After almost 5 weeks in four international cities (Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona) we were well and truly ready for a country escape. A popular day trip from Barcelona is to Montserrat Monastery. This Christian abbey is located high atop a winding road (or hair raising cable car ride) in the Monserrat mountain range. The jagged peaks clustered together are a peculiar formation that make for a breathtaking site. We decided to hire a car and take our time meandering through the countryside. Allowing ourselves 3 leisurely days meant plenty of time for exploring, impromptu picnics, hiking and taking in that fresh country air we’d so been craving.
I’ve got a confession to make - I’m a self proclaimed planner and organizer! One of the reason’s we decided not to pre-book any of our trip is to allow ourselves the freedom to be spontaneous. Now I’m not going to lie, when this turned pear shaped I often found myself tearing my hair out wondering where we were going to stay next. Luckily for us this was one of the times it paid off. I found this gorgeous little boutique winery tucked away at the base of the Montserrat mountain range complete with a gourmet restaurant serving local cuisine. Best of all, being summer - when most Spaniards head to the beach to escape the sweltering heat - we had it virtually to ourselves. Care to take a look around?
I have a penchant for good design and this tiny hotel was one of those places that got the details just right. From the vibrant yellow building that contrasted so well with the surrounding lanscape, to the rich earthy tones inside. Arriving somewhat weary from the heat we were greeted with the lush, strong smell of wine wafting from the basement barrel room (and really who wouldn’t feel uplifted by that smell?).The materials used inside the hotel are not only synonymous with a winery - concrete / brick walls, heavy wooden doors - but enhance that wonderful feeling of entering a soothing cocoon of relaxation. DidI mention the 5 star room, complimentry wine and a spa to boot? No wonder I slept like a baby. (I should also note these guys use solar heating and water purification - an eco friendly bonus).
After a good nights rest we set out for a morning stroll. Wandering amongst the vineyards, marvelling at the plump grapes and enjoying the quiet countryside was the perfect way to start the day. There’s something so fresh and invigorating about working up a healthy apetite in the country so we were delighted to discover breakfast served on the sunny deck overlooking the mountains. In fact the view was so mesmerizing before we knew it breakfast became lunch and relaxing with a book became watching the sunset with a chilled glass of wine. Oh how time flies when you’re doing nothing! You can forgive me for getting a little distracted by this wonderful little find? I hope so!
We awoke early refreshed by the previous days relaxing ready for our leisurely drive. Lucky for our early start as the winding road did not exactly endear me to this excursion. I was glad for 2 things: 1. We could keep moving for there was no traffic and 2. I didn’t catch the daunting cable car (having vertigo). Once at the top of the mountain I could breathe a sigh of relief and we enjoyed the lilting sound of the early morning hymns as we wandered around. The importance of this site lies in the “black virgin” statue that is housed in the Basilica. Said to be carved in 880AD it is visited by millions of pilgrams every year. After wandering around the grounds, and tasting the monks frangelico we were ready to explore the surrounding mountains.
The freedom of taking our time made our day truly special and we were glad we didn’t have to rush to get back on a bus or a train and fight the traffic. Our afternoon was filled with - a picnic lunch, a wrong turn down a dirt road to discover a beautiful abandoned church, conversing with some local children in our bad Spanish (ok they laughed), taking pictures, enjoying a stroll though a deserted hiking trail and finding ourselves in the middle of a tiny village drinking icy cold cerveza at sunset. The idyllic end to the day and our little adventure in the countryside! Did I tell you we fell in love with Spain? Wait til I show you where we went next...
all photographs and text by Cath Conroy.