April 26, 2015 - Barcelona
The sky is a bit grey and dreary looking today. Good thing I have two umbrellas!
Leaving the ship is always sad. Our disembarkation time was 9.30 am so we did not have to rush. We had our usual breakfast in the Lido, said goodbye to some new friends, packed up and walked the deck a bit until we ( green #1) were called to disembark. James realized that he forgot to play his usual game of solo shuffleboard so he decided to do that. He was a bit rusty at first but then pulled it together (video). We said goodbye to the Eurodam and collected our luggage.
We booked two days post cruise in Barcelona with the Travel with Alan group. There were buses waiting for us to whisk us away to the beautiful Montserrat.
The ride to Montserrat was about an hour. Our guide Oriel told us about St. George's Day (a day when roses and books are exchanged because a dragon was slain) and told us that tomorrow is Montserrat Day, a big celebration at the basilica. We can expect crowds!
Montserrat is the spiritual soul of Catalan. In 880 some young shepherds saw a light emanating from a mountain. They went exploring and found the light was coming from a cave and inside the cave was a statue of Madonna - a black Madonna. There was a very peaceful and spiritual feeling around the cave. The bishop at the time tried to carry the Madonna away but the statue became very heavy. Obviously this meant the Madonna wanted to stay in this special place in the mountains, so the Benedictine monks founded the monastery. I actually think the same thing happened to my suitcase on the Eurodam. It got really heavy because it didn't want to leave the ship.
The monks work hard and the monastery is prosperous. They were able to hide the black Madonna from the likes of Napoleon in the 1800's, but he destroyed the basilica. The basilica we visited has been reconstructed and is only 120 years old. People from all over the world do pilgrimages to Montserrat. Here is a Rick Steves video about the area.
The scenery is breathtaking. When we arrived the clouds made it look mysterious and spiritual. Our guide gave us a tour of the area and then let us explore on our own. We decided to squish in the basilica for the last part of mass (15 or 20 minutes). I have never been pushed so much at mass. Communion was especially dangerous! We stayed to listen to the boys' choir for a bit. Then we lit candles and walked around the area until it was time to meet the group.
The bus took us to our hotel in Barcelona - Catalonia Ramblas. It's in a perfect location in an interesting old building. The room is spacious - though we have been in a small cruise ship room for the past three weeks so almost anything would seem spacious.
We went out exploring and found the Gaudi apartments - Casa Mila with its twisted wrought iron balconies and Casa Batllo which has characteristics of a dragon - could be a reference to St. George.
We came back to the hotel and met the group for dinner. We went for seafood paella at a restaurant by the water. James and I forgot to wear our Travel with Alan buttons which is frowned upon. Our salad had a whole wheel of caramelized goat cheese on it. It was good but probably a little more cheese than I can eat in a sitting. After paella we had a lemon sorbet drink and cake for dessert. There was a lot of wine and different aperitifs. One was made from herbs and was kind of medicinal. It was good.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed some free wifi before bed.