To abbey or not to abbey – Barcelona


To abbey or not to abbey
Barcelona, Spain and Canary Islands

Barcelona, Spain and Canary Islands

They say that men are from Mars and women are from Visa. Maybe true, maybe not. I prefer to think that we just look at two sides of the same coin.

Take today for instance. It’s breakfast time and we’ve elected to take up the offer of buffet breakfast in the hotel dining area. My plan is to try as many things as I can, so I come back to the table with prosciutto, a few other varied forms of cold fatty sausage, cheese and – well, you get the picture. Add to that a couple of cappuccinos and a cortadita and I’m all set. Nanette, on the other hand, looks for a quality experience and selects some healthy looking cereal stuff covered in fruit and something she thought was cooked rhubarb but actually turned out to be cooked tomato in olive oil. Score one for me.

It’s now time to venture out for the day and, surprisingly, we switch roles. I suggest we spend some quality time exploring the places that define the city – maybe the beach, La Rambla etc. Nanette has other ideas. “If we start early, we can catch the train to Montserrat and then be back in time to do an afternoon city tour.” Hmmm – who will prevail?

It takes a bit longer than “we” expected to get ourselves to the Placa d’Espanya and find the right platform for the R5 train, but now we’re sitting back watching the hot dry Catalan landscape roll by. The young Japanese couple sharing our cluster of four seats look friendly so, it’s time to dust off those linguistic skills. I adopt the proven system of throwing all the Japanese words I know into one sentence with the expectation at least some will score a hit. “Nihon-no worldu cupo enu Hiroshima deska?” Oh well – they must be shy.

It’s around noon when we emerge from the rack railway that takes us up the steep mountain to the abbey. The place is huge, and so are the crowds. We elect to catch the funicular up to a spot called Sant Joan while the crowds are busy with lunch. It gets hotter as we go higher, but the views are fantastic. As we wind our way in the sweltering heat across rocky roads and steep cliff-side tracks, we imagine what it must have been like for the monks who first came here nearly a thousand years ago. Why did they choose to build a monastery at the top of this dry barren hill, and why did the hermit pick the cave in the rock face for his lonely abode?

We learn the answer when we descend back to the main abbey. The cave, the monastery and the abbey are all focused on an icon known as Mare de Déu de Montserrat – the Black Madonna. According to Catholic tradition, the statue of the Black Virgin of Montserrat was carved by St. Luke around 50 AD and brought to Spain. It was later hidden from the Moors in a cave at Montserrat, where it was rediscovered in 880 AD. The legend says that the icon refused to be moved so here it stayed and here we are.

After wandering around the abbey and monastery, it’s time to retrace our route back to Barcelona. We finally roll back into Pl d’Espanya around 5:30pm. We’re hot. We’re tired. “Ok, so if we walk back to the hotel there’s time for a quick shower, then we can head down to Catalunya Square, have a walk through La Rambla, and then catch the bus to see the amazing fountain and light show in front of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya at 9pm.” I concede that I was wrong. We did have time to do it all today, even though I suspect She has sore feet and won’t admit it.

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