A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

The Catalonia Capital

Upon arriving in Barcelona, considered the Catalonia capital, you immediately feel in a different country. Not only is the language foreign to Spanish, but the whole atmosphere is quite distinct. We left Granada where the Spanish culture had an exotic Arab vibe which was quite appealing to me, and where locals embrace visitors with a smile and a kind word only to arrive in… well, in Barcelona. Don’t get me wrong, I am not dismissing this city, I am only sharing my initial feelings. To be fair, we did arrive late, we do live in a part of town I would call in a colloquial Ottawan term Vanier, and our whole reception was less than ideal. Then, on our first day in town (which was a Sunday, so again, maybe not the best first impression), I was left a little on the non-impressed side.

This is the last leg of our trip, and I guess I had high hopes. We haven’t been to the Sagrada Familia or even the Picasso Museum (which may very well sway me to love this place!), we still have seven full days of adventures and of Gaudi architecture, so I am certainly not despairing, but I so wish I felt embraced by the locals.

On our second day in Catalunya, we decided to get out of the city and visit Montserrat. Such a good choice! All four of us were thrilled with this monastery town high up on the mountaintop (Montserrat is explained to mean ‘serrated mountain’).

It’s a pilgrimage of sorts where one can visit the basilica which houses La Moreneta (the Black Virgin); Ave Maria Patha small wooden statue which is said to have been carved by St. Luke himself and brought to Spain by St. Peter (let’s just forget about what carbon dating says). Pilgrims (and tourists) can actually touch the Virgin’s hand which holds a royal orb – that is if you are willing to wait hours in line. We figured we were blessed enough as it was and chose to listen to a most talented choir chanting mass.

However, before leaving the basilica grounds, we did pass through the Ave Maria Path lit with hundreds of colorful votive candles giving the passage a serene air of blessedness.

After a quick (expensive!) meal, we made our way the funicular which climbs another 820 feet above the monastery for the most wonderful hiking paths along the jagged mountain edge.

Had it not been for the scorching sun, I believe we would have made this paradise our haven for a few hours. Sant Joan Hiking TrailBut alas, the sun and the day’s train schedule for Barcelona made our escape necessary.

On the ride back, the boys decided to schedule a bike tour of the city the following day while the girls would stroll the Gaudi Avenue to the Sagrada Familia.

We are still hoping to cross into French territory to visit Carcassonne later this week. If this proves too complicated, we are sure to schedule another side-trip escapade but not before visiting the Picasso museum or the handful of other art nouveau museums that are scattered throughout this Catalonia Capital.

Adios!

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