When a group decides to visit Montserrat and asks me to go up from Barcelona, visit the Sanctuary and return in five hours and sometimes in four, I think: it’s a shame to spend so much time on that trip and then visit the place so quickly (the sanctuary of Montserrat is an hour driving time away from Barcelona).
Montserrat is not only worth for its spirituality which is connected with the Catalan people and history, but for the mountain itself.
Once, a traveller told me: “here you can breathe peace”. It’s true! For example, some neighbors of Calella (a little town near Barcelona) meet here tree days every year to reinforce their relationship. Others, when they get married, decide to spend some peaceful days in the mountain before going on honeymoon to the other part of the world.
In my opinion the visit to Montserrat is not only to visit the Madonna’s room and to listen to the Choir School (video). People should live the mountain. You can reach the sanctuary by road. I’m not going to ask you to reach it walking as a lot of pilgrims do, but it’s more attractive to go up by cable car or by rack railway which makes us be more in contact with the mountain.
When I arrive there, I can’t help eating a portion of “Mel i Mató” (a peculiar cheese and honey). My mam started this familiar tradition and we do it every time we go up to the mountain. Cheese and honey are elaborated by the local farmers, who go up every day to sell their products.
After the breakfast, there are different options: I always recommend going up to the highest point of the mountain with the Sant Joan Funicular railway. From there, there are different kinds of paths for every kind of legs: from those which take 20 minutes and are flat, until those which lead you to visit the hermitages of the mountain. Sant Jeroni hermitage is the farthest. Only for the views over Catalonia it’s worth going up there. I’m always impressed with the fraternity of the people when they meet in mountain: maybe they don’t know each other but they always greet saying “Bon dia!” (Good Morning).
Coming back, now that we have been part of the mountain, maybe we would appreciate in a different way the songs of the Choir School. We can go to visit the Black Madonna of Montserrat, see Saint Ignatius of Loyola sword or the Votive Offering Room. If you have any prayer to the Madonna leave a candle to her. Guided by a tour guide we have known a little bit better Catalonia, their traditions and their history. Now, what can be better than to know the Catalan cuisine eating “Mongetes amb Botifarra” (beans with an artisan sausage) in a restaurant of the place?