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December 2016, Barcelona, Andorra © R. Craig Collins, 2016/7

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The Plan

Stroll the Paral-lel area, Mirado Colón (Columbus Monument), perhaps the Martime Museum, and La Rambla

Hop On Hop Off Tour to get an overview of the city

Visit Andorra ( a sovereign landlocked microstate in Southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. Created under a charter in 988, the present principality is a monarchy headed by two Co-Princes – the Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell in Spain, and the President of France. Andorra is the sixth-smallest nation in Europe, having an area of 468 km2 (181 sq mi) and a population of approximately 85,000.Its capital Andorra la Vella is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of 1,023 metres (3,356 ft) above sea level. The official language is Catalan, although Spanish, Portuguese, and French are also commonly spoken. )

Visit Sitges and Tarragona (Roman port city 100 km West South West )

Back to Barcelona, places to visit include

We added a visit to the Monistary built in to the side of a mountain at Montserrat

and, of course, museums, including the Picasso, and perhaps the National Musuem of Catalan Art

Probably will not catch a flight to Tangier, Morocco, Africa after all...

to Travelblog (My notes of the actual trip, and PICTURES!)

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday

Monday 12
to AUS
2:00-6:45 DL 401 to JFK
8:00-10:00 DL 476 to BCN

5:30-7:45 DL 2471 to Atlanta

11:00pm -1:40pm DL 84 to Paris

Tuesday 13
8:00-10:00 DL 476 to BCN
11:00 to Parel-lel
Noon Arrive Hotel Parel-lel
Explore Old Bay area

11:00pm -1:40pm DL 84 to Paris
5:20pm-7:20pm AF to Barcelona
9:00pm-9:30pm to Hotel

Wednesday 14
Bus tours of Barcelona

Funicular Cable Car to Montjuïc

7:00 Beethoven
Palau del la Musica Catalana
Christmas Market

Thursday 15
Bagà, Spain
Ax Les Thermes, France
Andorra DV, Andorra

Friday 16

Saturday 17
Maritime Museum
Basilica St Maria Del Mar
Museu d'Història
La Rambla

Sunday 18
Picasso Museum
Monday 19
to airport
9:00 check in
12:00-3:00 DL 477 BCN-JFK
6:00-10:00 JFK-AUS DL 1
Gale's birthday
Menita's birthday
23 24
Dianne's birthday


Area Map

Barcelona Map

Hotel area

The Trip (My notes of the trip, and PICTURES, when available!)

Monday, December 12: to Barcelona
Tuesday, December 13: still trying to get to Barcelona
Wednesday, December 14: Bus Tour, Castell de Montjuïc
Thursday, December 15; Three Country Tour, Spain, France, and Andorra
Friday,  December 16: Tarragona and Sitges Tour
Saturday, December 17: Barcelona Museums and Churches
Sunday, December 18: Montserrat
Monday, December 19: Return home

Monday, December 12: to Barcelona
5:00 am, get up and finish packing
9:40 am, off to Austin
11:00 am, arrive Fast Park & Relax parking, tip driver ($2.00)
11:15 am, clear TSA Pre√, notice flight delay.
Susann went to get us some lunch, and Gracie called to say the plane would be very late, and there would be no time to make the transfer to our Barcelona flight at JFK; she told us she was rerouting us to Atlanta, then maybe Amsterdam, then to Barcelona… Susann showed up with Schlotsky’s sandwiches ($15.48) and I gave her the bad news.

Turns out a plane at LAX blocked the departure of our flight for more than an hour… and when you added in the time to deplane and move from terminals, we would never catch our scheduled flight.

Boarding passes
The boarding passes we didn’t use, the interrupted travel documents we got from Gracie and the boarding passes we actually used, sans the missed flight to Barcelona from Paris..

Gracie arrived with our new boarding passes and said we were going to Atlanta at 6:50, then Paris. We donated the sandwiches to Gracie, and all went to Magnolia Café for Macaroni and Breakfast Tacos ($29.37), to pass some of the time. We got to see the Delta work room when we came back and Gracie double checked our arrangements.

