A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

Category Archives: Spain

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.


There are images on the web, there are blog posts describing it, there is even a TripAdvisor review for it, yet this fountain of youth is as elusive for us as is the Loch Ness Monster.

To recap… This morning, we (ok, I) had read with flourish and a note to the effect of Take a sip and let the years fade away…  that a Fuente del Aceituno laid at the back of the church in Sacromonte. As the Mirador de San Nicolas (viewpoint) and the Albayzin Moorish quarter was on today’s visiting list for the family, I knew that the Sacromonte neighborhood was but a very short distance away. We had taken a minibus to get us to the Plaza de San Nicolas as the tiny winding roads were quite steep, but I was able to convince the family to walk down so as to enjoy the view and the many cave-like houses and establishments encased in the rocky hillside on our way to town.

Upon the crossroad to Sacromonte, I made my case for its authentic Roma community and… The Fountain of Youth! Especially after last evening’s tapas tour where Justin and I realized we were the only adults who could legally drink in the group and further being told after enjoying a glass of vermouth that only 50-year-olds drink this, a trip to a fountain of youth could sound appealing.

So up the winding road we went searching for the town’s church. It was hot, it was steep, we were tired, we were hungry, but I was persevering; I wanted to reach this fountain (of water or oil aceite ??). Regardless if water or oil flowed from it, I was on a mission. Another steep incline and another before I saw a spire, yes! we were close. But alas, this church could not be accessed from the main road. It seemed to be only available to locals through secrets passageways and private yards. And even more disturbing, we could see all around the building without so much as a watering (oiling?) hole in sight.

As I made my way down the road, somewhat defeated, with an upset family in tow, my son says to me that maybe the fountain of youth is simply a story to make you hike up those hills in order to exercise and keep the body ‘young’. Well, that could definitely be so. Also, a sip from an unknown water source is really never a good idea, but this 40-something woman is still keen in finding… the waters of youth!