Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Marganell, Spain

I'm not a big city person - I'm just not. The masses of people, the traffic, and the way that everything focuses on shopping wears me down. So while we've had fun in Barcelona, we decided to pack up and head north toward the mountains for a little camping.

It's funny how when you are traveling, there are expenses that you grossly underestimate or things you just don't plan for (like your car breaking down back home or your computer breaking down on the road) but sometimes you get a really sweet break that comes in the form of a four person tent for just ten Euros and sleeping bags (albeit child-sized bags - sorry Jacob) that are a pittance at just six Euros. These savvy scores might not propel me into Rick Steves-esque book deals but we felt pretty pleased with ourselves.

Even better was the fact that we found Laura on CouchSurfing and she invited us to camp on her property just outside of the town of Marganell where she lives with her three other housemates (two of whom we met) and a young cat. The house has a picturesque view of the Montserrat mountain range which is just about a 20 minute drive away.

Laura met us in town to escort us up to her property, which was great since it is doubtful we would have found it on our own. After we got the tent set up and Vaughn and Jacob went for a swim in the pool, we drove off to get in a late afternoon walk.

Without really intending to, we ended up walking into and around the Benedictine Abby, Santa Maria de Montserrat. Had we planned on going there, we'd probably have done a little research before and known that the Abby hosts one of the world's oldest printing presses (in operation since 1499); The Escolania, one of Europe's oldest boys' choir; and the sacred Virgin of Montserrat, one of Europe's "black Madonnas" (so named for their darker skin color) from the 12th century. But since we didn't know we were going to such a revered pilgrimage site our thought process went a little something like this:

"Dang, look at all these people- this is like a Catholic Disneyland."
"Are all those booths really selling the same cheese and honey?"
"Alcohol tasting for one Euro?! Don't mind if I do!"

We actually had a really nice time wandering around and taking the stone steps up a bit higher up on the mountain.

The next day we embarked on a short hike that felt a little like our own personal pilgrimage given the intensity of the afternoon sun on our unshaded trail. We made it about an hour before my traveling companions began the rallying cry for an afternoon swim so back to the house we went to enjoy our final evening in Marganell.

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