My third day in Barcelona was a Sunday and I decided to take the train to Montserrat – a monastery and pilgrimage site in the hills outside the city. The trains take about an hour from the city centre (Plaça d’Espanya) and there is a choice of how you connect from the train to the mountain. The original, and most spectacular, way is to get off at Montserrat Aeri and get the cable car to the monastery. the laternative is to stay on the train and get off at the next station to get the rack and pinion (Cremallera) train which was built in the last 10 years or so. I waited a while when I left the train as there was a queue for the cable car – there was no rush and I was able to get some photos of the river and of the cable cars from the ground before joining the much-shorter queue and managing to get to the front of the cable car so I could take unimpeded photos through the gaps in the safety glass. The cable car journey is jaw droppingly spectacular, with only one cable support between the base station and the top.
On arrival at the main site, I found it pretty busy (it was a hot Sunday, so that’s not surprising) and headed towards the Basilica. There was a queue to enter the crypt but I was happy to go into the main building and take in the rather opulent interior. After I had taken my fill of statues and gold, I went to one of the cafes and purchased a bacon and cheese baguette with a beer.
After my lunch, I headed up towards the path at the rear of the monastery and started the long climb up the mountain above. I quickly found out how unfit I was but the effort was worth it for the incredible views across the valley and beyond. About halfway up, there was a choice of route with the longer route taking an hour and a shorter route towards the Saint Joan funicular back down to the monastery. I decided that the longer route would take too long but was annoyed to find that the funicular wasn’t operating so walked back along a track back down to my starting point.
As a transport geek, I had already decided to take the rack and pinion train down rather than returning on the cable car (required buying two single tickets from and to Barcelona but not that much more expensive).
There was a bit of a wait, so I quenched my thirst with a very welcome beer before managing to get a seat on the train right next to the driver (told you I was a geek). While not as spectacular as the cable car route, the train is stil an impressive journey and the added benefit was that I got a decent seat on the train to Barcelona prior to the cable car hordes joining at the next station.