Spain ~ Montserrat and Parés Baltà

So the story continue. I actually had very little knowledge of Spain and Barcelona. I just knew I wanted to see Sagrada Família but after that I basically don't have anything else that I wanted to see. After much googling and wikipedia-ing, I do want to see Alhambra but it wasn't on the way. So anyway, I browsed and looked at the day tours that departed from Barcelona and I actually was really interested in going to the Pyrenees. However in the end I decided not to simply because I think it started quite early and I thought it was gonna be physically demanding and so I decided on the Montserrat day tour that includes a visit to a vineyard. I think the wine tasting and the vineyard visit was such a huge pull factor :P You know, I am glad to say that I have been to a vineyard in Italy, France, and Spain. As snobbish as this may sound, I think it's quite an enriching and cool experience in my life :P

Montserrat is a mountain near Barcelona which is famous for the church Santa Maria de Montserrat. This church is famous for its Black Virgin, but me and Mau didn't queue to see it. Anyway, it was a small group, there were only 4 of us, me, Mau, and an american couple, Gwen and Thomas. At first I felt rather uneasy because I was hoping for a bigger group so that we wouldn't be all so quiet. However the group of people were rather awesome. Our guide was Adrien, a french, who's been living in Barcelona for 12 years. We were with his colleague, Anna, the following day and she said that he's fluent both in Spanish and Catalan. That got me googling about Catalan. Apparently it's a whole different language but I doubt you can find a place to learn Catalan easily outside of Spain. Anyway, with Adrien, again perhaps it's a french thing but he has a certain cheeky sense of humour, which is okay for me and it made it fun :D Well proper people bore me to death! It's better for me to be rather quirky, crazy, and bold, it makes you more interesting. So anyway, I had quite an interesting talk with Gwen and Thomas. Thomas used to or perhaps still works for HP and he's been to Singapore. He was fascinated by the pink dolphins :D and as many foreigners who's been to Singapore told me, Singapore is impressive because it's very orderly. With Gwen, she talked a length about her daughter, Shannon, who has a bachelor degree in Neuroscience and now pursuing a master degree in Business Management or something like that. I can feel that she's so proud of her. This makes me wonder if my mother or my father have ever talked proudly about me or my brother. I highly doubt it! It's just not in our genes, I guess. I wonder if it's just the Asian culture in which we are always feeling that what we achieved are so so and we always look at other people who have achieved more. I don't know.

We started in Montserrat and it was cloudy and rainy when we were there. I was a bit down with that. Adrien took us to the church and started telling us about the history and all and I had a feeling that he really really wanted us to pay attention :P However, seriously there's no way my brain will remember all the things that happened in the 1700s or 1800s or even older than that. He told us the things that we could do and then left us to explore on our own. We were there on a Sunday and since it was still drizzling, Mau and me, decided to go into the church and watch the mass. The monastery was famous for its boys choir. Initially we wanted to wait until the mass was over and then hear them sing but they were already singing during the mass so we thought it's the same thing and we didn't stay until the mass finished. When we got out, the sky was blue and I was feeling happy :) That day being Sunday saw more people and more locals visiting the church. Adrien said it's a very common thing for the Catalans to come to Montserrat to pray to the Black Virgin and come back to give thanks when their prayers have been answered. So since it's Sunday, it seemed that there were more activities than usual and there were traditional catalan dance performances outside the church and many people selling local products. The dance seemed pretty fun. They were performed by kids, youths, and even older people. They were in traditional clothing and they used colorful ribbons during the dance and they all get tangled and such. The kids were looking pretty cute doing the dances :D

After watching the dance, we got lunch, and then we took the funicular to go to the higher ground of Montserrat. The view was awesome!!! I'm not one who's been to many mountains. In fact right now if I have to think about it, the last mountain which is also perhaps the first mountain I've been was Mount Bromo in Indonesia. I just want to say that it's just an incredible feeling being on top of a mountain and looking at the view. It's the view and it's the experience, it was just breathtaking. It just felt so awesome. There's a trail that you could follow to explore the area but we didn't have much time to explore everything. I did feel a bit scared that I was going slip and go trudging down the mountain, that would be so tragic! :P I think the view from this mountain is the main highlight for me. It was really really awesome :)

