If you’ve an extra day in Barcelona to spare, here’s a day trip that I would highly recommend. We headed to Montserrat for some hiking at around 7am, intending to reach the place via the cable car route. But we missed the stop for the cable car and got off at the one for the funicular (which was the next stop). So we had to wait an hour for the next train to come. Missing trains and barely making onto the last transport seemed to be an on-going trend for this trip.
It turned out the missed stop was indirectly a blessing in disguise, since the employees at the funicular station told us the cable car ride would start only at 10am (it was only 8.30am then). So we took shelter from the strong and chilly winds in the white building on the left (there’s FREE toilet there too!) as we awaited the arrival of our train.
TIP: Get the cable car ride up to Montserrat instead of the funicular, the view is so much better! Note: the end-point for the cable car and the funicular differ. The cable car is only a short 5 mins walk up to the town area while the funicular is located directly at the town center.
Directions: Switch to the Montserrat train line (R5) at the Placa Espanya station in Barcelona. Depending on your plan, get the train pass most suited for you. It would save you more.
Just look at how beautiful the view is from the cable car! Although, it fascinates me how dogs can just roam freely in Europe. By that, I mean into public transports, shops, restaurants etc. It’s so dogs friendly that I wonder what happens if there’s someone who’s afraid or allergic to them. Do we give way to dogs or do dogs give way to us?
Here’s a look at the short walk from the cable car station to the town center.
Starting from the town center, which is where the monastery is located, we hiked up to Sant Miquel and continued upwards to the Sant Joan (by following a marked path). This hiking route (~1.5 hours) was tiring but doable. Here’s a cat basking in the beautiful sun rays while I took its picture before scaring it off the next second after this was taken because I dropped my lens cap. Lol.
On the way up to Sant Miquel, the wind blowing against us was so strong it literally threatened to blow us off the mountain. Haha, so each time when the wind starts to show its might, we would freeze and crouch our body in the middle of the path until the wind settled.
A well/spa (?) located at the edge of the mountain…this is literally relaxing with a view
Part of the route up to Sant Joan was akin to no man’s land. It looked like we were stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Finally! We reached the upper station of the Sant Joan funicular. There’s also a free museum depicting the different stone formations and the wildlife in Montserrat.
From Sant Joan, we took the funicular down to the town center, before taking the Santa Cova funicular down to hike the ~30 minutes walk to the Santa Cova cave. We also had some tomato spread bread and a juice box we got from the supermarket the day before for lunch before we started the walk. It was in the funicular ride down to the lower station of Santa Cova where we met the funniest old ladies. Seriously epic, their conversations…it makes me hope that when I’m old, I’ll be able to have such a friendship that’s filled with laughter with my friends.
Legend has it that the image of Virgin Mary was sighted in the Santa Cova cave, or the Holy Grotto, and so this placed has become an area of worship in Montserrat.
Back to the town center, we headed to the monastery, where we queued for ~45 mins to go up the basilica floors to catch a close-up glimpse of the Black Madonna. It’s literally a glimpse because you enter the area where the statue is in a single file, snap a quick shot or a prayer, before quickly making way for others to have their chance. It’s so rush that I’m not sure if it’s really worth the wait since you can actually see the Black Madonna from the lower levels of the chapel.
The floor design outside of the chapel that’s said to mimic the design from the Vatican city.
The beautiful ceiling within the chapel as we walked up the stairs to see the Black Madonna.
Once you’re out from seeing the statue, there’s the Cami de l’Ave Maria, a path where visitors have the opportunity to pay their respect. You can then re-enter the chapel through its front doors, without queuing this time around.
The grandeur of the chapel in its full glory
After that, we slowly made our way back to Barcelona and headed to the same tapas bar near our hostel where we had our lunch the day before. Our last meal in Spain, we decided to go for the potato omelette (which is really a MUST try, the texture is just incredible), mixed patatas, a fish croquette (the longer and darker brown ones in the last picture) and circular flour balls that I’ve absolutely no idea what it was. Do give the fish croquette a try, the thick and generous amount of fish paste within the croquette was seriously good and fresh. Absolutely no fishy smell to be spoken of, if you’re worried about that.
With this meal, it marked the end of our actual journey in Spain (Granada and Sevilla would be in a later post). Spain was definitely good to us, despite the confusing bus routes, the people were friendly, funny and approachable. The weather was good, the food was lovely and everything about this country just makes me want to return to discover more of its hidden gems. While I had my initial reservations about this place, mainly the pickpocketing and safety issue, it was quickly debunked once I was there.
Barcelona gave us the greatest concern, in comparison to Sevilla and Granda, though all 3 places were fairly safe. Just be aware of your surroundings and belongings. Don’t leave them unattended, don’t flaunt your money, do your research on sketchy places to avoid at night (especially if you’re female travellers) and ALWAYS trust your gut feeling. But really, all these advices hold true when you’re travelling anywhere and even in your home country. Just behave as you would at home, though with a higher level of caution, and simply enjoy yourself. Spain is a beautiful country with so much to offer. Till the next post, bye!