¡Arriba!

Our second day in Spain was positively packed from start to finish, so long as you don’t count the two hour nap we took (we think it’s justified).

We began by exploring the Plaça de Catalunya, a beautiful square with one of those roundabout roads that’s meant to perplex Americans. Our brief self-guided tour ended quickly, because our train to the mountains was departing shortly. The majority of our morning passed by on that train, and we arrived at Montserrat ready to explore.

First, though, we stopped by the cafe for lunch. Mike, our travel buddy, spoke no Spanish. Still, his inner socialite could not be stopped while it rampaged through myriad pleasantries like “So how’s your day been?” and “Where are you from?” Mike’s inherent need to socialize was funniest while he was in line for lunch. While Erin and I simply ordered our food with a few rudimentary Spanish phrases, Mike insisted upon asking the server which dish was her favorite. After he tried “What’s your favorite?”, “Favorito?”, and “Which do you like best?”, he realized she didn’t speak English and turned to me, asking what to say. He repeated “Cual es tu favorito?” and the lady answered him in Spanish. He couldn’t understand, and simply pointed at the spaghetti. This type of thing occurred frequently throughout the trip.

Once we had our fill and sufficiently mocked Mike for his botched conversation with the cafeteria worker, we wandered around Montserrat. The beautiful abbey is surrounded on all sides by stunning natural landmarks, beautiful mountains, and jaw-dropping views of surrounding Catalonia.

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We took a tram down to Santa Cova, a cave in Montserrat where the Virgin Mary is believed to have been seen. The winding path took us along the edge of the mountain, all the while impressing us over and over again with amazing panoramic views of the valley below. Mike aptly compared it to Jurassic Park. The trail was brutal; the gradual upward incline looked deceptively easy to trek, but we had to stop multiple times just to catch our breath. We finally arrived at the chapel–a minimal, unobtrusive building that is beautiful in its simplicity. The chapel surrounds the holy grotto where Mary was reportedly seen and eats up any sound, making a whisper seem like a massive disturbance. The tiny building eerily glows by the light of candles, placed in the tiny room by those who wish to pay homage to their faith. Serene and remote, the chapel feels like it is shying away from the grand, sweeping landscapes just outside its thin walls. We took our time as we walked back, relishing the views once more.

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The second leg of our Montserrat journey involved much more rigorous climbs and a whole lot of endurance I don’t have. We took the tram to the peak trails and soon discovered that the Santa Cova trail was nothing compared to the top of the mountain range. We scaled one particularly treacherous-but-fun trail that led us directly to the top of the range, blowing the previous views away. We trudged through another trail with a sketchy-looking wood railing that fortunately held up to its end, where we found (you guessed it) more amazing views of Catalonia. Sprinkled around the paths here and there were small chapels, all locked and protected by metal bars. Still, they allowed a peek in through the worn glass, and each held a few benches and a small altar, all preserved carefully for people like us to see.

Opting to forgo the return tram ticket, we walked back down to the abbey. The trail took its toll on us after we had already walked for five hours. It was entirely downhill with only one reasonable resting place–another locked chapel protected by an orange stray cat. Somehow, we powered through, made a quick gift shop stop, and enjoyed the bumpy ride back to Barcelona.

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Just a few blocks from the train station back in Barcelona, we stumbled upon the Museu Nacional d’Art De Catalunya. Thousands of people crowded around the fountain in front of the building, and just as we walked up to it, the fountain erupted in a glorious show of water and color. The spouts of water ignited in every imaginable color as they danced back and forth. It kept us energized for just long enough to find a cab and get back to the hotel. We promptly fell asleep for a two hour siesta.

¡Abajo!

Awake and refreshed, we donned our collared shirts and cute blouses, then headed out to dinner. A colleague highly recommended Bar Núria, so we each ordered our own paella and were very impressed. Mine was loaded with fresh seafood and seasoned rice, and I couldn’t resist eating the entire plate, despite the massive quantities of food atop it. If you’re ever in Barcelona, try it. You won’t be disappointed.

After dinner, we walked to Opium, one of many nightclubs along a stretch of beach on the Mediterranean sea. The club entrances are large cubes peppered across streets parallel to the water, and they all lead downward into dark, loud dance floors with patios opening up directly onto the sand. The atmosphere was electric, even at nine o’clock at night, which we found was incredibly early to be out partying by Barcelona standards.

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We ordered a number of drinks and were soon quite inebriated. Mike, ever the adventurer, asked the bartender for her most classic Barcelona shot. She tinkered with various bottles for five minutes, then set three flaming glasses in front of us and handed us three straws. She instructed us to stick the straws in and quickly drink all the liquid to extinguish the flame. Mike and I did so right away while Erin, reluctant after hearing it tasted like licorice, took a bit longer, then proceeded to the bathroom to rid her body of the licorice flavor.

A few hours later, we met a new friend at the bar: Caio, a Brazilian gent who was visiting his mother in Rome, but decided a side vacation to Spain was necessary. His fiancée back in Brazil, however, didn’t know about this side excursion. He told us this, then covered his face in every photo and video we took, fearful that his wife-to-be would stumble upon ColeTries.com and unleash her wrath.

We lost Caio an hour later and drunkenly blundered onto the beach. I walked into the Mediterranean up to my shins and, as I was turning around to come back, fell face first into the sea. After convincing Mike not to swim out to a buoy about 100 feet into the water, we somehow made it safely back to the hotel at 4:30 a.m., where he vomited profusely into the bidet.

In my next post, we explore Barcelona in an unconventional manner and share two videos from the first leg of our trip!

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