A Monastery, A Madonna & A Mountain // Montserrat, Spain

A Monastery, A Madonna & A Mountain // Montserrat, Spain

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(WARNING: This post will impact your bucket list.)

<end cheesy but true advisory>

Back in December while visiting Barcelona, Dan and I set a day aside to tour the monastery at Montserrat. The tour was actually our Christmas gift from my parents and a brilliant one at that (thanks, Mom!). An hour and change from Barcelona we were in another world.

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The site of Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery was first mentioned in 888. For centuries it’s been a destination for pilgrimages as it houses the Black Madonna, patron saint of Catalonia mysteriously discovered in the mountainside centuries ago.

Before scooping out the scenery, we immediately ducked inside to meet this Black Madonna that we’d heard so much about. Some actually believe that this also the site of the Holy Grail (!).

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Since our visit was midweek the wait to meet the Madonna wasn’t all that long. What I found to be remarkable is that the glass case actually opens, allowing you to touch her hand. It was certainly a special moment.

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After strolling the interior courtyard and collecting our thoughts we made our way back to the entrance. But first, Dan quickly had to make a few papal gestures…of course.

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After our exploring inside and meeting the Black Madonna we quickly made our way to the funicular that connects the monastary-level with footpaths above and below. We opted to first descend to explore a shrine in the mountainside seen here.

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We read small bulletins depicting the history of the shrine as we wound our way across the mountainside. There is a lot of history here so I won’t attempt to get into the details. Although I’m not Catholic, the religious significance of the shrine and monastery are incredibly moving. Toss in the notion of stroll along beautiful, jagged cliffs overlooking a craggy valley below and you can imagine the experience.

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After our visit to the shrine we quickly hopped the funicular and made our way to the top of the mountain. The semi-arid climate leaves huge boulders barren with only small shrubs and a handful of trees for vegetation. (Quite a stark contrast from the heavily forested Blue Ridge mountains that I grew up with.)

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As you could have guessed, the views from above were MARVELOUS!

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With the clock ticking on our tour, we descended back down to our drop off point and sipped coffee while we waited for our driver.

 

A photo posted by Margo (@overseasescape) on

Across from us (with a steep valley in between) a biker oddly climbed to the top of rock sculpture, bike in hand, to the applause of many. I was alarmed and terrified for his safety… but appreciated the entertainment. Certainly he knew what he was doing… right?

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Oh, did you think the day was over?

Nope!

As part of our tour, after Montserrat we were driven to a nearby VINEYARD. (Cheering!) Our spunky guide provided a wonderful explanation of their unique bio-dynamic growing processes. Simply, it’s at organic as you can get and as a result their wine has zero sulfates (aka no hangovers!). Log it into memory folks – PARES BALTA wine is a game-changer.

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After touring the cava (Spanish equivalent to champagne and potentially tastier) cellar we headed inside to their beautiful tasting room.

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The pours were generous, the wine and cava superb, I was ohhh so happy!

As the sun began to set on the Catalonian countryside we reluctantly set down our glasses and made our way back to Barcelona.

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Now… about that bucket list of yours, did Montserrat make the cut? πŸ™‚

  • wow! Gorgeous!! I love the mountain backdrop of the monastery!!

    • I agree! it definitely makes for a mystical, dreamy setting! πŸ™‚

  • Wow! Barcelona has never been very high on my to-see list, but I think that’s about to change. That first shot is just….high five, Margo! Definitely want to see that for myself.

    • Thanks so much Sarah! That means a lot coming from a great photographer like you! πŸ™‚ Montserrat is just a short flight from where you’re at so hopefully you can get down there sometime soon!

  • ah, I need to get there ASAP.

    • I hope you do too! And when you do, feel free to bring me along in your luggage because I’d lovvve to go back!

  • Caitlin Travis

    Bucket list is forever impacted, thanks! This place looks totally unreal and I’m sure walking through the monastery and all the incredible scenery made for a pretty inspiring visit. And such excellent pictures! It kind of reminds me a little of Cappadocia, Turkey (minus the monastery and it’s even less green in Cappadocia). The landscape is really unreal there, too. You can’t help but be impressed.

    Btw, I’m absolutely bookmarking hangover free wine!

    • Ohh my, when did you go to Cappadocia and on a scale of 1-10 how much did you love it? The photos from ballooning trips there just look out of this world. It seems like the most exotic destination imaginable.

      Yay for hangover free wine… plus it’s super delicious too! πŸ™‚

      • Caitlin Travis

        I studied abroad in Istanbul so Cappadocia was an obvious choice for weekend trips. I was *this* close to riding a balloon, but our rides were canceled the morning of because of snow. It was pretty devastating. And an obvious re-do.

  • Weirdly, this reminded me a lot of Armenia. Monasteries in the mountains, alcohol maturing in rustic barrels… Though this all looks a BIT more posh πŸ™‚

    • Oh interesting, I’ve never had Armenia on my radar (shameee on me!), when and where did you visit? I’m really interested to see Montenegro one day so I feel like a side trip might be feasible…hmm.

