Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day 5 in Barcelona, Day trip to Montserrat

My morning started early, I got up around 8am, ate breakfast, and left my hostel by 9am for Placa d'Espanya metro station.  My destination today was Montserrat, a Benedictine monastery located in the mountains about 30 km outside Barcelona. The train was full when I arrived at the station about 15 minutes before the 9:36 departure time, which meant I had to stand for the entire one hour train ride to Montserrat.  I found a good location near a door, was able to lean back for the entire ride.  I was sleepy, but it was hard to nap standing up, so I was awake and bored for most of the ride.

When the train arrived in Montserrat, there were two choices for scaling the mountain, cable car or rack rail car.  I went with the cable car option, I was one of the first off the train and in line for the cable car, the benefit of standing for an hour.  I found a spot near the window of the cable car for the ride up to Montserrat.

View from Cable Car to Montserrat

Lynnae after Cable Card ride to Montserrat 
I walked around to what I thought was the main area when I got off the cable car in Montserrat, bypassed the information office and asked one of the safety officers where the Basilica was. I had read there was a long line to see the Black Madonna at the Montserrat Basilica, I knew I did not want to wait for an hour to see the Madonna and hoped I had arrived early enough to beat the crowds.

Lynnae at the Benedictine Monastery at Montserrat 
There was no line when I arrived at the Basilica, only a few people inquiring about going into the Basilica.  The man at the door spoke in Spanish trying to explain there was a service, I read what he was pointed at, the Basilica was closed between 11 am and 12 pm.  I saw some people enter, the people in front of me did not, the man waived me in, maybe he thought I was a worshiper, or he did not want to struggle with English speakers anymore, I have no idea. I went in while the service was in progress, took a few pictures, and saw the no cameras during service sign on my way out of the Basilica.  I looked for the Black Madonna, did not see her, I figured she was at the front near where the service was being held. 

Montserrat Basilica
I went back outside, walked around, debating whether to wait until noon to go back into the Basilica to see the Black Madonna up close. I went to the information office, got  map, asked where the train went up the hill and if I could use the ticket I purchased yesterday for the funicular ride.  I went back to the Basilica and there was crowd, a long line stretching to the open area, not directly in front of the Basilica, but at a side entrance. This was where the Black Madonna was located, had I known, I could have gotten in line and been one of the first in to see her.  I did not know, I just knew I was not going to wait in the long line.  

I decided to go check out Montserrat's other sites.  I walked around, up some hills towards different shrines, etc.  I considered hiking one of the paths but they were all almost 2 hours one way.  I went back and got in line for the funicular to the high scenic vantage point on Montserrat.  There was a line for the funicular, we all squeezed on, the ride to the top took about 15 minutes, maybe less.  Inside the station I thought I read the ride would take 30 minutes but it did not seem that long. 

When we got to the top of Montserrat, I got out and headed for the walking paths.  The times were much more reasonable than at the bottom of the mountain, the longest was 30 minutes if i remember correctly. I started my hike, it was a pretty easy walk uphill, there were some amazing views of the scenery and Montserrat's rock formation. 

Lynnae on hike up Montserrat 

View of Montserrat 

View of Montserrat 
 I walked up the mountain as far as I could go, technically I could have gone farther, but I was not confident it was a good idea or safe.  I used some ropes along the side of a rocky part of the mountain to pull myself up some rock stairs, the ropes were not necessary but I held onto them just in case my foot slipped.  I got up the stairs, a second set of stairs and then there were no more, just a tree in front of what was not really a clear path.  I heard people talking and thought they may be above, I considered climbing higher, then turned back, I was on my own, nobody behind me, nobody I could see in front of me.  When I got down the stairs, I saw 2 men coming down, I asked them what was up there.  They said an awesome view, they said some of the rocks were slipping but the climb was doable.  I considered it, I may have gone if I had a hiking partner, but not alone.  The last thing I needed was for an ankle to give out, or to slip, and nobody was around. 

Area where I stopped hiking & turned around 
I hiked back down the mountain instead of taking the funicular.  I am not sure I got the full value out of my 26 euro unlimited train ticket, but the hike down was nice, there was not much foot traffic.  I had the trail to myself for several long stretches, then some hikers would pass me going uphill, there were only a few hiking all the way up the mountain.  Sometimes I would pass groups who had stopped to eat lunch.  It was nice to have some time to myself, living in a hostel, although I am travelling alone, I rarely  have time to myself, today I had some time to myself in nature. I ran into a crowd as I got closer to the monastery, at a viewpoint, a short hike up.  I took some pictures in that area, then made my way to the bottom of the mountain.

Hiking down the mountain
When I got to the bottom of the mountain I went to check the line to see the Black Madonna, it was shorter than before, I waited for a few minutes, then got out of line.  Maybe if I were Catholic, the Black Madonna would mean more to me and I would have waited, today, I did not feel like waiting in a long Disneyland type line.  I got out of line, went and filled up my water bottle and headed to the cable car station.  There was no crowd leaving Montserrat, I got on the first car that was there and it was not full.  The train back to Barcelona was not full either.  I had a section to myself for most of the ride.  I was tired when I got back to the city, I got up early, hiked, I did a lot today.  I have not decided what my plans are for tomorrow.

Day 5 in Barcelona Photo Album 

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