Barcelona and Montserrat in the Rain

Trip Start Nov 10, 2013
Trip End Nov 24, 2013

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Flag of Spain  , Catalonia,
Saturday, November 16, 2013

We got up at 7:00 this morning and got on the bus with our guide Elizabeth at 8:30.  Our tour began in the Barre Gotic (Gothic Area).  We got off the bus near the Cathedral of Barcelona.  We walked to the Placa Nova where we could see the Gothic Cathedral.  We walked up the Placa and saw a building that had a Picasso frieze on it.  Opposite it were also two Roman Towers that are part of the Bishop's Palace where Pope Benedict came when he dedicated the Sagrada Familia as a Basilica.  At the base of the towers are bronze letters spelling are BARCINO, its name in Roman times.  Then we walked through El Call, the Jewish Quarter.  The  streets were very narrow, just wide enough for two loaded mules to pass.  We saw the Carrer del Bisbe Bridge, a small version of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.  We saw the Placa del Rei or Plaza of Kings where Ferdinand and Isabel welcomed Columbus home from his first voyage.  It started to rain harder and blow so we hurried through the rest of the tour to the bus. 

On the way to our next stop we went down the Rambla de Catalunya where all the rich people lived when Barcelona tore down the city walls and expanded north.  Each rich person tried to out do the other.  We saw two of Gaudi's houses, Casa Mila also called "The Quarry" and Casa Batllo.  There isn't a straight line in any of his work. The Casa Mila had an underground parking garage which wasn't really needed in his day.  The Casa Batllo had balconies that were reminiscent of Venetian masks.  Elizabeth told us that the woman of the house would sit in a bay window facing the street wearing her jewels just to let other people know how wealthy they were. 

Our next stop was Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church).  The church was begun in 1883 and Gaudi worked on it unpaid until his death from an automobile accident in 1926.  It is not yet completed, but with modern technology the earliest estimate for completion is 13 years up to 30 years.  Our bus dropped us off a couple of blocks away.  We walked to the Nativity Facade which was done by Gaudi.  It contained the life of Christ from the Nativity through his ministry and Last Supper.  Then we walked to the Passion Facade which was done by another artist.  The change is obvious but it was still beautiful but was done in a more modern style.  Then we went to the Glory Facade where the main entrance will be.  There the only things that looks done are the bronze doors.  There are supposed to be 18 towers when it is completed including 12 towers for the Apostles, 4 four the four evangelists, one for Mary and one for Jesus.  I can't even begin to put into words the grandeur of this church.  It is just jam packed with carvings and symbolism while reflecting a modernist style.  We didn't get to see the inside as it would take too much time to wait in line to get in.  It started raining harder so we ducked into a souvenir shop that had good restrooms and shopped for a bit.  We walked back to the bus and continued our tour up Montjuic (mohn-jew-EEK) which means "Mount of the Jews."  Originally there was a fortress on this hill.  Many of the stones for buildings in Barcelona were quarried from this hill.  In 1929 there was a World's Fair there and some of the buildings remain.  In 1992 the Summer Olympics were in Barcelona.  We saw the Olympic Stadium and other buildings used then.  We saw an old bull ring turned into a shopping mall because bull fighting is outlawed in this part of Spain.  We stopped at a terrace for the great view of Madrid - well not today.  It would have been a great view if it weren't for the rain.  You could see most of Barcelona including the harbor.  We headed from Montjuic to the hotel to drop off the 10 people who were not going for the afternoon excursion.

