We decided to go to Monserrat by train no matter what the weather. Perhaps we should have rethought that decision because it rained there and didn’t in Barcelona. The train ride was about an hour long and the scenery was less than spectacular due to the fog and rain. I am glad we chose to ride the funicular and not the cable car to the basilica that day. Despite the weather it was very crowded and the line to see the Black Madonna was very long.
The monastery is Catalonia's most important religious retreat and groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat. Virgin of Montserrat (the black virgin), is Catalonia's favorite saint, and is located in the sanctuary of the Mare de Déu de Montserrat, next to the Benedictine monastery nestling in the towers and crags of the mountain. The Escolania, Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir is one of the oldest in Europe, and performs during religious ceremonies and communal prayers in the basilica. Montserrat, whose name means serrated mountain, is approximately 30 miles west of Barcelona. At 4055 ft above the valley floor, Montserrat is the highest point of the Catalan lowlands, and stands central to the most populated part of Catalonia. The Basilica houses a museum with works of art by many prominent painters and sculptors. I particularly enjoyed the paintings of Ramon Casas (1866-1932), a Catalan artist. Living through a turbulent time in the history of his native Barcelona, he was known as a portraitist, sketching and painting the intellectual, economic, and political elite of Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, and beyond.
The Choir doesn’t sing on Saturdays. Because of the inclement weather riding any further up the mountain for hiking and awesome scenery was out of the question. So we went back to the hotel. We had a unique experience while waiting for the train though. Three ladies came up to us asking, in French, if we spoke French. We usually feel like we have “American” tatooed on our foreheads so this was quite a surprise.
Our hotel found the concert venue for the evening. After availing ourselves of the buffet at our hotel, we took the Metro again to Liceu stop and walked into the Barri Gotic to the Basilica del Pi for Pedro Gonzalez’s flamenco guitar. He is a famous Barcelonan musician, who has developed his own language on the guitar - combining traditional Flamenco and modern style in his concerts. He has won several awards in the field of Flamenco guitar, and performed with artists such as Toti Soler, Joan Manuel Serrat, Angelo Branduardi, Victoria de los Angeles, Maria del Mar Bonet, Alejandro Sanz, and Manolo García. The chapel was the perfect setting for his haunting strains.