Barcelona Day 2 – Montserrat

We woke up at 9am, and Katie felt extremely tired after sleeping 7 hours. Nonetheless, we got out of bed, enjoyed the tea, coffee, juice, bread, ham, cheese, and chocolate pastries left out by our hosts, and then realized we were running a bit late. We hurried to our metro station. JT used our combined ticket first and ran next to the train holding up his arms while Katie re-ran our ticket. Thankfully the driver waited and we barely caught the train and took it to Espanya station.

Breakfast set-up at our AirBnB

At Espanya we followed signs for the R5, bought TransMonserrat tickets (€29.3 each for the combined ticket with cable car), and boarded the train with just 4 minutes to spare. We were thrilled to board the train, but were very disappointed that the entire train was already standing room only, with even all the wall space for leaning taken. It was a long hour ride to Montserrat Aire.

Sign for suburban trains, including the one to Montserrat
Ticket machine where we bought our TransMonserrat tickets.  Be sure to know what type of tickets you want before using the machine, as no details on different ticket types are given.
Hurrying for the R5 train
The 10:36am R5 to Monterserrat was standing room only throughout the entire train

The R5 reached Montserrat Aire on time at 11:37am. We knew all of the tourists flooding off the train would clog the cable car line, so we hurried. This put us ahead of about half of the tourists, as we were in the front car and had to move around people on the platform once we exited. We’d recommend trying to take the last train car (or moving there before the stop) and then hurrying off the train if you plan to take the cable car.

Crowds leaving the R5 to take the cableway to Montserrat
The line for the cableway extended into the tunnel under the railroad tracks
The entrance to the cableway
View of the cablecar route from the bottom station
After waiting in line for the cableway for 24 minutes, we boarded the cableway. It seems that as long as you do not board at the very end, you should get a window. The cableway took only 6 minutes from bottom to top. Note that there are only two cablecars that alternate – hence, if you have a quick or time sensitive trip, the rack railway is likely a better choice.

A full cablecar
View of the cablecar route from the top station
View of the cablecar headed up to Montserrat
Since we had changed our plans for today at the last minute (we had planned to go skiing), we were not able to pack a lunch. Hence, we started our time at Montserrat in the cafeteria. Prices in the cafeteria are expensive for what you get – but as the monastery is secluded, they have a captive audience and could charge much more. We opted for two pasta of the day plates (€5.85/plate) as well as fries (€3.80). The dishes were not bad, and they had out extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper to use.

A sizable line at the cafeteria for warm food
Our lunch of pastas of the day and fries

After eating lunch, we took the clear-topped Santa Cova funicular down to “Al Camí de la Santa Cova”. From the bottom of the short funicular we walked to La Santa Cova along an up and down slippery path with statues depicting the life of Jesus. At the end of the path was La Santa Cova, which had a quaint chapel and an interesting/strange room of offerings to Mary. It was an eclectic collection of items, ranging from motorcycle helmets to wedding dresses to baby diapers.

View of the monastery from the Santa Cova path
View of the chapel at the end of the 1/2-mile path
Collection of offerings to Mary in a room adjacent to the chapel
One of the statues on the Santa Cova path with the monastery in the background

Once we walked back to the funicular, we took it to the main Montserrat area and the basilica. We waited in a long line that we originally thought was to enter the basilica – but it was actually to enter the crypt, a small chapel, and some beautiful mosaic areas.

Passageway back toward the crypt
Candles along the “Cami de l’Ave Maria” (Ave Maria Path)

After seeing these areas, we visited the main basilica which was grand and had a strange side chapel with an interesting wood depiction of Jesus that looked like he had been frozen in carbonite.

Inside the sanctuary, view towards the “Virgin of Montserrat”
JT outside the sanctuary

After seeing all of the basilica, we took the Sant Joan funicular to high above the monastery. We only had an hour to explore before the last funicular returned, so we walked a short distance in each direction. Of course, it would have been fun to explore more, but we felt we were able to gain an appreciation for some of the natural landscape in just an hour. We did meet a super sweet cat near the upper funicular station. This cat became even sweeter once we got out some of our cat food and fed it!

Views from the Sant Joan funicular
At the top of the Sant Joan funicular
Pretty mountain views near the upper station of the Sant Joan funicular

JT with the sweet cat

We took the 2nd to last funicular down to the main monastery, bought some postcards (€0.65 each), and got in line for the cableway. We got in line at 5:15pm and finally got on the 5:40pm cable car.

The crowd of people waiting for the cableway back to the train station

The cable car ride down seemed much faster than the ride up – we assume they were trying to speed people down from the monastery. We watched the 5:45pm train back to Barcelona depart as we were ascending.

We went to check the next train time, and we found it to be 6:05pm (which confirmed what Katie had seen on Google Maps). With 15 minutes to spare, we walked down to a bridge across a nearby river to look at the river below. We got back to the train platform in plenty of time.

The 6:05pm R5 train appeared at Montserrat Aire on tine, but it was a much shorter train than the one used at 5:45pm and in the morning. Hence, our strategic positioning near the end of the platform backfired and we ran all the way to the opposite end to board. We were rewarded with seats!

The short R5 train

Katie blogged during the train ride back, while JT blogged for a while before deciding to sleep.

We tried to go have dinner at a paella restaurant (La Paradeta) in the Born neighborhood that was highly recommended by our hosts, but were disappointed when we found the restaurant closed for the holidays.

After searching for a while on Google, Katie decided on nearby Bar Rodriguez. Their €9.90 menu was a good deal, and JT went for it. Katie didn’t really like any of the options though, and ordered two tapas – shrimp and patatas bravas.

JT selected items from this daily menu
Katie’s shrimp and patatas bravas dinner
JT’s seafood paella, which took much effort in order to de-shell the seafood
JT’s main course
JT’s dessert (a flan-like treat)

On our way back to the apartment, we saw an advertisement for “orxata” at Gelateria Italiana Pagliotta. Knowing this to be the Catalan term for Katie’s beloved horchata, we stopped to try it out. Sadly, we were a bit disappointed – mainly with the grainy texture and the size. The 8oz cup cost a whopping €2.3! Win some, lose some!

Full-day FitBit stats:
Steps: 16,510
Miles: 7.57
Flights of stairs climbed: 96
Calories: 3,385

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