The rest of us stayed on the bus for the hour ride, more like 1 1/2 hours, to Montserrat.  The drive up to Montserrat (serrated mountain) was steep and winding through trees and today clouds.  If it had been a better day the views would have been breathtaking.  When we reached the top it was still raining but much colder and windier.  Elizabeth took us out to a viewpoint a short walk from the bus where we could see the valley below and the Benedictine Monastery above us.  We walked across a bridge that connected the parking lot to rest of the monastery.  We walked past the cafeteria and gift shops going up, then we turned a corner and went into the monastery proper still going up hill.  The monastery is nestled amid the jagged peaks of the mountain seeming to just cling to the side.  It reminded me of the monastery on the side of the mountain in Greccio, Italy but much bigger.  There are 12 peaks that people say represent the 12 apostles.  We toured the Basilica and waited in line to touch the orb of the Black Virgin.  While waiting we went through the Angel Arch which was all carved of alabaster.  Once through the arch we went through a hallway up the stairs with mosaics of women saints like St. Cecelia, my confirmation name, patron of musicians and virgins, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Scholastica founder of the women Benedictines and twin sister of St. Benedict, St. Katarin, my middle name is Kathryn, and one of my favorites, St. Teresa of Avila.  We went up more stairs until we were in front of the Statue of the Black Virgin which is above the main altar.  I touched the orb and prayed for all of you and especially for the people of Catalunya whose patron she is.  There was a beautiful round chapel behind the virgin and you could see the back of the Black Virgin.  I continued my prayers there for all of you.  On the way out we passed lots of lighted candles. By the way, the legend is that the Black Virgin was lost at one point and some shepherds saw a light coming from a cave on the mountain and went to investigate and found the gold statue which was corroded from being in the cave.  Hence, the Black Virgin.

We headed for the cafeteria for lunch.  Derek and I got a Catalan sausage with pasta.  Larry got his sausage with herbed potatoes.  They really gave us big portions.  After lunch I went to the gift shop to get prayer cards of the Black Virgin.  Larry got a Coques de Montserrat, which is like an oblong elephant ear which we didn't eat then as we were all stuffed.  We got back to Barcelona shortly before 4:00. When we got back Raymond was waiting for us with a package and Penny and we got all of our stuff back.  What a relief! 

Derek stayed in the room to rest as he wasn't feeling well.  Larry and I went with a group of six others to buy tickets for a Spanish Guitar concert in the evening.  Kerry and Bernie from Australia had seen the sign about it the day before and so had we.  We started walking and they turned at the first cross street.  We didn't find it.  We told them we had turned on a different street so we took a cross street and couldn't find it on that street.  We both remembered the enclosed square so we went there and Bernie asked someone and they sent us back to the street Larry and I remembered.  When we got there we asked again and they sent us to the Church we had seen.  This time we went farther and found the sign and two men who were giving out brochures about the concert.  They told us how to get to the church to buy tickets and when we got there it was a church we had passed by on our searches, but had not see the front.  So Kerry negotiated a lower rate for our nine tickets and we got them for E16 instead of 18 and the price at the door would have been 21.  Larry and I went back to the hotel.  Derek was in bed.  We tried to skype with Erin from the room but it kept dropping so we went down to the lobby where it worked just fine.  She is leaving for Las Vegas, Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Monument this weekend, so we wanted to be sure and touch base with her.  We went back to the room where I worked on the blogs and downloaded pictures.  When I tried to upload pictures to the blog, it went so slowly we went back to the lobby.  At 7:50 we went back upstairs and got Derek up for supper.  We went just a few doors away to the Attic which Elizabeth had recommended as good food for good value.  Larry had Hake, Derek had a burger and I had meatballs.  Everything was delicious and in just the right amount, not too much.  There were several others of our group eating there as well, probably not wanting to go far in the rain. 

We found the church again without trouble and went into the chapel about 9:00.  We sat with Rosario and Virginia.  It was a very intimate venue.   Xavier Coll has played all over the world including Cairo and at the UN in New York.  He came out with a small instrument in his hands and introduced everything in Spanish and English.  The small guitar he carried out is called a Vihuela and is an early precursor to the guitar.  When he started to play we were transfixed.  He had such a gentle touch and played music written during the time period when the Vihuela was used.  It was more  folk music.  Next he played on the Guitarra Barroca or Baroque Guitar and played music that was the beginning of flamenco.    Next, he played on the Guitarra Romantica music that brought tears to my eyes.  The last guitar was the Modern Guitar and he played a selection that showed many different techniques of using all parts of the guitar, picking strings with both hands and using the box of the guitar in such a way that you thought there was a snare drum playing along.  He got a standing ovation.  He did two encores.  He sang and played Granada.  He sang in a most beautiful tenor, again tears.  We got back to the hotel about 11:00 and we were glad for a 7:30 wake up call tomorrow.
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