Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Montserrat...or the woman who was an expert line cutter

We decided to head out the following morning to Montserrat, about an hour outside of Barcelona.

Adrienne will deny this to her dying day, but she took forever to get ready and we were about 40 minutes late to the meeting spot in Placa d'Espanya. We wandered around the square for a while, but we realized that Allison and Anna were not there. I was hoping they hadn't just gone on to Montserrat without us, based on how late we were. We spent a while searching for an open cafe or restaurant with WIFI, so we could try and contact them. I assumed there had to be at least one near the square, but there was not. So I asked the tourist information and she lead us to this random side street and we found a very small cafe/bar that had WIFI. I got some juice and Adrienne got a coke and I called Allison. She didn't answer, so we waited for a while to see if she got the message later.

She eventually called and their alarm had not gone off, so they had just woken up.

Adrienne and I waited and wandered around the square near our meeting spot.

The picture to the left is the bullring turned shopping center.

These are the Venetian towers

Adrienne with the palace behind her.
Me with the palace behind me.
The palace, which is now a museum.

Three years later, they arrived so we bought our tickets and got on the train.

The train ride was uneventful...except for the lady from Arizona, who had the loudest most grating voice I've ever heard in my life. And for the entire hour, she never stopped talking! It was unbelievably irritating. As Allison said, "It's impossible not to listen to her."

We learned her life story. She was from Scottsdale. Married with 2 children. Her husband sent her in a taxi alone to the airport and she thought, "But where are we meeting at the airport! I don't know where to go!" Except that story took about 20 minutes.

Luckily, we got off a train stop earlier than her to take the cable car up the mountain.

While in line, this group of Australian women were discussing the annoying woman on the train. We bonded as a result and chatted while in line and up the mountain. They were what I hope I will be when I am 50 years old....still adventurous and hilarious. I also felt like it was me, Adrienne, Allison and Anna in about 30 years, on another trip to Europe.

The cable car was terrifying. It was really steep and you could straight down to the rocks you would be crashing on.

One of the Australian women said something that made us feel better. She said, "I just think about all the people that rode it without crashing and then say to myself, 'why would it crash the one time that I'm on it."

Above, Adrienne looking horrified, while Anna looks thrilled.

Adrienne looking horrified, while I look perfectly happy, hiding my inner terror.
The rocks which we could have crashed on.
Approaching Montserrat.
Here we are with a bunch of tourists.
The wonderful view from Montserrat.

The Cathedral/Monastery.
Here we are!

The terrifying looking train up the mountain. We did not go on it.
Afterwards, we got lunch quickly. We had a piece of pizza that was horrendously awful and some fruit that was delicious.

We then headed over to the main square and Cathedral.

The Cathedral.

The trees here have special meaning. They represent 4 different things of important meaning, that I cannot remember.

We immediately got in the line to see the famous Virgin of Montserrat statue.

In this picture you can see that the line is long, but doesn't look horrible.

Except that once you go through those doors, you have to walk through 5 or 6 other rooms, go up some stairs and through some other rooms and then another set of stairs, and then another set of stairs, and then you finally get to the statue, so this was our first and really only experience with a long line. It took about 2 hours or so.

The Mary statue is rumored to be from the 4th century, though it's more likely about 800 years old.

While waiting in the very long line, we witnessed the most successful and discreet line-cutter I have ever seen.

She would begin a conversation with someone, then slowly step in front of them and a couple other people, then begin another conversation and slowly make her way forward. She never pushed or made it obviously that she was moving forward. Just looked like she was absentmindedly walking. She'd glance around and pretend she was looking at the walls. Yet, she was very slowly and surely making her way to the front of the line.

Allison yelled at her, "Mary doesn't like cheaters!!!" which we, and the girls from England behind us, laughed hysterically at.

A couple other people pushed their way past us, so that by the time a Russian woman attempted to elbow her way past the English girls behind us, they formed a wall by linking arms and were practically yelling to prevent her from walking by.

Unfortunately, that was unsuccessful and she got in front of us.

While in line, I wandered over to the outside of the cathedral, which is very beautiful and very intricate.

Allison and I took some pictures, then wandered back into line. Then, Adrienne and Anna wandered over. And got back into line.

We had a lot of time to wander in and out of line

The sign before you get in read, "Welcome to Montserrat, you who have come to visit Saint Mary in her mountain sanctuary. She offers you her son, Jesus, as a light and guide in your life. We hope that this house that welcomes you will be a home to everyone. Help to make this so by your behavior. Peace be with you"

Aka be quiet and no pushing. We should have pointed that sign out to the discreet woman.

The boys choir is one of the oldest boys choirs in Europe. They do performances almost every day. Except that they went on vacation the day before we arrived. How dare they.

At least the rooms were very interesting to look at, since we spent a very long time in each of them.

The first set of staircases, decorated with mosaics on the inside.
A candle
Stained glass

Another candle

A very distressed man.

A sad little boy.
What appears to be an angel with no neck.
The room with the Mary statue inside is extremely beautiful. It is decorated with really beautiful mosaics.

And there's the statue! Surprisingly, you could take pictures. I chose to take a quick one and then run, so as not to hold up the line.

Some of the mosaics.
At the exit, before you can then go back into the cathedral.

For some reason, everyone was taking a picture in this exact spot with their arms in the air.

Just in case it was tradition, we all took pictures in that spot with our arms in the air.

This mountain rock looks like a person.

We then went to the art museum next to the cathedral. It was really interesting. They had a lot of paintings by Spanish artists (obviously) but also Degas, Caravaggio, Picasso etc.
We then took the cable car back down the mountain. The train back was uneventful, except for Allison getting train sick and almost vomiting.

She did not vomit.

We arrived in the Placa d'Espanya, which is where I will begin my next blog!

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