Our second day in Barcelona was spent on a bus tour for a good part of the day. After trying to figure out the location spot, and grabbing breakfast from McDonalds (I swear it was the only food place open that early), our tour guide found us and we headed off to Catalonia to visit Montserrat. It was really a ways out there, I think it took about an hour or so from Barcelona, but it was a nice ride. I started getting slightly dizzy going up the mountain because it was a bit windy, but the views from the top were amazing.
Montserrat - which literally means "saw mountain", and is evidenced by the jagged tips of the mountains, was originally a monastery and but is now a national park and also a school. Montserrat houses the Moreneta - the black faced Virgin Mary. The grounds are wonderfully kept, and inside the monastery, everything is very ornate and elegant. The detailing is just beautiful, and at first we didn't think we would have a chance to see the Moreneta, but we were in luck, because it was only a 15 minute wait since we were so early. Apparently, this is also a pilgrimage site. The story of the Moreneta, is that when they were building the monastery, they found the statue hidden in the rock. There's stipulation as to whether the statue was found with the Virgin Mary having black skin, or that it was light at first and only got darker because of exposure to the elements and candle smoke. Either way, it was kind of awe-inspiring, even though we could just touch the orb she was holding in her hand. Otherwise, she is encased in glass.
The rest of the grounds was just beautiful, we were constantly looking up and the marvelous architecture. There was also a section where you could donate some money to light candles just outside of the chapel. The atmosphere was just so serene and reverent, you really felt calm and at peace. And just outside of the walls, near the school, there was a little farmer's market going on in front of the souvenir store, and I picked up a variety of local honey that I'm excited to try! This is a definite must see if you are ever in Barcelona.