Montserrat

We’re finally home in Las Vegas, but I have to finish catching you up on the rest of our trip.  The hotel in Madrid had horrendous wifi (pronounced weefee in Spain) and it was much easier to just go to the Starbucks down the street.  However, even that had its limitations.  Sorry for the delay!

On our last day in Barcelona, we traveled to Montserrat, a 1000 year old monastery with quite a history.  Currently, monks still live there and they run a school for musically gifted boys between ages 9 and 14.  The boys choir there rivals the one in Vienna and its about 700 years old!  We got to hear them practice and they were adorable.

We also enjoyed the beautiful, peaceful setting.  Even though it was overrun with tourists, the monastery maintained a tranquil air that was so soothing.  We’d been traveling so long, the peace was very welcome.

When we arrived, the lower half of the mountain was covered by clouds.  Not only was it beautiful, but it made me feel like we were hovering above the Earth, just hanging in space.  It added a lot to the peaceful atmosphere.  As always, pictures are the best way to see it.

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See what I mean?  I took these from the deck of the visitor’s center.

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This is the view of the monastery itself.  I took it from the same spot as the first photo.

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Some more of the scenery.

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Here we are!  In the second photo, you can see the funicular that run to the top of the mountain.  There is another that goes all the way down to the town at the bottom.

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This is the dormitory where the monks and the school kids live.  From what I understand, the school is all-year-round and the boys often travel the world for their signing engagements.  In addition to singing, each student has to become proficient playing the piano and one other instrument while he’s here.

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This is the church.  It’s been rebuilt and renovated over the centuries.  Currently, it is the home of the world-famous “Black Madonna” which is a wooden madonna that is mostly covered in gold.  She’s called the Black Madonna because her face and hands were the only exposed wood.  Sometime before the 15th century, they put something on the exposed wood to preserve it and it turned them black.  So, she’s the Black Madonna.  We could have waited in line about an hour to walk past and touch part of her, but we decided not to.  There were too many other things to see.

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This is what the buildings look like.  It was very neat, clean, and well kept.

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One of the things we did was follow the trail around the mountain for a ways.  It was well-developed and very pretty.

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See that building in distance behind and just to the right of the one with the red roof?  That’s the visitor center where I took the first pictures I showed you, above.

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We found St. Francis on the way.

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The clouds finally burned off in the early afternoon so we could see the valley floor.

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It’s hard to see, but there’s a sculpture in front of the building.

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When I zoomed in, we could see the people climbing it.  : )

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One last view before we left.  I should mention there was a farmer’s market going on so we bought some nuts, cheese and sweet bread which we ate for dinner with our left-over wine for dinner.  Yum!

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On the way home, we stopped at Codorniu where they make cava, the Spanish version of champagne.  I was surprised at how complicated a process it is.  It involves yeast, added sugar, and fermenting in concrete and steel barrels that can hold hundreds of gallons of wine. At some point, the wine is bottled and allowed to ferment again.  To remove all the yeast and sediments, they let it all settle into the neck of the bottle where it’s flash frozen and removed.  Then the sparkling wine is ready to sell.  Since it’s not made in the Champagne region of France, they can’t call it champagne.  Instead, the Spanish version is collectively called “cava.”

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An interesting thing about Codorniu is it’s the oldest continually run family business in Spain and the 17th oldest in the world.  This family has been making wine and/or cava since the 1500s.  The family is now about 500 members and none of them live on the winery anymore.  However, about 100 years ago, an ancestor hired architects trained by Gaudi to design some new buildings and the results are really beautiful.  Above is the inside and outside of the main guest receiving building.

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This is the house some of the family lived in until the 1980s.  Everything is very well maintained and the landscaping was beautiful.

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This is one of the older fermenting buildings.  It’s no longer used for making wine, now its the museum and a popular place to have formal affairs like weddings.  The squares on top of the building are full of stained glass windows made from broken wine bottles.

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Of course, there was some tasting, as well!

Here’s my original post:

AAARRRGGHH! No internet in Madrid, so I can’t update the blog.  But I promise as soon as we’re home in Vegas, probably on Tuesday or Wednesday, I’ll bring everything up to date. That includes our time spent in Madrid, which is a beautiful city, by the way.  I like it very much.  I think I like it even more than many of the cities in Italy.  Today we spent a rainy afternoon at the Prado and it was wonderful.  Tonight, we’re meeting Abby for dinner at 9 p.m. which is on the early side for dinner in Spain.  Yesterday when we were walking around the neighborhood with her, she mentioned that everything was a little busy right then (7 p.m.) because school had just gotten out!!! More later, I promise!!! Angie

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