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Monday, August 18, 2014

Part 2: Adventures in Barcelona, Provence and Carcassonne - Summer 2014

So, you do have options, depending on how brave or comfortable you are, because it is very different than where I come from in Fresno, California.  We don't have a metro, although I'm quite comfortable with the underground after years of going to Paris, and we don't pay tolls on the highways or utilize roundabouts.  But, we'll talk more about that and the price of gas a little later, but first,  this section will be about getting back and forth from Montserrat, home of the Black Madonna. 

It was my one free day, and on my bucket list was a trip to Montserrat.  If you want to go there or anywhere, do your research, but often it is hard to come by or timely, as I found out.  I was on a website that hadn't been updated in about a year, and thought that would be current enough information, but it wasn't. 

I bought my overpriced ticket to Passeig de Gracia and was blessed with a beautiful early morning sunny view of Casa Battlo.  Absolutely breathtaking.  Speaking of breathtaking, just a warning and reminder that the humidity can stifling, especially if you're not used to. 

Anyway, I walked down to the next stop enjoying the view, Plaça Catalunya got there, and nada.  Yes, there is an underground train stop, but no wonderful kiosk of Montserrat information and the direct train to the hamlet of Montserrat up in the mountains.  Finally a ticket booth opened up, and the man directed me to yet another train stop, Plaça Espana .

Of course, when I got off, I'm at a enormous roundabout with a beautiful sculpture , but the area was pretty much devoid of people, and I  pretty much no idea where I was.  Fortunately, this was a lovely area, but my return I found myself in less affluent neighborhoods that were a little rough and worn.  Looking around, I saw a small information booth that was opened and manned, not far from where I had popped out of the underground train stop.  There were a few tour buses about as well, but only one couple at the kiosk ahead of me.  The young man was nice and friendly and  told me 'orange' and pointed across the street when I asked for the train spot.  Seems one entrance was the train spot, and where I got out, maybe, the metro?  Worked for me.  He gave me a Montserrat brochure  and I crossed over a few streets to the orange sign that was the train station departing (I think) only for Montserrat and destinations on that track.

There was a man who could help and direct you, and I'm sure he heard the same  questions over and over, pointing people to the machine where you buy your train ticket, and it seemed to me that it only came back and forth from direction Montserrat.  You also have a choice to include the  air funicular to the town, or something else, walk perhaps?  I can't remember, and even though I was nervous about the funicular, I ended up with that ticket.  And really, I was so glad I did! 

The only downside on the trip up was a cackling ugly American.  Yes, I had to say it.  I think she had with her two or three teen age girls, and trying to be one of them, she'd howl with laughter that resonated through our whole car.  It was awful.  I don't know where they got off, must have been the walk up spot that was the next stop.  Anyway, once you see the funicular, two small yellow cars, going in opposite directions, over a deep valley, you have something else to focus on.  You get dropped off on the side of the tracks, and walk under them to the other side and through the building.  About sixteen people fit in the car, and you take off up the mountainside of Montserrat, that means just that: serrated.

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