You can see the pictures here. After Montserrat, we went to Parés Baltà, a vineyard which in Adrien's word is small. Well I don't know how do one classifies a vineyard as small or not. It seems that this vineyard only produces a few thousand bottles a year, which I think is actually quite a lot. Anna, the british girl who worked there took us to see the vineyard. I have very little knowledge in wine making so I just listened. Gwen seemed to be very knowledgeable. Anyway, the vineyard in Parés Baltà is not watered, they totally rely on rain. I found that to be very interesting. Obviously such thing will not work in Provence where they don't really get much rain. So it's interesting for me how different regions grow their grapes differently. After we were shown the vineyard, it was time for wine tasting. The grandpa of Parés Baltà came to greet us. He was such a nice person, very humble, and seemed to be genuinely happy to see all of us there. Such a warm welcome do really make you warm and fuzzy inside and you just love the place even more :P I think we tasted wine from 5 - 6 bottles. I couldn't really remember :P We tried 2 cava and some other wines, I think 1 white and 2 red. They gave us biscuits, cheese, and bread which we ate with the olive oil. All were so good :D I'm not a big wine fan but I think I like one of the red wine. Anyway perhaps it's the wine, I ended up getting a bottle of Rose Cava and a bottle of olive oil. Everyone bought something. It guess wine can really do something to you. Mau is always more chatty after she has wine and I could sense that even Gwen was more relaxed :P I on the other hand went into a defensive mood, that is I could feel that the wine was doing something to my head and so I tried extra hard to pay attention to everything, drink less, and since there were no water, I ate more :P I just became really really more careful in what I do and say, perhaps I became quieter? I believe I have a bit of OCD. After the wine tasting, we headed back to Barcelona :P I still couldn't believe I got those 2 bottles. I was dragging them all the way to Italy and Singapore and they survived, thank God! I'm actually gonna drag them home to Indonesia, the next time I go home. I thought the last time I got a wine from Tuscany was already silly enough and yet this time I was getting bigger bottle and not just one, I had another bottle of olive oil. It's the wine!!! :D

So we arrived back in Barcelona pretty early. It's being Sunday, the shops / malls were closed!!! I couldn't believe it!!! It's such an unbelievable concept. We decided to get paella for dinner and so we explored Las Ramblas. Seriously our hotel was really in a good place. There were a lot of artists there, you can see all kind of paintings and some of them were really really good. We kinda reached the end and so we just chose a restaurant. The paella and octopus were great and the serving was great as well. It's so much cheaper than in Singapore. I love seafood! We ordered sangria as well and it came in such a big glass, very very big. You can have your breakfast cereal in it. For some reason, I decided that I wanted to finish it and I did. I don't think Mau even finished half of it. I don't know why I wanted to do it. After all that, I realized that my vision was impaired and it's really really hard to focus. I think I still walked straight but it was rather hard to do so and I think it was by God's grace that we could get through Las Ramblas and reached our hotel safely since this street is also famous for the pick pockets. I was very very intoxicated that I really had to shower carefully and hold on to the wall and by the time I reached my bed, my head was just spinning. There was a little feeling that I wanted to puke but I didn't. It was such a bad feeling, I hate it so much. The feeling of not being in control of yourself and I realize this is the part where bad things could happen to you and I was just lucky that I was already in the safety of the hotel room. It's such an enlightening experience and you really do need to experience certain things to really know what it really feels like and now that I have felt that and hated that helpless and weak feeling, I really really don't want to drink much anymore. I hate not being in control and though I almost gonna say I'm not gonna drink anymore, I'm not gonna say that. I'm just gonna say I'm gonna try not to drink if I can help it and if I do drink, it's not gonna be a lot anymore!!! Okay, that's all for today. I'll try to continue soon :)

:) eKa @ 8:56:00 PM •

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