Saturday, July 26, 2014

Montserrat Boys Choir (Escolania)

Montserrat has the oldest music school in Europe. You would be able to catch the choir daily at 1 pm. except on Saturdays. They perform twice on Sundays. These are boys that live and study at the monastery.

Unfortunately, we have missed this performance during our visit. I will make sure not to miss this on the next visit.

Friday, July 25, 2014


We decided to make a pilgrimage to the monastery of Montserrat. It has been on my top of my list when I started researching on our Barcelona itinerary. It is accessible by train, about an hour and a half trip from downtown Barcelona. It is historic and picturesque. It was worth the visit.

Montserrat means serrated mountains and had been a pilgrimage site for hundreds of years. On top the mountain is a thousand year old Benedictine monastery. It is also the location of the oldest music school (that dates back to 14th century) in Europe where you can listen to Gregorian chants by the boys choir.

This was view from the bottom of the mountain after you got out of the train.

 You have 2 options to get up the mountain: hike or ride the funicular. Guess what route we took?

The view from the funicular about halfway through the other end.

A closer view of the serrated mountain rocks from Saint Mary's Square. On the left is the Museum and the right buildings are the newly built addition to the monastery. The mountain rocks looked polished up close but from afar it looks like series of jagged knives.

The Basilica facade show Gothic influences based on the collective statues on top the doorway.

Closer look at the ornate floor at the Basilica.

On the left side before you go inside are candle offerings. I have lit up a couple and said a quick prayer of thanks for the all blessings including the ability to visit Montserrat. I do hope one day to come back with my husband and daughter.

The Basilica was heavily damaged during the Napoleonic wars and was reconstructed by the late 19th century. Looking at the main altar, you could see the Gothic influences by its rounded arches. And in the middle of the main altar is the The Lady of Montserrat (La Moreneta).

I was amazed on the beauty of these Byzantine mosaics.

This was the stairs to the back of the Main Altar where you can get a closer look of La Moreneta.

The Lady of Montserrat (La Moreneta). You are allowed to say a quick prayer while touching the orb that sticks out the protective glass.

Legend says, the shepherd boys saw a bright light coming down and heard music from the mountain. What they found was a cave and inside is a statue of Virgin Mary. According to carbon dating, the statue is about 800 years old. It is made of wood and was originally lighter but got darker through the centuries. Elements such as candle smoke and humidity has contributed to its natural aging.

Another chapel hidden behind the Main Altar. It is a good place to have a quiet reflection. On the top right you could see the back of the La Moreneta. This room has evidence of Eastern influences, like the arches and the design frills.

Food products sold on the gift shop. It was tempting to get them but I think they are so frail that it won't survive the Paris, Toronto flight. 

They called this ROC and it was said to have made according to the original Monks recipe. I tried one of them, the almond flavored one (the white one). They are big. Fist size huge. It is like meringue but have a thick and soft cream inside. I think its good and ate this with coffee. Personally, I also think that they have poured about half gallon sugar on it. Too sweet for my taste.

We only have a finite time in Barcelona. I would love to take the Manresa route but I will put that some other time.

The next day would be a lazy one. It will be our last full day in Spain and have to get all the souvenirs before we head to Paris.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Bus Turistico: Barcelona

Now that we finally got through fatigue and jet lag, we are ready for heavy duty sightseeing. We want to see a lot of Barcelona. So we started our day with the Bus Turistico. Every major city has one of those red double deck bus that goes around the major sights.

I am still testing out my new camera. It was a hybrid of DSLR and point and shoot. It was easy to use and takes great photos but it had an automatic sensor that keeps on adjusting when turned on. It took about half an hour of use till it shut down. It is upsetting to think that I checked the battery before going out. After this day, I made sure to turn off the camera when not in use.

We started our tour on the Bus Turistico stop in front of the Sagrada Familia. It had a long line that we had to wait for the second bus to get a seat on the top of the deck.

This was an interesting church to me. It looks new but the style is old. I guess it is Roman Byzantine style, it has small windows and double columns. I hope I could get another opportunity to see inside.

We loop into somewhere residential. It had new buildings with interesting modern facades.

One of the many pastry places I saw on this block. I would probably go here often if I lived close.

From what I gather, soccer is huge here. One of those original jersey costs about EUR 200. Steep!

Now we see some iconic Gaudi works. It is very distinctive that it looks playful and you don't see any sharp lines.

The bus now looped into the downtown district where you see buildings with modern aesthetics.

What is not to love on this balcony?

How awesome is this office building?

A blending of the old and the new.

We took a break for lunch in Barceloneta. We had a feast of paella and tapas. Afterwards, we took the loop to the beach area. By this time, we are all sitting inside the bus since it is getting colder. The wind chill on the beach area is biting. Good thing I am still wearing my winter jacket.

This is where we end our bus trip and head over to go shopping for folks at home. It is been a while since I fell for the charms of a city. This place suits me, it is a cosmopolitan city with lots of old world charm with a beach access. I hope to come back. Soon.