20.04.2009 10 °C
Today is officially my last vacation day in Barcelona and I was so ready for it to be over. The city is great and all but....I just wanted to get back to the familiar and most importantly, speak to people!!!! Yes, I was excited to return to my temporary home, Germany.
But, before I left, I had one more full day in Spain and it included touring. I was very excited about this tour as I was sure it would be a full day of adventure and fun. And, it was! The tours name is Montserrat, Wine and Sitges Day.
Sometimes I feel that staying in one place too long is a waste. If I am in a country, I like to see as much of it as I can and refuse to stay in 1 place, looking at the same things over and over again. My impatient tendencies rears her head all the time. That is why I chose this tour, to get out of the city for a day and see another part of Spain.
After a hotel breakfast, it was time for my day tour outside of Barcelona. I remembered seeing this trip offered by viator when I was initially planning my trip to Barcelona but I put it out of my mind because I was supposed to be with some friends during the weekend here but....that didn't work out. This tour was not on the top of my list at all. I really wanted to hike the Pyranese mountains but the dates and times didn't work out in the end. Little did I know I would be hiking today anyway!
After meeting the tour bus, we were on our way. The drive was approx. 40 minutes outside the city center and the first stop was, Torres Winery.
It was beautiful there. We were first shown a movie style display of their wine making process, without giving away too much details, of course. This interactive movie included all the senses with the smells of smoke (for the barrels), spring and summer (when the fruit is growing and harvested) and concord grapes (ready for picking to make tasty wine). Then it was onto a train on wheels tour to visit the wine vats and a showing of the vinyards history. The Pièce de résistance was being able to see all the barrels of wines aging in the Torres cellar. It was an amazing display. Next was the wine tasting!
We each got a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and that wine was damn good.
Light, fruity and not too dry. We had some free time afterward to explore the winery store and stock up on wines if we wished. I passed on the wines (there is more than enough in Germany to quench my thirst) but I did buy a cookbook. One of my missions is to buy a cookbook from each country that I visit and I started here. Catalan Country Kitchen by Marimar Torre was a great deal at 7.75euro as the books in the tourist office started at 13euro!
Next stop, Monsterrat. We hopped on the coach again and headed to the mountains. After about 30 minutes we were there. The rock formations were in plain view upon arrival and very impressive already. We jumped on a funicular and went up the 5ks to the top. I'm afraid of heights, but put it aside for this experience. I had to, since I knew I would not be back to this part of Spain ever again.
On a personal level, I had an awakening on the ride up to Montserrat. While looking out the window at the beautiful and wonderful formations, I all of a sudden realized why God granted me this work experience. It was to first and foremost work and do a good job and represent my origin office in an outstanding way. I was here to use the skills I possessed and learn and expand my knowledge base for my future. I was here to work with and meet some wonderfully smart, motivated and innovative people. And, I was supposed to broaden my horizons. See things that I only dreamed of. That seemed to be my "Ah, hah" moment, right on the mountain side of Montserrat.
At Montserrat, I was only interested in a few things. I wanted to see the Black Madonna and view as much of the mountain as I could. After getting off the funicular, I viewed a short movie on the history of Montserrat and the monestry. I looked around the museum a bit but lost interest.....not an art lover.
I was going to take a funicular to the top of the mountain but after wandering off, I mistakenly found the (mountain) walking path up the formation with steps. Shrugging, I decided to start climbing. I was worried I wouldn't get any physical activity today since my ass would be on a bus all day, but this hike put that worry to rest real fast. I climbed and climbed and puffed and climbed. It was really fun but since I only had 3 hours at Montserrat, I called it quits about 1 mile up the mountain.
Making my way down was scary as it had started to rain lightly and rain + Acrophobia is NOT a good combination. I climbed slowly down as the steps are very narrow and kept my eyes on each step avoiding looking at side of mountain right next to me. It took about 20 minutes to get down (I think) and the experience was harrowing but exhilerating at the same time.
I was getting hungry but skipped eating to see the Madonna at Santa Maria de Montserrat church. Once again, I stepped into a long as hell line. And, waited. And, waited and waited. I was in that line for well over an hour (but got great pictures along the way).
Then, finally, I was able to see her, the Black Madonna. I am not Catholic but I am Christian and seeing this divine statue was truly epic for me. I was in awe. This is what travel is all about for me: being mesmorized!
Looking at the time I realized I had 15 minutes to get out of the church, get something to eat, use the washroom and get back to the bus on time. I basically flew down the stairs of the basilica, took a few pictures, ran to a sandwich shop, used the washroom, bought a sandwich and drink and high tailed it to the bus, which was about 1/4 of a mile away.
Of course, I had to take a few pictures, while running, of the cloud covered mountains on the way to the bus.
After I settled in, meeting the bus with about 5 minutes to spare, I ate my sandwich and promptly fell asleep. Our next stop was the city of Sitges (pron: Seeges). Personally, this was a waste of time. We were met by a local tour guide who walked us around and explained about the modern colonization of this small fishing city.
Sitges was populated by the nouveau riche, Americanos, who made their vast fortunes in the West Indies and came back to the city to show off their incredible wealth by building huge obscure houses. I guess the tour could have been interesting but to me, it was really dry. So far I had enjoyed my day so I guess this evened the score.
After the tour, we were left with an hour and a half of free time. I wandered around and took in the beach. Sitges is supposed to be a great tourist magnet in the summer with its 7 beaches but on a day like today, freezing, windy, grey, it was just bleak and boring.
Pics of Sitges
I bought a great hot chocolate you had to eat with a spoon, walked around, looked in shops and made my way to the bus. It was time to head back.
After getting back to the city center, I walked down La Rambla, took it all in at night and went to the hotel. I packed up and fell asleep aroound midnight ready to get back to Kornwestheim and my new friends.