Day 4: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain – Cava, mountains and Gaudi weirdness!

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October 19th 2015
Published: April 4th 2016
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Today started off with us arriving at Plaza Catalunya, just in time for our day trip to Codorniu Cava Winery and Montserrat. We had little time to spare, so we bought a quick breakfast at a local café. While we were scarfing down our breakfast, we were approached by an older women asking for money. I felt insecure to go through my wallet looking for money. When she asked for my croissant, I decided to give it to her. I do not like seeing people go hungry.

We quickly got on the bus and then it was off to Codorniu Winery. Codorniu, specializes in creating Cava, a sparkling wine mainly produced in the Catalan region of Spain. When we reached the winery, we were presented with a 3D video of the history of the winery. Very cool! Then we took a train outside to explore the different areas of the winery. The guide went into the history of the Codorniu family that ran the winery. We learned how Cava was created through two fermentation processes. Yeast and sugar is then added and once aging is complete the dead yeast (lees) is disgorged through freezing of the neck; very complex stuff! Another train ride took us through the underground cellars where they used to store the wine during the fermentation process. The tour finished with some delicious cava tasting. We ended up buying 2 bottles of cava for family and friends back home.

Our next stop was Montserrat, a spectacular Benedictine mountain retreat about 1 hour from Barcelona. It is here where pilgrims go to touch the statue of the Black Virgin Mary and hear the boys’ choir sing. According to Catholic tradition, the statue of the Black Virgin Mary was carved by St. Luke in 50AD. The statue was hidden in a cave from the Moors (Santa Cova, the Holy Grotto) where it was later rediscovered in 880AD. Shepherds discovered the statue by following a bright light and the sound of heavenly music. The statue was too heavy to lift, so a monastery was built around the statue. Numerous miracles have been associated with contact with the statue.

We ended up not getting to touch the Black Virgin Mary statue, as there was a long waiting line but we did listen to the boys’ choir. For a Monday, the monastery was packed and one could not find anywhere to sit. We had to stand in the aisle, near the altar.

After listening to the angelic voices of the boys’ choir, we walked around the Montserrat Mountain for a bit before heading back on the bus towards Barcelona.

When we arrived back in Barcelona, we dropped off our Cava at our Hostal before heading off to our next stop, Casa Battlo.

Casa Battlo, is one of the two great modernist buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi on Passeig de Gracia, the other being La Pedrera. The outside façade, looks like it has been made from skulls and bones. The skulls form the balconies while the bones are the supporting pillars. The roof is also interesting as it resembles the back of a dragon. The rounded chimney feature, with a turret and cross at the top, is thought to represent the lance of St. George, the patron saint of Catalonia, plunging into the back of the dragon.

The inside of Casa Battlo, is also unusual as it has oval flowing windows and sculptures to complement the outer façade. The audio guide that came with the ticket described the different rooms in the buildings, and the influence of marine life colours and shapes Gaudi used in his design.

The other well-known Gaudi building that we visited was Casa Mila/ La Pedrera (the stone quarry). Casa Mila, is a formation of two buildings surrounded by two courtyards in an asymmetrical eight. The most interesting feature of Casa Mila is its rooftop, where there is a large collection of surrealistic chimneys surrounding the rooftop. The rooftop was very interesting and we spent over an hour just exploring the different structures. After the rooftop we explored the interior of the building, which resembled more of an apartment style with the different rooms fully furnished. Apparently, people still rent out apartments in the building.

Out of the two buildings (Casa Battlo and Casa Mila), I found the interior of Casa Battlo to be more interesting with its rounded shaped architecture but the roof of Casa Mila to be more creative. Both were incredible works of modernist architecture and worth the visit.

After exploring the two different houses, we headed off for dinner at a nearby tapa chain restaurant, where we had our first taste of pimento peppers, potato omelet and mini sandwiches. I must say that the peppers were the best thing I have tasted in all of Spain. I can eat them all day and never get enough.

We ended up in the evening going to the Sagrada Familia, because I heard that it is illuminated at night. The walk from Passeig de Gracia to the Sagrada Familia was longer than I thought. The street was very quiet and eerie. When we finally reached the basilica, I did not find it fully illuminated. Ok well!

So that marked an end to another great day in Barcelona and surroundings. Tomorrow, will be our last day in this wonderful city, with a day trip to Girona and the Dali Museum in Figueres, the best museum I visited in Spain! Can’t wait!

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