Montserrat

I went off to find Montserrat yesterday, since the stupid tour I booked was oversold. I was really looking forward to riding a bus to tour a holy place, do some shopping and then head down the mountain to drink some wine – what better way to praise Jesus than by drinking wine? (The “residents” in Jacksonville would agree, and that is why they do it every day – because they love praising Jesus.) After I had breakfast in the jail cafeteria, a croissant loaded with butter and jam, plus some caffeine I figured I could find this holy place on my own! After doing some quick research, I learned that I could take the Metro down to Placo Espanya and catch a train that leaves every hour, instead of once a day, and round trip was a quarter of the price of that dumb ol’ bus tour anyway – now who is the smarty pants, huh?

You want to know who is smart – Jesus is. He had no problem bitch slapping me for my comment earlier when my no so smart-ass thought I could buy the ticket with a credit card, but only cash was accepted for the trains. Not only that, but I missed the train I intended to catch at 12:30pm because I couldn’t find the train station (despite having planned extra time for this because I was heeding the warnings from fellow travelers that the station was indeed hard to find). Fortunately, I had enough euros to get a ticket to Montserrat (and take the cable car to the top, wheeeee!) but not enough for the return ticket. Being the logical, know-it-all that I am, I figured I could either exchange the dollars I had with me for euros, or use the next hour I had to waste until the new train arrived hunting down a banco near the train station, or use my credit card to get cash.

My hunting around found me more pictures of some of the well-visited sites of Barcelona, but came up with zip for a Banco that was able to complete an exchange. I had to hope for the best once I reached the top of the mountain, so I sat back and snoozed on the train ride. I woke up once when I heard the high school girls sitting next to me giggle because I had my mouth gaping wide open and I think I may have been breathing heavy (aka I snored, but just a little bit, okay?!) I mad dogged them, then went back to sleep again and a short time later my mouth was wide open (I most certainly eat more than my fair share of spiders , so you can rest easy that you are eating less).

After an unbelievably fun ride from the train to the top of Montserrat via cable car the first order of business when I got to the top was to find a bank, then lunch. I will pause here to iterate the common theme in all of my traveling thus far is to 1.) find transport; 2.) secure hotel; 3.) find food – everything else just enhances the experience of these scavenger hunts. The bank was quite easy to find, it was the only business closed in the middle of the day, their business hours are from Noon-2pm. (I submitted my application for employment.) This meant no money exchange, so no ticket back to Barcelona – we’ll get to that later, for now I needed food.

Lunch consisted of a wonderful Sea Bass swimming in butter and I ate every last morsel, except the bones – I am not that desperate yet. Even more wonderful was the fact that I was able to pay with my credit card. After lunch I spent time touring the city and the national park that surrounds the Basillica, which also serves as a cemetery for many of the saints, monks, and nuns that inhabited the abbey throughout history. After that, I toured the interior of the abbey. The design and detail of the interior of the building was quite elaborate compared to the simplicity of the exterior. Then, I stood in line for quite some time to check out what the kissing of the Virgin Mary was all about, the Basillica was built around one of the few black Madonnas in Europe – as it was too heavy for the Monks to move at the time of the abbey’s construction. I was honored to bear witness to the pensiveness the couple in front of me displayed while waiting in line. They were probably in their late 70s and she was already weeping at the opportunity to kiss the statue for probably the first, maybe only time in her life. Then, along came the group of four douchebags to stand in line behind us, who were either illiterate, or didn’t speak one of the 20 languages that the sign “Silence for Prayer Please” was posted in.

Now, I know I traveled over here with grand ideas about learning to speak Spanish better, most of which were dashed in my first day in Madrid. In fact, most days I feel like the “Idiot Abroad” (show on BBC, look it up) because I speak lame Spanish, worse French, and very poor English. However, I am excellent at understanding non-verbal communication and I could immediately see a dramatic shift in the woman’s posture when the DB’s didn’t shut their pie-holes. Not wanting to have an experience that was of great importance to them soiled by the ‘tard boys behind me, I spun around on one heel, shot them the “mom look”, and said in my very authoritative, Angry Black Woman voice (currently an Angry Spanish Woman voice), “Silencio, Por Favor!” I continued to glare at them and did not turn around until each of them were completely, utterly silent. Then, I stuck my nose up in the air, all Cruella D’Ville style, spun back around on the other heel (for balance’s sake), and winked at the woman. She smiled and nodded in gratitude and I was happy to have made a meaningful connection without speaking one word to this woman.

So I get to the top of the stairs where the statue is displayed and I kiss the hand of the Virgin Mary and then guess what happened? I cried….again….WTF?  Let’s just say I had an overwhelming, deep appreciation for the sacrifices made to maintain the history stored in this place (rumor has it the Holy Grail is housed in Montserrat as well, though no one is allowed to view it). I spent awhile in the crypt, gathering myself together, and then walked along the prayer hall, beautifully lit with candles symbolizing people’s various prayers, dreams, hopes, and wishes.

I bought a prayer card for 20-cents in the Basillica, as I figured I needed all the help I could get at this point. This left me with exactly 4.70 left in euros. I now had to face the challenge of figuring out how I was going to get back to Barcelona because a return ticket cost 8.75. Fortunately, there was an attendant at the station who spoke English fairly well, so I was able to explain my predicament. His solution, may the Lord bless him and keep him, was to buy a ticket on the train that went to the bottom of the mountain, then he told me to sneak onto the train that transferred into Barcelona, but if I got caught, I was not to tell anyone that he had advised me to do so. Amen, brother – I got your back and I got back with no hassle. Not wanting to press my luck any farther, I again hunted for an exchange office upon my arrival in Barcelona. Unfortunately, I did not find one and seeing that it was dark and pushing 10pm, I jumped on the subway to get back to my jail. If you are on house arrest, you aren’t supposed to be out that late, and I didn’t want any more trouble, you know!

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