Day Four – The Human Alarm Clock, The Train In Spain, Mountain Basilica, The Near Shutout, Like A Virgin, Going To The Chapel, Incense & Peppermints, Direcció Barthelona, Lunch At The Bullring, Cascading Fountains, A Nacional Treasure (Part Dos), Joan Of Art, Oh She’s A He, Tracy’s Favorite Piece Of Modern Art, Public Transportation, I Finally Need A Siesta and A Beautiful Restaurant Find
At 3 a.m. we were awakened by a deafening downpour, so I assumed that Montserrat would be a “no go” for the morning, but I had the alarm set early just in case. Sure enough, I was wrong. By 6 a.m. the skies had cleared. Montserrat was on.
Getting your train tickets to Montserrat is a piece of cake (or on this morning, a piece of pastry). A taxi dropped us off at the Plaça d’Espanya train station. The very friendly and helpful people at the information booth told us how to purchase our Montserrat tickets. The booth opens at 8 a.m.
We ventured over to the machines, and since ticket machines and myself have not had the best of times together, we were fortunate that there were some guys in red coats who helped us retrieve our tickets. The train left at 8:36…sharp!
The train ride is about an hour and it dropped us at the Aeri de Montserrat stop where it was time to take the cable car (the Sant Joan funicular was not running when we arrived) up to the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey.
Occasionally our tour guide (me) makes little mistakes. I thought it did not open until 10, but it had been open for a few hours before our arrival at 9:50 a.m.
There was no rush, or so I thought.
By sheer power of deduction (and looking up), we thought the incense smell emanated from some cool looking holders (I think they’re called censers) above us. Of course, they might have just been for show, and The Strawberry Alarm Clock was really going to play at an upcoming mass.
At about 10:15 we spied a number of people queuing up to the side of the Abbey. I was told that it was the line to go upstairs to see La Moreneta (the Black Virgin), and no one would be allowed in after 10:30 because mass was about to start. Tuscan Tom started sweating because it would not reopen until 12:15, and we had plans to be out of here by then.
We immediately rushed to get in line (I believe that old woman I pushed over has recovered by now…only a flesh wound), and the tour guide standing right behind us said it looked bleak, and we would most likely be shut-out. However, at 10:25, the door opened and we were among the last few people to be escorted inside. Clean living baby!
She is ensconced in a protective glass case, but if one so desires they can reach through a small hole to touch the “Orb Of The Earth.” I was about to sing, “Like A Virgin, touched for the very first time,” but immediately realized the pilgrims lined up here would not think that very amusing.
The services, already underway, served as the Genesis for our Mass Exodus. Outside, there were seemingly hundreds of votive candles. Kim and Mary lit one for some friends back home who had lost a child a few years back.
The Abbot is holding plans depicting the early church at Montserrat in his left hand. With his right hand, he welcomes everyone who comes to Montserrat. I asked Abbot, “Who’s on first?” but there was no answer.
Travel democracy in action.
It looked like they finally got the funicular working, too.
On the cable car ride down…
…which you can hike down to see. “Next time,” I thought.
I took one last zoom photo of Montserrat as we neared the bottom.
Back at the Aeri de Montserrat stop, nice Kim became evil Kim for the first time since our 2012 Dordogne Font de Gaume adventure. There he handed me a pen and forced me to pretend (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) to write on a sign outside the cave…
…and then Kim did some photo manipulating back home to make it seem like I was actually writing “SDSU” on a bison on the cave wall inside, which, if we actually did that, would be a capital offense…and rightfully so.
When we returned home, Kim once again did his post photo magic, and it looked like I wrote, “Direcció Barthelona.” Then we sent the photos to friends who were appalled with our bad behavior until we told them it was a fake. As stated previously, maturity is definitely not our strong suit. Most disturbingly was witnessing how gray I’ve become in the past few years (I’m sure when Tracy reads this she’ll start singing, “You’re So Vain”).
We took the train back to “Barthelona,” and headed in search of lunch…and what better place to have a meal than a converted bullring. Hey, I wouldn’t steer you wrong, so you should have no beef with the following.
Virtually across the street from the Plaça d’Espanya train station is the Las Arenas Barcelona, a former bullfighting ring built in 1900. In 2011, Catalonia (wisely in my opinion) banned bullfighting, but many of the arenas, like this one, began falling into disrepair long before the ban (it last hosted a bullfight in 1977).
