Having time in my hand, I am sitting on my Ikea Big boss chair, with my big belly writing this blog, with some tiny ticklish kicks from baby.
I am finally writing my blog about one of my favourite place when I was in Barcelona last year, which I have yet to blog about.
As it was my second time in Barcelona, I decided to venture a little further away from the city and taking an off the beaten path trip. After reading many raving comments about this place, I decided to give it shot. Honestly, I was a little scared, as I had to plan everything from the train station journey and all. And the timing must be accurate, or I would miss the ride back to the city. Nonetheless, I gave it a shot.
First thing first!
How to go to Monsterrat Monastery
You need a full day, in order to enjoy the the place, and the last train back to the city is 645pm. There is nothing very fanciful in the night, so it is more of a day trip.
I found this website very helpful in helping me plan: http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/tour/barcelona-montserrat.html ,just remember that one of the highlights of the place is the famous Basilica choir boy performances of Gregorian chants and other genres of religious choral music. The performances can be heard free of charge in the Basilica at 13:00 daily with the exception of Christmas holidays, July and some other festive periods during the year. So when you decide your train timing, do take this into consideration.
After deciding the time I wish to take the train, which was to reach the Plaça Espanya station at 10:36 am, I went to the entrance of R5 railway line. Make sure you reach earlier so that you can choose a good seat as its a 1hr journey. The later you go, it will have more people taking the cable and all. Yes, yes, its my Singaporean Kiasu syndrome.
When you reach the Plaça Espanya, you will see a booth that has staff recommending which ticket you should buy. If you have the whole day free for the trip, I suggest to buy the Trans Monsterrat Ticket (26.60 Euros) which includes the following:
1) Return train ride from Barcelona to Montserrat, either with the Cable car ride option to the monastery, or if you prefer the Track Train mountain train ride – but remember you need to specify which when you buy this ticket because they are not interchangeable. You either buy a Cable Car version or you buy the Cremallera version of this ticket. Once you have selected your ticket version you cannot use the other method.
I chose the Cable car option, which means both to and fro would be Cable car rides. You cannot chose 1 way Train and 1 way Cable car.
Trust me, if you are not afraid of heights, Cable Car is the way to go!!
2. The ticket also includes 2 return journeys on 2 different funicular rides (funicular is a mountain train that goes up steep slopes). You catch these funicular rides once you arrive at the monastery and not to be confused with the funicular ride to the Monastery from the train from Barcelona which is called the Cremallera funicular. These funicular rides give you access to different parts of the mountain and you will be able to visit the very top of Montserrat mountain as well as visit Santa Cova cave. You will also be able to go on some mountain walks with amazing views. Normally you would have to purchase the funicular tickets separately once you arrive at Montserrat but with this ticket the two funicular return rides are included in the price.
Make sure you check out the timing as well, dont miss the last train/cable back to the city while you are up on the cable.
3. You also have 2 free metro rides with this ticket. Each metro ticket costs €2.15 each.
Super worth it!!! Cover my trip back to the city and for another metro ride.
There are no discounts for pensioners or children with this ticket because the ticket already offers a discount for the fares. e.g. if you purchased the funicular rides separately (once you arrived at Montserrat monastery) you would need to pay an additional€10.00 (Return) or return or €6.60 single for the funicular from the Monastery to the top of Montserrat mountain and/or another €3.20 return or €2.00 single for the funicular ride to Santa Cova Cave from the Monastery.
4.Access to the audio visual area on Montserrat.
Which is a must go!!! You must not miss this!
Although it is possible to walk both of these destinations from the Monastery it is not recommended because it is pretty steep and not an easy walk. And it will take you one night fall to walk the steep path.
Things to bring when you are planning this trip:
1) Water bottle is a must!!! You can purchase up there, there is a convenience store and a restaurant. But me being on budget, I brought my own.
2) A sandwich or some food, as you don’t want to miss the choir while buying food (which is always long Q), so its better to grab a bite first!
3) Sunglasses or umbrella (its can get really sunny)
4) Camera, of course!
5) Good pair of shoes (walking on pebbles is not comfortable)
Now we are all set, so lets go!
Caught the cable car ride, super excited to up up into the sky!
Just check out how far up have we gone!
And we finally reached the top!!
Enjoying the beautiful view of landscape, I sat down to have my sandwich which I bought for the trip, which was indeed very gratifying.
After meal, I started exploring the place….By then, it was already 12.15pm, I begin my search for the choir boys!
