After spending a few culture-packed days in Barcelona, the final stop on our Barcelona tour took us about an hour outside of the city limits on a private tour of the multi-peaked mountain of Montserrat and a nearby winery.
Montserrat – which means jagged mountain – is a popular place to visit – for locals and tourists – because of its proximity to Barcelona, ease of getting there, its religious significance, and, of course, its beautiful scenery on top of and surrounding the mountain. The mountain itself is famous for the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat which houses an ancient wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus. As the story goes, the statue was supposedly carved by St. Luke and brought to Montserrat by St Peter. Over time, it has taken on a darker color (maybe due to smoke or exposure to other elements), leading to its more recent reference as the Black Madonna or The Dark One. And, as you would expect, over the course of many centuries, Montserrat has become a significant religious site to visit for Christians. Today, the monastery is home to less than 100 monks, a boarding school, and one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe.
Getting to Montserrat
There are many ways to get to Montserrat including car, cable car, cogwheel train and you can even hike up the mountain! Our private guide picked us up at our hotel, drove us via a private car to the base of the mountain, where we then took the scenic cogwheel train or funicular up and around the mountain.
When we arrived at the top of the mountain, our guide took us on a historical walking tour of the grounds, including the Basilica where the Black Madonna is housed. The historical overview he provided was incredibly interesting and helped us understand not only the history of the mountain but also its significance to the Catalonians. We even had a little free time to explore the mountain on our own, which we used to take a 20 minute walk to see St. Michael’s cross on the edge of the mountainside. Beyond the cross, we were in awe of beauty of the quaint mountain village and the stunning valley below. After walking back to meet our guide, we stopped at one of the little mountain shops to enjoy fresh Spanish pastries and a complimentary tasting of liquors made by the monks who live on the mountain.
Our Montserrat tour also included a private tour of a local, family owned winery – Finca Ca n’Estella. We arrived to the winery just before the lunch hour and were surprised to see that we were only one of two small groups at the winery. Our guide provided a tour of the entire winery, including where the wines are made, where they are aged and stored, and of the old family-run farm house that is now a small store and tasting room.
Throughout the tour we enjoyed at least 4 beautiful wines including a glass of bubbly cava (my favorite!) The winery also prepared a lovely meal of delicious tapas, more wine (of course!) and even dessert, which included honey glazed palmiers and catanies, cocoa dusted caramelized almonds – amazing!!
The day trip to Montserrat and Finca Ca n’Estella Winery was a fantastic way to end our 5-day, whirlwind trip to Barcelona. As you might expect, the trip was way too short and packed to fully experience the culture, food, history and everything else Barcelona and surrounding area has to offer. But still, the time we spent was quite memorable and meaningful because I was fortunate enough to enjoy it with my family – and that time is so precious these days.
Well, on to the next trip – Spring Break anyone??