The Monastery of Monserrrat

During our trip to Barcelona, we took advantage of having a car to drive all the way to the Monstery of Monserrat. A beacon of Catalan culture since the IXth century, when it was founded, this Monastery survived one millenium of upheaval. The most serious threats to the monastery being the depredations by the Napoleonian troops in XIXth century and the Spanish civil war in the XXth century (23 monks were killed by Republicans). Today, it is a place of pilgrimage, of tourism and also of hiking due to its magnificent views.

Driving to Monserrat

The first part of the drive is pretty much boring, as it involves taking the highway C-58 out of Barcelona for about 45 kms. Ordinary drive, ordinary traffic, so not much to say about  it. It starts getting interesting when you reach the area of Monserrat, as you see high gorges arising and the road starts making twists and turns.

Driving in Spain
Driving in Spain

The gorges of Monserrat

As you arrive near Monserrat, the twisting road starts being surrounded by high gorges, which prepare you to the elevated position of the Monastery.

Gorges of Monserrat
The gorges of Monserrat seen by drone.

As we were around, we managed to take a “dronie” in those gorges.

Dronie in Monserrat
A dronie in the gorges of Monserrat

The beauty of those gorges cannot be stressed enough. It is a wild and beautiful area.

Monserrat river
Monserrat and the local river seen by drone


Monserrat as haven for Catalan language

Besides being an important monastery, Monserrat was also one of the first places where Catalan language was born and developed. In that respect, one of the most beautiful hymns in Catalan is “El Virolai”. While I did not get the chance of hearing this hymn during my visit, you can have a rendition below. It is absolutely profound and moving.


El Virolai sung by the boy’s choir of Monserrat

Taking the Cremallera

The monastery of Monserrat is built on the top of the mountain. To reach it, you can either take the cremallera, or you can also climb a hiking trail right to the top.

Monserrat tram
The monserrat tram passing above one of the earlier models near the station

The views from the cremallera are just gorgeous, so make sure you are sitting on the left side of the train for pics.

Mitchy in the Cremallera of Monserrat
Mitchy poses in the cremallera of Monserrat

The Cremallera goes all the way to the top of the mountain, near the Basillica.

Cremallera of Monserrat
Cremallera of Monserrat

The Basilica of Monserrat

Mitchy at Monserrat
Mitchy on the esplanade of Monserrat

The basilica of Monserrat was originally built according to the Gothic style. However, it was heavily damaged during the Napoleonic wars, and thus had to be rebuilt towards the end of the XIXth century. Today, it is thus not really the IXth century monastery and basilica that you will be seeing but something more recent, with the facade built in 1904.

Mitchy before the Monserrat basilica facade.
Mitchy before the Monserrat basilica facade.

The church itself is very beautiful. After WWII, a new area was built to hold the Black Madonna statue of Monserrat.

The Black Madonna

Mitchy praying at the Virgin of Monserrat.
Mitchy praying before the Virgin of Monserrat

This “Black Madonna” is not black by design, but the wood in which it is sculpted darkened with age. Thereafter, successive restorers painted the statue black. Originally, legend had it that it was sculpted in Jerusalem, in the early days of the church, some 2000 years ago. Although not as old as that, it seems the statue must be dating back to the late XIIth century. There are very few Black Madonna statues in Europe, the other most famous one being in Czestochowa in Poland.

Its importance in the Catholic religious history cannot be understated, as it is before this very Black Madonna that Ignatius de Loyola lay down his weapons, before creating the Company of Jesus or the Jesuit order as it is known nowadays. For Catholics, it is an important moment and something to be thankful for.

The Ave Maria path

After you exit the statue display area, you arrive at an area known as the “Ave Maria camin”. It is a long path alongside the exterior of the Basilica, where you can light candles (which my wife did, of course).

Mitchy and her candle
Mitchy about to light a candle in the Ave Maria path in Monserrat

The area is also interesting for some atmospheric pictures. Candles always have something warm, both in their light and in the symbol they represent for us.

Candles on ave maria path
Candles lit along the Ave Maria path

The multicolor view of the candles allows you to take a quite colorful picture of the area.

When you come out again in the main area, do not forget to look upwards to the funicular taking you to Saint Jerome, the highest point in Monserrat mountains…

Saint jerome, in Monserrat.
The vertiginous climb to Monserrat’s Saint Jerome.