3:00 pm, back to the airport, and back through TSA Pre√. Got some M&Ms for the plane ($3.13)
4:50 pm managed to board an earlier flight to Atlanta, DL 2471, seats 23 D-E, which took off at 5:30.
7:45 pm We arrived in Atlanta and made our way to our gate. Love Atlanta, no rechecking security.
8:30 pm Got some Arby’s ($7.00) and more M&Ms ($2.40)
11:00 pm Board flight DL 84 to Paris, seats 21 F-G. Chicken dinner and movies to pass the time.

Tuesday, December 13: to Barcelona
13:40 Land in Paris a bit early, but we taxied for 20 minutes, and had to get boarding passes.

It took 90 minutes to clear security and border control, and we just missed our flight. They would not let anyone move to the front of the security line, even those with a departing flight, and we made the gate about 5 minutes after the flight left. We spent 20 minutes in line to get ourselves rebooked, and walked to the new gate to wait for AF 1248. Used the Skyroam device to go online and update the hotel with the arrival time, as the wifi in that part of the airport just did not work.

17:20, boarded, and took our mismatched seats, 5E and 6B. Ham and cheese sandwiches.
19:20, arrived BCN , picked up our metro passes, and had to take a bus 4 km to the other terminal, and had to wait for our transfer bus, as we were about 10 hours late. Susann has a cappuccino at Jamaica while we waited (€2,95).

21:00 walked well down the access road to our transfer bus; driver spent a while looking up directions. On the way, we passed the shipyards on one side, and the cemetery of Montjuïc on the other side, with its sparkling mausoleums and decorations. We recognized the Columbus Monument near the Roundabout where Paral-lel and La Ramba meet, Plaça de la Carbonera, south of our hotel… but we wound our way seemingly aimlessly on side streets to get to the hotel area from there. The driver dropped the other passenger off quite a way from her hotel, telling here is was just a few blocks that way. He did manage to drop us within visual range of our hotel.

21:30 checked in to Hotel Paral-lel, room 301.
21:45 unpacked, and settled in, after being up for more than 30 hours.
barcelona area
Location of the hotel, in relationship to Montjuïc, metro stations, etc..

Room 301

Room 301 Room 301
Room 301 Room 301

 Room 301

Wednesday, December 14: Bus Tour, Castell de Montjuïc
Breakfast: breads, ham, cheese, salami, eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, juices, pastry, and a big Nespresso machine for Susann.

Breakfast room Breakfast room Breakfast room

After breakfast, we bundled up and walked south to the Paral-lel Metro station just to find the closest entrance closed. So we walked north to the Poble Sec station to check the area for restaurants and grocery stores, and then rode to the Plaça Catalunya Station to pick up the Hop On Hop Off tour.

Tour route Barcelona

We checked out the Tourist info office, and decided to ride the blue bus and the north section first.
From Catalunya we rode north toward some of the Modernista architecture, especially by Antoni Gaudi. A lot of his work is defined by bright colors, more natural shapes and less reliance on straight lines. The block with Casa Batillò was a great introduction. We liked the whimsy of some of his work.

Casa Battilò

Casa Battilò, above, with its undulating roof line and oval window openings on the lower floors. Gaudì remodeled an existing house in 1904; the local name for the building is Casa dels Ossos (House of Bones) as much of the façade is decorated with a colorful mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles.

From here it was up to La Pedrera, originally an insult as the name means rock pile.

Again, note the undulating lines of La Pedrera. 

From here it was on to Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, Gaudì’s still incomplete Cathedral. It may be finished in 2026, to mark the centennial of Gaudi’s death.

Sagrada Familia

In November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a basilica (distinct from a cathedral, which must be the seat of a bishop).
Construction of la Sagrada Família commenced in 1882, with Gaudí becoming involved in 1883 … transforming it with his architectural and engineering style that combined Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 (after being struck by a tram) in 1926, la Sagrada Família was less than a quarter of the project was complete.
From here we drove close to Park Güell, named after Gaudì’s prime benefactor.  
We were a bit ticked off that we didn’t get closer, nor did we get very close to Mount Tibidabo, but we did get some great shots later. Then past the Monistary, Monestir Pedralbes, and on to Güell Pavillion, and the Futbol Club stadium, and then down Diagonal, with its palm trees full of parakeets. We wrapped up the north tour passing Eixample, and the Contemporary Arts neighborhood. We made a quick run to the hotel for more batteries for the camera and a short break, then headed back to get on the red line that covered Montjuïc, the Olympic areas, the seafront, and the old part of the city.

