Originally posted in August 2015.
The variety of day trips available from a city like Barcelona is almost overwhelming. With beaches to the north and south, and mountains all around, you have your pick of a little bit of everything.
One Sunday in August 2015, my friend Samantha and I took a train one hour northwest of Barcelona to the famed Montserrat Monastery, tucked away in the hills of Monistrol de Montserrat. The train dropped us off at the foot of the mountain where we caught a big yellow cable car five minutes up into the sky.
We had caught the very first train that departed from Barcelona, so at 9:45 a.m., we were among the first people to arrive at the small village. At the foot of the majestic monastery was a cafeteria, a convenience store, a bar, and a souvenir shop, as well as the museum and chapel that were part of the monastery itself. After properly fueling ourselves with cafés con leche and sandwiches, we strolled into the tourism office to select our hike: a two-hour ascent to the highest point of Montserrat known as Sant Jeroni (1,236 meters, or 4,055 feet).
Consisting of mostly stone stairs, our glutes were certainly fired up by the time we arrived to the halfway point. We embraced the empty paths where we enjoyed peace, solitude, and an occasional friendly "hola" from hikers traveling in the opposite direction. The sun was doing its part to warm the earth, but the coolness of the mountain brought a slight chill to the air, much appreciated after the humidity and sweat dripping from the urban streets of Barcelona.
Shady, sunny, tree-heavy, bare with open skies, narrow, wide with stone edges; the nature of the trail varied as much as the colors of the tiny lizards we spotted from time to time. The altitude and intense incline of stair after stair meant lots of mini-breaks, but also opportunities to truly absorb our environs of ever-changing vistas.
As we neared the peak, we faced the final few steps, a veritable stairway to heaven. We marched up the last few like Rocky Balboa, but huffing a bit more thanks to slight oxygen deprivation. Welcomed by 360-degree views, from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean, the land extended for miles. Ant-sized cars crawled along thin strips of slate gray. Turquoise pools brightly flashed from the quilt of green grass. Wispy cirrus strokes caressed the otherwise cloudless sky, leaving plenty of room for the butterball sun and a slight coastal breeze.
The air felt as fresh and warm as a new pair of socks: comfortable and soft, and just breathable enough. Sam and I rewarded ourselves with a photo shoot from as many vantage points as possible, followed by a short sandwich break on the rocks.
With approximately six other human beings at the summit, the moments spent so close to heaven were nothing short of divine.
Lead photo: Montserrat from an airplane, December 2015.