      • It’s definitely not a big tourist destination (most of the tourists we met were Russian backpackers) but it’s awesome. We went in the autumn for about 20 days and it was awesome. So cheap, so beautiful! A++, would buy again!

  • Brianna DePauw

    Wow! That looks gorgeous and the vineyard, cherry on top!

    • Closing the day at a Spanish vineyard is the ultimate cherry on top isn’t it? It was definitely a great day! πŸ˜€

  • Hi there! Montserrat is also famous for fans of football (soccer) because BarΓ§a players go there sometimes. Best regards from a reader from Barna!

    • Hi, Marta! So it’s interesting you mention that, I thought I’d heard something about Barca players paying visits before big matches. I think I would’ve melted if I would’ve seen those guys walking around, muy guapo! πŸ˜€

  • I would go here just for the amazing views!

    • And you’d definitely get them! Such a special place, I hope you get to visit sometime soon! πŸ™‚

  • I looved Montserrat, but I loved all the cheese I was able to taste while up there even more! πŸ™‚

    • What in the what?! Where was the cheese? What the h was I doing tooling around taking landscape shots? #shameonme

      • Holy hell. Okay. Scroll down to picture #27. Mid-bottom, right you will see little tents lining the road/walkway area… When we went, all those little tents were local cheese vendors selling cheese and giving out tasters of whatever you liked… I went tent to tent asking for goats cheese. James was not impressed.

  • This is awesome! Any day out with a wine has me sold πŸ˜‰

    • Ha, seriously… I’m nuts for a good glass of wine. Have you tried cava yet? I swear it’s better than champagne. Dan and I like the idea of ordering cava at restaurants back in the states because it’ll make us interesting, ha. (Or maybe just pretentious expats?)

  • Officially added to the list! Breathtaking views!

    • Weee! Then my job here is done! When you go, feel free to bring me along in your luggage, I’d love to return!

  • Wow, so gorgeous!! My husband just mentioned this evening that he might have a business trip to Barcelona later this year, so I’m thinking if I tag along, maybe we’ll see if we can include this as well!

    • I think that’s an absolutely brilliant idea. Even if you can’t make it out to Montserrat, you should definitely tag along, Barcelona is a winner!

  • WOW! Consider my bucket list officially changed! Can’t believe this so close to Barcelona!? Going this spring for sure. Thanks for an awesome and informative post!!!

    • Oh, absolutely dear! So you’re planning a trip to the area in the Spring? Yay! You’re going to have the best time ever. Pretty please gorge on patatas bravas for me. I’m obsessed.

  • Yep. My bucket list has just changed…again! Loved your pictures, Margo! Thanks for sharing all of this wonderful information and those views! πŸ™‚

    • Oh gal, you are more than welcome! It’s fun (and easy) to share these kind of places because the pictures really speak for themselves.

      By the way, just found your Chocolate Chess pie and pinned it to my desserts pinterest board. Holy monkeys, this thing looks amazing!

  • The monastery’s setting looks GREAT!

    http://itsjpei.wordpress.com/

    • Seriously, sooo stinking beautiful, you’re right! πŸ˜€

  • SO beautiful. when I was in Spain in 2004 we made it to a vineyard [Miguel Torres] but didn’t make it to Montserrat. this is definitely another reason to go back!

    • There you go, I love the notion of “a reason to go back” in reference to travel. There’s just so much to see at any destination, trying to cross off miles long to-do lists detracts from a visit and makes it stressful. You know what I mean? Anyhow, long story short, yep, Montserrat is a winner! πŸ˜€

  • it was on my list before…but now i feel a sense of urgency to visit

    xo Cassandre

    • Haha, I know the feeling! Hope you get to hop over there sometime soon! πŸ˜€

  • What a truly beautiful place!

    • Natural beauty is alwayys a winner for me. Although I loved La Sagrada Familia, I found the mountain views in Montserrat to be truly jaw-dropping.

      …And now Gaudi is going to curse me forever.

  • Elizabeth

    Hallo! Would you mind saying what tour you took? Heading to Barcelona soon and would love to experience this! Also, what airport did you fly into? {sorry, picking your travel brain here!!} Danke!

  • You make me want to go back to Spain so badly!!! Especially after all your posts on Spain. Gorgeous photos! I just love the filter(s?) you use!

    • thankkkkks sweet thing! I’m 10000% sure you’ll be back to Spain within the next year. J B-Dubs gets around!

      (Am I the first to call you that?! Do you love it or hate it? …how much?)

      • I LOVE B-Dubs and eat it all the time when I’m home so I 100% approve of the name. And you’re the first to call me it πŸ™‚

  • Beautiful mountain views and wine, definitely bucket list worthy!