Cony and Brown in Monserrat

Before leaving, we did take a picture with our alter egos, Cony and Brown in from of the Monastery. It was a way of expressing both, our appreciation for the place and our personal love stories with those lovely characters of LINE.

Cony and Brown in Monserrat
Cony and Brown in Monserrat

In conclusion, if you are in Barcelona, the Monastery of Monserrat is too unique to miss. The views and the location of the monastery are just amazing. The spiritual experience is also wonderful in this place, and you can understand the appeal of this monastery for so many centuries.

Barcelona: the “other” Spain

In a previous post, I alluded at my trip to Barcelona as being one of the last trips obtained thanks to American express and Zuji. This trip was the occasion of seeing Barcelona, a facet of the “other Spain”, or if you prefer, Catalonia. If you remember, 2017 was quite agitated with a half-baked “referendum” organized by the Independence claimants to ask for a declaration of independence of the region.

We arrived a few months later, when the excitment had somewhat died down and we were able to visit Barcelona in an appeased atmosphere.

Arriving in Barcelona

B737 Ist to Barcelona
The B 737 we took from Istanbul to Barcelona.

The passage at the airport immigration was basically a breeze. We got our luggages and recuperated our rental car, a seat. Having some issue with finding the components of my gps, I had to drive using google maps and it was something of a troublesome venture.

Our hotel was very near to the Ramblas, the main Barcelona avenue. Despite there having been a terrorist attack last year, Spanish went along quite peacefully.

Mitchy enjoyed shooting some nice street photography with her brand new Fuji. And for a first-timer at it, she did shoot some nice pics.

Locals on a bench in barcelona
Locals sitting on a bench in Barcelona (by Mitchy)

 

Two strangers
Two strangers talk to each other in a park in Barcelona (pic by Mitchy)

Sagrada Familia Basilica

Our first goal was to hit the Sagrada familia basilica, in the center. To get there, we loitered in the center, then finally got onto a metro.

Barcelona metro
Barcelona metro

As you can see, metro in Barcelona is just similar to other cities, with a cosmopolitan population.

When we arrived to the Sagrada Familia basilica, the evening was already setting in, but it allowed me to take some lovely shots in the warm sunset light. I used my 20mm lens to shoot the basilica, but being a lens which is not exactly made to compensate for architecture, obviously the perspectives are somewhat elongated.

 

Sagrada Familia Basilica
Sagrada Familia Basilica

The basilica is the fruit of the imagination of the great Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi. Born in 1852, this genius of architecture was commissioned in 1893 with realizing this church. He completely changed the original design, and obviously, his genius made of a church a monument of human ideals.

Gaudi was also involved in the fight for Catalan autonomy. So, today, while Gaudi’s work define Spain to some degree, his creations are purely the creation of a free mind, with an exquisite inspiration from nature. As such, he is also a symbol of Catalunya.

We could not miss taking a pic of our alter egos, Cony and Brown in front of the Basilica…

Cony and Brown before the Sagrada Familia
Cony and Brown in Barcelona before the Sagrada Familia

I believe however, it was Mitchy who got the best shot of the Basilica.

 

Walking through Barcelona at night

Temperatures were ranging from 12° to 14° C during the day, and moving towards 8° C in the night. Nevertheless, Barcelona, like many European cities is an ideal city for strolling at night.

Thus, instead of taking the metro, we decided to walk back to the hotel.

While walking, we came across a shop selling Ham (the famous Spanish “Iberico”). This shop, “Enrique Tomas” sells original Iberico ham, which is made of pigs having being fattened on a diet composed of acorns (hence giving the meat an exquisite taste).

Iberico in Barcelona
Iberico, the delicious Spanish ham in a sandwich

The taste of that ham sandwich was unparalleled and I finally understood the speciality of Spanish ham.

We went back on foot from Enrique Tomas, walking through the streets of Barcelona (which seems to be pretty safe and perfect for walking).

We arrived on the “Champs-elysées” of Barcelona, the Paseig de Gracia. A long and wide avenue, it hosts many luxury shops, and of course, the main attraction, the Casa Battlo, of Antonio Gaudi.

Paseig de Gracia in Barcelona
The famous Paseig de Gracia in Barcelona

And it was our first time to see the Casa Battlo…. But telling you about our visit inside is another story.

Casa Battlo in Barcelona
Casa Battlo in Barcelona