Holiday Notes #2 Montserrat + Manresa

While staying in Barcelona with my parents, we made a visit to the popular Christian pilgrimage sites in Montserrat and Manresa. After advice from a barista in a Barcelona café, we weren’t required to buy tickets in advance, all we had to do was go to the station and buy a ticket from the machine – too easy! It’s a popular spot for Barcelonian’s to go for a picnic on a nice day, so the trains run regularly.

We left nice and early to beat the crowds and get the first cable car up to Montserrat. It’s a wonderful view heading up in the cable car and a quick and easy mode of transportation as opposed to a precarious bus ride up the narrow mountain roads.

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Our first thought upon arrival was food. And coffee. So, deciding to find the place with the best view we settled on the self-service restaurant in the Mirador dels Apostols building (next to the carpark). We got coffees and local Mató de Montserrat; a fresh, soft cheese of Catalonia made from cow or goats milk and traditionally served with honey as a dessert. I also got a baguette and my parents had a pastry. It was a satisfying and delicious breakfast after our train trip and it was made extra special by the breathtaking views. A group of cyclists were sitting next to us enjoying their coffees and were thrilled when they found out we were Aussies.

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As much as we enjoyed our breakfast, it would probably make more sense to go straight to the Basilica and Monastery of Montserrat and seeing the statue of the Black Virgin if you are interested. The queue was very long when we went to the Basilica, so we just looked inside and then caught a cable car further up the mountain to look at a viewpoint. It wasn’t a particularly interesting view, we regretted not going to the Cross of Saint Miguel instead, but the signs and instructions were so confusing we couldn’t work it out until we had run out of time. I honestly think the most enjoyable part was sitting in the sun, eating our breakfast and taking in the incredible landscape.

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We caught the cable car back down and then caught the train to Manresa, a town of spiritual significance to Jesuits. St Ignatius of Loyola spent 11 months living by the Cardener River and experienced a spiritual enlightenment in which he went on to write the Book of Spiritual Exercises. The cave in which St Ignatius wrote these exercises now has a church built over it, but the cave is still there today and a beautiful, spiritual place to visit. I was surprised at how ornate and spectacular the statues and sculptures of the Saint were. The peacefulness and quietness of the little town of Manresa and it’s magnificent church and cave made this a meaningful and memorable experience. The highlight of the Montserrat and Manresa trip for sure.

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We also enjoyed the most wonderful lunch in Manresa at a little café called Vida e Mocca, run by a kind young woman, whose husband and daughter popped by to visit in their lunch hour. They couldn’t speak English, but we were lucky enough to be sitting next to a group of schoolteachers who were having their lunch break. One of them was the English teacher so she came over and gave us the most expressive and precise translation of the menu possible. A happy coincidence! It was a set menu – entrée, main, dessert and wine/coffee for 10 euros! We couldn’t believe that one of the cheapest, unplanned meals we had had in all our travels could have been one of the best. I had a lentil salad for entrée, the stuffed aubergine for main and the fresh melon for dessert. She put down a bottle of wine and a basket of bread on the table and told us not to worry about paying extra for having the bottle. We could have sat there in the sun all afternoon drinking wine in this holy city, but alas we did have to get back to Barcelona before dark.

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