    • I agree. Glad I could cross it off mine… but now I just want to go back and see what it looks like in the summertime… and the fall… and the spring. πŸ˜€

  • This is amazing! (Though I feel like I say that about all of the posts that I read on your blog–but they all really are incredible!!) I love learning about religious icons and visiting religious places, even if I’m not a follower of that particular religion. There’s just so much history and intrigue in these place that I’m a big fan of. Also, I’m a complete sucker for Grail history–I had my eyes peeled when I went to Glastonbury, England, and to Roslin, Scotland (to other places where the Grail might be hidden)! πŸ™‚

    • You’re the sweetest (and I mean that!). I completely agree with you about visiting destinations with religious significance. It adds another dimension to the experience, there’s a tangible feeling to it. You know what I mean? So, prior to this visit I wasn’t aware that there’s actual speculation about where the Holy Grail exists. My understanding was based solely on Harrison Ford’s quests, ha. If you find it, let me know! ;D

  • Margo- Another post that is beautiful written with wonderful photos. When I find a new place like this, it makes me excited and sad at the same time. I want to visit, but I want to visit everywhere and it adds to my ever-growing list! Thanks so much for sharing!

    I also want to comment, that I love that you two get photos of yourselves…we always forget to do that!

    • Thanks so much dear. I really appreciate all your kind words about the blog, it’s definitely a labor of love and it’s so nice to hear that you appreciate it. πŸ™‚ As for the pictures of Dan and I, I have to admit that Dan is a hard one to wrangle into a picture. I have to beg him to smile at times – like a kid! I’m also pretty comfortable at being that annoying girl that forces my camera on to another tourist and asks for a picture. Ha.

  • Sounds like an amazing trip!! Your pictures are beautiful!

    • Thanks so much dear! It surely was!

  • Ashleigh

    I visited Montserrat a couple of years ago, it is incredible isn’t it? I didn’t have that long to do one of the hikes/walks so did I shorter one that led to a really old, small chapel. I remember the views being amazing as well!

    How to be a Wanderluster

    • Yes! I think we visited the same chapel. Kind of wild isn’t it? A little tiny chapel built into the side of a cliff in Spain? It was really moving.

  • amazing. the list definitely just got longer.
    xo, cheyenne

    • Woohoo, then I’ll call that a win!

      Curious, where is the top of your bucket list?

  • This is absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful pictures, well done.

    • Thanks so much Esther – it’s not hard to take beautiful pictures in an amazing place like Montserrat πŸ™‚

  • Traveling Hopefully

    We debated whether or not go to Montserrat on our Barcelona trip. Now I know we’ll have to add it to our list when we go back!

    • There you go! When do you plan on returning to Barcelona?

      • Traveling Hopefully

        No definite plans as our list has many other places to see that we’ve never been to, but Barcelona is definitely a place we love and to which we would like to return.

        • Completely understand! I’m the same way – my ‘list’ is miles long!

  • Foreign Geek

    Your whole blog impact my bucket list. Amazing pictures!

    • Oh boy, welp that’s definitely the goal! So, may I ask where the #1 place on your bucket list is?

  • Beautiful pictures! Spain looks so fabulous. Can’t wait to visit come June…

    https://itsjpei.wordpress.com/

    • That’s so exciting! Where will you be visiting in June?

      • Barcelona and Madrid!

        • So fun! You’re going to have an amazing time!

  • Gorgeous photos. Love your hat, total espanola style.

    • It’s very world of wanderlust-y isn’t it? I have to admit, it majorly affects my peripheral vision, but that’s the price you pay for style right? geh!

  • Wow, beautiful!!! I’m not Catholic either, but definitely would love to go there someday. You were right about the bucket list πŸ˜‰

    • Woohoo, then I’ll call it a win! Really though, it’s an amazing place to see, hope you get the chance to hop over there soon! πŸ™‚

  • Awesome photos! And what a cool ambience the place has. Definitely need to check it out.

    • I sure hope you are able to sometime soon! Montserrat is definitely a winner. Have you been to Spain before?

      • Not yet! But looking forward to going someday. Also, Montserrat is a great font, haha. So the designer in me is already positively biased. ;- )

        • Well thank you! I’m not a designer but definitely have recently taken a big interest in typography. On that note, if you have any pointers on my design, feel free to send them my way. πŸ™‚

  • HandLuggageOnly

    Stunning photos! This looks amazing!

  • Cherry

    That’s a really nice place to visit. I hope I can visit there too.

    xoCherry

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  • Lex Sue

    Hi,
    Nice pictures. It makes me interested to visit there. I hope so soon. Thanks for posting πŸ™‚
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  • Alexandra du Plessis

    Off to Barcelona next week! Montserrat is already on our itinerary, so it’s great to see what we’re getting ourselves into πŸ˜› Beautifully written and beautiful photos

  • Jorja White

    Which tour company did you use? Will be in Barcelona in a few weeks. Thanks.