After a bit of backtracking, we came to Estacácio de Sants, the big new train station that featured a ‘modern’ concreate park area, next to a lake with light house looking installations.
Estacácio de Sants

We could also see many very interesting new buildings in this area, with interesting colors and shapes… some photos and reference material comes from Wikipedia.

… but then we started getting back to more of the Modernista and older.

Parc Juan Miro
Parc Juan Miro

Spain outlawed bullfighting, so one of the old bull rings, at Plaça Espanya, Plaza de Toros de las Arenas was reopened in 2011 as a shopping mall named Arenas de Barcelona.
old Plaza de Toros

From here we passed the Venetian columns that marked the entrance to 1929 International Exhibition, on the hill of Montjuïc, opposite the castle.
Venetian Columns

We first approached Palau Nacional, now an Art Museum.
Palau Nacional

The original Exhibition had a model town, Poble Espanyol, and a replica of the City Gate of Avila.


We drove past many of the Olympic sites from the Summer games of 1992.
Olimpic area

From here, we drove around Montjuïc: The Funicular and the Jardins below the castle, and then on to the World Trade Center, on the Bay.

There was a cable car system that ran to the World Trade Center, over the bay.

The Columbus Monument was even more impressive up close.
Columbus Monument

Loved the water tower converted to offices.
Water tower

We passed the Olympic Village (now ritzy flats), headed out to the zoo, then turn back and we made our way to Barri Gòtic, the old town passing the medieval Palau Reial Major, now the site of Museu d'Història de Barcelona

The streets were too narrow to drive directly past the Basillica Santa Maria Del Mar, or the Cathedral de la Santa Creu (La Seu), but they were on our list to return to.
We then took the metro back to the hotel.

View from room 301.
Room 301
We grabbed a quick bite at KFC next to the hotel (€6,00) and got some pastries for the morning at Condis (€3,98), then headed to the Funicular, to catch the cable car, to get to the Castle Montjuïc.

Panorama from  station

On the cable car, a great view of Olympic Parc and Palau Nacional

Castle Montjuïc
Castle Montjuïc Castle Montjuïc

16:30. It was starting to get dark, so we took cable car back down.Tibidado in the distance
Cable Car

We had tickets for a Beethoven event at Palau de la Música Catalana, so we rode to Passeig de Gràcia, then changed lines to Urquinaona. This was also where we would be taking off for our day tours, so we wanted to scout the area. The alley to both Explore Catalunya and Palau de la Música Catalana we literally across the street from the metro stop, so we had a little time to explore. Very ornate music hall, and we toured a little history exhibit inside. At the ticket office we heard them tell someone that there was no music that night, so we were a bit confused.

Palau de la Música Catalana
Palau de la Música Catalana

18:45 The line finally opened in the Palau de la Música Catalana, and we went down to be greeted by not an orchestra, but a PowerPoint presentation… at that point we figured out this conference was part of a larger Beethoven event.
Now, we can handle a good bit of Spanish, and we had been brushing up for months, but Catalan is a totally different animal… part Spanish, part French, part Germanic, and all very hard to read or understand at full speed. I mean, just look at Urquinaona, what language throws that many vowels in? Or Catalan phrases that we had studied were not going to help with this, so we left.
Earlier, we searched the area and found La Central, a place with angus burgers. (€9,00). Not our top choice for dinner, but any port in a storm. Okay burger and Fanta, interesting cheese stick dip.

After dinner, we headed down to the Cathedral, and the Christmas Market St. Llucia. Great view of the Cathedral, and lots of interesting wares… but no food or drink.
St. Llucia Market, by the Cathedral St. Llucia Market, by the Cathedral

Tió de Nadal

Our first introduction to Two odd Christmas traditions from the Barcelona area:
1) Santa does not bring presents to children in Barcelona, the cut off trunk of the Christmas tree does... called the Tió de Nadal, the trunk is decorated with a face and wrapped in a blanket. The Children tap the log asking for gifts, then go pray. Upon their return, they discover gifts in the blanket.

