Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Foggy Day in Montserrat, Spain

We really enjoyed our sea days. The first leg of the cruise was ending in Barcelona and we planned to get off and go back to the Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi church that we had visited last time. They were working on the interior last year and we were curious to see the changes. The church was started in 1882 and is expected to be completed in 2026, the centennial of Gaudi's death. It is really something to see.

The pretty flag of Spain...

Barcelona is a city of 1.6 million people and was founded by the Romans.

Instead, we found out that everyone had to get off the ship in Barcelona so that they could do a thorough sanitizing of the ship. The pesky Norovirus bug was continuing to affect people on board. Celebrity was offering free tours to all the back-to-back passengers, so that they would be off the ship for the day. As we had already done a city tour of Barcelona last year, and Jeff and Kathy were going to Montserrat, we decided to do that tour along with them.

Leaving the ship and passing the W Barcelona Hotel on the water...

The Mercat de St. Antoni is one of the largest markets in the city. It was built in 1882 and is undergoing a renovation.

Barcelona has over 150,000 trees and that doesn’t count any of the ones that are in the parks, only those on the streets. It appears that bus and taxi are part of the universal language.

One of Gaudi’s other works downtown. This one was built from 1904-1906. He loved details!

And this one, the Casa Mila, was built from 1905-1912. Gaudi believed that “a straight line is the line of death, and a curved line is the line of life.”

This is a beautiful apartment building.

And then we left the city on our way to the monastery at Montserrat. The Santa Maria monastery was built 4000 feet above the valley floor over 1000 years ago. It is believed that it was initially started by hermit monks who wished to live a solitary life of prayer.

The winding drive up was very picturesque.

Hmmm…looking pretty foggy. The guide said sometimes you get up there and can’t see a thing, so we were trying to not get our hopes up too high.

Wow…give these guys credit. We passed many cyclists on our way up. This guy has another 9 km and it’s definitely all uphill. The monastery has been an important religious retreat and pilgrimage site for over 1000 years. It is popular with groups of young people who make overnight hikes to watch the sun rise over the mountain peaks.

Still lots of fog…

And we’ve arrived. This is the site of the original church and ruins can still be seen. There has been a boys' choir at the monastery since 1223! Local boys between the ages of 10-14 are chosen and stay until their voices change.

The boys’ residence in front with the Basilica at the back. Believe it or not, there are mountains here. They are called Montserrat because the mountains look like they are serrated.

This house in the mountains was where the Black Madonna was found. This Black Madonna, a statue of Mary, was believed to be carved in Jerusalem very early in the history of the Christian religion. There are a large number of Black Madonnas made between the 11th and 15th century. Some were black as they were carved from ebony, others turned black with age, and still others were blackened by candle soot. This Black Madonna was hidden from various conquerors through the ages until its final resting place in the Basilica.

Stunning scenery…

You could just barely see the mountains through the fog.

The Basilica, with the monks' residence behind…

These hotels have been built behind the monks’ residence.

Hmmm…not much to see here folks.

Unique rock formations...

Outside the church…

Inside the courtyard of the church. A larger church was built on this site in the 16th century but was destroyed by Napoleon in the early 1700s. This church was built after that.

The 12 disciples with Jesus in the middle.

Jim in the courtyard. We were lucky to be here on a Sunday as the boys’ choir performs for ten minutes at noon every Sunday and many people come to see them.

Inside the church. We sat through a long Catholic service in Spanish, because we managed to snag a seat and wanted to stay to hear the boys sing.

Above the altar you can see the Black Madonna. People lined up after the service to go upstairs and walk by it.

The boys' choir...

We left the church and still had some time to shop around. We recognized this statue immediately as being the same style as some of those at the Sagrada Familia. It turns out it was by the same sculptor who has been working on the passion facade for years.

The fog seemed to be lifting!


Kim and Jim at Montserrat…we’re sticker people!!

There were runners coming up these trails when we arrived. Crazy people!

We couldn’t have asked for a prettier view. You could see all the way to the river.

Back on the bus, we drove down the other side of the mountains.

The Saint Cecilia church on the other side. It was built at the same time as Santa Maria, and no one knows why Santa Maria became so popular and Saint Cecilia just remained a little church in obscurity.

And the fog rolled back in…

The beautiful serrated mountains…

It was a great tour. For some reason all the tour buses arrived back at the port at the same time. Instead of back-to-back people having an easy re-embarkation, 400 of us were all in the line at the same time. We couldn't get into our cabins until 5:30 as they were still “javexing,” so we sat in the buffet area for a couple of hours. The waiter behind Jeff and Kathy was a real character!

We’re set to start the second half of the cruise. The first half was very port intensive and we’re looking forward to lots of sea days on this leg!

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