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Departing from the Train Station Plaça d’Espanya – Jun 16, Tue
Monday, we set out to the mountain area called Montserrat where an ancient Benedictine monastery with thousand of years of history is located. It came highly recommended by one of Cynthia’s friends and yesterday, we bought the pair of comprehensive tickets at the Tourist Information Center. The ticket doesn’t come cheap. 36.95€ per person that includes: (1) one day access for metro, (2) train, (3) rack railway or cable car, (4) Sant Joan funicular, (5) Santa Cova funicular, (6), nature hall, (7) audiovisual area, (8) museum, and (9) meal. Looking back, items (6), (7), and (8) are not that exciting. So we more or less pay 36.95€ for the transportation and meal.
The train to Montserrat departs from Barcelona’s Plaça d’Espanya (that connects with the Metro) on an hourly basis. We took the 2nd train that departs at a more sane hour of 9.36 am. If you are a morning person, by all means, take the 8.36 am train. As we walked the long wide corridor from the metro station to the train platforms – the kind of typical colors of different shades of gray – we saw the corridor getting more and more smokey. Almost felt like we were in the middle of an European movie.
Once we got closer to what appeared as smoke, we found that it was merely water mist that intends to keep the travellers cool.
I strongly recommend people who take trains in Spain arrive at the platform early to secure a seat. We reached the platform 5 minutes or so before the train moved and we were lucky to be seated. As the whistle blew, that began our 1 hour journey from Barcelona city center to the mountain area Montserrat.
Cable Car Ride
I recalled our conversation with the man behind the Tourist Information Center goes something like this. “Hola, we are new to Barcelona!” I exclaimed. The man smiled, “Hola, me too!”. He is such a funny guy! We inquired about Montserrat and I asked for the two options of reaching the monastery. “You can either take a cable car or if you are afraid of height, a rack railway,” said he. “Which one would you take?” asked I. “Cable car,” he replied.
So we took a cable car – a huge one that fits a whole bunch of people. We were late as we were busy taking photos with the mountain outside the cable car station. So we didn’t manage to get the open window standing area. But some travellers were kind enough to let us take some pictures of the mountain on our way up.
Arriving at the Montserrat
You do need at least half a day to cover Montserrat, the ‘Open Air Museum’. Even if you are not keen to take on the Audoguide (which we find it less user friendly than other places we have been to and require you to read map as you navigate through the guide), get a little booklet that tells you where to go and the descriptions of the major artifacts.
The Basilica – one of the major attractions – is located at the edge of the mountain. The monastery squares in front of the Basilica is perhaps the focal point of the entire establishment. Set against a backdrop of mountain formations, this unique backdrop has been the inspiration of major artworks as the unique signature of Montserrat. To reach the squares from the cable car station, we walked along the long sloped walkway, passed the rack railway station on the left and the museum and the restaurants on the right, made a U-turn and into the squares.
Basilica and the Funicular
The Basilica is beautiful. Each chapel has unique artifacts and at 1 pm every day, there is a choir performance that draws the tourists into the Basilica. We read that Montserrat produces some of the finest choir members and we enjoy the short performance for a change adding a sound dimension to our tour thus far.
There are two funicular stations taking visitors to Santa Cova (Holy Grotto) and Sant Joan. Maybe it was the attitude, maybe we were tired – jet lag, yesterday’s city tour, slopes after slopes in Montserrat, and what not – I had this terrible headache that I wish I had some painkillers with me (another lesson learnt when visiting mountainous tourist spots), we have decided to pick one of the two. So we went for option Sant Joan and the funicular took us to an even higher ground.
Ain’t You … Crossed?
Another reason why we didn’t get onto the funicular to Santa Cova was because the operator was nowhere to be found. Inside the station, we met an old English lady who … shall I say quite crossed at anything and everything. As three of us walked from the Santa Cova funicular station to Sant Joan, she went on and on complaining everything under the sun and after noticing that Cynthia and I were just strolling along enjoying the scenery, she asked, “Aint’ you crossed at all?”
Cynthia and I exchanged a smile and answered, “Not really.” The reality is, both of us are quite an easy going traveling couple. Life is full of alternatives. Not worth sweating over small things.
Late afternoon, we called it a day and headed back to town. We were so dead tired that we slept throughout the one hour train journey. Second attempt we tried to make it to Picasso Museum but we were too late. So I suggested a shopping spree instead.
What a change of mood! We dumped our heavy bags (or rather my heavy camera gears and the bottle of water), I took some painkillers, and to be honest, I was excited to shop for a change. The fact that I haven’t brought enough clothing to Spain means, I must shop. Thank God, Zara (again, pronounced as Tha-ra) opens till much later than Picasso Museum.
Cynthia was infested by my enthusiasm and we were both happy with our loots. Tomorrow, we would switch to a road trip style, with a rented car from Eurocar. To south and beyond!
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PS. Thank your for reading our journal and feel free to drop a comment or two. You may wish to view our photo collection for day 3 too.