2) In the Catalonia region of Spain and Andorra, a Caganer is a figurine in nativity scenes depicted in the act of pooping. The name "El Caganer” literally means "the crapper." The figure is often hidden in elaborate nativity scenes for children to find during the course of the holidays.
Traditionally, the figurine is depicted as a peasant, wearing the traditional Catalan red cap (the barretina) and with his pants down, showing a bare backside, and sometime a bit more. Recently, other figures are available in the pose for satire, such as Donald Trump or soccer players.

We picked up some owl ornaments (€3,00) at one of the stalls, and head back to the metro.

Christmas lights on the way back to the hotel.
Lights Lights
Back at the hotel, we had cookies and crashed… we had an early day coming up.

Thursday, December 15; Three Country Tour, Spain, France, and Andorra

4:00 Up, and noshed on the pastries we got the day before.
5:45 to Metro to Passeig de Gràcia, then the long walk to change lines to ride to Urquinaona;
arrived at Explore Catalunya, across from Palau de la Música Catalana. We heard later that the architect was the teacher of Gaudì.

Depak and Verna from India, who had a shop across from Las Sagrada were already there (with a suit case), and Atlanta based world travelers Jack and Lorraine showed up shortly; they had a son in the airline industry, and a son who lived in Barcelona.

The shop opened up and we met our guide Isi, and a young couple Nicholas and Madeline showed up as well. He was in Army Intelligence at Ft. Hood, and she was about to start Med School, and hoped to go to the new Med school in Austin.

The first van Isi brought has a light out, so we drove to underground parking by St. Llucia to swap to another small white van, and now knew why most cars in Barcelona had little dings in them… the corners in the parking lot were scary.

Area Map

We drove to Bagà, on the edge of a national forest, and 7.5 kilometers to the south of the Túnel del Cadí, a tunnel which crosses the Cadí range. Bagà was founded in the 9th century A.D. when the region was repopulated by Wilfred the Hairy. We walked through the town to Plaça Porxada de Bagà.

Bagà Bagà Bagà

Along the way, we heard of how they kept livestock in the lower levels to provide heat in the floor above, stories of fights against the Moors, and perhaps a rescue (or ransom) of 100 maidens. We also learned more about the separatist movement, and the Catalan flag, which is based on the Flag of Aragon, but is locally interpreted as Catalan within Spain. Note the Separatist flag with the blue triangle added... similar to Cuba and Puerto Rico, former Spanish Colonies.

Bagà Bagà

Bagà Bagà

The town was redesigned in the 13th century, and is a rare example of medieval city planning. Bagà was granted a weekly market (which continues to this day) consolidating its role as a regional capital.

As a curiosity, some medieval documents refer to a “Hugo of Bagà” being the founder of the Knights Templar, though this is uncertain.

We then got time to explore on our own, and wandered; Susann got café y leche (€1,40). We then headed off, and started to see traces of snow, as we approached the 5 km long tunnel.

Ax les Thermes, France. A spa town with many hot springs and baths, though they are a bit stinky.

Ax les Thermes Ax les Thermes Ax les Thermes

Ax les Thermes Ax les Thermes Ax les Thermes

We had time to wander the town, buy some cards (€,80), and get back on the van.

Ax les Thermes Ax les Thermes
Ax les Thermes Ax les Thermes

Depak said they were celebrating their 2nd anniversary, and shared Kit Kat with everyone. Then on to the Pyrenees, and Andorra. Created under a charter in 988, the present principality was formed in 1278. It is known as a principality as it is a monarchy headed by two Co-Princes – the Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell in Spain, and the President of France, though they basically are figureheads, and the Andorrans are self-governing.

Andorra is the sixth-smallest nation in Europe, having an area of 181 sq. mi. Its capital Andorra la Vella is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of 3,356 ft. above sea level. The official language is Catalan.

We first passed the ski areas, where Depak and Verna frolicked in the snow.

Andorra Andorra Andorra

We then took some back roads, and saw a lot of old cow barns for wintering livestock that were now converted to homes, and just enjoyed the valley, and country side.


