your way up the mountain to the monastery -- cable car or another train. Now, I personally think cable cars are cooler than trains (and I like trains).  Jeff agrees, so his parents (Ann and Rich) didn't get a vote.

The monastery complex from higer up.
  :)

We loved the ride up. And found ourselves not in the midst of a calm quiet reflective environment but something more like.....the food court at the mall.  OK, not quite like that but Montserrat is also a national park and they have gift shops and cafeterias and audio tours and a post office.  It's quite a busy little beehive up there, especially on a pretty Saturday.

We wandered around, checking out the sanctuary and buildings.  The monastery is famous for its Black Madonna but it was closed for lunch (the Madonna gets a lunch break??), so I never got to see her.  I lit two candles -- one for my mom and one for a friend fighting lymphoma.  I'm Lutheran and we don't light candles for people as part of our religious tradition but I find the practice comforting and humbling.

The view from the top of the mountain.
I take advantage of it when I can. There's always somebody that needs a candle-long prayer. 

They also have three trees planted in front of the church representing three spiritual practices.  The cedar is extremely tall.  They've been growing it for a very long time.

Grabbed some lunch and over lunch, we reconnoitered.  I was determined to take the cable car/funicular up to the next stage and do a bit of walking.  Rich and Jeff had no interest in that (though Jeff wanted to go up for the views, as did Ann). 

So I took off.  Rich found a shady bench.  Jeff and his mom came up later for the views.

The second stage of the cable car is much steeper.  As in "if the brakes slip, we die".

The trail going down, down, down.
  They didn't (phew!).

There's a name for this type of mountain (which I always forget).  It's effectively a big hunk of rock that has not eroded as the land around it has.  So, you've got this nice rolling countryside and this big old hunk of rock towering in the middle of it.

So, great views out across the countryside.  The cable car deposits you in a small dirt plaza where 2 or 3 path take off.  A resident cat hangs out near the steps so everyone can pet him/her. I finally figure out which path is the one I want and head out.

It is, much to my suprise, paved. And uphill.  I figured I was about as "uphill" as I was going to get. Turns out the uphill part is quite short (a hundred yards?) and then it is nothing but downhill.

The view from St. Mark's hermitage.
  Sharply downhill. I'm surpised by how steep but I'm wearing sneakers rather than sandals so I'm doing OK.

I also have it mostly to myself.  It's very sunny and could be hot if it weren't for the consistent breeze (true most days on this trip).  It's a bit hazy but the views are wonderful and soothing.

So is the quiet and the solitude. I adore Jeff and we are good travelling companions for each other but I desperately need solo time regularly.  Blessedly, he appreciates that.

Took me about 90 minutes to finish the route (including a 30-minute rest at a former hermitage, St. Marks).  I wandered back into the main plaza, found the family right away, and we headed back down the mountain.

When we got back into Barcelona, we went back to the Ramblas.

Jeff actually eats a vegetable in Spain.
I had an itch to do some travel blogging :) so everyone dropped me off at an internet cafe. Jeff took Ann and Rich off for drinks.

I spent longer on the computer than I expected and when I found them again I discovered there had been quite a few sangrias and beers consumed. In fact, the beer mug Rich was drinking from was probably as big as his head!

They were all reeeeeeeeeeeeeal happy.  It was pretty funny.  My in-laws are very nice people but also the respectable types, conservative in their political views and their personal habits.  Not ones to "tie one on" on the average Saturday evening. 

Fortunately, they get happy and silly when they've had a bit too much to drink (and take lots more bathroom breaks!).  We steered everyone into the first place that had paella.  The food wasn't all that fab but everyone had a great time.  I think there might even have been some more sangria and beer consumed....

Yeah, we took cabs home again.  ;)

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Looking up the mountain from the t…
Looking up the mountain from the …
The monastery complex from higer u…
The monastery complex from higer …
The view from the top of the mount…
The view from the top of the moun…
The trail going down, down, down.
The trail going down, down, down.
The view from St. Marks hermitage.
The view from St. Mark's hermitage.
Jeff actually eats a vegetable in …
Jeff actually eats a vegetable in…