Last April, Norwegian Cruise Lines had a “Tax-free” sale. On certain cruises, there were no taxes or port charges and the 3rd and 4th passengers were free. Wow…we couldn’t pass this up. We booked a 10 day cruise from Barcelona, Spain to the Canary Islands, Morocco, the Madeira Islands, and the Rock of Gibraltar. Two of our adult children “tagged” along.
We drove to SLC, Utah and then flew on Southwest (using points) to NYC. Southwest flies into LaGuardia, so we stayed over night at hotel near the airport and the next morning took the NYC Airporter to JFK, (where our Barcelona flight fly out of). This is a really inexpensive shuttle between the airports. Even with the cost of the hotel and shuttle, we saved a bunch of money on the flight from SLC to NYC.
We were flying American Airlines to Barcelona and we used our Alaska Air points as they are a companion airline. By using points, we only had to pay the administrative fees. The air costs us $25.00 per person. Since we were using Alaska Air points, we didn’t have to pay for checked bags. We were early as the flight left at 5:45 pm ET, so we explored the airport and we were even able to watch our granddaughter Whitney’s last swim race of the season.
Due to weather we had to de-ice and the first 1 1/2 of the flight was abit rough. Dinner was a welcome sight and actually very good. It was an over-night flight, but we kept ourselves occupied. Since one of the cruise ports was Casa Blanca, Morocco we watched the movie. We slept abit, but mostly people watched and we checked our progress over the Atlantic.
We landed in Barcelona at 6:30 their time, about 40 minutes early. We went through customs and collected our bags. We have found that it is easier to travel with a backpack in Europe due to cobblestone sidewalks and using the trains. We had looked up the city train tickets before we left, but it still took a few minutes to make sure we had the correct one. The passes were 4.50 Euros a piece.
Once off the train, we had to get our bearings to find our hotel. We were able to check in early and took a quick nap before our afternoon tour.
The hotel was nice and everyone crawled in bed before I could take a “nice” picture.
Jim had booked a hotel just around the corner from the travel office where our afternoon tour left from. We checked in with the tour company and had about 30 minutes, so we grabbed a “snack” at Taco Bell. 🙂
Our tour was to the Montserrat Monastery. Our guide was Sryia. She gave a quick over-view of Barcelona. We didn’t hear a lot of the information as we had a very upset toddler in front of us, so we just enjoyed the ride.
Montserrat is 45 km NW of Barcelona. It is famous for the mountain rock formations, the monastery, their children’s choir(7-12 year old boys) and the Black Madonna. 45 million years ago the area was covered by ocean. Sediment was deposited and compressed into rock. The deposits were eroded by wave actions, forming the smooth columns. There was a thick cloud cover when we arrived, so would have to wait for a break to see the mountain columns.
We walked up the hill to the basilica. It is constructed of 3 levels or tiers. The tiers represent the heavenly Trinity.
The top tier is known as St. Mary’s Square. The chapel is located on this tier, as it is the closest to God. In the square there is a sculpture of St. George. The eyes of the sculpture follow you as you walk. St. George is the patron saint of Catalonia
There are 3 trees to the side of the square. An olive tree representing peace, a cypress for reaching to God, and a palm for Christianity.
The weather began to turn cold and foggy….
We entered the basilica and as you walk to the inner court there are some interesting sculptures.
The monastery construction was began in 1560 AD. The current facade of the basilica was constructed in 1906 and depicts Jesus and his apostles.
The inside of the bascilica is very ornate.
Lots of stained glass…
All of the light fixtures are different…
It has a very large worship area.
At the far end of the church up a set of stairs is the Black Madonna…round the 8th century, shepherds saw strange lights on the mountains. When they went to investigate, they discovered a black rock that they thought looked liked the “Madonna”. They tried to move the rock back to their village but as they tried to cross the river, the rock could not be moved any further. They surmised that the “Madonna” wanted to remain on the mountain.
In the 12th century, the present Madonna statue was carved and placed in the basilica. The statue is surrounded by glass but you can touch the sphere in her hand for good luck. The sphere represents the power of the world and the Madonna stands for fertility. The baby Jesus at her side is holding a pinecone representing the Seasons of Nature.
There is an organ loft, where the monks play music.
There is an area where you can light a candle.
With the weather still not cooperating, watched a movie about the monastery and toured the exhibits.
We read about the life of a monk and well as their daily schedule
The clouds had cleared just enough so we could see the mountains surrounding the monastery.
Rather than riding the bus back down, we took the cog train.
It was getting dark but we had some decent views as we descended the mountains, even though we got some reflection from the windows.
At the bottom, there was a display of an early cog train engine and car.
On the way back to Barcelona, lack of sleep finally caught up to Jim and Jade
We had enjoyed our tour to Montserrat but we were tired and hungry. On the way back to our hotel, we were told that a pasta restaurant was very good. It is fresh pasta. You mark a “menu” with your pasta, sauce and add-ons. It was good as well as exciting…as we were ordering a customer got his phone stolen and a chase ensued. Needless to say, we were a bit more vigilant about our backpacks.
After a great meal and short walk to our hotel, we all collapsed in bed. It had been a long 3 days, and we were ready to board the cruise ship in the morning. Buffet line here we come.