Then we drove up this very long switch back road from the bottom of the valley to the top, and an incredible overlook called Roc del Quer. It was a long hike over steep, slick ground… no guard rails to keep you from a 1000 ft. drop… but the views were so worth it.

Roc del Quer, Andorra

Roc del Quer, Andorra
The switchback road on the left.


It was then on to the capital, Andorra del Vella, for dinner. We chose a place called 120, and had bread, and pizza with pepperoni, egg, and lots of different cheeses, including cheddar (€15,57).
Andorra Andorra

The country is basically just a valley, and the city was as if it was in the bottom of a bowl, with mountains all the way around.

We enjoyed some of the Christmas decorations before the long drive back to Barcelona.
Andorra Andorra

21:00 after Barcelona traffic, two metro rides, and the walk to the hotel, it was time to settle in.

Friday,  December 16: Tarragona and Sitges Tour
5:00 Up, 7:00 breakfast, 7:45 depart, 8:15 arrive Explore Catalunya, got cards (€1,50)
Met guide Ana, Aussies Kim and Neil, and crazy Carol. Walked to Mercat de Santa Caterina and walked around for a few minutes, seeing all sorts of food stalls and foods (including rabbit), before heading down to parking.
We headed out past Montjuïc toward the ancient Roman Capital, Tarraco, now known as Tarragona.
In 27 BC, Emperor Augustus went to Spain, and so the Capitol shifted to Tarraco for a few years.

The first site we visited was the 2000-year-old aqueduct.
Aqueduct Aqueduct

We then went into town, and Ana dropped us off at a café while she parked. We had café y leche and water (€3,10) while crazy Carol in her open toed shoes went to buy an umbrella for the rain.
Tarragona Tarragona Tarragona

We walked from the plaza (16) on the boardwalk toward the Roman Amphitheatre (15), where Ana gave us a wonderful history lesson with pictures, books with overlays, maps, and a lot of insight on the Roman times.
Tarragona Tarragona

From there we went around the Circus, and into the old town where we visited the oldest shop in town, from 1715, where people hid during the Napoleonic wars. Ana showed us how old stone was stolen to build the old town, and monuments were proudly displayed in the walls. We passed the museum (4) and church (8, which remains incomplete, due to the plague). Then we were given time to wander. We saw the 3-D maps (0).
Tarragona Tarragona Tarragona
Tarragona Tarragona Tarragona
Tarragona Tarragona Tarragona
We then went back to the parks by the circus (13) and amphitheater (15).
Tarragona Tarragona Tarragona

Tarragona Tarragona Tarragona
Tarragona Tarragona

We found a card shop for some cards (€1,00) and stopped by a Spar to get a bucket of M&Ms (€1,99) before rejoining the group and heading on. Evidently Carol stayed with Ana, as she said she would get lost otherwise. We then headed to Sitges as the rain started.

Sitges is a town southwest of Barcelona, renowned worldwide for its Film Festival, Carnival, beaches, nightspots, and historical sites. The roots of Sitges' artsy reputation date back to the late 19th century, when Catalan painter Santiago Rusiñol took up residence there during the summer; the town also became a centre for the 1960s counterculture in mainland Spain during the Franco years. Today, it is a popular destination for gay and lesbian travelers, and a place that successful Spaniards returned to after making it rich in the US, such as Bacardi. However, during this time of year the town was pretty empty, and to make it worse: most places were closed for Siesta.


We did find a Pan & Co. open for roast beef mini sandwiches (€7,80), then visited a lame Christmas market in a giant greenhouse. We enjoyed the surf on a landing near the church, then wandered the square before we found Taj Mahal for torte de Carmella (€6,00).
Sitges Sitges Sitges
Sitges Sitges Sitges

About 17:00, we started back to Barcelona. There was a demonstration blocking traffic, so we got kicked off the van near a metro stop. We freshened up at the hotel, and wandered the Poble Sec looking for food. We found a Chinese run place with a pretty loud fight going on between the owner and some girl, but our Tapas were pretty good. Tortilla, vegetable roleta, jamon croquettes, and pan y tomate at Bar Como en Casa,  (€13,95). Then over to Condis for cookies. (€1,19)

Saturday, December 17: Barcelona Museums and Churches

8:15 Breakfast
10:00 to Maritime Museum (€10,00)
We started in the Toy boats room, with its giant chair and table, and admired the building itself. Part of the old city walls run just outside all the wonderful boats and exhibits.
Maritime Museum Maritime Museum Maritime Museum
Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum of Barcelona is located in the building of Drassanes Reials de Barcelona, the royal arsenal of Barcelona, dedicated to shipbuilding between the thirteenth century and eighteenth century. The arsenals date from 1243, during the 13th century under the rule of Peter III of Aragon.

