Northern Spain in the Rain

On Sunday morning we packed up and left Valencia amidst an enormous city-wide bike race. What a send-off! We drove north to Barcelona but diverted our cinque-cento (Fiat 500) to the mountains, up, up, up in a torrential rainstorm where all the cars seemed to be only coming down, down, down….

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Arriving at Montserrat in the rain worked to our advantage, as there were very few people there. We practically had the place to ourselves.
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Montserrat is a spectacularly beautiful Benedictine Monk Mountain Retreat and school about an hour outside of Barcelona. We arrived early evening in the rain and fog and was it ever beautiful. Our goal was to check out this ancient monastery and to hopefully get a glimpse of the famed “Black Madonna”.  Amid a boys’ choir sing in the cathedral, visiting the Black Madonna was an experience we will never forget.
I toured the Montserrat Art Museum (which was quite large) completely and utterly alone – I mean, there was not a single other person there! It was an extraordinary and odd feeling to be alone with all those paintings and sculptures.  Inside I found Monet, Picasso, Dali, Renoir and others all to myself. It was a most intimate art experience.  For more info, see:  Montserrat-Shrine

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Sophia and Oliver chatting away ahead of us was typical every where we went. 

We had a successful visit to Montserrat in all its rainy day magic and floated back down the mountains to Barcelona. Upon arrival, we checked into our hotel in the Born neighborhood in the Gothic Quarter, our favorite part of Barcelona. We arrived late and found a great tapas restaurant nearby. By this time, Sophia and Oliver do not even look at the menus. We order them something spanish and wonderful and they are trying new foods daily. Some with more success than others, but trying new, all the same.  Our dinner discussions were spent answering many questions about Jesus and Christianity. At this time we had seen the Cathedrals in Ibiza and Valencia with all their gothic artwork and relics, and now Montserrat, which held both ancient religious art as well as beautiful modern works. Questions of religion were inevitable.

IMG_20140929_125309 IMG_20140929_114142  IMG_20140929_112854 IMG_20140929_112745 IMG_20140929_111521Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. This is a spectacular work of architecture and art and the structure is still quite unfinished. It began construction in 1882 and is predicted to be complete in 2060+-. We are fortunate to have seen this incredible monument to all religions twice now. We attempted to see the Parc Guell as well, but was difficult to get in… we have ear-marked the extravagant Gaudi park for our next trip to Barcelona.  Here is a short bio on Antoni Gaudi.

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Antoni Gaudi’s ongoing masterpiece, La Sagrada Famalia. Barcelona. The kids completed their journal entries and drawings  inside the church.

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After the Sagrada Familia we went to Tony’s favorite spanish church, the Santa Maria del Mar and took a formal tour which we had never done before. Our tour included the towers and a rooftop visit as we heard the history of the church  –  which is also the history of the city, its politics and geography.  Each day we studied poetry, art and art history as well, which played a nice hand in contemplating all the sights, sounds, smells of the city.

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Dressing up for a night on the town and Uno at dinner. Flamenco!

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Picasso Museum. I could write an entire post on just this morning. The Picasso museum was a special treat in that the museum begins with Picasso’s early life painting with the natural talent of a master at age 14! His early work was inspiring, beautiful. We were taken through his works of art but simultaneously though the political structure of the times as well as friends he made, and only then can one begin to understand why and how he came to paint the way he did. A talented artist who chose his path carefully.   museu picasso

It was in Barcelona where the kids showed their voracious appetite for learning. They asked no less than one million questions about everything and tried new foods at every meal. Something else changed in that Tony and I were a team in their learning and our school days were far less structured. The amount of history, geography, religion, art history and politics we had covered was both unexpected and formidable. We had so much to show them, and so little time!

Next stop: France.

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