In 2011, after being fully renovated, Las Arenas Barcelona opened back up as a shopping center with a multitude of stores and restaurants. The first week it was opened it attracted 300,000 visitors…no bull!
The exterior of the building is called neomudejár, which was a 19th century revival of Moorish architecture according to an article I read. In any case, the most important aspect of this facility was that it had food.
The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (Catalonian National Museum Of Art…MNAC) is housed inside the Palau Nacional, which was constructed in 1929 as a centerpiece of the International Exposition. Its location is on Montjuïc Hill.
Our first stop was the Romanesque section. The museum is touted for having one of the world’s best collections of Romanesque and Gothic art, and I won’t quibble with that description.
There is a famed fresco (among many) that was transported from the apse of the church of Sant Climent in Taüll, a small village in the north of Catalonia. “Christ in Majesty” (below) is a depiction of Christ that has Byzantine influences.
Soon, we were back outside and starting to walk the road on Montjuïc Hill to our next destination…the Fundació Joan Miró. We knew it was a contemporary Catalan art museum, so our expectations were not high (modern art, as we have stated, just does not do much…if anything… for any of us).
As we walked toward the museum I asked about Joan Miró. “Who is this woman?” I asked.
Although he doesn’t understand modern art, Kim does recognize an idiot when he hears one. “Tom, Joan Miró is a guy.” Obviously, all those CNN International reports on Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner were having an effect on me.
The Articket BCN got us in Fundació Joan Miro, and we whisked past a long line of students to see the “art.” I will have to admit that except for relatively few pieces, nothing in this museum interested me. I did like the little statue of a guy in a crown holding a globe while displaying the “Peace Sign.” Obviously, he was an Iron Butterfly fan.
Tracy turned to me and exclaimed, “Finally…there’s the best piece of modern art I have ever seen.”
“Cool,” I replied. “What is it?”
Both Tracy and Kim responded simultaneously, “The Exit Sign (not its real sign).”
The natives were restless. That would be the end of modern art for us until Madrid.
By now, we were dragging. It had been a long day and Barcelona mass transportation would provide our passage back. First we hopped on the Funicular de Montjuïc, which was opened in 1928.
We rode that bad boy down and connected to the metro that got us close enough to our hotel so we didn’t have a coronary walking to Hotel Colon.
A gelato at Mamma helped us make the short walk.
While the others rested, I searched TripAdvisor for a restaurant and booked 8 o’clock reservations at Restaurante Arcano (#53 of nearly 7,000 restaurants in Barcelona). By the way, reports that you have to wait until 10 p.m. to eat in Spain are grossly exaggerated.
So it was back to El Born and Restaurante Arcano…Carrer dels Mercaders 10 (La ribera Born). It was less than 10 minutes from the hotel.
We sat in the back corner of this cave-like restaurant. It had exposed brick walls and an vaulted ceiling (we’re suckers for this type of atmosphere). The wait staff was also very personable, and the meal, for the most part, was fantastic…I believe our best meal in Barcelona (although tomorrow’s meal would also be very good).
The amuse bouche of Gazpacho with exploding sugar (that was Tracy’s description, and remember she WAS drinking) started off our evening in a great manner. Fortunately Kim doesn’t like tomatoes, so I got the extra one. He would get his revenge after the meal.
The best dishes here included my Melted Provolone Cheese & Tomatoes (my arteries hardened just while ordering)…
I would definitely recommend Restaurante Arcano as a good Barcelona dinner spot. As we exited, Kim captured the restaurant/bar filled to the brim with patrons…truly a beautiful space.
Tomorrow would be our last full day in Barcelona. I would begin and (almost) end the day with my buddy Gaudí. In between, we would take a scenic stroll through the city, visit another very cool market and revisit the Cathedral…along with its windy rooftop (I would also receive a Cathedral surprise later). Then we’d cap off our last night with a visit to a hopping Plaça restaurant. I was starting to miss Barcelona already.
Next: Day Five & (partial) Day Six– Parc Place, Leapin’ Lizards, Sweeping Views, Gaudí’s Laid To Rest, A Valencia Stroll, Market Watch (part Dos), Sweet Interlude, Happening Plaça, Lunch At Yet Another Market, Cathedral View, Up On The Roof (Part, oh Hell, I’ve Lost Track), Cathedral Unseen, Taking A Gnder At Some Geese, Final Overture With Rossini, Not Quite The Cat’s Meow, I Want Candy, Cue The Next Queue and Adios Barcelona/Hola Granada!