Guest Blogger Chris Mahnken
Friday morning, after a stout 3 hours of sleep, making six hours in the past two nights, I got up early and met our crew (Deb, Linda, Sandy, & Sharon) for breakfast. After that we went to the Lobby to hook up with our informal guides (and fellow travelers) Gary and Karen. Next stop, well, the subway, but our goal was Montserrat.
Several transfers, ticket buyings, and about 90 minutes later we arrived at our stop. Montserrat – Aeri. Only it wasn’t our stop. We should have stayed on the train for one additional stop to get to the rack railway station that would lead to the monastery. Instead we were at the gondola / cable car station for said cliff side religious haven. So rather than wait the hour between trains to go one stop further, we delved deep (5 euros) into our pockets for a ticket up the gondola.
One semi-terrifying ride later, we were several thousand feet up above the river valley at the famed Montserrat monastery. There are still monks in residence (I understand, I didn’t see any) and there is also a small hotel.
We started by taking the Funicular up to the (near) peak of the mountain and then spent a leisurely morning walking back down the down the mountain trails to the monastery. If you’re not afraid of a bit of exercise I’d encourage the walk if the weather is nice. The views were spectacular (if somewhat hazy in the morning).
By the time we got back down I was starving (no really, that distended belly is a sign of starvation, not beer). We went to the cafeteria and grabbed some lunch, and while it was not the equal of the food we’ll be getting on the Magic, it was quite good.
After lunch we went up to the basilica and toured thru and got to see the black Madonna of Montserrat. The basilica is fantastic. Very well preserved and quite lovely. If you like to visit the churches of Europe, I’d be sure to add this one to your list. It’s very nice.
At this point I was getting ready to take a nap on the first non-paved surface I could find, and everybody else was a bit tired also. We decided to hit the shops, and then start the long ride home. We were back to our hotel by 6:30.