It shows the history of the navigation from the early days together with the history of the Spanish Navy since the Catholic Monarchs, in the 15th century, up to the present. It also hosts several navigation instruments, weapons, portolans and paintings.
Maritime Museum Maritime Museum
Maritime Museum Maritime Museum Maritime Museum
Maritime Museum Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum Maritime Museum Maritime Museum

We went past the Columbus Monument, stopped by a Christmas Market in an old house, then passed the Church of Mercy heading to the Basilica.
Barcelona Barcelona Barcelona

As we approached St. Maria del Mar, we saw a huge throng… they were having a service for the late Mons. Xavier Echevarria Rodriguez, prelat de l’Opus Dei; born Madrid 1932, passed in Rome, 2016.
We followed the throng in, and got a bit of a view of the very austere church before the throng lead us back out, and on our way to the Cathedral.
St. Maria del Mar St. Maria del Mar St. Maria del Mar

St. Maria del Mar St. Maria del Mar St. Maria del Mar

We then walked to Via Laietana, passing some wonderful architecture...
Barcelona Barcelona
... before we got to Conjunt Monumental , the imposing royal palace Palau Reial Major which rises up at the back of the Plaça del Rei, and is now home to the City's history museum.

Palau Reial Major Palau Reial Major Palau Reial Major

After visiting the Museu d'Història de Barcelona, we then made our way to the Cathedral, The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia locally known as Cathedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, or just le Seu (for the Bishop’s seat). (€14,00, which included the cloister and a rooftop tour.)

le Seu le Seu le Seu
le Seu le Seu le Seu
le Seu le Seu le Seu
Tibidado, in the distance

The cathedral was begun on the foundations of the previous churches on 1 May 1298; James II the Just was King of Aragon at the time, and Bernat Pelegri was Bishop of Barcelona. The church was built from the east end towards the west end, with a simple west facade completed in 1417.

le Seu






The monstrance is one of the Cathedral's treasures. Made of gold and silver, it is adorned with jewels donated out of deep-seated popular devotion. The throne of King Martin, made of gilded silver, has served as a base for the monstrance since the mid-15th century. The throne dates from the 14th century and was allegedly left to the Church or donated by King Martin the Humane.


The cloister was completed in 1448, making the total duration of construction 150 years.  The cloister, which encloses the Well of the Geese (Font de les Oques) was completed in 1448.

le Seu le Seu

In the late 19th century, Miguel Girona i Agrafel offered to complete the neo-Gothic facade and central tower as inspired by the original 15th-century design prepared by master Carlí. This work was completed in 1913.

le Seu le Seu le Seu

We found a Cappuccino nearby, and had faccocia, café, xocolate I xurros for lunch. (€10,15)

We then walked to Plaça Catalunya and the Tourist office and purchased our passes for Montserrat trip Sunday (€59,00).
We then walked around the Christmas Market, and especially liked the snow globe that people could get into.
Christmas Market Christmas Market Christmas Market

We then walked down La Rambla.

La Rambla La Rambla La Rambla
La Rambla La Rambla

We took the Metro to Plaça Espanya, and had Pizza and Crepe at AROMA, in the Bullring. (€16,40)
We then walked to the Palau to see the Magic Fountain show.
Fountain show Fountain show
Fountain show Fountain show
Fountain show Fountain show
Fountain show Fountain show
Fountain show Fountain show
Fountain show Fountain show

We headed back to the Plaça, found our train station for Sunday, then back to the Hotel.
Plaça Espanya

Sunday, December 18: Montserrat
8:00 Breakfast, then off to Plaça Espanya to board the R5. We go there early so we could get good seats, near the WC.
9:36 Departed; the train worked like a metro, with lots of stops.
10:37 Got off at Montserrat Aeri.
Montserrat Montserrat
Montserrat is well known as the site of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary and which is identified by some with the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth. The monastery was founded in the 10th century, and houses the Publicacions de l'Abadia de Montserrat, a publishing house, one of the oldest presses in the world still running, with its first book published in 1499. Built midway up the mountain, the Monastery now has a hotel, cafeteria, shops, and hiking trails.

