Monday on my own

Today turned out to be dedicated to dairy: I grabbed a quick ham and cheese sandwich and coffee for breakfast since that was all I recognized at the pop in place by the tour bus stop; cheese was the only thing I recognized at lunch, so I had a cold cheese and tomato sandwich; and for dinner I had sangria and a pizza. Not a piece (or two) of pizza mind you … a pizza. Throw in an ice cream bar and you’ve got yourself some serious dairy.

Today was overcast and in the low 70s so quite a contrast from yesterday. The other contrast was in the form of a 7 am wake-up call. Suffer! I had a tour bus to catch a quick cab ride from the hotel and Dan had meetings to get to. My tour was amazing! First stop was Colonia (accent over the second o) Guell (two dots over the u) about 30 minutes outside of Barcelona. This is what we would call a mix between a planned community and a mill town that was set up in the 1890s. It is referred to here as an industrial colony and this one produced fabric/textiles. There were 1,000 workers, each of whom got a home to rent from the owner of the town. There were schools for the children, a theater, a church, and low and behold jobs for wives. A nunnery was set up so that children could be cared for. Nursing moms could even leave work to feed their babies. A very revolutionary and successful concept.

The church, on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, was designed by Gaudi and is very cool even though only the bottom level, or crypt, was completed before construction funds were diverted in support of  WW I. It is the size of a chapel and Gaudi’s usual combination of Disney, fairy-tale, and whimsical with more than a touch of the unexpected. He experimented with cement and used it for the floor as well as sculpted cement columns. No one is buried there in spite of its name … Crypt of Colonia Guell.

Colonia Guell stopped producing textiles in the 70s and the resident workers had the first opportunity to buy their small homes, which most of them did. It is now a sought after small bedroom community. Anyway, after we walked the small town, visited the museum, and had a sample of cava, sparkling wine from the region, we headed out of town.

Next top: Montserrat Basilica and Monastery. What a stunner this place is! Literally tucked up against the mountain like it has been since its beginnings in the late 800s, it is home to Benedictine Monks and a world renown boys choir and boarding school. Pilgrims who visit can rent small rooms for their stay.

The bus dropped us at the bottom on the hill where we boarded the Rack railway for the five kilometer ride to the monastery. After a quick orientation we were on our own to take it all in. The choir performed two songs at 1:00. The boys are between the ages of eight and 14 and sounded beautiful even though I didn’t understand a word. They were wearing back robes with sleeves with a white robe over top with arm holes but no sleeve. When they held the sheet music and sang their arms showed; when they were not performing, their arms were inside the white over-robe and they seemed to flow as they walked. The choir is 700 years old amazingly. After the concert we had a tour of the school. Musically inclined boys from all over the world can apply but the bridge too far for most is the fact that Catalan is the language used for all of their studies.

The basilica is famous for its black Madonna, patron saint of Catalonia, and people stood in a really long line to approach the beautiful statue and touch or kiss it. Its face and hands, per the tradition of the day, are made out of wood and have turned black over the course of hundreds of years from the varnish, candle smoke, and the environment. There were beautiful niches carved out of the rocks where visitors could light and leave candles. I lit one for Josie’s Aunt Geri. Unusual I thought were the gorgeous hanging lanterns that looked very Moorish less the one made with short horns. Some had fobs hanging from the bottom. I decided the one with the rooster fob was in honor of Cleone’s grandparents. The other thing I’ve never seen was the room where people came to leave small tokens along with their prayers for something upcoming. There were dresses, toys, pictures, a prosthetic leg, hiking boots, notes, etc. The guide said sometimes people bring small organs made of wax or plastic in anticipation of surgery.

I hope this Big Day amounts to ample justification for eating a whole pizza. I had a wonderful time and will soon head to bed so I can bounce out again tomorrow since I am on the tour circuit again.


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