Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat

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About an hour and a half from Barcelona/Sitges is the monastery Santa Maria de Montserrat on top of the mountain/hill Montserrat. We decided to go there one of the days we were in Sitges, and instead of having to take a train back to Barcelona and then one up to Montserrat, we decided to rent a car. For some reason, I had the same irrational fear of driving in Europe that I have of sharks. I wasn’t sure what could go wrong, only that something would, and I’d be less able to deal with it than usual. Renting a car in Sitges was something of a chore. We went into a travel office last night that suggested the Avis down the street. We went into the Avis office and the guy said he might have a car sometime this evening for 80 Euros, but we should check back today. We went into a travel agency at the end of Sin Street (across from the hamburger stand) and they rented us a car for 40 Euros. We picked up the car from a garage this morning and we were off, haphazardly finding our way out of Sitges and onto the highway.

We were cruising along pretty well, following our directions, until suddenly, none of the directions made any sense. (It turned out there were two exits with the same name, though we couldn’t have known that at the time.) This was it, in my mind, and I was ready to take this driving adventure back to the garage and read trashy novels on the beach. But J insisted we persevere so we stopped at a gas station where she acted as interpreter. “Estoy perdida”, she said to the romantic truck driver. “Todos estamos perdidos en la vida”, he responded with a twinkle in his eye, “Sigame, le muestro la carretera.” (“I’m lost.” “In life, we are all lost. Follow me, I’ll show you to the highway.”) The truck driver had us follow him for about 5 miles until he got us back onto the highway we needed to be on and we never strayed again. This interaction was my favorite of the trip.

Montserrat is actually the city below the mountain. Once you get there, you can take a train to the top, or drive up on a steep, windy road that reminded me of some roads in Hawaii. I took it slow as there were folks driving down and also a good number of bikers riding to the top (psychos!). The monastery is beautiful and literally cut right into the side of the mountain. In front of the entrance, there is a circular pattern in the stone where several people were getting their picture taken with their arms out, eyes closed, and shoes off. Everyday at 1, the choir sings, so either try to be there for that, or avoid it because that’s when the most people are there. I’d never heard the term funicular before going to Spain (it’s a type of train that goes up steep inclines), but we took one up to a higher part of the mountain. From there we were able to hike for 20 minutes or so to get to a 500 year old hermitage that that formed a hamlet of sorts with other dwellings carved out of the side of the mountain. The hermitage was a replica, because, interestingly enough, the original had been destroyed about 200 years earlier by marauding French. We went back down to the visitor’s center where we lunched on Cornetto. All in all, Montserrat is great and worth seeing, but I suggest taking the train from Barcelona. It runs every hour and takes you all the way up to the monastery.

On the way home, we took an alternate route that hugged the beautiful coast for a time. I was relaxed enough about driving in Europe at that point that we checked out Spanish radio. This was unfortunate because we happened on to that cursed Umbrella song. By the grace of Sitges, we made our way back to the right part of town and parked the car a short walk from the rental office. We found out later that I had left the lights on, but they didn’t seem to mind. After a brief respite in the hotel, we napped on the beach in the dwindling sunlight.

We couldn’t decide where to go for dinner, which resulted in us wandering aimlessly until we ended up at Restaurante Taiwan across from Al Fresco. I have a thing about trying Chinese food in various locales and tasting their Peking Raviolis. I’d like to say you can tell a lot about a city from the raviolis, but that would be silly. Restaurante Taiwan’s version are called empanadillas and receive passing marks for tastiness.

After dinner we went on a hunt for gelato. In attempting to determine which of the four places to go, we asked the girl behind the counter if they were selling ice cream or gelato. She asked the difference between gelato and ice cream. For the record, gelato has less fat and no air added for a creamier taste.

There are 10 chapters in the Free Barcelona Travel Guide. I hope you find them useful.
Day 1: Barcelona to Boston: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Map of where we went or wished we had.

Free Barcelona Travel Guide – Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat