Thursday, March 29, 2012


Montserrat from below

From above
On one of my days in Barcelona, I took a nice trip to Montserrat, a mountain benedictine monk retreat about an hour northwest of Barcelona.  I had been encouraged to go by a friend who had visited, and this may have been my favorite part of my entire trip.  I love cities and architecture, but I also love nature.  So, this journey was perfect.  To see some beautiful, simple architecture nestled in a mountain setting while having the opportunity to do some hiking on a gorgeous spring day.  It was pretty fantastic!

A bit of history from

The history of Montserrat is fascinating and started in 880 when a small group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the Montserrat mountains. In the same moment the children heard angels singing and the music filled their hearts with a radiant joy.  Overwhelmed by the experience the children ran home to frantically recall the experience to their parents. The parents were sceptical but knew their children were trustworthy and honest and so they went to where the children had experienced the visions to see if they could see what all the fuss was about.  For the whole month following the first visitation the parents were also witness to the same heavenly experiences and were left with only one conclusion. The visions were a sign from God.

A local vicar was brought to the scene and witnessed the same experiences as the children and parents. The visions occurred in the same location in a cave on Montserrat mountain. When this cave was explored by the religious elders of the community they found an image of the Virgin Mary. And from that moment on the cave became a holy sanctuary for religious pilgrims.Today the site of the visions has been marked by a Holy Grotto on the mountain. You can walk to the Holy Grotto and see first hand where these events took place. The Holy Grotto has now be ordained a holy place and is visited by pilgrims and curious onlookers from all over the world.

Gorgeous views from the grounds

I enjoyed how the architecture complimented the natural surroundings.

Those snow capped mountains are part of the Pyrenees mountain range

There was something about the beauty and peacefulness of this place that was incredibly calming and relaxing and yet rejuvenating.  The gorgeous weather helped a lot as well!

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Entering the cathedral

These two videos share brief moments of the boys choir's concert they do daily.  These boys come from all over Spain to study music at Montserrat and honestly their brief 10-minute concert was incredible.  The first shows them better while the second is more for your listening enjoyment.  Their voices were so crystal clear and just beautiful.

You can take a funicular up to the top of the mountain which I almost didn't do.  However, it was simply spectacular up there, and I'm so glad I did it!

Funicular track

Everyone loves a good self portrait

At the top of the mountain there are several cave dwellings and other religious sites. 

I love paths in Europe.  To the left, there is a severe drop off of several thousand feet and yet there is no railing or signs warning people to be careful.  I enjoy that common sense prevails here.

Small church nestled up on top of the mountain - it was maybe 20 feet by 20 feet.

A cave dwelling above this small church

Looks like it has a face

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Casa Batllo

Casa Battlo - and yes, that's meant to look like a dragon on the top

I enjoyed Gaudi's work so much, it is taking 3 posts to share all my pictures.  The last stop on my Barcelona Gaudi tour was Casa Batllo.  This house for a local wealthy family was renovated by Gaudi.  In this work, he decided there should be no straight lines.  It felt like being in a carnival fun house in a way as it was so surreal.

In the study - a personal fireplace area

The living room

Not a bad window on the world

A cool column - and still no straight lines

Even the walls are rounded

Outdoor patio on the main floor with gorgeous tiles

That's right - even the floor is curved

The tiles in the light/airshaft.  The tiles are different shades of blue going from light to dark to enhance the natural light and make the light even throughout the building so it wasn't brighter up at the top.

Glass in the stairwell going up - also not straight.  Designed to look like you're underwater.

The attic - this area was designed to wash and dry clothes.  Natural light and fresh air at all times - yet also protected from any inclement weather.

Lights in the attic ceiling - they look like smiles to me.

The rooftop terrace - up close with the dragon

The water storage room - now a cool fountain

One last underwater moment before leaving.  I had to tear myself away from this building - I was ready to move in!