Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Barcelona - Montserrat and a little bit of Cava!

A delay from Genoa, bad weather and marine traffic all attributed to us running late into Barcelona today. 

Our tour was with Barcelona Day tours, and it was a great relief that we found Joe our guide, patiently waiting for us outside the terminal.  Once safely buckled up in our bus, Bebe our driver, was off on our way to our destination of Montserrat.

“Serrated Mountain” is the literal meaning, and that is exactly what it looks like. It’s dramatic ridge jagged like an oversized hacksaw.  Now if you have been reading my blog from the start you may remember our visit to the Wadi Rum in Jordan.  I mentioned how some of the rock formations were very similar to others that we have seen around the world - well this is one of them. 

Why is Montserrat so holy? Well let me tell you a story.

Back in 880 AD a small group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky into the Montserrat mountains. At the same moment they heard angels singing and the music filled their hearts with a radiant joy.  Excitedly they ran home and told their parents, and with a bit of scepticism, they went to see what all the fuss was about.  For the next month, the parents were also witness to this phenomenon, and of course, there could only be one conclusion…. A sign from god!!

The visions occurred in the same location in a cave on the mountain, and when explored by the religious elders of the community, they found an image of the Virgin Mary. From that moment on the cave became a holy sanctuary for religious pilgrims and is known as the Holy Grotto.

Montserrat was built to facilitate the worship of the Black Madonna.  There are lots of theories as to why she is black.  Is it a portrayal of an African Madonna? is it the colour of the wood? No, it is simply a case of the wood darkening over time.  Visitors queue for the opportunity to touch the virgin’s hand to pay homage to her and to baby Jesus that sits on her lap.

The Benedictine Monastery not only adds to the religious significance but is a predominate feature surrounded by this breathtaking landscape.  With a rumour that the Holy Grail is hidden there, the monastery has been attacked by not only Napoléon, but also the Germans, both ignoring the mountainous and rugged conditions to claim the prize.   The Germans had technology on their side and they built a cable car which is now used move people around the site.

There is a funicular that takes you up even higher into the mountains.  You can walk along the tracks for 5 minutes or you can complete a two-hour circuit, and you are always guaranteed a spectacular view. There are restaurants, shops even a little market selling local specialities such as wines, liqueurs, cheeses and nuts. Dried figs mashed and shaped into logs or round cakes, decorated with nuts and dried fruits were very popular.

France has Champagne, Italy has Prosecco and Spain has Cava.  Nothing like its Fijian name sake, this sparkling white is delicious. Art Cava was the small family winery that we called into. First, we were taken for a tour of the old home and then into the winery itself.  We visited the underground cellar where our host gave us the low down on how cava is made.  Gone are the days of the individual turning of each bottle. Bottles are stacked into purpose built crates that are rotated on one axis every so many days to enable the sediment to accumulate in the neck of the upside-down bottle.

The trick is how to get the sediment out without spilling a drop. Bottles are placed in a machine that freezes only the neck to around -20 deg.  The lid is popped and the frozen gunk pops out. The next machine inserts the cork, on goes the seal and labels, then it is ready for purchase.  What do they do with all that gunk you ask… well it basically sugar and it is used to make Grappa.

An excellent tasting as the wine flowed freely and you just had to keep tasting until you could choose your favourite one.

It was a late sail out, so we chose to head back into Barcelona for paella and sangria.  Las Ramblas was in full swing and they really do boast the best human statues that spring into life with every donation.  Making our back onto the ship in time for our 11 pm sailaway it was another excellent day.

Gaznjo’s Port Tips

Don’t be tricked into paying for a ship’s shuttle in to town.  Barcelona has the Blue Port Bus, and for 4 euros return or 3 euros one way, it will drop you off at the same place. 

Our Tour :


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