Free day to recover
08.07.2016 - 08.07.2016 35 °C
Hotel - 1898 Barcelona, La Rambla, 109, Barcelona - Room 340
After our big 12 hour sleep, we are feeling reasonably normal so showered and dressed and wandered down for breakfast. There weren't many people around and we haven't met any other Scenic travellers. We'll all come together at a welcome function tomorrow at 6.00 pm.
We ordered boiled eggs for breakfast and when Phil asked for some salt and pepper, the waitress brought over some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Something lost in translation there! They have the most amazing things on the breakfast buffet, but the most amazing thing of all was a huge, double decker chocolate cake. Even I couldn't face chocolate cake that early in the morning! And the cherries are huge.
Our hotel is in a fabulous position, just a very short walk to the main square. We have a room on the third floor with a cute little balcony.
We wandered up there and bought a ticket on the Hop On Hop Off bus and proceeded to do the red route and the blue route, to give us a bit of an idea about Barcelona. It is a lovely city and the buildings are gorgeous and contrary to popular belief, not every building in Barcelona was designed by Gaudi but nevertheless, they are all beautiful.
Most of the buildings in the inner city have a very unusual feature. The fronts are chamfered which means the square is cut off apparently to make it easier for the trams to see what was coming around the corner, but it has made for very attractive and unusual buildings. All the streets are lined with trees and a lot of them have a green area down the middle - a bit like Northbourne Avenue in Canberra. The city is also extremely clean. It has a very nice feel to it.
This is a statue of Christopher Colombus, pointing to the new world. His finger is half a metre long.
We were supposed to meet our tour guide to Montserrat at 2.45 pm, just near the Hard Rock Cafe in the centre square, so after our Hop On Hop Off bus tour, we headed for the Hard Rock Cafe for a quick lunch because the bus was a bit late getting back. Well, the Hard Rock Cafe was overflowing and it was a 40 minute wait for lunch. Eek! by this time, we only had about 20 minutes before we had to meet our guide.
We dived into MacDonalds and it was absolutely packed, so we went next door to Burger King and absolutely gobbled down our lunch in 15 minutes. How we didn't get indigestion, I'll never know!
We found our guide Oliver with his orange umbrella, and boarded the bus along with 29 others for the hour drive to Montserrat. What a stunning place it is. It reminded us a lot of Meteora in Greece. A monastery set high up in the mountains, run by Benedictine monks. There is also a boarding school there for boys who are members of a choir, but they have to leave when they are 14 because their voices change.
In the church is a statue of the Black Madonna. No one is quite sure why she is black but one thought is that the wood she is carved from (poplar) became black from the candles burned in the chapel. The inside of the church is quite lovely and the Madonna is situated up high, above the altar. We didn't queue up to see her up close. We just viewed her from the church floor.
Then we had some free time so Phil and I caught the vehicular to the top of the hill which gave us magnificant views down on the monastery. We just had enough time to take some photos from the top then caught the vehicular back down the mountain and raced to the bus, with about five minutes to spare. I wanted to buy an icon and we rushed into an icon shop but as we only had a couple of minutes for shopping, I bought a ghastly little wooden statue of the Black Madonna and then raced to get on the bus. There were some really nice icons on the wall, but we just didn't have time to look at them properly. I hope to be able to buy some more icons during our time in Spain / Portugal.
When we got off the bus in the main square, we were absolutely amazed at how many people there were in the area. It was absolutely teeming. I have never seen so many people in the one area in my life. You can't really get the feel from the photos but imagine the Sydney Boxing Day sales and multiply it by 1,000!
Back at the hotel by about 7.30 pm and Phil made contact with the Fullers, who were the first Scenic people to arrive. The wife was sleeping so we went to dinner on our own, at the Tapis bar next door to the hotel. I had my first Sangria in Spain and we had a couple of tapis and a pizza and then came back to the hotel.
We checked out the swimming pool on the roof and discovered a bar and a lovely place to eat in the cool of the evening. We will probably go there for dinner tomorrow night after our welcome function.