December 6: This morning I was awakened by being tossed into midair and slammed back down onto the mattress (which isn’t very thick, and under which is wood). Philipp had apparently started driving before I woke up. My favorite thing.

Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain northwest of Barcelona that is home to Santa Maria de Montserrat, a benedictine abbey housing the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary, named in some legends as the home of the holy grail. The sanctuary is supposedly the second biggest tourist attraction in all of Spain, second only to the Alhambra.

Today, our mission was to get up that mountain to the sanctuary using only the power of our thighs. We drove to Monistrol de Montserrat, broke out the bicycles and headed off.



We cycled for 90 minutes steep uphill. All those torturous McFit spin classes that I did all summer long finally paid off— my performance was much better than it had been when we were cycling in Switzerland last year **pats self on shoulder**.


About a kilometer or two away from where the sanctuary was, the line of people waiting in their cars started. Traffic was not moving an inch, and they were all standing outside their vehicles bored out of their minds. We were so glad we hadn’t tried to take the bus up here. When we arrived at the entrance, we saw why it was at such a standstill. Apparently, the top of the mountain was so full with cars that it had reached the limit, and they were preventing new people from entering until other people left.

We passed by all the cars with big grins on faces and arrived at the top.

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We walked along the edge of the mountain along the road to the abbey. Nearby was the sanctuary.


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We waited on line to take a walk through the hallways of the sanctuary and touch the little Virgin Mary shrine. Photos were any form of noise-making were technically forbidden,  but no one was being quiet and every person had their phones or go pros out literally the entire time, in full view of the walking guide person.


When we arrived at the end of the church, we walked up a little set of stairs to the shrine, which was set above the alter of the church in a little room, and EVERY person walked up to the shrine, posed for a photo while touching it, and then walked on. Every single person.



I felt a little like I had been thrown into some postmodern nihilistic dystopian movie or something. We’re in this supposedly super holy important place where all these super-Christians are here visiting, and all they do when they get to the shrine that they traveled all this way to see is take a picture and move on? Personally, I’m not religious and don’t pretend to be, but most of the people that were there were “pilgrims”. You’d think that they would be like, I don’t know, praying or meditating or something resembling reflective, spiritual activity? Unless buying candles and lighting them counts?

IMG_7659 I liked the paintings on the walls and the stained glass the most.IMG_7647 IMG_7651


It’s difficult to feel the gravity of this place when there are so many people running around and it’s so loud and hectic. I felt much more impressed by the views outside. You could see the other peaks of Montserrat, all twisty and jutted out. Incredible how big and oddly formed this mass is.


It had taken us 90 minutes to cycle up to the sanctuary, but only fifteen to get back down to the bus. We had definitely earned the downhill joyride. When we got back we ate pumpkin soup and set off southeast towards Terassa, to McFit.


On the way, we made a disastrous wrong turn and ended up on the highway, which you have to pay to use. Even worse, we were heading back in exactly the direction we came from, making the last half hour of struggling through the hilly country roads all for naught. We had to drive on the highway for fifteen kilometers to get to the next exit, which was for Montserrat, where we started. The toll was SIX EUROS and seventy nine cents, for traveling the distance of one single exit. Philipp, who had been in the foulest of foul moods all the way here, now completely lost his shit and flipped out at the toll booth and almost got us arrested.


In the end, he paid up, and we struggled again through the same hilly country roads, made the correct turn, and arrived in Terassa.

But Terassa turned out to be a dud. There was absolutely nowhere to park our giant bus, so we continued on to Rubi, where the next McFit was. We worked out, showered (TWO SHOWERS IN TWO DAYS WHAT) and kept driving to find somewhere to sleep. We ended up in a quiet parking lot in Mollins de Rei. After a long day, we went to sleep.

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