And walked towards the direction of the church (Basilica) and i saw a Q.. my heart sank…
If you see on the right of the picture, there was a seriously long Q, after waiting for like 15 mins, the Q didnt even seem to be moving, I got a little anxious. The choir boys is gonna be performing at 1pm!! I dont want to miss it! There was a policeman patroling, finally with a little courage, and my broken spanish, I asked him, if this is the Q for the choir. Surprisingly, he understood and pointed the other entrance on the left which has no Q!!! The first q was actually to see the Black Madonna, the Virgin Mary. I didnt want to wait, thus, I gave up on seeing the Black Madonna, and spend more time elsewhere.
I immediately make a dash for it and came to big space…
This is the entrance of the church hall! I quickly made my way and since I am all alone, I decide to be shameless and provide better picture for blog, I went all the way to the front second row.
Check out the crowd that is already anticipating the performance! A little background about the Montserrat Choir boys…
They are also known as L’Escolania de Montserrat.
Montserrat is home to one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe. Documents testify to the existence of a religious and music school in Montserrat as far back as the 14th century.
L’Escolania choir school is a children’s choir of sopranos and “altos”. When the repertory requires it they are accompanied by the Montserrat Chapel Choir, formed by old choirboys and by the monks of the Monastery Chapel Choir.
L’Escolania sings every day in the Basilica of Montserrat, often to a great affluence of pilgrims and visitors from all over the world. With their song, the choirboys transmit the beautiful message of the gospels which transcends linguistic, cultural and even religious frontiers. The midday Salve has become, over the past decades, the most visited daily act of the Sanctuary.
Since the end of the 60’s they have ventured further afield than the Basilica of Montserrat and have given concerts in the villages and towns of Catalonia and around the world. The most important in the last year have been with the l’Orquesta de les Nations, conducted by Jordi Savall and their participation in the opera “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Benjamin Britten in the Gran Teatre del Liceu, in Barcelona. (credits: http://www.escolania.cat/index.php?md=articles&id=343&lg=3)
Choir Performance schedule:
From Monday to Friday:
1.00 pm Salve and Virolai
From Monday to Thursday:
6.45 pm Vespers, Salve Montserratina and Polyphonic Motet
The Boys’ Choir does not sing
Sundays and religious holidays:
12.00 pm Salve and Virolai
6.45 pm Vespers, Salve Montserratina and Polyphonic Motet
You really wont want to miss it, the beautiful singing and peaceful environment do make you make you feel relax.
After the performance, I was hungry again, decided to have some lunch at a shop that sells you typical sandwiches, hotdogs and all. And even had a chat with an old Russian man who was waiting for his wife.
Started looking for my next cable car ride…
If you see those small little houses by the hills, those are the starting point to the Santa Cova or the top of the mountain!
Usually there will be a Q, so I only managed to visit the top of the mountain and gave the Santa Cova a miss.
After looking at this picture, I was thinking this guy behind me in blue checkered shirt, seriously looked like Jon Lovitz. I remembered him from the sitcom, Friends, where Rachel went on a blind date with a drug addict.. Hhahaha they are looked very similar!
Up, up, here we go!
I can only say the view up here is totally worth it!!! The air is so clean and the view is so magnificent. I think I was 1200m high up in on mountain. If I had known, I would have brought a picnic bag and just sit somewhere and have a meal. I saw a girl sketching when I was at the top too!
I must warn you, do wear shoes that has very thick soles. I nearly died when I was in Paris and walking with my boots that had very thin soles. The uneven roads and walkways were a killer. These shoes that I wore this time round is my favourite!! It was like 4 cm thick, I was so comfortable walking on the pebbles and rocks. And mind you, the walkway from the beginning to the end was all pebbles and rocks. I bought it at Bugis for just 40 bucks! I was shocked to see this girl wearing heels, totally not advisable if you want to make it out here.
I must say the whole experience at Montserrat is totally worth the time and not to be missed if you can visit.
Another thing not to forget is the audio visual room when you back at the main area. It would be located together at the gift shop. This is included in the package that I bought at the train station. Why is it important? At the audio/visual room where you would watch this video that shows the whole view of the Montserrat and the choir singing. The song was so mesmerising and the view was indeed beautiful!!! It reminds me when I was young and my parents brought me to Science Centre, where there is a Omni-theatre, the visuals were like touchable! I was in awe…
There is very big gift shop where I think the restaurant is located, I cant remember, which I bought some small gifts and I really liked their diffuser which has a scent that is very special, only in Montserrat.
That’s all! Will try my best to blog again soon!!