Montserrat Montserrat

The area has been greatly built up since the Napoleonic wars when it was nearly destroyed, and now has a grand plaza supported by massive trusses. We rode the cable car up, then immediately hiked up to take the St. Joan funicular up to the peak.

The history of Montserrat started in 880 when a small group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the Montserrat mountains. In the same moment the children heard angels singing and the music filled their hearts with a radiant joy.

The parents were brought in and supposedly experienced the same thing, and called for the priest which was the start of the religious center.

The word Montserrat actually means 'serrated mountain' - and when you see the mountain in the flesh you will know exactly what is meant by this. It has the appearance of being vary jagged and forms distinct peaks. The range also rises directly from the river valley, making an even more dramatic appearance.

St Jerome is the name for the highest peak of Montserrat Mountain. On leaving the Funicular de Saint Joan you can take a look at rock formations around the peak. The mountain's geological origins are sedimentary, and the weathering over the eons has left what appears to be carved statutes dotting the area. Each different rock has been given a name that relates to its distinct shape. Names for the rocks include: The Little Mummy, The Mummy, The Cat and The Elephant. Further, all around St. Jerome there are hermitages - these are tiny chapels that were once inhabited by Monks.
Montserrat Montserrat Montserrat

Montserrat Montserrat


We rode back down after a little hiking, the went to the Sant Cava Funicular, to ride down closer to some of the monuments.
Montserrat Montserrat Montserrat
Montserrat Montserrat Montserrat
Montserrat Montserrat Montserrat

We wandered the plaza, and shops. They had a nice Audio Video exhibit that included the daily life of a monk. We had pasta and chocolate torte (€12,40), and bought gifts /cards (€5,50; €1,00; €1,95).
We then visited the basillica and could see the Black Stone Madonna that honors the founding.
Montserrat Montserrat Montserrat
Montserrat Montserrat Montserrat
Montserrat Montserrat
Montserrat Montserrat
Montserrat Montserrat
Montserrat Montserrat

3:00 most of the time we had no waiting to ride anything, aside from the first Funicular… a Japanese family would not let us on the elevator to get to the station, so we had to wait for the next train. We got down to the train station just before the 3:15 train, and discovered it did not run in the off season, and had to wait for the 3:45 train. But the views were grand.

Montserrat Montserrat

The train was returning from Mansera and stopped at the Cog train station before the Cable Car station, so there was only one seat… so Susann rested while I stood on hour long ride back to Plaça Espanya. We rode to Passeig de Gràcia and changed to ride the orange line to Juame I, and we headed to the Picasso museum.

After the museum, we walked back to Via Laietana, and decided to have some Paella at Vervion (13,95).
Paella Paella

While eating, the oddest thing happened on Via Laietana, hundreds of Santas on motorcycle were constantly riding by.

After listening to a busker (€,50). We headed to another Cappuccino, watched some futbol, and both had Xocolate and Xurros (€8,50).
Lights Dessert

We made one more run to St. Llucia market (€12,00) before taking our final metro ride to the hotel, to pack.

Monday, December 19: Return home
The transfer company had told us they would pick us up at another hotel at 9:00, not 8:00, as we had requested, so we decided to take a cab after breakfast. We paid the hotel tax (~€8,95), and the cab arrived right at 8:00. (€35 with tip). We got our passports scanned, and moved through security fairly easily. We bought a big bag of Kit Kat for all the plane rides (€4,75) and boarded about 11:30.
Boarding passes

After chicken meals and more movies, we made JFK.

3:20 Our Global Entry made security a breeze, and we took the Jitney to the remote terminal C to catch our last flight. We got Wendy’s ($17.60) for dinner, and boarded about 6:20.

We got to the Austin a bit after 10:00pm, and after getting the car, we were home by 11:30, after about a 26 hour day. But, what a trip.