DEC
2019
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Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
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Frank Bernheisel
Posted 11.12.19
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL & Kathy Cavanaugh
All photos courtesy the authors

HOMAGE TO CATALONIA: DAY TWO

The next day, after breakfast, we went by coach to Montserrat, a multi-peaked mountain range about 35 miles northwest of Barcelona. We were going to visit the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary. The coach ride provided an opportunity to see the Barcelona suburbs, which has quite a bit of industry and manufacturing.

We went up to the level of the monastery and basilica, by cog train. The weather was misty, turning to light rain, which prevented us from going to or seeing the top of the mountain.

We had a guided tour of the Montserrat monastery, which still has Benedictine monks and a school for boys who want to sing in the choir.

monastery

The basilica has the famous Black Madonna; unfortunately, our guide told us, there was a mass in progress so our group could not go inside; several of our group entered as individuals.

The basilica of Montserrat began construction in the 16th century and was rebuilt several times. After the Spanish Civil War, a new façade of the church (right picture) was built and decorated with sculptural reliefs including a representation of the monks who died during war.

basilica

After the guided tour, we had free time to wander about and buy from the many stalls lining the street that leads to the train station; mountain honey, cakes ,and cheese were specialties.

stalls

We rendezvoused in front of the train station (center picture) for our return trip down the mountain; which was by cable car.

station

About 20 of us packed into the gondola so we could barely move for the trip to the valley floor; about 4,000 feet below.

station

This was exciting and provided great views of the surrounding area. We were deposited near the parking lot for our coach and our return trip to the hotel in Barcelona.

The coach took us back to the hotel where Kathy and I had a quiet lunch after which we walked to Barri Gothic, which is named for the many buildings built in the 13th and 15th centuries.

gothic

The area contains traces of the Roman settlement including massive 4th centeury walls. The city of Barcelona grew up around El Gothic to a population of 1.6 million and its urban area extends to numerous neighborhood within the Province of Barcelona, which brings the urban area population to about 4.8 million people. These suburbs could account for the cars and motor scooters.

The walk took us through neighborhoods with the residential buildings exhibiting many architectural styles. The stores on the ground level provided everything the residents needed and ranged from mom and pop groceries to large chain stores.

store

Every few blocks we passed a Metro station, which Dave found convenient to use. It has six underground lines, which total 77 miles. My conclusion after walking through the various neighborhoods was Barcelona is a very pleasant place to live.

Our goal was the famous, pedestrian-only, La Rambla, where we were joined by natives and tourists.

street

Our observation has been that the number of tourists, especially from Asia, has been increasing each year, which is the reason we travel in the off seasons. European cities have been increasing the number of pedestrian-only area every year, which makes the historic areas much more pleasant. Of course, most of these areas were built before everyone had cars.

We walked back to the hotel to meet Mary and Dave and go to dinner at a small tapas place they had picked out. We sat at a tall table that made a triangle with the tables along the walls. In the corner was a couple so enamored with each other that I thought they might make love right there.

The show was not enough to distract me from the excellent tapas and wine.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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